Today I attended the tabling of the National Education Budget 2008/09 in parliament. Below are my excerpts from Education Minister Naledi Pandor’s full speech:
- A total of R123 billion has been allocated to the education sector (both national and provinces).
- The recent report of the Committee on School Retention indicated that South Africa (SA) has achieved universal access to primary schooling and near universal access to schooling up to the age of fifteen.
- A key intervention, in line with our theme of changing lives and communities, was the implementation of a second-chance programme for learners who failed matric in 2007. The overwhelming learner response to the programme revealed a hungry thirst for education among children we tend to cast off as failures at grade 12. Over 400,000 full-time and part-time candidates are writing exams as we speak – a number very close to our total pool for 2007.
- The response to the Kha ri Gude Mass Literacy Campaign has been overwhelming enthusiasm. Gauteng already has 32,000 learning, North West 42,000, Eastern Cape 100,000, and Limpopo 47,000. These are the provinces with the largest numbers of illiterate people. Current enrolments suggest we have exceeded our target of 300,000 enrolled.
- In addition to providing adults with the skills of reading, writing, and numeracy (up to ABET level 1), a successful campaign will also mean that South Africa will meet the commitment made at Dakar in 2002 to reduce illiteracy by at least 50%.
- During 2008 a key focus will be on a recruitment campaign to attract young people into foundation phase teaching, particularly students keen and able to teach in the various African languages.
- Data on un- and under-qualified teachers in the system will be collected. The outcome of this will be the production of a five-year plan for a focused systemic approach to teacher upgrading to be implemented from 2009.
The Education Deputy Minister, Enver Surty, explained that today’s global knowledge economy demands competence in using ICTs. Therefore all teachers and learners must be ICT literate.
During the parliamentary session, other MPs responded to the budget. Of interest were the following points:
- The goal of the teacher upgrading program is to have no unqualified teachers by 2013.
- A professional teacher development points system will be implemented from 2009. For the first time ever learner performance will be considered during teacher performance reviews. The message from a number of speakers was clear: teachers who are absent from school, or who turn up drunk, or who do no work must be brought to book! Teachers need to be at school, in class and teaching.
- In addition to the call for teacher accountability there was overall support for the re-opening of teacher training colleges and for teacher salaries to be increased.
- There was a general call for the School Feeding Scheme (aka the School Nutrition Program) to also include high schools. Currently only primary schools are supported.
- Apparently SA is a low spender on early childhood development (ECD). This is problematic because there is a proven correlation between enrolment into ECD programs and primary school completion.
(As a final note, being in parliament is quite an experience. It’s a bit of a circus in there, organised chaos. Cellphones are constantly ringing, people come and go, half-baked heckling greets some speakers and one MP even tripped on the carpet as she was walking to the toilet.)
Image of Naledi Pandor from Education.gov.za (All rights reserved)