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Monday, 21 January, 2002

Schools get ready for the start of the new year

Statement by André Gaum, Western Cape Minister of Education.

About 27 600 teachers will report for duty in the Western Cape today (Monday 21 January, 2002), to finalise preparations for new school year.

Some 900 000 learners will start school in the province on Wednesday, 23 January, 2002, ending the long summer holiday which began on 7 December.

The province is well prepared for the start of the year. I thank schools and departmental officials for all their hard work to date in getting ready for 2002.

We will monitor whether these preparations have been successful this week. Indications are, however, that the vast majority of schools finalised their preparations before schools closed last year.

There are about 1470 ordinary public schools in the province, 77 schools for learners with special education needs, and about 12 technical colleges. The Western Cape Education Department subsidises about 135 adult community learning centres and more than 400 preprimary schools.

While routine preparations were completed in the main last year, we are concerned about the possible impact of late enrolments of under-age Grade One learners in our primary schools.

Unfortunately, the regulation authorising these enrolments was only gazetted on 11 December, when schools were closed. While the issue has attracted considerable interest, we will only obtain an idea of the numbers involved on Wednesday.

The WCED has distributed clear guidelines to schools on how to handle under-age enrolments, and has published advertisements on the issue for the attention of parents in the media.

The WCED will implement a comprehensive programme to monitor the start of the school year this week. This will include visits to schools by senior management across the province.

I will start visiting schools today (Monday, 21 January) in metropolitan and rural areas, to discuss management issues involved in the start of the new year, and to inspect progress on new schools due to open on Wednesday.

These visits will hopefully reveal problems that need our urgent attention. While some of my visits will be unannounced, we want to work with schools in sorting out any problems.

Our most important priority is to ensure that teaching and learning starts promptly. We will work closely with schools and district offices in dealing with any problems that might cause delays.

While feedback from schools and visits by officials will provide a general idea of problems encountered by schools, the department will survey schools on the 10th day of the term to obtain statistical data needed for detailed analysis of key issues.

Management issues this week will include the provision of textbooks and other learner support materials.

Provisional indications were last week that schools had already taken delivery of 87% of textbook and 83% of stationery requirements. We have been assured that the balance will be delivered by Wednesday. We’ll obtain a clearer picture as schools re-open today.

Other issues include routine learner enrolments. In the past, registration of learners in the first weeks of the school year caused considerable delays in the teaching programmes of many schools.

The WCED launched an Enrol Early campaign late last year to encourage parents of children starting school, moving to high school, or changing schools, to register their children at schools by 16 November.

We will only know the results of this campaign on Wednesday. However, a similar campaign was highly successful last year, and we are hoping to repeat this success in 2002.

We are looking forward to an exciting year in 2002, given our plans for the year. However, we are under no illusions about the size of the task ahead of us. We have a good team, so I am confident that we’ll meet the challenges facing us.

Our primary objective is to ensure effective teaching and learning. Our programme for the year includes various strategies to achieve this objective. These include:

  • Ensuring that our new Education Management and Development Centres in each of our seven education districts are equipped for assisting schools in their efforts to become effective, well-managed centres of teaching and learning;

  • Special interventions to improve literacy and numeracy where they are needed most, though our Reading Schools campaign, and special programmes to improve performance in mathematics and science;

  • Ensuring safe teaching and learning environments through the work of the WCED’s Safe Schools programme;

  • Completing our programme this year to link every school in the province to the internet, and continued development of our programme to support teaching and learning using the latest in information and communication technologies; and

  • Finalising plans to launch a new In-service Training Institute for teachers.

Issued by:
The Communications Directorate
Western Cape Education Department
Private Bag X9114
Cape Town 8000
Tel: (021) 467-2531
Fax: (021) 467-2363
Email: pattwell@pawc.wcape.gov.za
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