Vhembe and Waterberg first in line for fast-track education upgrades

Polokwane (1 April 2014) – Learners, teachers and education officials in the Vhembe and Waterberg district will soon begin to feel the benefits of the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT) which was launched in July 2013 to speed-up the pace of change in education.

The NECT provides an opportunity for partners from business, government, labour and NGOs to join hands and work in a coordinated and more effective way to improve the education system. During 2014, the organisation will focus its efforts on achieving change in eight education districts in different parts of South Africa. In 2015, it will expand its operation to 20 districts while continuing to support the initial group.

Limpopo contains two of the first eight districts to receive assistance: Vhembe and Waterberg Between them, these districts have 1 464 schools, about 22 400 educators and some 606 400 learners.

The following preparatory work has already been completed in both districts:

  • Research has been conducted by the NECT in partnership with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to produce an “education profile” for each district. This describes in detail how the district is performing, the needs of the district and circuit offices as well as individual schools, and how these needs could be met.
  • A profiling report has been compiled for each district and this has been discussed at a two-day meeting of local education stakeholders in both Vhembe and Waterberg. These meetings have been well attended by teacher organisations, parent organisations, community and faith-based organisations, local leaders including councillors and traditional leaders, and business representatives. Officials from the district education office and the circuit offices have been actively involved.
  • Local stakeholders have nominated members of District Steering Committees (DSCs) that will oversee the work that the NECT does in these areas. The Vhembe DSC is chaired by Judge Joe Raulinga, a judge of the Gauteng North High Court who comes from Vhembe and has a home there. The Waterberg DSC is headed by Mr John Dombo, Government Relations Manager for Platreef Resources in Waterberg District and former Limpopo MEC who held various portfolios.
  • Members of both DSCs have participated in an induction course that ensures they are in a position to undertake the responsibilities and play the important role that the NECT envisages. “We have been struck by the level of commitment shown by members of the DSCs to working with the district offices to achieve better quality education,” says NECT CEO Godwin Khosa. “This has confirmed our belief that development must be led by local people who understand the context and have the interests of their children at heart.”
  • The NECT has appointed the consulting firm, Deloitte, to work closely with the district education offices – and in consultation with the DSCs – to produce a detailed three-year plan of action and budget to address the specific needs identified in the profiling reports. Deloitte will then be responsible for ensuring that the plan is implemented. It will be expected to involve a wide range of partners in implementation so that progress occurs rapidly and in a sustainable manner.

In the meantime, various partners have been working under the NECT umbrella to address some of the most urgent problems in the two districts.

  • The profiling report showed that there was a shortage of 7 040 desks in the Vhembe District and 3 347 desks in the Waterberg District.  The DBE has responded by pulling in other government departments – Correctional Services, Labour and Environmental Affairs – to source wood and manufacture school furniture. As a result, 33 068 desks have been delivered to 344 schools in Vhembe and 2 777 desks have been delivered to 23 schools in Waterberg with more to follow.
  • The profiling report also showed that several hundred schools in Vhembe and about 100 in Waterberg needed repairs and renovation. With the assistance of the Department of Rural Development, the NECT sourced unemployed workers with formal construction training and they are being put to work. They have already repaired Nwamalobye Secondary School in Vhembe and are now tackling another 15 schools. Once the model has been fully tested as a method of fast-tracking repairs without sacrificing quality, it will be expanded to Waterberg and other areas.
  • Good management and administration is critical to the overall performance of schools and the profiling report revealed that there are principals who do not have administrative support. This situation is being addressed by creating internships for administrative assistants at schools. The Education, Training and Development Practices SETA has been the critical partner in developing this solution. So far 930 young matriculants have been placed in learnerships in schools in Waterberg, Vhembe, Libode and Mt Frere districts.
  • Deloitte has been contracted by the NECT as the Lead Agency for the two districts in Limpopo. Deloitte is expected to partner with the district offices to produce detail three-year plans for the NECT and to start implementing turnaround interventions in 87 schools that have been identified as requiring urgent attention.

The NECT project will not only focus on schools, but also on strengthening the district and circuit offices of the Department of Education. It will focus particularly on fast-tracking improvements to district systems and training curriculum advisors who play a critical role in helping teachers to perform better.

“The acid test of the NECT’s success will be better results among learners at all levels of the education system,” comments MEC for Education Dikeledi Magadzi. “But I am confident that teachers, principals and education officials will also benefit from the assistance of the NECT and this will encourage them to increase their efforts to assist learners to achieve. We saw great improvements in many of our schools last year and we call on all stakeholders to join hands in order to increase the pace of progress in schools.”

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