Tragic End to a Predominantly Positive Year
Media Statement by Donald Grant, Minister of Education
What should have been a day of celebration for all our learners in the Western Cape is instead a day of mourning for many.
It is with great sadness that I have learnt of the death of two learners (aged nine and 14) from Petra Gedank Primary School this morning.
A total of 13 learners were involved in an accident when the bakkie they were travelling in collided with a tractor. Eleven learners are being treated in the provincial hospital in Worcester for injuries sustained in the collision.
The WCED district office is providing assistance and support to the school. Counselling and medical services have been arranged by the school with the assistance of the WCED.
My condolences to the family of the two learners. My thoughts and prayers are with them and their friends. I am now en route to the hospital to ascertain the injuries of the other learners and am hopeful that their conditions are not serious and that they will all have a fast recovery.
This tragic event comes at the end of a predominantly positive school year.
We started off on a high note, with the release of the 2010 NSC results, where we turned around all the key indicators, such as increases in the pass rate and the number of quality passes, to show a positive trend. The subsequent release and improvements in our literacy and numeracy results were also very encouraging.
Highlights this year also include various other initiatives such as increases in textbook provision to all our schools, including the first ever Maths textbook for Grade 2s, the building and completion of 11 new schools, improvements in the responsiveness and efficiency of the department, the well-attended educator training courses and the inauguration of the Western Cape Education Council.
While we have seen many positive changes within the system in 2011, we have also had some dark and negative moments, including the events of today. I will never forget the day of the Rheenendal bus accident. The community of Rheenendal will always be in my thoughts and prayers. So too are all the learners who have passed away this year as a result of accidents, violence and ill health.
We have also suffered financially because of events beyond our control. Severe weather conditions in the middle of the year caused major damages to many of our schools, which put severe pressure on our maintenance budget, a budget that is already under pressure because of burglary and vandalism in our schools.
Despite some of these challenges, I am proud of how our department, districts and schools have worked together this year and I am pleased with the significant progress we have made in reaching our overarching objective of improving education in this province.
In 2012, we will continue down this path. We look forward to the release of the 2011 NSC and the literacy and numeracy testing results in January, which will inform many of our programmes in the year to come. We will be placing a great deal of emphasis next year on reading and writing, especially the proper utilisation of textbooks and workbooks. I am also looking forward to growing our relationships with the private sector, especially in terms of maintenance and infrastructure development.
We will again be placing special emphasis on the protection of teaching and learning time.
Today, I would like to appeal to all our parents to ensure that their children arrive at school ready and on time for the new school year, which will begin on 11 January 2012.
The WCED would like to make a special plea to parents planning to leave the province during the Christmas holidays to ensure that their children get back in time. In previous years, some parents have delayed their return to the Western Cape until they have enough money for the return fare. In some instances, their children have missed up to two weeks of schooling.
In 2012, the number of school days lost could be even more severe because schools are opening a week earlier compared to previous years. This means that learners who wait until February to return to school could lose up to three weeks of schooling and will find it difficult to catch up.
This is especially concerning for learners in Grades 1 to 3 and Grade 10 in particular because schools are introducing the revised national curriculum for the first time in these grades next year.
The revised curriculum, known as the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS), includes daily lesson plans that start on the first day of term.
In preparation for the new school year, we urge parents to note the following:
- They should buy uniforms and stationery in December and should not wait for their January salaries to do so.
- Parents should buy return tickets in December for trips to areas far away from Cape Town. The department encourages parents to look for travel concessions.
- Schools normally hold parent meetings early in the year to provide information on the year ahead. Many schools have already held these meetings.
- Children will be fed at schools that have nutrition programmes.
- Schools will make special efforts to enrol learners for after-school programmes on the first day. New MOD centres at some schools will introduce learners to sport and recreation activities.
- Parents must plan ahead to pay school fees at schools that charge fees.
By ensuring that their children are at school the first day of the new school year, we will be making education better, together.
In terms of the holiday period, the Western Cape Education Department's Safe Schools Division has arranged a number of holiday programmes at specific schools.
Safe Schools has organised special holiday programmes at 55 venues during the holiday in high-risk areas, each catering for around 100-200 learners.
Educational programmes on offer include substance abuse, workshops on conflict and drug abuse, leadership skills and reading sessions. We have also identified "learners at risk" who will participate in gang intervention programmes.
Fun activities include soccer, rugby and netball clinics, as well as arts and crafts and drama classes.
Holiday programmes have helped to keep children off the street, keeping them safe and preoccupied. They also have, in recent years, reduced the incidence of vandalism at schools significantly.
It is important that communities are aware that our schools are vulnerable to burglary and vandalism during the holidays.
Safe Schools has arranged security patrols for 350 schools in selected areas during the December/January holiday.
However, schools are safest where local communities play an active role in helping to look after schools by reporting suspicious behaviour and participating in neighbourhood watches.
Finally, I would like to wish all our educators, learners and staff a happy and safe holiday. Thank you for your support and dedication.
We can all be proud of our efforts this year and look forward to what we can achieve in 2012.
Spokesperson for Minister Grant
Cell: 072 724 1422
Tel: 021 467 2377