Catching up is not easy

Lebusa Monyooe

Lebusa Monyooe

The Department of Education must be commended for coming up with a short-term plan to encourage pupils and teachers to catch up on the four weeks lost during the national strike.

The strike's impact on education and other sectors was huge, and it will take a radical strategy to ease the situation.

The success or otherwise of the education recovery plan should be contextualised in the existing organisation and governance strategies at national, provincial and district levels.

It is common knowledge that the overall governance, organisation and management of our schools are problematic. And this is evidenced by poor leadership across schools, poor throughput at matric level and high pupil dropout rates across grades, to mention but a few.

I believe the plan will yield more returns provided the following critical factors have been taken into account when conceptualising and implementing the education recovery plan:

l Post-industrial action syndrome. It is always a challenge to make a smooth transition from being involved in an industrial action to suddenly zooming back into an effective learning and teaching mode. The psychological balance of pupils and teachers plays a huge role in making such a transition.

This could be further complicated by incidences of intimidation and violence that characterised the industrial action.

It might be prudent to tap into the expertise of psychologists to address the post-strike syndrome.

There are still some rumblings about the final pay offer made by the government. I hope that sanity and professionalism prevail so there won't be any go-slows on the teaching front.

l Use of the media. Use of newspapers to disseminate curriculum-related materials (learning guides) to pupils is a noble idea and the publishing houses must be commended for the partnership. More clarity is needed on how these materials will reach the schools and pupils in the hinterland of the republic where access to newspapers is almost nonexistent.

Perhaps other means of rolling out the plan to cover the whole country are required.

l Broader partnerships would enhance the plan. Schools are located in communities and it is imperative parents buy into the plan and mobilise resources to meet the department halfway.

As a short-term measure, the department and unions can tap into the reservoir of volunteers and experts outside schools.

l Teacher qualification and preparedness. The quality of teachers entrusted with teaching our future citizens is paramount.

One of the concerns relates to the level of preparedness among both teachers and pupils to make the plan work.

This has a dialectic relationship with the post-industrial action syndrome raised above. Effective mechanisms have to be found and put in place to ensure effective learning and teaching take place.

l Culture of learning and teaching has always been a contentious issue because of the poor leadership and organisational expertise in our schools.

The recovery plan will succeed in schools where the culture of learning and teaching already existed and was fully institutionalised.

Otherwise the status will remain regardless of how much effort is put into rolling out the plan.

l Evaluation and monitoring of the educational activities. One of the key indicators of progress is the use of well-defined evaluation and monitoring tools to determine the standard and performance of our schools.

Does the department, through its provincial and district structures, have a solid monitoring strategy that underpins the recovery plan?

One would assume such a tool exists that categorically outlines the performance of our schools right from the first day of school until the industrial action kicked in. Without this vital information, the recovery plan will come to naught.

l Deployment of resources. The envisaged partnership between the department, unions and media to deploy resources in schools is commendable. It remains a huge challenge because of historical legacies. It is common knowledge that schools in the hinterland are poorly resourced.

It is imperative that plausible strategies are found to address this challenge.

The plan would go a long way if partnerships with the private sector are explored, given the private sector's capital power.

Let us hope all the relevant stakeholders will cooperate and make the plan achievable for the sake of our children.

l Lebusa Monyooe is manager of knowledge fields development grants at the National Research Foundation in Pretoria. He writes in his personal capacity.