The School Readiness Monitor (SRM) or pre-closure monitoring, which is normally conducted by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) in November of the previous year in preparation for the new academic year, will not happen this year as the 2020 academic year was adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education heard today that as the pandemic resulted in a loss of 42 school days, the sample of schools identified for 2021 SRM will be drawn from the five quintiles in selected districts and circuits. This will include all types of schools, that is, primary, secondary, combined/intermediate schools, special schools, small schools and schools with boarding facilities. The 2021 SRM will be conducted between 27 January and 12 February 2021.

The department further informed the committee that follow-up assessments focusing on issues picked up at the beginning of the 2021 academic year monitoring, will be conducted between 1 and 12 March 2021.

The committee today received briefings from the department on the SRM for 2021, The Second Change Matric Programme, as well as the Basic Education Employment Initiative (EEI) announced recently that would see over 300 000 job opportunities created for young South Africans and School Governing Body (SGB) funded posts and posts at government-subsidised independent schools will be saved.

The EEI stems from the announcement in April this year by President Cyril Ramaphosa about the R500 billion fiscal stimulus package. Subsequently, the National Treasury has committed a R7 billion allocation for the Basic Education Employment Initiative (EEI) Project.

A total of R6 998 billion is allocated to provinces as an add-on to the Equitable Share and R1.2 million to DBE for monitoring and oversight. The funding is for the remainder of the 2020/21 financial year with no rollovers.

In allocating Education Assistants (EAs), provinces are to prioritise schools for learners with special educational needs, quintile 1 - 3 schools, schools with multi-grade classes and rural and township schools. The allocation of EAs combined with General School Assistants (GSAs) will be capped at 20 per school. Provinces may, however, consider the number of posts that are under threat in deciding how much funds should be allocated to the saving of SGB posts at fee-paying schools and posts at government-subsidised independent schools.

The committee heard that the R7 billion allocation will be divided as follows: R4.47 billion to employ 200 000 EAs and 100 000 GSAs, R10.8 million for provincial project management, R1.2 million for DBE project management, 1% or R44.7 million of provincial allocation contributed towards UIF, up to 1% or R44.7 million of provincial allocation may be used for training and  R2.43 billion towards saving SGB-funded posts and posts at government-subsidised independent schools.

Committee member, Ms Nomsa Tarabella Marchesi, said the programme should be extended past its envisaged three months’ lifespan. She wanted to know why the DBE agreed to have it start next month as it would be school holidays.

In terms of the Second Change Matric Programme, the committee heard that 133 face-to-face centres were established across the provinces – from 1 September 2020 until the 15 December 2020. This saw the appointment of more than 2 394 teachers and 133 Centre Managers to teach during after school hours and over the weekends.

A total of more than 121 031 adult learners will be writing the 2020 examinations.  In the 121 031, there are more than 33 458 adult learners who are attending the face-to-face classes. The aim of the programme is to offer young people who have failed to meet the requirements of the NSC, SC as well as those who wish to upgrade/improve their NSC a second chance to obtain an improved/matric qualification thereby improving their quality of life.

In closing, Acting committee Chairperson, Ms Nombuyiselo Adoons, appealed to the public to be vigilant regarding vandalism of schools with the upcoming holidays fast approaching. “Communities must be on the look-out and take care of our infrastructure. We all benefit from schools and cannot allow this to happen.”

By Rajaa Azzakani

24 November 2020