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National story: South African government increasing access to affordable basic education

Posted by Letswalo M Community Manager on 20 April 2021 9:35 AM SAST
Letswalo M Community Manager photo

The South African government has made significant gains in increasing access to affordable basic education for the majority of the country’s previously marginalised citizens. Notwithstanding these gains, the provision of quality education is one of the most urgent challenges facing the government.

Factors that create a weak foundation for the delivery of quality education—many as a result of the backlog inherited from the apartheid era—include inadequate school infrastructure; insufficient teaching and learning resources; large class sizes; a shortage of qualified teachers; poor access to early childhood education; inadequate parental involvement; poverty; poor nutrition; and poor access to health care. All these present as structural barriers to education that require focused interventions.

South Africa, an original CSTL Member State, recognized early on that the crisis in education and the vulnerability of learners could be successfully addressed through the mainstreaming of care and support in learning and teaching. While the many school-based care and support initiatives impacted positively on large numbers of learners, prior to CSTL they were fragmented, unsatisfactorily spread geographically, inadequately monitored, and poorly harmonized. The uptake of CSTL in South Africa has been swift.

Strong national CSTL structures evolved, such as a National CSTL Steering Committee comprising representatives from the national Department of Basic Education (DBE) and the nine provinces. South Africa recently revised its national CSTL Conceptual Framework, adding a 10th priority area focusing on social cohesion and the rights of the child.

“The most significant development overall is the change in mindset. That is, the realization and understanding of the vulnerability of children and their care and support needs,” says Ms Amanda Rozani, DBE Deputy Director (CSTL). “CSTL has brought about a renewed focus on poverty at all levels within the system and a progressive weaving of care and support into policies and plans.”

“CSTL has brought about a renewed focus on poverty at all levels within the system and a progressive weaving of care and support into policies and plans.” Implementation of CSTL has expanded into all nine provinces, with the DBE engaged in training teachers, district officials, and school-based support teams in the delivery of care and support. 

An important milestone was the launch of the DBE’s new policy on HIV&AIDS, STIs and TB. In line with national policy, one of the goals of the new policy is to increase knowledge and information about life skills, specifically about HIV and TB, so that all learners, educators, school support staff, and officials are able to make better life choices and protect themselves from infection and disease.

In 2018 the DBE, in partnership with UNICEF and MIET AFRICA, hosted its inaugural national Care and Support for Teaching and Learning Conference. More than 230 delegates ranging from CSTL policy implementers to policymakers, policy influencers, learners, and educators engaged around the ten priority areas of South Africa’s CSTL National Model and shared best practices on the coordination of care and support services in the education sector. The CSTL initiative in South Africa is no longer viewed as a project but is fully mainstreamed in the day-to-day operations of the government system.

“There is an acknowledgment that education is about care and support,” says Dr Granville Whittle, Deputy Director-General DBE: Care and Support Services. “CSTL is about the child —and the child is at the center of education.”

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