Gov­ern­ment, fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties de­fine school readi­ness

Great deal of sup­port needed for chil­dren’s learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence

The Star Late Edition - - INSIDE - PANYAZA LESUFI

SCHOOL readi­ness is a con­tested and emo­tional term. It is a term in­voked reg­u­larly in dis­cus­sions on im­prov­ing the qual­ity of school­ing out­comes and learner per­for­mance, and on bet­ter prepa­ra­tion of young peo­ple for life and to fa­cil­i­tate tran­si­tion to post-school op­por­tu­ni­ties.

In­deed, readi­ness means dif­fer­ent things to dif­fer­ent peo­ple. Some­times, readi­ness is de­scribed in terms of age or stage of de­vel­op­ment. At other times, check­lists of readi­ness skills and knowl­edge are used to iden­tify what chil­dren should be able to do or know be­fore they start school.

Still, other def­i­ni­tions of readi­ness em­pha­sise so­cial, emo­tional, cur­ric­ula and in­fras­truc­tural as­pects.

As com­mu­ni­ties re­it­er­ate the im­por­tance of ed­u­ca­tion, as fam­i­lies seek to sup­port their chil­dren’s suc­cess in ed­u­ca­tion, and as ed­u­ca­tors face in­creas­ing calls for ac­count­abil­ity, there is re­newed at­ten­tion paid to no­tions of the readi­ness of schools to re­ceive and ed­u­cate our fu­ture lead­ers on a daily ba­sis.

In any def­i­ni­tion of readi­ness for school, learn­ers and the schools they at­tend are im­por­tant. That is why the Gaut­eng Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion (GDE) has proac­tively mon­i­tored pub­lic schools on a quar­terly ba­sis to en­sure that all schools are ready for the 2017 aca­demic year.

To date, there are 2 368 264 learn­ers en­rolled in Gaut­eng schools. An in­crease of 105 945 learn­ers was recorded be­tween 2015 and 2016 to­tal en­rol­ments. This rep­re­sents an in­crease of 4.47 per­cent. Rapid in-mi­gra­tion re­mains a con­tribut­ing fac­tor to the growth in learner num­bers.

The depart­ment is grate­ful for the co-op­er­a­tion it has re­ceived from par­ents who heeded the call to use the on­line sys­tem. It is ac­knowl­edged that some par­ents faced frus­tra­tion dur­ing the ap­pli­ca­tion and place­ment pe­riod.

By the be­gin­ning of 2017, more than 40 000 learn­ers are still not placed. The depart­ment will work round-the-clock to place all these learn­ers and in­form the par­ents.

When we con­sider readi­ness for schools, we must con­sider the role of fam­i­lies, schools, com­mu­ni­ties and gov­ern­ment. Af­ter all, chil­dren do not live in iso­la­tion, they are mem­bers of many dif­fer­ent groups and in­ter­act in many dif­fer­ent con­texts.

Fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties pro­vide critical sup­port sys­tems for chil­dren, and they nur­ture school readi­ness grad­u­ally over time, and as chil­dren and fam­i­lies en­gage in a range of ex­pe­ri­ences.

Com­mu­ni­ties have another im­por­tant role to play in defin­ing and shap­ing per­cep­tions of readi­ness. The gov­ern­ment and com­mu­ni­ties pro­vide in­fras­truc­ture and so­cial links that to­gether make up so­cial cap­i­tal.

As gov­ern­ment, we work with speed and greater re­solve to im­ple­ment pol­icy goals of our trans­for­ma­tion pro­grammes. We be­lieve that through in­ter­ven­tions, we im­prove the qual­ity of learn­ing across all schools and across all grades, and have the de­sired im­pact on post-school­ing op­por­tu­nity.

The gov­ern­ment and com­mu­ni­ties, with high lev­els of so­cial cap­i­tal, pro­vide a range of ben­e­fits for chil­dren through the re­la­tion­ships that ex­ist and the avail­abil­ity of re­sources.

Phys­i­cal re­sources such as schools, child care and health ser­vices are im­por­tant. So, too, are rich re­la­tion­ships that buf­fer and sup­port fam­i­lies.

That is why the GDE is pre­par­ing to de­liver eight new brick and mor­tar schools, 12 new Al­ter­na­tive Con­struc­tion Tech­nol­ogy (ACT) schools, 603 ad­di­tional ACT class­rooms, 314 Grade R class­rooms and 160 toi­let blocks in 2017.

In ad­di­tion, 74 ACT class­rooms were re­lo­cated to schools in high-ad­mis­sion pres­sure ar­eas to al­le­vi­ate over­crowd­ing. Of the new in­fras­truc­ture, eight new brick and mor­tar schools are sched­uled to open this month.

Schools and cur­ric­ula must be de­signed to meet chil­dren’s in­di­vid­ual learn­ing needs, and com­mu­ni­ties and gov­ern­ments can sup­port readi­ness by of­fer­ing var­i­ous lev­els and types of sup­port, as well as op­por­tu­ni­ties that as­sist par­ents and com­mu­ni­ties in meet­ing the de­vel­op­men­tal needs of young chil­dren.

While it is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant to con­sider learn­ers as in­di­vid­u­als as they start school, it is also im­por­tant to ac­knowl­edge that chil­dren do not ex­ist in iso­la­tion, they are mem­bers of fam­i­lies, com­mu­ni­ties, cul­tural and friend­ship groups, and so on.

Nei­ther are schools cul­tur­ally neu­tral spa­ces – schools and those within them have a range of ex­pec­ta­tions that im­pact on how readi­ness is de­fined and en­acted.

To meet chil­dren’s in­di­vid­ual learn­ing needs, the de­liv­ery for Grade 11 and 12 lit­er­a­ture text­books and sta­tionery for all learn­ers has been com­pleted.

To ad­dress the 2017 fur­ni­ture needs of the prov­ince, or­ders were placed and de­liv­er­ies to schools to the value of R26 mil­lion com­menced in Oc­to­ber.

Many peo­ple and groups con­trib­ute to learn­ers’ readi­ness – the learn­ers them­selves, fam­i­lies, schools and other ed­u­ca­tional con­texts and com­mu­ni­ties in gen­eral. Readi­ness de­vel­ops over time and through cu­mu­la­tive ex­pe­ri­ences and in­ter­ac­tions, me­di­ated by re­la­tion­ships.

The GDE is trans­port­ing 102 090 learn­ers. Given that most of the learn­ers who mi­grate from other prov­inces would stay in in­for­mal set­tle­ments, this num­ber is pro­jected to go up to 112 300 in 2017.

To date, 1 343 413 learn­ers in 1 621 schools across the prov­ince re­ceive a meal at school as part of our School Nutri­tion Pro­gramme. The num­ber is likely to in­crease to an es­ti­mated 1 574 380 due to mi­gra­tion from other prov­inces.

The depart­ment will im­ple­ment its new ap­proach to scholar nutri­tion in 2017 af­ter com­plet­ing an open and com­pet­i­tive bid­ding process. The GDE wishes all our learn­ers the best of luck in 2017.

Panyaza Lesufi is Gaut­eng MEC for Ed­u­ca­tion

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