PAR­ENTS NEED TO BE SURE SCHOOL IS NOT BO­GUS

Sowetan - - OPINION & ANALYSIS - PANYAZA LE­SUFI Le­sufi is Gaut­eng MEC for ed­u­ca­tion

CHOOS­ING the right school for your child is an im­por­tant de­ci­sion that takes plenty of time and re­search. That is why ev­ery year in Jan­uary and Feb­ru­ary par­ents scram­ble for last-minute places in schools, ei­ther for their chil­dren to re­peat the sub­jects they failed or just to get space in a pre­ferred school.

Al­though reg­is­tra­tion of chil­dren for the new school calendar closes at the end of Septem­ber, schools are usu­ally flooded with thou­sands of last-minute at­tempts to reg­is­ter chil­dren dur­ing and un­til March of the next year.

When ev­ery­thing else fails, some par­ents re­sort to tak­ing their chil­dren to any school they come across, some of the schools may be il­le­gal and un­ac­cred­ited or fly-bynight cen­tres who mar­ket them­selves as in­de­pen­dent in­sti­tu­tions.

The word in­de­pen­dent may be at­trac­tive, but what are in­de­pen­dent schools?

In­de­pen­dent schools are a clus­ter of dif­fer­ent types of schools that rep­re­sent an al­ter­na­tive to pub­lic schools. Par­ents of­ten choose th­ese for a num­ber of rea­sons.

Some schools’ cur­ric­ula are based on qual­i­fi­ca­tions and some have dif­fer­ent ed­u­ca­tional views, and some have par­tic­u­lar views on char­ac­ter devel­op­ment. Some schools are es­tab­lished in protest of par­tic­u­lar poli­cies in pub­lic schools; for ex­am­ple, par­ents may pre­fer small schools to larger schools.

The in­de­pen­dent pri­mary schools are al­lowed au­ton­omy on all mat­ters ac­cord­ing to the school’s core val­ues, al­though fi­nal ex­ams are car­ried out ac­cord­ing to the pub­lic school guide­lines and re­quire­ments. They are all ad­min­is­tered un­der the same law, and the schools are sub­ject to in­spec­tion.

From the per­for­mance per­spec­tive, in­de­pen­dent schools seem very suc­cess­ful, and thus rep­re­sent a chal­lenge to the pub­lic school sys­tem. Part of the suc­cess of in­de­pen­dent schools is that they have very clear goals about what they want for the chil­dren, ex­cel­lent teach­ers, and a strong school-par­ent re­la­tion­ship. What seems to con­trib­ute to the in­de­pen­dent schools’ suc­cess is the so­cioe­co­nomic sta­tus of the chil­dren.

In­de­pen­dent schools of­fer a wealth of fa­cil­i­ties and high teach­ing stan­dards that en­able stu­dents to achieve great re­sults year af­ter year. They are in the unique po­si­tion to pro­vide a truly be­spoke ed­u­ca­tion for a stu­dent.

It is a pity that bo­gus schools spring up, par­tic­u­larly at this time of the year, and take ad­van­tage of des­per­ate par­ents and pupils with false prom­ises of decent ed­u­ca­tion.

I have met stu­dents and par­ents who were duped, un­aware their col­lege was op­er­at­ing il­le­gally, yet they were pay­ing R1 000 a month.

Il­le­gal schools and col­leges are a ma­jor prob­lem in that af­ter years of study, stu­dents grad­u­ate and are is­sued with cer­tifi­cates which are use­less and not recog­nised.

There­fore, par­ents need to ex­er­cise due pru­dence and thor­oughly check whether or not the schools are reg­is­tered with the Gaut­eng depart­ment of ed­u­ca­tion (GDE) be­fore they reg­is­ter their chil­dren, to avoid be­ing swin­dled.

It is, how­ever, not easy for par­ents to ver­ify the cre­den­tials of th­ese in­sti­tu­tions due to lack of both ex­per­tise and in­for­ma­tion.

The me­dia is flooded with their ad­verts and ex­quis­ite prospec­tuses are dis­trib­uted. Some­times ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cials are in­vited to grace th­ese pro­mo­tional events – giv­ing an im­pres­sion of le­git­i­macy.

The GDE does not en­cour­age pupils to go to al­ter­na­tive schools, but recog­nises them if they are reg­is­tered and are in com­pli­ance with all mu­nic­i­pal by-laws:

A stand­ing procedure for deal­ing with bo­gus schools, once they are un­cov­ered, is that the GDE to­gether with mem­bers of the School Safety Stake­holder Fo­rum formed by the GDE, SAPS, Emer­gency Man­age­ment Ser­vices, En­vi­ron­men­tal Health Prac­ti­tion­ers, Liquor Board and Metro po­lice, con­duct a full blitz to close them down and ar­rest the own­ers.

Oth­er­wise, reg­is­tered schools must be ac­cred­ited by Umalusi, the ed­u­ca­tion qual­ity as­sur­ance reg­u­la­tory body es­tab­lished in terms of the Qual­i­fi­ca­tions and Qual­ity As­sur­ance Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing Act No 28 of 2012.

All reg­is­tered in­de­pen­dent schools must have the fol­low­ing all com­pli­ance doc­u­ments is­sued by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity where they are lo­cated: health cer­tifi­cate; fire cer­tifi­cate; cer­tifi­cate of oc­cu­pancy; and zon­ing cer­tifi­cate.

Cur­ricu­lum and as­sess­ment mon­i­tor­ing and sup­port is pro­vided by the district of­fices at in­de­pen­dent schools as well.

The ex­ams and as­sess­ment direc­torate en­sures qual­ity in ex­am­i­na­tion pro­cesses.

As the depart­ment, we use our ex­per­tise to root out il­le­gal ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions.

In ad­di­tion, dis­cern­ing fraud­u­lent acts per­pe­trated by un­qual­i­fied or un­li­censed ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions are the ul­ti­mate re­spon­si­bil­ity of ev­ery­one in our coun­try.

We should act in uni­son to erad­i­cate rogue, bo­gus and detri­men­tal in­sti­tu­tions.

“All schools must be ac­cred­ited by Umalusi

PHOTO: DANIEL BORN

The Gaut­eng MEC for ed­u­ca­tion is warn­ing par­ents against bo­gus schools, say­ing they will lose their money.

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