The Gauteng Department of Education is facing a considerable challenge. It must correct systemic errors that occurred during its attempts to address the inequalities of the previous education system, and still maintain progress through forward momentum in teaching the syllabus.
In this sense, the teaching and learning process may be likened to a moving train. Learners on the train need to keep moving forward with the train to reach their destination. Learners who are unable to keep up with the train fall off, and must run hard behind if they are to catch up.
The problem of learners catching up is increased by the way that learning works. Each year, the learner ust learn new things that depend on things learnt in earlier years. If something was not understood propoerly in the previous years, the new knowledge will not be learnt. Once concepts are not understood, gaps appear in a learnerís knowledge that will remain with the learner for their entire school career, and beyond, if not addressed. These gaps increase in size relative to a learnerís classmates as time passes, because less and less of the current yearís work can be understood.
In a recent presentation on 18th March 2009, representatives of the Gauteng Department of Education released shocking figures from province wide assessments performed in 2008. The results for English / Literacy and Maths / Numeracy are shown below:
As the above graphs show, the situation has reached critical proportions. From Grade 4 onwards, there are more learners who know less than half their work in Maths / Numeracy. In English / Literacy, Grade 5 is the year from which the majority of learners know less than 50% of their work.
It is not surprising that there are issues with the Matric / Senior Certificate pass rates, and if this situation is allowed to continue, there is no hope for the future for either South Africa or these learners.
If these are the results, the root causes can be listed. Among the causes are factors such as large class sizes, limited numbers of teachers resulting in teachers teaching outside their fields of expertise, high administrative overheads in the teaching environment, decisions taken in respect of the curriculum that have proved to be erroneous with hindsight, malnutrition and limited school resources.
At present, and for the foreseeable future, the Department must and is taking action to address these issues through the teaching of foundations and other initiatives. This will correct the issues for future generations of learners, but the Department does not have either the resources or the time in hand to satisfactorily address the needs of learners who have gaps in their knowledge, and who have fallen behind.
It is in the light of the need to support the Department in uplifting these learners, and ensuring that they are able to regain their place on the train, without interfering in the Departmentís initiatives to fix the train, that siyaJabula siyaKhula has been established.