'Still compulsory': Unisa clarifies proof of employment requirement for Grade R Teaching Diploma

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University of South Africa in Pretoria. Photo: Getty Images
University of South Africa in Pretoria. Photo: Getty Images

A petition with 7 135 signatures did the rounds in the first week of April 2022, claiming that the University of South Africa (Unisa) had imposed an admission requirement for its Grade R Teaching Diploma, and that this was in direct contravention of the national policy gazetted by the Department of Higher Education and Training in terms of the National Qualifications Framework Act 67 of 2008.

Lerato Pheko, who started this petition, wrote: "I am one of many aspiring teachers that applied for a Diploma in Grade R Teaching at Unisa. Our applications were accepted, our registrations were finalised, and our fees were paid. We even received study materials and are currently busy with our assignments.

"Now we get an email from Unisa saying that if we don't upload proof of employment in Grade R by 5 April 2022, our course will be cancelled. Yet when we applied, such proof of employment was never a requirement.

"That is why we were registered and were able to start our studies in the first place. It is so disappointing for a well known University to be incompetent in checking if students qualify or not. It is their duty to accept qualifying students."

The Revised Policy on the minimum requirements for Teaching Education Qualifications to qualify as a Grade R teacher in South Africa states that you need either a Diploma in Grade R Teaching or a Bachelor of Education in Foundation Phase Teaching.

This means that no one may be employed as a Grade R teacher without a diploma or bachelor's degree. 

This also means that should Unisa receive proof of employment as a Grade R teacher from any one of its students while still studying towards the qualification, the educational institutions involved will be reported to the Department of Higher Education.

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After Pheko and other students handed over the petition in Pretoria, Unisa admitted that they had a glitch in their system that accepted students without proof of employment. It said that the university would do its best to assist the affected students.

News24 reached out to Unisa for a comment on this matter, to find out their plan for the students who were already enrolled. 

"The University of South Africa is aware of the matter being raised by students in the online petition regarding the Diploma in Grade R Teaching," spokesperson Victor Dlamini told us.

He further explained that the Diploma in Grade R Teaching was introduced for application in 2021 and registration in 2022, and that there had been no amendments made to the admission requirements.

"The purpose of this qualification is to improve the status of the practitioners that are already employed in Grade R and allow Grade R teachers to access and gain credit toward the Bachelor of Education Foundation Phase Teaching, since this is the minimum requirement for them," said Dlamini.

"In terms of paragraph 14.4 of the DHET policy, all new entrants intending to become Foundation Phase teachers (qualified to teach from Grades R to 3) should register for the Bachelor of Education in Foundation Phase Teaching, rather than for the Diploma in Grade R Teaching, if they meet the requirements for entry into the Bachelor of Education programme," he said.

"DHET policy further stipulates that the qualification for Grade R teaching is treated separately from teaching qualifications for Initial Teacher Education and Continuing Professional Development, as it has a specialised purpose and its focus is on one specific Grade in the Foundation Phase (FP)." 

Dlamini said that this qualification would only be offered for five years, with the last intake of students in 2025.

"Students who apply for the Diploma in Grade R Teaching are required to submit proof of employment, since the purpose of the Diploma is to provide for the needs of Grade R practitioners currently in the field."

He said this enabled those who completed the Diploma in Grade R Teaching to have a good chance of employment in the public school sector.

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To assist students admitted into the Grade R Diploma without submitting proof of employment in Grade R, Dlamini said that Unisa would make the following provisions:

1. Students can still submit this proof up to 5 April 2022 (volunteering, assistant etc. are all acceptable for 2021);

2. Those who are registered for the Grade R Diploma, but who are unable to submit such proof of employment:

(a) If they meet the admission requirements for the BEd Foundation Phase, will be absorbed into the BEd Foundation Phase (90102).

(b) If they do not meet the admission requirements for the BEd Foundation Phase, the candidates will be absorbed into the Higher Certificate Education (Foundation and Intermediate Phase Stream).

Dlamini said that, for the 2023 academic year (2022 application for 2023), the requirement for Proof of Employment in Grade R had been amended to clarify any misconceptions, and this requirement was still compulsory.

He added that the university had activated its internal processes to address this matter, and that the outcome of the internal process would be communicated to affected students.

Let us know what you think about this proof of employment requirement.

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