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Media Release

15 January, 2007

Opening of schools - Western Cape is well prepared and determined to do even better in 2007 at all levels of education

Statement by Education MEC Cameron Dugmore

The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) is confident that its 1,500 schools are ready to welcome back about 930,000 learners into classrooms on Wednesday, and that learning and teaching will begin immediately.

Schools have already started today for the thousands of teachers at our schools. The school management teams and principal are finalizing plans to ensure a smooth start to the new year.

We do not anticipate a crisis with the accommodation of learners. In this regard we have set in place plans to deal with some of the hot spots. We are satisfied that everything is on track.

This includes the provision of learner transport where required, the provisioning of mobile classrooms. During the course of 2007/08 fourteen new schools will be opened and occupied.

At the beginning of 2006, the opening and occupation of fifteen new schools also assisted with the accommodation of learners.

Two hot spot areas may arise; one in South EMDC where the new school building for Heinz Park Primary (between Mitchell's Plain and Phillippi) is not yet completed. The mobile units will not be available this week. The expected influx in Phillippi may require special intervention but at this stage totals are unknown. The EMDC has contingency plans in place.

The second area could be in Paarl (West Coast/Winelands EMDC) where a growth in numbers is expected at Desmond Tutu High. The expected number of learners is unknown at this stage, but the EMDC will monitor the situation closely.

If necessary, learner transport for the Khayamandi High School will be considered. Any unforeseen influx of new learners will be monitored and managed at district level where learners will be re-directed to schools where spaces exist and if necessary learner transport will be considered.

Isolated cases of learners being unplaced will be dealt with at the district offices. Due to the successes of our Early Enrolment Campaigns in the last few years, we do not expect that big numbers of unplaced learners will emerge.

I am also pleased to note that almost all schools have already received their learner/teaching support materials - both main and additional orders.

A few textbook titles are not available, it is either out of print or not yet in print. Outstanding textbooks and stationery deliveries will be made in this week in terms of the requirements of the National Education Department.

All Section 21 schools have by now received their transfer payments. In terms of treasury instructions, no further transfer payments can be made unless a report has been received that the previous transfer payments were utilised for the intended purposes. Only two per cent of schools still need to submit their reports after which outstanding payments will be effected.

With regards to the filling of vacancies, at December 2006, 2130 posts were advertised, to date 840 are completed and 479 posts are outstanding (meaning not received from SGBs).

Although the Western Cape had an overall percentage pass of 83,7% last year, my view is that our schools can and must do better.

We are increasingly focussing on maths and science, as well as endorsements for access to higher education, especially for our historically disadvantaged learners.

I am pleased that the pass rates in ex-DET schools have increased steadily in the last three years (by 3.8 % in 2006). However, we must do even better. I am not happy with the fact that some schools continue to struggle to break through the 60% barrier.

So, whilst we are proud of what the class of 2006 achieved, I believe that the class of 2007 can and must do better. In this regard, I want to repeat the six interventions we will be making, to ensure that all our children get the best they deserve. The interventions are:

1. Embark on the quality improvement, development, support and upliftment programme (Quids-Up) programme

This initiative, led by Minister Pandor, aims to allocate new learning resources to schools, especially in poor and disadvantaged communities.

2. Set Targets

By the end of February 2007 each high school in the province is to set an overall pass target, a matric endorsement target and Maths/Science targets for 2007. These targets must be formally signed off by the School Governing Body, including the RCL representatives. Additional targets for the retention of learners in the FET band and numeracy and literacy targets for the foundation and intermediate phase will be set by each school during the course of the year. These targets will be linked to the annual performance plans.

3. Broaden our base: work on literacy and numeracy across the board

What is also very clear to me is that we cannot just look for weaknesses in our high schools. We need to work in our primary schools as well. Our numeracy and literacy strategy is well on track and our language in education plan to focus on mother tongue based bilingual education will be launched early this year.

4. Make our schools a safe learning home for all

The levels of violence in and around our schools and the aggressive behaviour of learners continue to impact negatively on our schools. Crystal and Oscar Mpetha clearly were adversely affected by safety and other issues in 2006. This year will see an unprecedented inter-sectoral campaign to build a safe learning home.

The campaign will include a review of the codes of conduct of each school; involving the leaders of Representative Councils of Learners (RCLs) as well as members of School Governing Bodies (SGBs).

Thanks to the contributions of community organisations like the Proudly Manenberg Campaign, the Manenberg High School achieved a matric result of 85.29% last year, up from 45.35% the previous year. Although we are concerned at the retention rate at this school , we are proud of the work done.

It is our aim to replicate these types of success stories by continuing to build partnerships with other communities, like the Hanover Park Education Forum, the Lentegeur Education Foundation, and many others.

5. Monitor and evaluate

I believe the redesign process of the department must lead to greater research capacity, monitoring, evaluation and accountability. As a learning organisation one of our key challenges is to understand our context, challenges and possibilities and respond to them.

6. Tackle the situation in the schools still performing below 60%

On the 2006 results 8% of our high schools lie below the mark of 60% but there are many more that are under-performing and not securing endorsements. The time has come to say that continued under-performance will simply not be tolerated. We will conduct a full contextual analysis of each under-performing school by the end of January 2007.

I want to thank the many partners, business, NGOs and other organizations who continue to support our learners and our schools.

I also want to thank the many committed teachers who are working with our children. In this respect I want to mention the Hector Petersen and Langa Secondary Schools, whose matrics have last year already decided to start learning and teaching even a week earlier.

For enquiries, contact Gert Witbooi:  082 550 3938, or gwitbooi@pgwc.gov.za.

Issued by:
Gert Witbooi
Media Liaison Officer
Office of the MEC for Education
Western Cape
Tel: 021 467 2523
Fax: 021 425 5689

Visit our website: http://wced.wcape.gov.za

The Western Cape - A Home for All
INtshona Koloni - iKhaya loMntu wonke
Die Wes-Kaap - 'n Tuiste vir Almal

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