Author Archive: IvoryT

Pupils must learn to plan how to pay back NSFAS

Many young people, especially the 2008 matrics, lack adequate information on career options, where to study or what financial assistance is available to them.
Over the past few weeks, says the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), it has been inundated with calls from scores of 2008 grade 12s which reflect that many young people have little idea about study options.

“Judging by the number of enquires our office has been receiving from 2008 grade 12s about the past few weeks, it’s clear that there’s very little planning being done by most pupils about what to do after school. “And these queries are coming through at the very time that the student should be registering, having long ago selected a course of study and applied to an institution for acceptance,” said NSFAS spokesperson Bonny Feldman.

In 2008, NSFAS provided funding of R2-billion to about 125 000 students. The scheme was created to assist needy South African students with academic potential to study for the first time at a university or do a national certificate at further education and training colleges. Now the scheme is urging pupils from grade 9 to 12 to apply some time to planning, but most importantly to research career paths and processes involved in applying for course of study at tertiary institutions.

Feldman said where this year’s grade 9s were concerned, the focus of their thinking about their future should relate to the subject choice they will have to make during the year.
“Making the right choices is also dependent on having a vision of one’s future. To pursue a particular career, one must acquire qualifications and for that one must have a school record that includes certain subjects required for the field of study,” she said. Feldman said success in studies seemed to be linked in part to an understanding of what the course of study involved and what career options it may open up.

“It’s useful to spend some time identifying your strengths, both in terms of your character and as regards your academic abilities. Investigate what types of careers these strengths are suitable for, and then consider the employability of someone with a qualification in such a field. This sort of approach can help you select something that will be meaningful and can lead to a job and a solid future,” she said.

Feldman said deadlines for applications were a crucial part of the whole initiative, as was how much money a prospective student would need to put away for study fees. Feldman stressed the need for young people to focus on areas of the economy where there were severe skills shortages. “This is exactly what NSFAS is there for. We administer loans and bursaries for students who cannot afford the costs of studying themselves. Since we are a government agency, we are not profit-based, which means that the conditions relating to our loans are far less onerous than other types of loans,” she said.

Feldman said that while the bulk of NSFAS funding was in the form of loans, it also administered bursary funds for particularly scarce skills, such as teaching, social work, accounting and actuarial science. New service tax questions for learners who will work under the fund will be reviewed.

Pandor confirms plans to reopen colleges

29 Apr ’08
Pandor said her department had this year allocated R180-million in bursaries for 5 000 students to study teaching at universities. ‘we are still short of teachers in these areas’
She said the aim of the programme was to “train more primary school teachers, more teachers to work in rural schools, and more maths and language teachers”.

“However, we are still short of teachers in these areas. So, one of the objectives we are considering is the establishment of dedicated units, colleges, or institutions in each province to strengthen this triple need and to support provincial and local government-integrated development plans,” said Pandor.

The minister said the decision to review the matter was based on the fact that, in the past, these colleges were administered by provinces, but that this system was dysfunctional.
“When the decision was taken to close them in the 1990s, colleges were training too many teachers in a fragmented and un-co-ordinated system. Moreover, the quality of college training was uneven.

“Some colleges were too expensive for provinces to run (too few pupils per college) and the majority of African students were disadvantaged by being locked into colleges in former homelands,” said Pandor. ‘Zuma says Asmal had been behind the closure of the colleges’ When the government decided to shut them down the idea was supported by stakeholders in the education sector and it was agreed that teacher training rather be located at universities.

Pandor said part of the motive to review the reopening of colleges was based on the fact that primary teachers do not need a university qualification. Responding to Zuma’s attack last week, Asmal said: “I regret that my comrade president has personalised this issue because the decision was taken by cabinet. I implemented it and I did not close down the colleges, but transferred them to institutions of higher education.”

Dean of Humanities at Wits University Mary Metcalfe said she was against the idea of re-opening colleges because conditions have changed in the new dispensation.
“The role of universities in teacher education is well established (now). What we need is for universities to create new (education) models by establishing relationships with institutes,” she said. Meanwhile, Asmal has defended the decision to close down the colleges, saying they had not been entirely dysfunctional as they otherwise would not have been transferred to higher education institutions.

He made the comments while answering questions from journalists after receiving an honourary doctorate in law from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The journalists were referring to comments by Zuma at the launch of the KZN Institute of Local Government and Traditional Leadership fund-raising summit in RichardsBay recently. According to reports, Zuma said Asmal had been behind the closure of the colleges.

