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motshekga's action plan

By Bathandwa Mbola | Sep 07, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

When President Jacob Zuma recently told school principals to find out why education policies have failed to deliver excellence, one person in the room became aware of the reality that the buck would stop with her and colleague Deputy Minister Enver Surty. They would have to see to it that this state of affairs is turned around.

And transforming the country's education system - with its 12 million pupils, 300000 teachers and around 25000 schools - is going to be no mean feat.

Yet, as one speaks to a very well composed Minister of Basic Education, one gets the sense that Angie Motshekga has a certain kind of practicality and conviction that is required to transform a sector that has been plagued with challenges.

Having been a teacher, lecturer and education MEC, and armed with a Master's Degree in Education, one can assume she has gone through the necessary baptism required for the post of basic education minister.

Added to this, she is credited for improving the matric pass rate in Gauteng while she was education MEC, with the province's matric pass rate 13,5 percent higher than the national pass rate.

Perhaps it is all of this that leads to the practical, simple and uncomplicated approach she hopes to take into the job. "Getting the basics right," is what she calls it.

According to Motshekga these basics are all about creating the necessary environment and providing resources for teaching and learning, and ensuring that learners do learn.

She refers to her stint as education MEC before stepping into her ministerial shoes as a "privilege" which has given her an insight into how the system works on the ground and what the frustrations are at provincial level.

"The biggest challenge is to ensure that any policy passed at national level must be supported by an implementation plan at provincial level and that is tightly supervised.

In a country where in recent international tests for Grade 6 literacy, learners scored 302 (below the international average of 500) and in a mathematics test for Grade 8, South Africa came last, with a score of 244 (while the average was 467) the minister's priorities are obvious.

Government has set a target of improving numeracy and literacy levels by 20 percent in the next five years. Motshekga responds to this enormous task by calling it "key among her KPAs."

"In my term I want to ensure that the basics are implemented to the button."

Motshekga explains that getting the basics right means that timetables are worked out properly so that teachers are allocated properly.

Her idea to improve education in rural areas is another example of her uncomplicated thinking.

"One of our approaches would be to consolidate farm and rural schools and build boarding schools where possible.

"This will eliminate the long distances learners have to travel each day to get to school and assist towards ensuring that learners focus on learning."

Motshekga's approach to improving South Africa's schooling system includes using best-performing schools as models, and replicating their system to poor-performing schools.

A school from a poor community in Ivory Park, Gauteng, has also become a best-performing school due to community support. This school has a 100% matric pass rate, and its principal devises means for student bursaries, meaning that the principal can account for each and every matriculant after they leave the school.

In an effort to improve school accountability, the department is finalising the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit.

The minister allocated R6million in her budget earlier this year to establish Needu, which will evaluate all parts of the system to unearth constraints and problems and provide advice for support and development.

"Teachers and principals alike need to take responsibility by getting the basics right, like ensuring they are in school, teach for seven hours every school day, are in class on time, teaching, without neglecting their duty and abusing learners.

"It will take a whole nation to fix our education system. Parents, pupils themselves, communities and the government have to work together to ensure we improve our education system."

And what does the minister, who herself has two family members in her home currently in their matric year, have to say to the class of 2009?

"Study hard and put every effort into passing. It's an opportunity which won't come around again. Even if you repeat the year, you will miss out on all the excitement that comes with passing with your friends."

And that's basic enough.

- BuaNews


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