The improvement of quality learning and teaching in the Foundation Phase, infrastructure, teacher development and digital education were but a few of the core issues tabled for discussion at the Basic Education Sector Lekgotla taking place at the Saint George’s Hotel from 20 to 22 January 2016.
Basic Education Minister, Mrs Angie Motshekga, together with MECs and the HODs for the Provincial Education Departments (PEDs), as well as heads of the various branches and directorates within the DBE, came together to identify challenges and gaps towards the achievement of the 2016 targets. The Lekgotla is hosted to consolidate plans to mitigate the challenges experienced in 2015 for the realisation of targets for 2016. The sitting will assist the sector in aligning DBE and PED plans to maintain consistency and uniformity across the schooling system.
Addressing delegates, Minister Motshekga said that, in order to strengthen the schooling system, more focus should be placed on the basics. “At the top of the list of things to be done is what, I call, low hanging fruits. These low hanging fruits include, but are not limited to, ensuring that there is a teacher in front of every classroom across the length and breadth of our country; and that each child should have books and other essential resources.”
The Minister also stated that the Lekgotla should help in obtaining a tangible and implementable plan to manage underperforming schools. “The management of underperforming schools should be at heart of our daily routine. This is not a nice to have but a legislative injunction. While the basic education landscape looks better in terms of redress, equity and access, it fares badly when it comes to quality and efficiency,” remarked Minister Motshekga.
Minister Motshekga further highlighted that issues of quality and efficiency require serious attention. “The result of lack of efficiency and quality in the system is also evident in the NSC 2015 examination results which saw 213 570 learners fail in just three provinces, namely KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape. I posit that this is a national catastrophe. If one learner fails that is a challenge, if two fail, that is a problem, but if 25% of a cohort fails, then we must have sleepless nights as this is akin to a national crisis.”
The Minister said that the strengthening of school management and accountability should be emphasised to achieve quality education. “Meetings of all School Governing Bodies (SGBs) must focus on holding the School Management Teams (SMTs) accountable on improving learning outcomes,” explained the Minister.
“From our side as the National Department, we must ensure high level monitoring and evaluation that serves as an early warning mechanism for any signs of system weakness at all levels. There must be no hesitation in invoking section 100 (b) of the Constitution if a Provincial Education Department shows signs of failing to execute its mandate.
“The future of our children is so important that political expediency must take a back seat in our quest for efficiency and quality. I am of a view that quality education must happen in our lifetime. We owe it to the people of South Africa and to future generations,” the Minister concluded.