He was reported to have said: “Asmal is a man who believes he knows everything. What he did was worse than what the apartheid regime did to our education system.” Asmal, who was reluctant to reply to the comments, said he did not want to make it a “personal matter”. He said the government should focus on other more pressing matters in education. “There is no need to revisit and revise decisions that were made in consultation with cabinet and the community.

“The real problem in our schools is the teaching of English and maths and we must concentrate our efforts there,” he said. Asmal said he had a great desire to go to university after matriculating from “the sugar cane town of Stanger”. “Of all my awards, this honourary degree is for me the most moving and important as I would have wanted to have gone to the university (then the University of Natal) over 50 years ago but could not, for poverty and racist reasons. “Now, because of the integration process, it is fast-becoming a truly South African university,” he said. Asmal urged law graduates to help the less privileged.

Promotion of Equality and Prevention

Pupils should not have sex but if they fall pregnant, they should be treated with respect and encouraged to finish their education, according to the Department of Education.
The department’s Measures for the Prevention and Management of Learner Pregnancy focuses on prevention, emphasising the importance of sex education, HIV/Aids education and peer education among pupils, but also offers guidelines when pregnancies do occur.

“In accordance with the Constitution, the South African Schools Act, and the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act … school children who are pregnant shall not be unfairly discriminated against,” said the guidelines. “Accordingly, in July 2000, the council of education ministers issued a statement indicating that pregnant learners may not be expelled from
schools.” When pupils fell pregnant, schools should balance the needs of the individual against those of others in the school community. In addition, confidentially is crucial, said the
guidelines.

“Parents or guardians should only be informed and involved after consultation with the learner involved, although confidentiality is not an option when the learner or others are at risk.”
Learners were urged to inform a senior teacher if they were pregnant. Pregnant learners, and fathers-to-be — if also learners — may ask or be required to take leave of absence from
school. No time period for this was set but pupils are expected to take full responsibility as parents so “a period of absence of up to two years may be necessary”, said the guidelines.

Babies must be protected, so pupils will have to show that proper childcare arrangements are made before they return to school. Pregnant pupils may not be unfairly discriminated against, but they must also understand that their school communities may not support their situation. Schools should however “strongly encourage” pupils to continue their education. Schools should keep
records of learner pregnancies.

Splitting the Education Department To Global Av Solutions

Latoya Newman Splitting the Education Department into two entities – which would be responsible for schools and tertiary education, respectively – would be logical provided the right people headed the two ministries.

This was according to education analyst Professor Jonathan Jansen on Monday, following indications by ANC President Jacob Zuma that the country is likely to have two education ministries, with the aim of improving the department.

Students’ and workers’ unions were split on their support of the proposed move. While tertiary staff unions have thrown their weight behind the proposal, students’ movements were not sold on the idea. Jansen said the national split was not likely to be mirrored at provincial level. “A ministry of higher learning is not required at provincial level, as that is a national matter. Schools would have a provincial MEC, as they do now, so that would be unaffected,” he said.Jansen said the education system was currently “too large, complex and unstable for one minister”.

He said it usually required an enormous amount of time to address problems at universities. “Like the academic freedom issue raised at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the management problem at the Mangosuthu University of Technology. These things require a minister to be hands-on. Now what happens when you add 26 000 schools, children being stabbed at schools, teachers striking and so on? This is a ministry that requires two authorities,” he said.

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) and the National Tertiary Education Staff Union (NTESU) said the move would ensure more focused effort in the different education sectors. NTESU president Silvia Nkanyuza said the union welcomed the proposal but, if implemented, it would monitor the government’s attitude regarding institutional autonomy and academic freedom. The SA Union of Students (SAUS) and the South African Students’ Congress (Sasco) opposed a split in the education department.

Research


SAUS president Sandile Phakathi said the approach was “mechanical rather than scientific”, with no research done into its feasibility.
Similarly, Sasco president Magasela Nzobe said there was “no evidence” to show that separate ministries would address the challenges faced in the education sector. The best av technology solutions is going to be installed at All Schools conference rooms.

“In the current system, we have two separate directorates in the department: one focusing on secondary education and the other on higher education. We are not convinced that there would be a difference with separate ministries,” Nzobe said. “I think Education Minister Naledi Pandor has a natural feel for university issues. At school level, Science and Technology Minister Mosibudi Mangena works with schools all the time,” he said.