The briefing on the Kha Ri Gude Mass Literacy Campaign by its Chief Executive Officer highlighted the successes and challenges that were being faced by this government initiative. A discussion followed after the briefing where Committee members suggested ways of improving the campaign to avoid past failures that had characterized similar government initiatives in the past.
The Chairperson noted the unfortunate tragedy at the school in Krugersdorp where a student had gone on the rampage attacking fellow students. It needed proper investigation.
The Director General, Mr Duncan Hindle, said the Department agreed with the Chairperson that the tragedy indeed needed to be investigated as to the cause of such events. He noted that such events had taken place before at around this time of the year. One needed to inquire if such events were attributable to the psyche of students at this time of the year when exams were drawing near or were the result of other factors.
The DG explained that the Kha ri Gude (Let us Learn) Mass Literacy campaign was established with a different set up so as to stand alone as an entity because previous campaigns like this had failed because of bureaucracy. He handed over to his colleague to handle the briefing.
Professor Veronica McKay, the CEO of Kha ri Gude, started by showing a short video clip to the Committee where the successes of the mass literacy campaign were highlighted.
She said that aim of the briefing was to apprise the Committee about the progress of the literacy campaign, its challenges of the campaign which was advocating for a mass roll-out of 1.2 million learners and 80,000 volunteers in the future.
She provided a clear background to the origins of the campaign, which launched in February with classes beginning in April 2008. She showed a timetable approved by Parliament on the future targets of the literacy campaign. In 2008, 300, 000 learners were expected to be recruited with 14, 000 educators and 2, 400 supervisors and 150 coordinators. The figure was expected to be increased in 2009-2011 to 1.2 million learners, 80, 000 educators, 8, 000 supervisors and 800 coordinators.
She explained to the Committee the role of each player in the campaign: A coordinator cares for 20 supervisors, a supervisor trains 10 volunteers and a volunteer is expected to recruit 15 learners. The church and other community structures were mostly used in selecting the educators.
She spoke about the President’s State of the Nation Address and emphasized that the Kha ri Gude literacy campaign was launched after considering and correcting the weaknesses of Adult Basic Education.
Turning to the achievements of the campaign, she indicated that world-class learning materials had been developed with the support of UNESCO and they had been developed in all 11 official languages as well as into Braille. There was currently a workshop on the go that was training 100 blind teachers and 50 deaf coordinators and that this medium has been supported considerably.
The campaign had exceeded its recruitment target of 300, 000 learners as 360, 000 learners were actually recruited this year along with 24, 000 educators, 2, 800 supervisors and 150 coordinators. They were able to advertise for the core personnel of the campaign in the newspapers and financial and risk management measures were in place.
She gave a statistical picture of the composition of the educators of which 80% were women, while 79% of learners were also women. She noted that 7.8% of the learners were disabled.
She informed the Committee that there had to be a modification of the original plan of the campaign. With the appointment of the auditing company, SAB&T, provincial secretariats were replaced by senior officials already appointed by the provinces to create a synergy between the Department and the campaign. There had been the appointment of an external administrative service provider. Mother-tongue literacy materials were produced and the enthusiasm of the campaign had translated into an additional 60, 000 learners. Cabinet had approved all these changes on 8 August 2008.
Volunteer educators had received a monthly stipend of R1, 200 a month for the past six month period and they felt that this amount impacted on the poor households in the community. She also indicated that foreigners were learning the local languages as well and this served as a means of addressing xenophobia. She noted that 24% of the learners were 60 years old and above.
Mr Matthews, Chief Operating Officer, discussed the challenges of the campaign (see document). He stated that when the Minister launched the campaign, there was a lot of enthusiasm by people to participate in the learning programme and this translated into an additional R76 million that was required which the Department did not have. Initially the orders for books that had been placed were incorrect as some languages required fewer numbers whereas other languages needed more books. This had resulted in slow delivery and high anxiety.
He also said that there were challenges in provinces such as Kwa Zulu Natal which had an existing similar programme and it was difficult establishing a synergy. There was resistance from some NGOs who provided literacy campaigns because some of them were under the impression that the Department was going to outsource the Kha ri Gude campaign.
Another challenge was making sure that learners did not drop out of the programme and that reporting systems were well understood by the volunteer educators to avoid ghost learners and classrooms. He also mentioned the challenge of volunteers claiming stipends without invoices.
He discussed the advocacy campaign and said that from next year, the plan was to target 1.2 million learners who were either illiterate or had dropped out of school before Grade 7. The programme was offered free of charge to the learners. Facts and figures were provided about stipends for the 81 000 Kha ri Gude classes taking place in 2009.
Other departments like the Department of Correctional Services were interested in partnering with the campaign. He referred to the literacy campaign as a revolution and hope that it succeeded as it did in Cuba from were the idea was borrowed.
