The Rural Education Assistants Project (REAP), announced by Minister Angie Motshekga during the 2018/2019 Education Budget Vote Debate, kicked off in the iLembe and Umzinyathi districts of the KwaZulu-Natal Province. REAP is an initiative of the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to improve literacy and numeracy in three of the country’s most rural provinces, i.e. Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. Approximately 150 recommended applicants from the two KwaZulu-Natal districts attended briefing sessions hosted by the DBE and Provincial and District officials from 28 to 31 May 2018.
Approximately 700 unemployed matriculants will be placed as Education Assistants (EAs) in 188 primary schools across the three Provinces over the next three years. All the recommended EAs must be 18 to 25 year old South African citizens in possession of a Grade 12 National Senior Certificate (NSC) with a pass in English, their First Additional Language, and Mathematics or Mathematics Literacy. REAP is a pilot study to evaluate the effect of assistant teachers in the Foundation Phase and in Grade 4. The Project’s lead researcher will report annually on its progress and will determine the usefulness of the Assistants to develop a strategy to recruit teachers for rural schools.
An initial R29.2 million has been allocated to the Project, which will be increased to R58.3 million during the next two years. These assistant teachers will assist with a variety of curricular activities: improving numeracy, literacy and reading skills; and co-curricular activities such as co-ordinating homework, Mathematics, reading and creative arts clubs, as well as agricultural projects.
Schools chosen to take part in the pilot project were subjected to a strict set of criteria. These were Quintile 1 to Quintile 3 schools (Foundation and Intermediate phases) with a good academic performance and effective management, a full staff complement including Senior Management Teams (SMT) and be willing to commit to the objectives of the REAP. In addition, the school must be able to delegate one teacher to supervise the EAs, provide office space and be willing to work with neighbouring primary schools and the local community. Additional pilot projects will be conducted in the Alfred Nzo and OR Tambo Districts in the Eastern Cape Province, and the Sekhukhune and Mopani Districts in the Limpopo Province up until 2021.