A new dawn has come for the unemployed youth in rural provinces such as the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo where 750 Education Assistants (EAs) have been appointed to work with teachers in improving learning outcomes. Chief Director for Mathematics Science and Technology (MST) and Curriculum Enhancement Programmes, Mr Seliki Tlhabane, joined by the KwaZulu-Natal HOD for Education, Dr Enock Vusumuzi Nzama, officially launched the Rural Education Assistants Project (REAP) at Carter High School in Pietermaritzburg in the KwaZulu-Natal Province on 27 September 2018. Approximately 250 EAs from Umzinyathi and Ilembe Districts attended the launch.
During March 2016, Minister Motshekga appointed a Rural Education Research Team to conduct research and develop a Rural Education Framework aimed at developing context-specific, relevant and sustainable strategies to deal with the challenges in rural schools.
Provincial Chairperson for the South African Democratic Teachers Union, Mr Phumlani Duma, endorsed the Project, saying that it assists poor performing Districts to rise to the top. “The EAs are not a substitute for teachers, but they must work with learners to contextualise the syllabus that are covered in class,” said Mr Duma. He called upon EAs to use employment opportunities presented through the REAP to pursue their studies and become qualified teachers.
The REAP is aimed at pilot testing, researching and evaluating the impact of the use of EAs in the Foundation and Intermediate Phases for improving the quality of education in rural schools. The REAP will undoubtedly assist the DBE in improving quality education and subsequently learner performance in these schools. It will further play a crucial role in empowering unemployed youth with skills that will increase their chances of finding permanent employment; pursuing teaching qualifications; pursuing other qualifications including those linked to agriculture; or becoming entrepreneurs.
In his address, Mr Tlhabane said that the EAs must use the opportunity to advance their careers, particularly in the field of teaching. “In terms of unqualified and under-qualified teachers, we have the Funza Lushaka Bursary Scheme to finance the higher education costs of new teachers. “According to the 2015 Centre for Development and Enterprise Report, we will be able to produce sufficient teachers to meet the demand of our schools for the next 10 years (2015 to 2025)”.
Dr Langa, added that, “Through the Project, identified unemployed youth with a matric qualification, were recruited from rural communities to assist with a variety of curricular activities particularly in improving numeracy, literacy and reading skills. EAs have been mandated to co-ordinate Homework Clubs, Mathematics Clubs, Reading Clubs, Creative Arts Clubs and Agricultural Projects to ensure the holistic development of leaners in the early grades of schooling”.