The Department of Basic Education today briefed the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education on key issues relating to the status of rural schools, the work done up to date and challenges that are being faced. Discussions were on progress made on the establishment of a Rural Education directorate, support to Multi-Grade schools, and the implications on the Department.
The Department also gave a report on work done in Inclusive Education. The Director for Inclusive Education at the Department of Basic Education Dr. Moses Simelane said intellectual disability in its various forms constitutes the majority of Special Needs Education learners in the system. He further said blindness counts among the lowest statistically yet it receives the most attention. This he explained was because it requires a lot of adaptation of materials to enhance accessibility to information. For visual impairment, DBE has adapted workbooks into Braille and distributed to all schools for the blind, covering grades 1-6.
The Department is also making progress in the Curriculum Advancement Policy Statement (CAPS) for the South African Sign Language (SASL) and 24 Home Languages subject advisors were orientated into CAPS for Sign Language. 2277 learners are now receiving lessons in CAPS for SASL at Foundation Phase level while 353 learners are being taught in it grade 9 across provinces.
Dr Phumzile Langa, Director Rural Education, told the committee that the Rural Education (RE) Directorate is in the process of establishing an Inter-provincial Rural Education Committee (IPREC). The main purpose of establishing IPREC is to create a forum for DBE and PEDs, as well as relevant stakeholders to collaborate in identifying, developing and implementing the context-specific and sustainable strategies for rural school improvement.
In order for DBE to be able to plan interventions that are fit for the purpose of improving the quality of education in rural schools, it is crucial to have accurate and up-to-date data. RE Directorate will therefore conduct audits and produce reports on the following:
· Rural school teachers;
· Schools providing scholar transport;
· Rural education structures and stakeholder bodies at national/provincial levels;
· National and provincial programmes currently being implemented to improve the quality of education in rural schools;
· Programmes aimed at teacher development in rural schools; and
· ICT infra-structure and ICT skills for rural school teachers.
Matanzima Mweli, Deputy Director-General for Curriculum Monitoring and Support told the MPs that a lot of progress had been made but many challenges remained. He said more would be done to work with provinces to ensure that implementation of policies took place.
Committee Chairperson, Ms Nomalungela Gina, said education was a complex and societal issue. She highlighted the issue of learners with special needs completing school but there was no indication of the impact that the department was making as no information was given on what happened to these learners after they completed school. Ms Gina also called for the speedy implementation of the Skills Vocational Certificate for such learners to provide them with exit level certification.
Ms Gina commended the department for place both inclusive education and rural schooling firmly back on the agenda. “This was formerly the stepchildren of education but we can see that focus is now given to these issues,” said Ms Gina. “We commend this move as it will open the doors of education for more learners as well as level the playing field.”