​Education and social development departments collaborate

Various organisations work the Gauteng department of social development to provide school backpacks, stationary and school uniforms to learners

Various organisations work the Gauteng department of social development to provide school backpacks, stationary and school uniforms to learners

The Gauteng class of 2017 achieved the second highest matric pass nationally at 86%.  The department of social development believes that the success of their programmes have contributed to the exemplary matric results in the province. It is estimated that close to 500 000 school-going children are beneficiaries of some or other welfare programme run by the department.  Section 27 of the Constitution provides for the right of access to appropriate social assistance to those unable to support themselves and their dependants. This is a means to redress the social circumstances inherited from apartheid that still affect the majority of South Africa’s population to this day.

One of the programmes is a home-based care model for child-headed families that assists beneficiaries to access a number of services. This includes assistance in applying for identity documents, birth certificates, social grants, referrals to health services and social workers, if and when the need arises. The childcare youth workers develop a relationship with the beneficiaries and their families to assist with their support and empowerment.

Absenteeism due to familial problems needs to be eradicated in schools, and children have no excuse but to attend school and other educational programmes regularly. As part of the social development programme, the childcare youth workers assist with not only homework supervision and chores, but also with early childhood development and stimulation.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow outlined a hierarchy of needs that he placed in a five-step pyramid. His theory suggests that the bottom level — the most basic level of needs such as food, shelter and security — must be met before the individual can focus on the secondary or higher level needs, which culminate in self-actualisation and ideally, an empowered, self-actualised society. This principle has been found to ring true with regards to the performance of the disadvantaged beneficiaries who are part of programmes such as Isibindi.

Gauteng social development MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza said that Isibindi is a community-based programme that deploys trained, community-based child and youth care workers in communities in an innovative team outreach programme that provides care, protection and developmental support to vulnerable children and families. The majority of the beneficiaries of this programme are school-attending youths responsible for their siblings, due to parents migrating or dying from diseases such as HIV, and they carry a responsibility far beyond their years. The department intervenes through provision of caretakers, to allow the family head peace of mind and the ability to concentrate on educational matters and other less stressful familial needs.

Recently, Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini hosted a breakfast to acknowledge the academic performance of social grant beneficiaries who wrote their matric examinations in 2017. It was confirmed by departmental records that in 2017, a total of 417 239 learners who are beneficiaries of social grants wrote their matric; 1 813 of these learners were under the Isibindi Programme. Many of the beneficiaries excelled and some even received distinctions.

The department of social development is wholly responsible for all official feeding schemes and other programmes that seek to provide social assistance to alleviate poverty. The mandate of this department is the management and oversight of social security, encompassing social assistance and social insurance policies that aim to prevent and alleviate poverty in the event of life risks such as loss of income due to unemployment, disability, old age or death. This ensures that social exclusion as a result of social conditions beyond a learner’s control is greatly minimised.

Senoane and Phiri are municipal social development offices in Soweto that help orphaned children and other vulnerable people. They provide information about community care centres and drop-off centres in the event of teenage pregnancy — still a cause of much concern in many public schools. Services for the rehabilitation of drug-addicted learners and counseling for parents is also available; referrals to outpatient-based drug rehabilitation centres can be arranged. 

The department expands upon prevention in their campaigns, as it is better and cheaper to prevent circumstances than to remedy them. This means funds intended for social development can be diverted to other pressing societal needs, and the standards of living and improvement of socioeconomic conditions can gradually increase. Other programmes being run include placement of disabled students into positions of employment, such as training blind beneficiaries to serve as auxiliary social workers. These are services that educators are privy to and often utilise.

Mayathula-Khoza emphasised that the early year school visits serve as an oversight initiative as this is the mandate of the provincial legislature. The department is demonstrating its commitment to education as a strategic, focal area of government policy. In order to achieve to the best of their abilities, children of school-going age need to learn in an environment conducive to their stimulation and development, with appropriate nutrition, sanitised toilets, safe playgrounds and environment, participation in extra-mural activities, and in an environment that encourages school attendance and being on time.

There are various organisations that offer their services and donate needed items to the underprivileged. One such organisation is the Al Imdaad Foundation, a Muslim organisation that works in collaboration with the department of social development to provide school backpacks and stationery. The department also engages in job creation; some of their programmes involve the distribution of uniforms to needy learners. These uniforms are manufactured by co-operatives, mostly run by unemployed women in townships, who are clothing their own children utilising government means of production, and are simultaneously creating income for themselves.

Social development is the responsibility of all South Africans. Poverty can create a hopelessness, a darkness one cannot rise above without the right tools. The department of social development tries to provide these tools and to bring hope, even if it is just a glimmer of hope at the end of a long tunnel.

Sifiso Atomza Buthelezi