Providing quality education to all South Africans has always been the democratic government’s ultimate goal and for the past 18 years, it has delivered.
To boost its efforts, in 2009 government decided to split the National Department of Education into the Departments of Basic Education and Higher Education and Training.
Basic Education deals with all schools and the adult literacy programmes.
Despite challenges since its inception Basic Education, through its projects and initiatives, strives to educate and uplift young and adult learners from disadvantaged communities throughout the country.
“Our vision is of a South Africa in which all our people have access to lifelong learning, as well as education and training, which will, in turn, contribute towards improving the quality of life and building a peaceful, prosperous and democratic South Africa,” says Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, explaining the role of her department.
To achieve this vision, the department has launched many new projects over the years, recording a number of successes.
Tackling illiteracy one learner at a time
Illiteracy has been one of the major problems hindering more than half of South Africa’s population. To help eliminate illiteracy, the Kha Ri Gude Mass Literacy Campaign began in April 2008.
The aim of the campaign is to halve illiteracy by 2015 and to teach 4.7 million South Africans to read and write in one of the 11 official languages.
It teaches adult learners to read, write and calculate in their mother tongue and also teaches them spoken English.
In the campaign’s first year 357 195 learners were enrolled while that figure increase to 613 643 in 2009. In 2010, 610 000 learners enrolled and 658 000 in 2011.
Last year 665 246 learners enrolled, meaning the campaign reached more than 2.9 million by 2012.
The specifically designed campaign material uses themes and life-skills such as health, gender, the environment and civic education to teach learners. This material has been adapted for use in Braille, the 11 official languages, and by the deaf.
The project relies on community participation to help with the recruitment of teachers and learners, selecting venues for classes and monitoring.
By using the services of volunteers, the campaign also creates job opportunities. Over the past few years, the campaign has paid out R750 million to more than 70 000 volunteers.
The aim is make the lessons easily accessible so classes are held at times and places that are convenient to the learners.
They take place in homes, churches, mosques, schools, prisons and community centres. Learners do not pay for the classes, which makes it possible for the poorest members of the community to attend. All learners need to do is attend classes regularly throughout year.
Children learn best when they are not hungry or suffering from a nutrient deficient diet. Yet thousands of children in South Africa still arrive at school each day on an empty stomach, which compromises their ability to learn and achieve good results.
It was with this in mind that former president Nelson Mandela called for a primary school nutrition programme to be introduced in 1994.
The School Nutrition Programme was started by the Department of Education in 1996.
It was later taken over by Basic Education and has become a huge success.
The programme aims to improve learning through school feeding programmes, promote and support food production, as well as improve food security in school communities and strengthen nutrition education in schools and communities.
The programme helps schools start their own food and vegetable gardens and then use those fresh vegetables and herbs to make meals for learners.
Over the years it has helped improved learner concentration levels, meaning learners are more alert during lessons.
Schools in disadvantaged communities have also started their own nutrition programmes and food gardens to ensure that no child in the community goes to school hungry.
The programme has progressed over the years. Some of the new developments includes menu changes such as daily hot, cooked meals instead of a cold meals, school feeding programmes that target all learners in a school instead of targeting just the poorest learners, and an expansion to secondary schools since 2009.
More than seven million learners in 20 943 primary and secondary schools throughout the country are benefiting from this programme.
The success of the programme is as a result of cooperation between Basic Education, provincial departments, district offices and other partners.
School Health Programme
Another major achievement for Basic Education is the development of an Integrated School Health Programme (ISHP), which makes comprehensive health services available to learners at schools free of charge.
Launched by the Presidency in 2012, the programme is a joint partnership between the Departments of Basic Education and Health.
The ISHP offers services related to eyesight, hearing, oral hygiene, immunising and de-worming foundation and intermediate phase learners, treatment of minor conditions, counselling on sexual health issues, drug and alcohol use and abuse.
These services have been available all learners from 2012 and more than a million learners have undergone the health screenings.
Kha Ri Gude is looking for voluntary educators to join the campaign. More than 38 500 voluntary educators are currently being recruited. They will be trained during April and May. If you have matriculated, are under 35 years old and unemployed, you can become a volunteer educator.