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DBE in talks to continue with the Presidential Youth Employment Initiative

NYAKALLO TEFU|

Talks are under way by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to review and repackage the Presidential Youth Employment Initiative with a proposed second phase to start this year

The initiative started last year December and ended on 30 April.

DBE spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said the initiative was a direct response to the coronavirus pandemic and was used to direct public investment in order to create employment opportunities as well as to provide support to workers who were negatively impacted by Covid-19.

“The Basic Education sector created employment opportunities for more than 320 000 Education and General Education Assistants who were placed in schools around the country,” he said. 

The spokesperson said the employment opportunities provided by the initiative helped schools with administration issues and the general upkeep of the school. 

The National Professional Teachers Organization’s (NAPTOSA) Basil Manuel said even though everyone knew this was a temporary measure, it is unfortunate that it has come to an end. 

“We knew that it was a very temporary intervention, the great tragedy about it ending is that many schools have never had the luxury of having teacher assistants and now they realize what they have been missing,” said Manuel. 

Mhlanga said the contracts will not be extended but instead, discussions are underway to review and repackage the initiative with a proposed second phase to commence later this year.

“An announcement will be made once all the details have been finalised,” said Mhlanga.

Adding that the department is aware that some provinces, including Limpopo, have published recruitment adverts for education assistants. 

“The provincial initiatives such as the ones in Gauteng and Limpopo are not linked to the national Presidential Youth Employment Initiative commonly known as the Basic Education Employment Initiative,” he said. 

Manuel said NAPTOSA has made enquiries about the return of the initiative.

“Even though it paid people a minimum wage, it made a difference in the lives of so many, not only that but schools also benefited from this,” said Manuel.  

“Of course, everyone is fighting, we hope that even if we have a revived version, we can look at those schools that need additional support.  from the category of support than just teachers,” added Manuel. 

Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schäfer said the initiative offered temporary employment to young people during very difficult economic conditions, and also assisted schools with staff responsibilities during the pandemic.

“The assistants also helped implement Covid-19 safety protocols and sanitising surfaces,” she said.

Adding that education assistants were invaluable in that they supported teachers with administrative tasks, classroom management, sports coaching and cultural activities, while the general school assistants helped with maintenance, cleaning, vegetable gardens and general administration.

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