The Free State department of basic education says it will be closely involved in the appointment of principals in schools in the province to ensure that the positions were filled by the right candidates.
The proposal is among a host of suggestions passed at a recent meeting held by the provincial education department to address issues affecting education in the province.
The meeting which was held in Bloemfontein on Tuesday was aimed at addressing issues raised by education minister Angie Motshekga at the Basic Education Sector Lekgotla held in Pretoria last week.
At that meeting Motshekga described the country’s education as a catastrophe and called on everyone in the education sector to work diligently in addressing the matter.
She lamented the poor infrastructure at most schools particularly those in rural areas and townships, absenteeism by both learners and teachers and the presence of two education systems in the country, among others.
The minister called for the immediate dismissal of underperforming principals and district directors, who she said should be made to face the consequences of their actions.
Motshekga also said that action should be taken against teachers in “former African schools” who are said to teach for only 3.5 hours a day, in comparison with the 6.5 hours taught by those in former Model C schools.
The provincial education department spokesperson Howard Ndaba told The Weekly on Wednesday that participants at the “Reflective and Progressive Dialogue” held by the Free State education department expressed concern at the drop in the matric pass rate for 2015 and agreed that urgent measures were needed to address the issue.
Ndaba said it was agreed at the meeting that for the issues raised by the minister to be adequately addressed, it was important that schools had the right leadership.
“It was agreed that the provincial head office should be more involved in the appointment of school principals to ensure that the right people got the job,” said Ndaba.
“The department has been involved in this process but not very closely in some cases. The process has often been handled by School Governing Bodies and at times that has not presented the desired results,” he added.
According to Ndaba, if a principal with a hands-on approach to work is appointed at a school, the problem of absenteeism by both learners and teachers could be minimised as they would be closely monitored all the time.
He said the process of hiring new teachers was also going to be speeded up as this was one of the reasons why learners absconded school.
“The school management teams will be made to sign performance contracts so that their work can be measured against that,” said Ndaba.
On the issues of progressed learners, Ndaba said it was noted that pushing them to Grade 12 had an impact on the province’s pass rate which came down to 81.6 percent last year compared to 82.8 percent in 2014.
To address this, he said more stringent measures were proposed to ensure that only those ready to sit for their matric exams were progressed.
Among some of these measures, a learner who fails a lower grade may be progressed if they have not been absent from school for at least 20 percent of the school days in a given year, they must have failed at least twice in a particular phase and not grade, they must complete their school based assessments and pass the language of instruction at their particular school.
Special focus will also be given to schools that did not do well last especially those in Xhariep District and some parts of Motheo District.
Ndaba also encouraged learners who had registered for supplementary examinations to ensure that they prepared themselves and wrote the exams which will be sat from February 10 to March 3.
“About 5 000 students are expected to write supplementary exams in the province. It is very important that those that have registered wrote the exams. The performance of those writing supplementary exams could help improve the province pass rate, so it’s very important that they prepare well and write,” Ndaba said.