Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga says her department plans to enrol all South African children in a two-year compulsory Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme before starting Grade 1.
Presenting her departmental budget in Parliament Tuesday, Motshekga listed ten other focus areas for the DBE.
Among the department’s priorities — improving reading and maths for learners in early grades, the decolonisation of basic education, the implementation of a grade 9 exit certificate, and developing new ways of dealing with the delivery of school infrastructure.
Motshekga said that ECD programme will improve the foundational skills of literacy and numeracy.
“To achieve that goal, we need to urgently proceed with the implementation of the two-years of ECD before Grade 1 and the systematic relocation of the responsibility for ECD from the Department of Social Development to the Department of Basic Education,” Motshekga said.
“The Department of Basic Education is working closely with the Department of Social Development and other partners to oversee the migration, and proceed with the process towards two years of compulsory ECD for all children before they enter Grade 1.”
Motshekga said that her department will develop a comprehensive plan for the different workstreams involved in the ECD function shift (Grade R, Grade RR, and Birth to 4), in collaboration with the relevant partners in government.
She added that a plan, including all the costs of the programme, will be finalised by March 2020.
Motshekga said her department had prioritised the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal, and Limpopo to eradicate pit latrines over the next three years.
Earlier at a media briefing, DBE director-general Mathanzima Mweli, said the department has allocated R700 million for 2019/20; R800 million for 2020/21; and R1.3 billion for 2021/22 for completely clearing inappropriate sanitation in schools throughout the country.
The total 2019/2020 budget allocation for the DBE is R24.5 billion, an increase of 3.4% from the 2018/19 overall allocation.
Motshekga said the department will work at making sure that learners in early grades are able to learn to read, write and do mathematics.
“Although there are various factors affecting high school children that may trigger dropping out of school, the evidence shows that the root cause is inadequate learning foundations.”
Motshekga said this — among the other priorities — would be achieved by rolling out a primary school reading improvement programme that would help improve the quality of teaching home language literacy as well as English as a first additional language.
Motshekga said the department will launch reading clubs and hold reading competitions as a way to encourage learners to read.
And that by the end of the 2019-20 financial year the department would have adopted a national reading plan for primary schools.
Kiswahili As A Subject
Motshekga also announced that Kiswahili will officially be introduced as a subject in local schools.
She said a number schools, mainly around Gauteng, have been identified to pilot the language offering this year – with an aim of fully implementing it next year.
“I am delighted to announce that the Council of Education Ministers overwhelmingly agreed to incrementally introduce Kiswahili in our schools.
There is a high level of enthusiasm about this,” Motshekga said.
Getting Ready for the 4IR
As part of plans to future-proof the economy, president Cyril Ramaphosa has also pledged to introduce a number of technology-focused subjects to the curriculum.
In April, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) said it had trained 43,774 teachers in computer skills and would shortly begin training teachers for the new coding curricula.
Motshekga said that these teachers will be trained on coding from June to September 2019.
Coding as a subject will be piloted at 1,000 schools across five provinces starting in the 2020 school year.
Motshekga said the DBE will also introduce a robotics curriculum from Grades R to 9.
Department to build 40 schools this year
Motshekga added that her department will complete the construction of 40 schools and deliver sanitation to 775 schools and water to 225 schools by the end of 2019.
Some 606 schools will also be provided with sanitation through the Sanitation Appropriate For Education (SAFE) initiative, she said.
“School infrastructure provision remains a contentious matter that requires agility, innovation for effective delivery to accelerate the achievements that have already been registered.”
Motshekga said her department was discussing various financing options with the National Treasury and the Development Bank of SA, including partnerships with NGOs.