Impact of teacher assistants leads to DBE seeking contract extension

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Learners from the Abram Hlope Primary School.
Learners from the Abram Hlope Primary School.
Kayleen Morgan, News24
  • Assistant teachers were employed in December after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the Presidential Youth Employment Stimulus programme.
  • The teachers have been hailed for supporting schools amid the Covid-19 pandemic. 
  • The department says it is discussing and finding ways to ensure the programme continues. 

The contracts of more than 300 000 teachers and general assistants employed at schools across the country under the Presidential Youth Employment Stimulus programme have been extended to the end of April.

But because of the impact the assistants have played in schools during the difficult times of Covid-19, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) says it is lobbying for a further extension beyond 30 April. 

The contracts commenced in December last year after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the stimulus package in October. The contracts were expected to come to an end on 31 March.

DBE spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said the sector was humbled by the work ethic, commitment, drive, and collaboration by schools and the assistants in implementing the initiative. 

READ | Assistant teachers are hailed

"We have, however, begun discussions with the firm premise that the initiative should continue to be funded in order to continue the high level of support the assistants continue to offer to our schools," Mhlanga said.

He added that the second phase of the initiative's modalities would be concluded and would also involve time frames, funding, and focus areas for the skills training programme. 

Mhlanga said Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga would also be embarking on oversight visits to monitor the initiative's progress in schools in the Limpopo province. 

Among the assistants' duties were to scan pupils' temperatures at school entrances, sanitising, and offering additional support in classrooms. They also assisted in ensuring the schools were clean and observed all Covid-19 health and safety protocols.

Gauteng education spokesperson Steve Mabona said the department placed 48 000 youth as assistants.

Mabona said there had been a positive feedback from schools indicating the impact the assistants were having on educators and the general running of schools.  

"Schools are actually advocating for the department to consider extending the project beyond 30 April 2021," Mabona said. 

Limpopo DBE spokesperson Tidimalo Chuene said the province was allocated 52 055 posts. 

Eastern Cape successfully recruited 55 803 unemployed youth. Although it had experienced challenges with capturing and paying the assistants, the province said it had worked tirelessly to rectify the challenge. 

READ MORE | SATURDAY PROFILE | Meet the woman behind Ramaphosa's employment stimulus plan

Financial support

The provincial department also requested schools not to replace any assistants who would have resigned from their contracts.

Meanwhile, the Western Cape had employed more than 17 500 assistants since the inception of the stimulus programme. 

Western Cape education spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said the assistants had assisted schools greatly in many areas. 

She added that the extension also afforded schools opportunities to ensure that critical matters were attended to and to aid in planning for the second term.

"In addition to the assistance provided by the general assistants and classroom assistants, the stimulus has provided much needed financial support to schools in terms of the saving of SGB posts.

'The programme managed to save thousands of SGB posts throughout the province," Hammond said.

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