BEEI in the Western Cape saves 6 414 SGB posts, and provides 19 011 assistants with temporary work opportunities
Statement by Minister Debbie Schäfer, Minister of Education Western Cape
Over the past few months, 19 011 young people have been working in our schools as Education Assistants or General School Assistants as part of the national Basic Education Employment Initiative. The initiative was meant to end on 31 March 2021, but we were able to extend contracts to the end of this month.
The impact of the initiative has been twofold - it offered temporary employment to young people during very difficult economic conditions, and assisted schools with staff responsibilities during the pandemic. The Education Assistants support teachers with administrative asks, classroom management, sports coaching and cultural activities, while the General School Assistants help with maintenance, cleaning, vegetable gardens, and general administration. The assistants also help with the additional tasks made necessary by a pandemic, such as implementing Covid-19 safety protocols and sanitising surfaces.
Despite the very short notice on which the initiative was announced by the DBE, the WCED has managed to appoint nearly all of the assistants our funding allocation allowed, due to the dedicated project Task Team and using the collective experience of our department. We were also able to appoint 9 officials to assist with the management of the BEEI, who also learned valuable skills from the experience.
Schools have responded very positively to the programme, stating that it has allowed teachers to focus on the main duty of teaching while the assistants are engaged in a supportive role. The assistants themselves have also expressed their appreciation for the opportunity, with some now interested in a career in education as a result.
I wish to thank all of our assistants for their participation and hard work, and our schools for being so accommodating of the Initiative. It is a great pity that the funding allocation has not been extended by the national government.
This is not the first time that assistants have supported teachers at our schools during the pandemic. Between July and September last year, while some of our school staff had special work arrangements because of high-risk comorbidities, the WCED employed 1 953 teaching assistants of our own accord until the end of Alert Level 2.
The second aspect of the initiative was the financial support given to schools to help save SGB posts, which were under threat as parents struggled to pay school fees due to the economic downturn caused by the lockdown. 6 414 SGB posts were saved through this intervention which transferred a total of R227 million to 667 schools. Schools expressed their appreciation for the intervention and their relief at being able save their SGB posts, with some noting that it allowed them to accommodate more learners at school each day in their rotating timetables than they would have been able to if those posts were lost.
I urge our parents to pay school fees if they can, because our schools rely on this income to cover operating expenses and pay additional teachers. Any parent who has lost their job or seen their salary reduced can applying for a full or partial fee exemption through their school.
Spokesperson to Minister Debbie Schäfer
Western Cape Ministry of Education