Education dept has delivered

Global Education

The Department of Basic Education says it rejects “in the strongest terms” claims that it has failed to deliver on its mandate.

In a statement on Tuesday, the department said since its creation in 2009, it has made progress in many areas that have seen an improvement in the system, including the Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) programme, early childhood development and the School Nutrition Programme, among others.

Departmental spokesperson Panyaza Lesufi said: “We call upon those making baseless claims to acquaint themselves with the facts before publishing falsehoods that mislead the public.”

He said to date, ASIDI has seen the more than 40 schools being handed over to communities in the Eastern Cape. In excess of 6 957 jobs have been created in the building process with expenditure of R1.28 billion.

“The programme is largely emphasised in the Eastern Cape but its impact can be felt across the length and breadth of the country. The success story of ASIDI goes far deeper than that of bricks, metal and cement. It tells of a human story of perseverance and triumph,” said Lesufi.

In terms of Early Childhood Development (ECD), there has been considerable progress since 1994.

“The number of ECD centres registered with the national Department of Social has increased to 19 500. The number of children in ECD provision has increased and the quality of provision has improved.

“There are currently about 836 000 children in registered ECD centres, of which 488 000 (58%) received the ECD subsidy. Many more children are in unregistered ECD centres. No recent survey of total ECD provisions has been done,” said Lesufi.

By June 2013, 11.3 million children had been accessing the ECD grant.

He said the department has since 2001 trebled the number of children in Grade R and the quality of Grade R services has improved.

“The department has improved access from 39.3% in 2002 to 84.8% of Grade 1s. All in all, in 2012/13 we had 12 433 949 learners in over 25 000 schools. In line with the drive to build an equitable system, in 2013/14, we’re prioritising inclusive education.”

The department also provides quality meals to over nine million learners in over 21 000 schools every school day. The programme has been extended to learners in secondary schools, whereas at its inception, it was only in primary schools. All learners in beneficiary schools are provided meals, whereas in the past it was only targeted learners.

Describing it as a “massive undertaking”, Lesufi said this promoted access, attendance and participation in education for learners from the poorest communities.

“School meals are cooked and consist of protein, starch and fresh fruit and/or vegetable. Pilchards, a good source of Omega 3 and 6 which improves cognitive ability, are served once a week.

“The budget of the programme has increased from R832 million in 2004 to over R5 billion currently. Through engaging volunteers to cook and serve meals, the programme now provides over 54 000 people with a stipend,” he said.

Lesufi explained that the Integrated School Health Programme was designed to scale up school health services to reach all learners in the schooling system – approximately 12 million – over the next five years.

The programme builds on the successful collaboration of the Departments of Basic Education and Health since 2010, which has reached approximately 1 174 810 learners through bi-annual School Health Weeks and other means.

The department has also achieved a 3.7 percent increase in matric results. The Class of 2012 achieved 73.9%, while the Class of 2011 achieved 70.2%.

“This growth is very encouraging, bearing in mind that when we came into office, we had put the targeted growth at 75% by 2014. Now at 73.9%, our target is within reach. From this year, we will work even harder not only to sustain this growth but to push for an even higher pass rate beyond 75%,” said Lesufi.

The department further distributes more than 50 million workbooks every year as part of its commitment to improving literacy and numeracy skills of learners, with specific targets set from now until 2014. –