Cape Town – The Western Cape Education Department has extended the Basic Education Employment Initiative until the end of April. It was meant to end on March 31.
Education MEC Debbie Schäfer said over the past few months 19 011 young people have been working in their schools as education assistants or general school assistants as part of the national Basic Education Employment Initiative (BEEI).
Schäfer said education assistants support 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.
She said despite the very short notice on which the initiative was announced by the Department of Basic Education (DBE), the WCED has managed to appoint nearly all of the assistants that their funding allocation allowed, due to the dedicated project task team and using the collective experience of the department.
“We were also able to appoint nine officials to assist with the management of the BEEI, who also learned valuable skills from the experience,” she said.
She said this was not the first time that assistants have supported teachers at their schools during the pandemic.
“Between July and September last year, while some of our school staff had special work arrangements because of high-risk comorbidities, the WCED employed 1 953 teaching assistants of our own accord until the end of alert level 2,” said Schäfer.
She said the second aspect of the initiative was the financial support given to schools to help save school governing body (SGB) posts, which were under threat as parents struggled to pay school fees owing to the economic downturn caused by the lockdown.
In all, 6 414 SGB posts were saved through this intervention, which transferred a total of R227 million to 667 schools, she said.
SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) provincial secretary Jonavon Rustin said they were hoping for the further extension of the initiative until the end of the year.
Rustin said the employees were doing marvellous work at the schools in terms of assisting teachers and screening learners during the pandemic.
He said the union has called on the department to look at extending the contracts of those workers to make them permanent, because they would help improve quality learning and teaching in the education fraternity.
The legal services manager of the Federation of Governing Bodies of SA Schools, Juané van der Merwe, said the initiative brought great relief in many school communities.
Van der Merwe said the initiative itself had led to additional employment opportunities in some schools and individuals with great potential had been identified.