The Department of Basic Education is forging ahead with plans to improve the quality of learning and teaching in schools, as part of government’s Action Plan to 2014.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said the plan would tackle issues such as teacher recruitment and development, learner enrolment, school funding, mass literacy and numeracy and the overall quality of education.
One of the major new initiatives launched by the department is the biometric system for teachers. A recent survey showed that South Africa had the highest teacher absenteeism rate of all Southern African Development Community countries – with about 10 per cent of South African teachers absent for an average of 19 days annually.
The new biometric electronic system would allow the department to collect real- time data on what schools are affected by high teacher absenteeism, she said.
The system would address the main reason behind the high absenteeism rate, which is poor administration, lack of management and a serious neglect of duties and responsibilities, said the Minister.
Another priority of the department is to ensure that all mud schools are eliminated by 2015. In the Eastern Cape, a team is currently conducting a headcount of pupils and teachers.
Minister Motshekga said that often the department would build a school on the basis that there were 500 pupils, only to find out later that the school only had 50 pupils.
In such instances, the department could end up building fewer new schools than planned.
Learner wellness will also receive the department’s attention in the form of the Integrated School Health programme. The department will continue with programmes to promote the health of learners and to tackle gender based violence in schools.
Government is also taking steps to improve higher education.
Infrastructure development features prominently as one of the major priorities of government with more than R6.8 billion allocated for the upgrading and expansion of infrastructure at tertiary institutions.
This financial year, the Department of Higher Education and Training has allocated a further R3.8 billion for infrastructure expansion.
In addition, the department is also establishing a new comprehensive University of Health Sciences on the Medunsa campus, which is currently being separated from the University of Limpopo.
The new university will be an expanded institution, which will include the training of medical doctors and other health professionals such as dentists, veterinarians, nurses, physiotherapists, medical technologists and radiographers.