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Friday, January 21, 2022

Panyaza Lesufi is determined to make the GDE a success story

Thabo Mohlala

Despite being forced to play a role of ‘Mr. Fix it’, Gauteng education department, Panyaza Lesufi said he is on course to execute his department’s mission of ensuring that all the schools in the province are functional and modernised to provide quality learning and teaching.

He has recently been kept on his toes, traversing the province to resolve crises like racism, rape and violence. He has received plenty praise from people for his agility and promptness in personally getting involved in these matters.

But Lesufi said although these are a distraction, there is a lot of work that his team is carrying out in the background. He said the problems he has been wrestling with accounted for only 13%, which means 87% was dedicated to delivering on his mandate. Lesufi said there was no way he would be derailed.

Speaking on 702 this week, the MEC said his department’s programme is anchored on three key areas: ICT, building schools of specialisation, and school twinning.

Lesufi’s mantra since taking office was to revolutionalise education in the province through a deliberate integration process of ICT. He said the days of chalks and boards are over and these are now being replaced by paperless classrooms.

Since then most townships have adopted the latest technologies such as smart-boards, tablets and laptops. He said Gauteng must not only lead the way as an economic hub but also when it comes to technological advances. “Gone are the days when our economy relied on minerals and other natural resources as well as agriculture,” said Lesufi, adding that the country must invest in human capital instead.  

He said they were currently in talks with strategic industry players to leverage their resources and skills base. Lesufi said they are negotiating with Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (Necsa) to get them to avail their technical skills particularly in areas such as physics, engineering, chemistry and electronics.

Similarly, they are in consultation with BMW which is about to release one of its latest models. Lesufi said the objective was to get learners exposed to all the different aspects involved in assembling the car. This involves mechanical engineering, electronics, painting, welding, upholstery and other related critical components. South African Airways would also take learners under its wings and provide them with a whole range of aviation skills.

One example of such specialised schools was built at Emdeni – right at the heart of Soweto. Named after the struggle veteran, Curtis Nkondo, the state-of-the-art school focuses on engineering, mathematics, science, ICT, commerce and entrepreneurship, performing and creative arts and sports.  

Lesufi said his department is determined to break racial barriers and promote racial cohesion. And to achieve this they have adopted a school twinning programme. “Our education system is like Irish coffee: black at the bottom, white on top with sprinkles of chocolate on the foam. We need to break those barriers,” Lesufi said when launching the project. The programme aims to ensure the well-resourced schools are twinned with poor schools. Alexandra High School has partnered with its neighbouring Sandown High School.

Lesufi was asked if thinks the ICT programme can be said to be successful even when schools are broken into and learners and teachers get attacked for their laptops and tablets. “I think the country was not ready, the resources were limited and yet the needs were massive and the fiscus was also not ready to provide the necessary capital,” Lesufi said.

But, he said, he will not allow theft and attacks to deter him from forging ahead with his ICT project.

“We need to prepare our children for the 4th industrial revolution, they really need to be part of this world, otherwise they will be left behind,” said Lesufi.

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