The Council of Education Minister (CEM) met on Thursday (13 September 2019) to discuss a number of topics affecting the education sector. It was the first meeting of the Minister, Deputy Minister and the newly appointed MECs following the 2019 May General Elections, which ushered in the 6th Administration.
The CEM meeting took place at a time when the sector is beset with a number of tragedies and unfortunate incidents. One of the matters raised was that involving a subject advisor in the Eastern Cape, who has been arrested for allegedly raping a 6 year-old child. We are extremely concerned that we have people in the system who conduct themselves in a manner that places the lives of children in danger. We are confident that the justice system will take its course, and set an example regarding the conduct and behavior of individuals who are tasked with protecting children.
Two learners committed suicide in the same week in Gauteng from the same school in Midrand. It is extremely heartbreaking to lose such young learners, who had so much potential in this manner. The Gauteng Education Department has provided counseling services to those affected by the untimely departure of the learners.
We have also been informed of a 17 year-old learner who died after a stabbing incident involving a 14 year-old learner in Evaton.
We send our deepest condolences to all of these families and school communities that have had to deal with these tragic incidents. As the sector we reflect on these incidents with a great deal of sadness.
Schools operate within communities, and are often a reflection of the community and the social ills that are found in these communities. We need support from all around us as education. It brings to mind the old adage, “It takes a village to raise a child”. This really speaks to our situation in education as we cannot deal with these issues on our own.
Parents also need to be vigilant when they drop off and fetch learners from school, as some provinces reported that there have been a number of incidents of abductions of children around schools premises. This is extremely concerning, as these nefarious criminals do not abduct children for anything positive.
EXAM READINESS FOR THE MATRIC CLASS OF 2019
Moving on to matters that speak to our core business of teaching and learning. The National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations are now just 36 days away (23 October 2019). This is essentially one month, give or take a few days, before the examinations are underway.
We are expecting a cohort of 624 733 full-time candidates and 176 110 part-time candidates, who will sit for the October/November 2019 examinations in 8 000 examination centers.
We would like to encourage all learners who are going to be writing these examinations, to ensure that they study with earnest in this remaining time.
In terms of system readiness, we have been closely tracking very closely each of the nine provinces in terms of learner performance data and curriculum coverage, as well as other areas of interest extremely. This is to ensure that we can pick up challenges in areas such as curriculum coverage in time to intervene.
As a sector, we are becoming much more empirical about the way we monitor the system. The DBE and Provincial Education Departments (PEDs) continue to harness efforts to appropriately support the Class of 2019. Every learner must be afforded the best possible opportunity to achieve a National Senior Certificate. Last push initiatives are being implemented across the country, based on learner performance in the preliminary examinations. As a sector we are cautiously optimistic that all of these efforts will translate into improved outcomes in the 2019 examinations.
SCHOOL CALENDAR FOR 2021
The school calendar for 2021 has been approved for publication. We urge South Africans to take interest in it, because it always causes challenges when members of the public notice the impact of the changes to the school calendar. The number of school days at all times must not be compromised, and this is one of the factors we consider when planning the school calendar. The school calendar is determined following a public participation process, and we urge many more people and organisations to submit inputs when invited to do so.
HOME AFFAIRS PROTOCOLS
It was discussed at CEM that it is an imperative to work closely with the Department of Home Affairs, to ensure that all of our learners are correctly documented. We need to all ensure that learners have Identity Documents for a number of reasons. Among these reasons, is that learners, who write examinations without Identity Documents, often experience problems after the examinations, as Umalusi will not certificate learners who do not have ID’s. Learners cannot access social services without ID’s. Home Affairs will be working closely with the education departments in the various provinces to drive advocacy, and to encourage learners to get documented as it has major implications on various aspects of education.
EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT MIGRATION
CEM discussed the migration of Early Childhood Development (ECD) from the Department of Social Development to theDepartment of Basic Education, as per the Honorable President’s directive during the February 2019 SONA, which was fully endorsed by Cabinet. Progress has been made in terms of role clarifications between the two Departments; and further consultations with other Departments including Health; Home Affairs; and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs; Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation; the National Treasury; as well as communities of trust, will be underway soon. Processes related to the systematic relocation of the responsibility and leadership for ECD will take full steam from the 2020/21 financial year.
NATIONAL READING SECTOR PLAN
CEM noted that the Department has finalised a reworked National Plan on Reading. CEM agreed that reading should permeate everything done in the sector. The Reading Sector Plan maps out a 9-pronged strategy, in response to improving reading outcomes in the Foundation and Intermediate Phases. The Department has also started promoting reading for pleasure. To this effect, the Department of Basic Education itself, is leading by example, and has started a reading initiative involving al members of staff, who have been asked to set aside 15 minutes every Friday at 10am in the morning, to “Drop everything and Read. We hope this will catch on in the sector and everywhere else in society to really encourage everybody to read books. We must strive strive to make South Africa a reading nation.
CEM met amid a national crisis, as the nation is gripped by cases of murder and rape of women and girls; and expressed concern regarding the extent of violence, rape and murders against women and girl children. These heinous crimes that are exclusively perpetrated against women and children by men, threatens the fragile peace and progress of the post-apartheid democratic enterprise. CEM unanimously condemned all crimes perpetrated against vulnerable people, especially women and children, and urged our Courts to be harsh on all perpetrators of such heinous crimes.
We will soon organise a national assembly day in our schools, where we will also ask our educators and learners alike to make a pledge and commit to exhibiting positive values that include good conduct, respect for self, love for others; and strive to stay away from activities that will render our school communities to be in conflict with the law. We will make an announcement on this in due course.
CEM approved the following:
- Guidelines for Registration and Accreditation of Independent Schools
- Guidelines on the Rights and Responsibilities of Independent Schools
CEM also discussed the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) for Basic Education 2019-2024: Improving Quality Education, Skills and Competencies for a Changing World by the Presidency (DPME).