NECT building the foundation for quality education in North West

Setting ground for delivery of quality education in public schools means resolving pertinent issues such as schools' administration processes, poor infrastructure, and teacher shortages and under performance.

 

The roll out of the district improvement programme in the Bojanala district of the North West Province commenced in the last quarter of 2014. The first phase of the project, the inception phase, focused on profiling the schools in the district, setting up district structures and implementing quick wins. The project was officially introduced to all participating schools by the District Director, Ms Pauline Mokhutle, at an on-boarding and advocacy function on November 14, 2014.

The Inception Phase

A total of 54 schools, 37 primary and 17 secondary, commonly referred to as Fresh Start Schools were selected to participate in the quick wins programme which forms part of the inception phase of the project. The schools were selected to benefit because the context and circumstances of each school has a significant effect on learner performance or threaten to significantly undermine the welfare and development of learners.  

School change agents and learner support agents worked in these schools between November and December 2014 to conduct and establish a baseline. A comprehensive report for each school was generated to inform the project on the particular needs of individual schools. At the same time, schools, consultatively with communities, SGBs and parents, established ‘Quick Wins’ for themselves for implementation from the beginning of Term 1 in 2015. These were a set of activities that a school could achieve with relative ease, within a short space of time. Typical Quick Wins that came up were minor repairs, improving teacher and learner attendance and enhancing co-curricular and extra-curricular activities, amongst others. At District level, similar Quick Wins were adopted by Circuit and Area managers in order to support schools in achieving their objectives.

At the beginning of Term 1, 2015, the NECT consolidated work plans for the implementation of the Quick Wins and began to monitor and support their implementation. With support from both Change Agents and education officials, many schools achieved at least 70% of their set targets. Schools became cleaner, parental involvement was enhanced, management became more functional and learner support was more pronounced.

Some problems were also encountered. These were mostly due to an acute scarcity of critical resources. In as much as Quick Wins were intended to be minimally demanding on financial resources, there were schools that struggled to meet minimums even such as airtime and data for connectivity or seeds for their gardens. Some schools are geographically disadvantaged for some activities that they were keen to start, such as recycling. The distances from recycling centres meant that transporting refuse to the collection points was not viable for the schools, despite the need and willingness. Road access also made it very difficult for some of the schools to negotiate transportation.

Lessons Learnt in the Inception phase

In the short space of time that the project has run in the FSS, a number of important lessons were learnt. Some of these are:

  1. There are a lot of functions in schools that are not being optimised to enhance outcomes.
  2. Professional support and help is not always readily available to schools when they need it and many Schools Management Teams (SMTs) operate intuitively.
  3. Communities are willing to be actively involved in the functions of their schools. What is usually missing commitment to engage them earnestly
  4. Learners are critically marginalised in relation to the variety of curriculum, co-curricular and extra-curricular that they are exposed to. This is mainly due to a lack of infrastructure and personnel with relevant and necessary expertise.
  5. Post Provisioning Model (PPM) is making it increasingly difficult for some schools to function optimally, especially the small schools.
  6. There are a lot of good practices in the schools that need to be acknowledged and reinforced.

 

The Interim Phase

In the Interim Phase, seven focus areas were identified. These are informed by the work done in the Inception Phase and input from the district office as areas needing attention. Change Agents at all levels are actively collaborating with department officials and working to address the following;

  1. Teacher and learner attendance – to try and enhance attendance by both teachers and learners so as to ensure curriculum coverage. SMTs will be equipped with skills to track absenteeism and analyse data in order to inform action.
  2. SMT/ Staff meeting schedules and agendas – to empower SMTs on running meetings more effectively and follow-up on resolutions reached at in such meetings.
  3. SIP (School Improvement Plan) review and support – to facilitate more functional School Improvement Plans that enhance curriculum delivery and the overall realisation of the School Development Plan.
  4. Timetabling and Compliance Approved Providers CAPs compliance – to review timetables and ensure compliance with CAPS so that coverage tallies with policy expectations.
  5. Staff Morale – to follow-up and maintain the momentum on staff morale initiatives carrying over from the Inception Phase.
  6. Visual Boards – to initiate the active use of Visual Boards as a means of keeping up-to-date data readily visual to stimulate relevant action.
  7. Increase parental involvement – to further enhance the involvement of parents and the community as critical partners in the affairs of the school and learners.

 

It is envisaged that after these interventions, the FSS will rise to a point where they can meet the minimum standards of all the other schools that will become part of the full roll-out of the project and compete equally in realising any set objectives.

 

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