Ms J Matsomela (ANC) wanted to know the role of Community Development Workers (CDWs) in the campaign because according to her, councillors and ward communities felt that CDWs were taking over their duties. She also stated that the intention of the Campaign was not to replace adult basic education but the video screened featured mostly adult participants. She wanted to know how the youth were responding to this campaign. She also wanted to know how the campaign was addressing adult education challenges where some of the learners would want to develop specific skills for self employment and trade. She also wanted to know how the campaign was addressing the issue of slow delivery and over-pricing.
Ms P Mashagoane (ANC) said that only schools were being used in her area and was concerned with the long traveling distances and how this may lead to dropouts. She asked how the campaign would guide against abuse by traditional chiefs and their wives. She also wanted to know how the campaign could ensure that the educators do not charge the learners.
Mr R Van den Heever (ANC) stated that before Kha ri Gude, other literacy campaigns had been run and it was important to learn from such projects which had not been as successful as expected. He encouraged the campaign to eradicate the stumbling blocks that had occurred in the past.
Mr B Mosala (ANC) said that constituency offices should be directly involved alongside MPs because they had a direct link with ward councillors who were very influential and assisted in the recruitment of learners. He also stated that the CDWs do not have a good relationship with the councillors and if the councillors were not involved, the campaign may hit roadblocks.
He said that a particular volunteer he had spoken to had complained that he had not been paid in three months. Problems like this could make people lose interest. In his attempt to inquire about this complaint, he discovered that the Department had not centralized the management of this campaign. He also spoke about the small frustrations that were being experienced at the teaching sites and wanted to know if the campaign would supply other teaching materials such as chalks and boards.
Responding to these questions, Prof McKay said that she had trained the CDWs in her previous role as Director at UNISA and she was aware of the tension between them and ward councillors. The CDWs were expected to do advocacy work because they know the households in their communities and can identify suitable learning venues. She expressed surprise that schools were being used at the Limpopo Province as venues because in their experience, schools had in fact been refusing access to their premises.
On the question of youth responsiveness, she indicated that 20% of the learners were in the youth category and a lot within that range were below the age of 20.
Mr Matthews said that the campaign was not replacing adult basic education and the Minister of Education had in fact appointed a Committee to look into the language used in the mass literacy campaign to distinguish it from adult education. He said that a bridge was being recommended to recruit the mass literacy learners into level two of Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) since the mass literacy curriculum was better than Level 1 of ABET.
On the question of equipping learners with skills for self employment, he indicated that a meeting was scheduled with Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) to have a direct linkage so that at some point, education was linked to skills. However that at the moment, the main aim of the campaign was to make people literate.
On the issue of slow deliveries and over pricing, he said that he had met with the CEO of Government Printers and asked them to give indicative prices of what they would charge to produce the materials. The quote given was less than that given to SAB&T and as a result, prices were being re-negotiated with the contractors. So far the initial figure had been reduced by 25%.
On slow deliveries, he said that Skynet was going to be summoned about concerns that deliveries were being confused and they had now resorted not to pay for deliveries that were sent to the wrong addresses.
On the issue of lack of payment to the volunteers, Mr Mathews said that he had no real answer to that. However Prof McKay said that 49% of payments made were being returned because of inactive bank accounts or wrong identity numbers.
Mr Matthews stated that ABSA was being consulted to open bank accounts for these people. He indicated that perhaps payments were not being made to some people because they failed to meet the requirement of the submission of a report and register of their learning centres. He answered that teaching materials such as chalk would definitely be supplied to the centres.
On failure of past projects, he answered that previous projects failed mostly because of bureaucratic red tape but this campaign was being independently run through an agent identified by tender so previous problems should not arise again.
On the use of constituency offices, Prof McKay answered that coordinators had been asked to consult with councillors but it would be helpful if it were much more formalised.
Ms Mashagoane requested that the delegation should supply the MPs with some of these learning materials and the delegation agreed.
The Chairperson wanted the Committee and the delegation to have a common statement and Mr Matthews responded that the statement will be prepared on the 21 August and sent to the Committee. He indicated that the statement would highlight some of the matters in the briefing and would also include contact numbers of the people responsible for the campaign in the different constituencies.
Mr Mosala wanted to know if anything was available to put up about the campaign at the constituency offices.
Prof McKay answered that pamphlets were available and community radio stations were also being utilised.
The Chairperson wanted to know which people were targeted by the campaign.
Mr Matthews answered that illiterate people and those who had not reached Grade 7 or Standard 5 were targeted.
Ms Matsomela wanted to know if anything was being done to keep the enthusiasm of the campaign alive.
Mr Matthews answered that they could only tell the stories of those who had participated, as in the video, to encourage others. He said that the question of skills if imparted would also encourage participation. He said that one could reinforce elements that allowed for the enthusiasm but its sustainability was another question.
The Chairperson thanked the delegation for the briefing.
Minutes of the 24 July meeting were adopted before the meeting was adjourned.
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