Media Release: Department of Basic Education Minister Angie Motshega, meets with civil society as part of consultative programme

At the consultative meeting of the Minister of Basic Education organised by the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT), over 130 members of civil society raised questions and made submissions regarding schooling during swelling COVID-19 numbers across the country.

Mr. Godwin Khosa, CEO of the NECT said, “The meeting was part of the consultative process the Minister has embarked upon following the recent announcements by the President of the Republic on the COVID-19 epidemic, where the President highlighted the complexities that are brought about continuous COVID-19 infection spikes.”

The Minister outlined the complexities of the current situation, and explained the processes that government was following in developing appropriate responses. Consultative meetings are being held with all constituencies, including SGB associations, principals associations and teacher unions.

The outcome of these meetings will be fed into a the meeting of the Council of the Education Ministers on Saturday, 18th July 2020 and to the Cabinet process envisaged next week.

The Minister shared with the meeting the societal comments and dynamics that reached the department through teacher unions, student associations, school principals, parents and the broader public.

Participants in the civil society meeting included NGOs, interest groups and lobby groups in education; the private sector, including donors to education and independent schools; academics, faith-based organisations and statutory bodies working in the education sector.

The following  are some of the issues and concerns that were raised by civil society:

  • The need to improve the implementation of risk adjusted strategy to the re-opening of schools, including criteria and protocols to be followed. The civil society suggested that more differentiated approaches should be considered to give effect to the strategy
  • Curriculum and assessment issues, including the NSC examination. It was clarified that the DBE is dealing with shifting sands as the situation changes every day.
  • Support for learning at home, including psycho-social support and nutrition was highlighted as urgent. The DBE conceded that pace needs to increase in the provision of psycho-social support and support of learning.  Infrastructure needs, especially sanitation and connectivity were flagged as areas that require increased pace of rollout.
  • The unique needs of special schools were raised with particular suggestion that this category of learners should not be expected to attend school following the ‘re-engineered’ school-timetabling particularly those that have hostels

The meeting noted an input from UNICEF, which identified some of the successes of the country in providing PPEs and meeting other needs, while recognising the significant inequalities that have been exposed by the pandemic.

The meeting agreed that there is a need for increased and more effective communication between parties, and with schools and parents. In particular, it was recommended that the DBE should liaise more with Department of Health (DOH) in communicating the necessity of the actions that have been taken in the education sector by the DBE and government as a whole. 

The meeting acknowledged the complexity of balancing the infection dynamics and the need to ensure that children are not left behind. Countless number of inputs were made regarding the need to continue with this kind of consultation beyond the pandemic and involving other stakeholders such as the teacher unions.

Participants appreciated the opportunity to engage with the Minister, Deputy Minister and senior officials in such a platform, and welcomed the opportunity to make submissions which could be part of the decision-making process on the future of schooling.

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Palesa Khambi
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