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Learners in rural schools get a helping hand

Written by More Matshediso

A three-year programme is set to improve the quality of learning and teaching in rural areas. 

The Department of Basic Education has launched a programme that will benefit the majority of learners in rural communities who are educationally disadvantaged.

The Rural Education Assistant Project (REAP) is a three year programme that will be implemented from 2018 until 2021 for a pilot phase, and is set to benefit about 188 schools in South Africa during this period.The Rural Education Assistant Project (REAP) has been launched to improve the quality of learning and teaching in the rural education system in South Africa.

The department hopes that this will contribute to improving the quality of learning and teaching in the rural basic education system. 

The programme is currently being piloted in two districts in each of the three underperforming rural provinces. These include Alfred Nzo East and OR Tambo Coastal Districts in the Eastern Cape, ILembe and UMzinyathi Districts in KwaZulu-Natal, and Sekhukhune and Mopani Districts in Limpopo.

Chief Director for Curriculum Implementation and Enhancement at the Department of Basic Education Seliki Tlhabane, said the department has recruited about 750 youths with matric to be Rural Education Assistants in the schools.

“They have received basic training that will allow them to perform the tasks allocated to them. They will be deployed in the Foundation and Intermediate Phases, which include Grades 1 to 4,” he explained.

The Rural Education Assistants are expected to assist with a variety of curricular activities, particularly improving numeracy, literacy and reading skills.

“This is also a way to empower the youth in economically depressed areas through skills development and work experience,” said Tlhabane.

He said the Rural Education Assistants are expected to lessen the burden of teachers in rural schools by assisting with co-curricular activities such as coordinating Homework Clubs, Maths Clubs, Reading Clubs, Creative Arts Clubs and Agricultural Projects.

Principal Ntombikayise Mkhize of Ozwathini Primary School in Nodwengu area in Ilembe District hopes the programme will help most of her learners struggle with reading and numeracy.

Her school has about 387 learners from Grade R to 7 enrolled for this year.

“Most of our learners come from child-headed homes while others are under the care of grandparents. They do not have people who can assist them with homework or to encourage them to read, and this affects their performance in class,” she explained.

“The other problem is that our learners who are in foundation phase are taught all subjects in IsiZulu and when they proceed to the intermediate phase they have to switch to doing the majority of subjects in English, so it becomes a huge challenge for them to adapt.”  

During the pilot phase, we will gauge the impact and success thereof through conducting monitoring and evaluation of the REAP programme. We have also enlisted the services of six unemployed graduates as Project Coordinators. They will be based in each participating district. The Project co-ordinators will also assist us to undertake monitoring and evaluation of the project.

Two years ago, we convened the very 1st Rural Education Round-Table in the basic education sphere. At this round-table, various studies pointed to the fact that. 

Amongst the challenges that face many rural schools is critical vacancies for teachers especially in Mathematics and Physical Science subjects.