Unions, WCED hope teaching assistants initiative is extended

Unions, WCED hope teaching assistants initiative is extended


Cape Town – Discussions 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 later this year.

DBE spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said the initial duration of the programme, which started in December last year, was four months, but it was extended by one month until the end of April 2021.

He said 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.

“The contracts will not be extended, but instead discussions are under way to review and repackage the initiative, with a proposed second phase to commence later this year,” he said.

SA Democratic Teachers Union provincial secretary Jonavon Rustin said they hoped the initiative would be extended to the end of the year.

Education MEC Debbie Schäfer said the impact of the initiative has been two-fold: it offered temporary employment to young people during very difficult economic conditions, and assisted schools with staff responsibilities during the pandemic.

Schäfer said the education assistants 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.

“The assistants also help with the additional tasks made necessary by a pandemic, such as implementing Covid-19 safety protocols and sanitising surfaces,” she said.

National Association of School Governing Bodies chief executive Matekanye Matakanye said he hoped the president would extend the contracts once again. He said the project was helpful to young people and their families.

“If it is possible, the president must make it permanent for the young people in the country. He would have alleviated poverty, as well as hunger,” said Matakanye.

Federation of Governing Bodies of SA Schools legal services manager Juané van der Merwe said the initiative has led to additional employment opportunities in some schools where individuals with great potential have been identified.

She said teachers could devote their time to teaching and learning, while compliance with Covid-19 protocols was being taken care of with the help of general school assistants.

Cape Argus

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