Social cohesion and co-curricular programmes continue to groom the potential and talent of SA learners

The DBE’s Senior Management team, led by Acting Director-General, Dr Granville Whittle, briefed the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education about the social cohesion and co-curricular activities currently underway in South African Schools. These programmes are in line with the National Development Plan (NDP) objective for South Africa to, by 2030, “be a society where opportunity is not determined by race or birth right, and where citizens accept they have both rights and responsibilities. We will be a united, prosperous, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic country.”

“The role that school sports, art, music and cultural activities play in social cohesion, the unearthing of talent and the prevention of crime within schools, cannot be overemphasized,” Chairperson, Ms Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba stated during the virtual session that took place on 31 May 2023.

Mr Likho Bottoman, Director for Social Cohesion and Equity in Education, explained that, “issues of race, gender and sexual diversity cannot be underplayed. Our intention is not to only teach children about issues such as, xenophobia, Gender-Based Violence and Femicide, bullying and homophobia, but also the cultivation of values enshrined in the Constitution through human rights education to contribute to the building of responsible citizens, deepening respect for diversity, equity and freedom towards social cohesion and nation building”. The first part of the presentation outlined the various social cohesion programmes, planning and management, resources and challenges at national level. The programme remains one of the most underfunded programmes with less than R4 million allocated from Voted Funds annually. For this reason, partnerships with, amongst others, the Patrice Motsepe Foundation, Empowervate, the South African Human Rights Commission, the National Heritage Council and the business sector are welcomed.

Mr Sifiso Ngobese, Acting Director for Sport and Enrichment in Education, presented an overview of Sport and Enrichment Programmes. With approximately 21 areas of cooperation, the DBE and the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture (DSAC) have reviewed the existing Memorandum of Understanding between the DBE and the then Sport and Recreation South Africa (SRSA) to be in line with the current developments. A new Implementation Protocol Agreement has been jointly developed for signing at Ministerial level. “We also anticipate the establishment of Sport Wednesday in schools to ensure mass participation in physical activity. The annual SA National Schools Sport Championships will take place (Winter Games) during July and the Summer Games during December. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) African Schools Football Programme is another exciting partnership involving CAF, African Governments and Football Associations from 41 participating countries.”

A main event on the school calendar is the annual ABC Motsepe South African School Choral Eisteddfod (SASCE), drawing approximately 7,000 learners from 153 schools across nine provinces, and with over 204,000 leaners participating at lower levels. The provincial competitions are currently underway across all nine provinces. Provincial winners will be participating at the National Eisteddfod scheduled to take place from 26 – 30 June 2023 at the Rhema Bible Church. This programme has unearthed great musical talents such as Ms Pretty Yende. The Committee expressed its concern about representation and reporting when focus areas straddle more than one department.

Dr Whittle explained that the DBE’s social cohesion programme commenced around 2002 with the Values in Education document and Commission, driven by Dr Kader Asmal, and subsequently formalised by Minister Naledi Pandor to promote social values in line with the Constitution. The presentation on the various social cohesion and co-curricular programmes was positively received, with the Committee requesting additional information on current protocols and programmes, Learning and Teaching Support Material (LSTM) and toolkits, funders and partnerships. They highlighted the need for Quintile 1 – 3 schools to be mobilised towards mass participation to ensure equity and inclusivity. The Quintile 4 and 5 schools that have since ceased to participate in the mainstream programmes should also be encouraged to return.

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