School districts under scrutiny at Education Week

The role of school district officers was one of the critical issues under the spotlight at the opening of this year’s Education Week Convention and Learning Expo held in Ekurhuleni this week.

The convention is held annually and is a gathering of education experts, government officials, teachers, and suppliers of education products and services.

Shanti Govender, deputy chief education specialist in the Department of Basic Education told a breakaway group this week that in order to provide quality support services to schools, district officers need to make a mindset shift from that of “bureaucracy to customer focus”.

Govender said district officials are critical to the delivery of the school curriculum because of their proximity to schools. But, she said, too often they get bogged down in bureaucratic issues and focus less on their key responsibility of providing support to teachers.

“District officials must be conversant with both provincial and national policies so that they are able to explain them [policies] to teachers and also know how to translate them into action,” said Govender.

She said although district officers differ from their apartheid counterparts, they still seem to put more emphasis on compliance with policy and this often leads to the alienation of teachers. Govender said district officials should foster human relations with teachers and display attributes such as empathy, tolerance and open-mindedness to help build trust and minimise feelings of negativity between them and teachers.

Govender said: “District officers must be able to lead and manage policy and curriculum changes as well as make better use of data for purposes of improving school management and learner attainment.”

Her presentation echoed what education experts have been complaining about: district offices have a poor history of implementing national education policies and projects.

Former education minister, Naledi Pandor, acknowledged publicly that district offices lack the requisite capacity to render regular professional and logistical support to schools, and explained that this accounts largely for the poor matric pass rates.

Her successor, Angie Motshekga, recently announced plans to invigorate the district offices with emphasis on skills development and monitoring and evaluation of spending patterns.

The use of technology in the classroom meanwhile featured prominently at the convention, with various IT companies displaying the latest devices.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Thabo Mohlala
Guest Author

Related stories

Now is the time for true innovation in education and the economy

Because of the government’s indecisiveness, we have missed the boat on charting new territory for learning

There are useful lessons to learn from the generation of the 1986 emergency

The parents of the 2020 crisis have little say about their children’s education

Teachers trying to catch up, ‘ticking boxes’, overloading learners

Teachers who spoke to the Mail & Guardian this week are not confident that any effective teaching and learning will take place during this academic year, even if it is extended

‘I will have to repeat grade 8’

Schools have been closed again. After months of doing schoolwork at home, not all parents think their children are ready to move to the next grade

Covid-19 positive health workers accused of ‘carelessness’

Mediclinic workers say the company is not taking responsibility for a Covid-19 outbreak at a Pretoria hospital

KwaZulu-Natal is emerging as a new Covid-19 epicentre

Large groups attending funerals and people delaying being tested and treated because they fear dying in hospital has contributed to a spike in coronavirus infections in KZN

Jailed journalist a symbol of a disillusioned Zimbabwe

Hopewell Chin’ono backed President Emmerson Mnangagwa when he succeeded Robert Mugabe. Now he’s in jail

Sisulu axes another water board

Umgeni Water’s board in KwaZulu-Natal was appointed irregularly by her predecessor, the water and sanitation minister claims

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday