FEDSAS to new Minister of Education: Tackle the challenges, explore the opportunities

02/07/2024 - Fedsas

New Education Minister Siviwe Gwarube’s foremost task should be establishing and maintaining stability in the education sector. This is the key to success for all other goals in this crucial sector.

“FEDSAS welcomes the appointed of Minister Gwarube and asks that she gets a fair opportunity to prove herself,” says Dr Juané van der Merwe, Deputy CEO of FEDSAS (the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools). FEDSAS hopes that the minister’s term will be characterised by a firm stance against systemic issues such as poor learner outcomes, lack of performance by teachers, corruption, and cadre deployment.

Van der Merwe says partnerships with role-players are important for continuous systemic change. “Long-term improvement in education outcomes rests on the buy-in of unions, school governing body organisations, school communities and other role-players.”

FEDSAS expects from the Minister to address challenges in education. “Challenges abound but fortunately everyone is aware of what these challenges are. Basic problems should be addressed first. These include the improvement of the reading ability of learners, the appointment of specialist educators and therapeutic services at schools, as well as school capacity, with a specific focus on smaller numbers per classroom in the foundation phase. Improving inclusivity and fairness is important in ensuring that all learners irrespective of background have access to quality education.”

Van der Merwe says data-driven decisions and a competent leadership team are necessary to address these problems. “There is no place for politics in the education sector. The best interests of each child must always be the first consideration. Dysfunctional provincial education departments and incompetent officials remain obstacles on the road to quality education. This will require strong leadership from Minister Gwarube.”

As with education officials, teachers should also be held accountable for the high rates of teacher absence and poor performance. Van der Merwe says a clear focus on teacher education and support is necessary. “We expect the Minister to implement strict and continuous professional development programmes to ensure that teachers have the necessary content knowledge as well as pedagogical skills.”

FEDSAS’s approach is based on cooperation. “The organisation developed a comprehensive blueprint to address issues such as the improvement of school infrastructure, the safety and wellbeing of learners, and the strengthening of school governance. FEDSAS is ready to assist the Minister with extensive expertise.”

Van der Merwe says as with previous education ministers, FEDSAS is committed to meaningful dialogue with Minister Gwarube. “We look forward to a cooperative and productive partnership. In addition to challenges there are also wonderful opportunities in the education sector and FEDSAS is keen to collaborate with the Minister to improve the sector. However, as mouthpiece of governing bodies, FEDSAS will not shy away from protecting the interests of its members, and ultimately the interests of learners.”

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