Tuesday, 02 February 2021 19:46

Staff Reporter.

The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education says it is satisfied with the overall preparedness of the Gauteng Department of Education to begin the 2021 academic year.

The committee made the remarks following an oversight visit to the province on Monday to assess school readiness for the academic year.

The chairperson of the committee, Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba, said the briefing received from Gauteng Education Department has assured the committee members that schooling will commence in earnest come 15 February.

"At the centre of commencement of the academic year is the need to ensure safety for both teachers and leaners. The department has assured the committee that personal protective equipment will be delivered from 3 February, and will be completed before teaching and learning commences," Mbinqo-Gigaba said.

While the committee is generally satisfied with the province’s preparedness, it raised its concerns about learners who have applied but have not been placed to date.

The chairperson warned that this will have a negative impact on the lives of the 3 283 learners, who have not yet been placed.

"Although the committee is cognisant that Gauteng faces in-migration, with 222 275 applications for placement, placing unprecedented pressure on its systems and resources, it has requested that the department expedite processes to place these learners," Mbinqo-Gigaba said. 

Delivery of learning material almost complete

The committee also welcomed information that delivery of learner and teacher support material is almost complete, with 99.8% of textbooks already delivered to the schools that participate in the central procurement system.

The remaining schools have requested the department to deliver when schools open due to fear of burglaries.

Mbinqo-Gigaba said the continued vandalism of schools is a major concern because resources are then diverted away from building additional schools, which are necessary to meet demand, and are ploughed into repairing and replacing vandalised schools.

The committee urged the department to engage the security cluster and communities in the province to create stakeholder compacts that are critical to resolving this challenge.

"We have to urgently address the vandalism of schools, as it robs our children of the opportunity to improve their lives through education. Society in general must also take ownership of the schools, as they are critical in the development of their communities, "Mbinqo-Gigaba said.

Over one million benefit from School Nutrition Programme

The committee further welcomed the report on the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP), which continues to make an impact on the lives of vulnerable children.

"The 1 546 187 learners from quintile 1 to 5 schools, the 16 493 learners who are being fed, even though they have not returned to school, and the 667 learners who are receiving food parcels, attest to the positive impact this programme has on the lives of the poor.

"The committee welcomes the employment of 32 monitors in the 2020/21 financial year to further strengthen the monitoring of the programme, "Mbinqo-Gigaba said.

Regarding catch-up plans, the committee welcomed the intention to hold extracurricular classes to ensure that learners are adequately prepared for examinations.

The committee also welcomed plans for additional support to teachers in relation to learning and assessment guidelines to support teachers in the implementation of the recovery plan.

The committee called on the department to ensure that schools have replacement teachers, so that teaching and learning continues in those cases where teachers are unavailable due to increased risk caused by comorbidities.

The committee also emphasised the need to strengthen psycho-social support to teachers and learners during this difficult time.

Investigation into R431 million school project

Meanwhile, Mbinqo-Gigaba said the committee will await the conclusion of the investigation into the R431 million paid for decontamination, disinfection and cleaning of schools.

"Despite this, the principle of transparency, good governance and prudent spending of taxpayers’ resources should remain an integral pillar of processes for government," Mbinqo-Gigaba said.