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A Case Of Active Citizenry: Community Volunteers At The Forefront Of Education Improvement

In a demonstration of the practical implementation of the National Development (NDP), local community leaders are heeding the call for “active citizenry” by volunteering their time and energy towards education improvement.

Coming from diverse fields and roles in their communities, these volunteers lead a multi-stakeholder structure, the District Steering Committee (DSC) that drives a joint programme aimed at improving schooling across eight districts in five provinces.

Over 148 prominent community leaders such as judges, traditional and religious leaders, as well as local business people have been identified by the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT) as best placed to mobilise communities to get more involved in the education of their children. These volunteers have been driving the DSC structure since 2013, and continue to play a catalytic role in rejuvenating active citizenship particularly in rural communities.

A practical example of active citizenship is High Court Judge, Joseph Raulinga, who between presiding over court proceedings, volunteers his time towards improving schooling in his home district of Vhembe. The Vuwani crisis presented the judge, and the Vhembe DSC with a unique opportunity to mobilise stakeholders to help restore teaching and learning in the 100 schools and for the 42 000 learners affected by the community protest. The DSC was able to coordinate stakeholder structures through the crisis because it is seen as a neutral broker that is plugged into the issues affecting the community.

In Mt Frere the Amabhaca King, Thandisizwe Diko, who has always been an educational activist, has demonstrated active citizenship by volunteering time to serve on the local DSC. The DSC has been instrumental in getting teachers and their managers to focus on improving curriculum coverage. This has contributed to improved learning outcomes for the Mt Frere district in 2015.

The Bohlabela DSC in Mpumalanga is led by local businessman Dr Richard Ngomane, the chairperson is also a senior pastor at a prominent church in that community. DSCs are also operational in Libode in the Eastern Cape, Pinetown and Uthungulu in Kwa-Zulu Natal, Waterberg Limpopo, and Bojanala in North West.

A case study on the efficacy of the DSC commissioned early in 2016, has shown that in instances where the DSCs are chaired by committed people who have local standing, and capacity, and are supported by DSC members who are prepared to give their time to being active citizens, the DSC has the capacity to become a powerful addition to the district improvement intervention, helping to reignite parental involvement in schooling besides serving on School Governing Bodies (SGBs).

Minister Motshekga has remarked that, “The lessons from the case study are pertinent to the improvement of the Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign (QLTCs), SGBs and SGB associations. The case study clearly shows that where collaboration structures have focused on and jointly resourced improvement projects, high levels of stakeholder interest have been achieved along with better, more tangible results.”

A public launch of the case study was held on Friday 18 November at the Irene Country Lodge in Centurion.

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