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New dawn for teacher education

Written by Samona Murugan
Government’s efforts to address the growing demand for teachers received a major boost when Higher Education and Training Minister Dr Blade Nzimande launched a new Teacher Education Programme recently.

Photo caption: Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande says the newly opened Siyabuswa Campus will help the country produce 14 000 new teachers by 2014.The programme, through the introduction of the new Bachelor of Education in Foundation Phase Teaching, aims to address the gap that currently exists between teacher supply and demand.

This will result in the opening of former teacher colleges where the qualification will be offered.

As part of the launch of the programme, the Minister re-opened the Siyabuswa Campus in Mpumalanga.

The campus, which was previously known as the KwaNdebele College of Education, was among the teacher colleges closed in the mid-1990s. It now forms part of government’s plan to produce 14 000 new teachers by 2014.

The re-opened college will also form part of the new university in Mpumalanga, which is expected to be completed next year.

“This is indeed an exciting day for South Africa’s entire education system. This programme is informed by the Integrated Strategic Planning Framework for Teacher Education and Development, which I launched with Minister (Angie) Motshekga two years ago,” said Minister Nzimande.

The process of introducing the Bachelor of Education in Foundation Phase Teaching by re-opening former colleges of education is already underway in Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Limpopo.

In Mpumalanga, the Siyabuswa Campus is driven by a partnership between the Department of Higher Education and Training, Mpumalanga Department of Education, National Institute for Higher Education and University of Johannesburg.

This year 100 students enrolled for the Bachelor of Education in Foundation Phase Teaching at the Siyabuswa Campus. Enrolments will in- crease over the next few years until the campus is fully utilised.

Minister Nzimande also announced that an estimated 18 000 new teachers would be produced in the short to medium term. He explained that the department is already putting in place a three-step approach to strengthen and expand teacher education.

“The establishment of a full teacher education footprint at the two new universities to be established in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape, the establishment of three additional teacher education campuses, the new and growing involvement of the Vaal University of Technology in initial teacher education, will bring us very close to producing the required 18 000 new teachers per year in the medium term, and better address the teacher supply demand gap,” he said.

The programme is still in the planning stages in other provinces. Over the course of this year the sites will be finalised and the universities to which they will be linked confirmed.

Teacher unions have welcomed the programme.

“We are excited that the initiative is twinned with a reputable university like the University of Johannesburg to provide foundational expertise to launch the institution as well as share its teacher education programme,” said the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa President Basil Manuel.

He stressed that South Africa needed more well trained teachers to cope with the demands of the 21st century curriculum and the technological world.

“We embrace the promise that this new venture holds,” he added.

South African Democratic Teachers Union’s media officer Nomusa Cembi described the Teacher Education Programme as an answer to the union’s pleas.

“It is the answer we have been seeking for many years - to have more colleges of education re-opened. We need more qualified teachers and the current universities cannot provide the numbers of teachers needed. This programme provides quality and quantity which are urgently needed in education sector at the moment,” Cembi said.