Gauteng MEC aims for paperless schools

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Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi looks at a classroom that was burnt down due to an electrical fault at Lotus Garden Secondary School during his tour of schools in the Pretoria West region. Picture: Masi Losi

Johannesburg - Implementing paperless classrooms, setting up a team to trawl social networks for pupils bringing their school uniforms into disrepute, dedicated disciplinary committees to take immediate action against pupils and teachers, and putting an end to “jobs for pals”, are top priorities for new Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi during his first 100 days in office.

These, and the provision of sanitation, clean water and electricity are among the issues outlined as part of the MEC’s five-year vision. He said his plans would elevate education in the province to the top, and bridge the gap between the different economies.

“This is Gauteng, the economic hub of the country, and everything must happen here,” he said.

The bulk of the province’s school budget, he told pupils and teachers at schools in the west of Pretoria, would go directly to schools. “80 percent will go into the running of schools and 20 percent to district offices,” he said.

He also offered teachers hope, saying benefits given to staff were not proportionate – while cellphones and laptops were given to personal assistants in government departments, teachers were only given a letter of appointment.

He spoke about a R2 billion project to create “classrooms of the future”, where each pupil would have a tablet and internet connectivity from their desks, and would interact with their teachers in real time. “We are investing in the classroom of the future, where teachers will no longer have to carry books to mark, this will be done instantaneously on the computer,” Lesufi said.

Schools books will be replaced by e-books, and pupils will never have to carry, or share textbooks again. He said the future of education lay in information technology, and by bringing it into schools, Gauteng was taking the lead in taking education to greater heights.

He said all new schools would have classrooms of the future, while plans were in place to convert existing infrastructure into these technological hubs.

Lawlessness was also being tackled head-on, he said.

Lesufi gave an undertaking that within 100 days, the top 10 druglords in the province would be profiled and caught, a project into which he had roped Lead SA, intelligence systems, and law enforcement agencies. “We want to identify the top 10 gangsters operating in our schools, and we give ourselves 100 days to deal with them.”

Lesufi also sent out a stern warning to pupils who put themselves in compromising positions while in uniform, and then posted pictures onto social networks.

He said: “We have established a permanent learner tribunal which will sit everyday, and go into social networks to look for learners who want to embarrass the school uniform.”

Once identified, the pupils would be suspended immediately, and then dealt with by a disciplinary committee specifically established to deal with pupil and teacher disciplinary issues. He said the committee was made up of permanent prosecutors and chairpersons, and it would ensure that no school day was disturbed while disciplinary processes were carried out. He hit out at “jobs for pals” and promotions based on connections, saying they would come to an end. “Recruitments and promotions will be based on integrity, skills and talent,” he said.

Lesufi said 20 years of favouritism had passed, and from now on a teacher’s standing, commitment and credibility would determine their positions in schools.

He pledged the department’s support for teachers, calling them the pillars holding the education system together. He said the province wanted to provide growth and support for those already in the system, and they were meticulous in their recruitment processes.

“We’ll be recruiting only the best, the rest can go to other provinces,” he said.

But this came with a tightening of the system and during his first 100 days he would be looking at teacher absenteeism. If their schools functioned without them for three months they were not needed, and if sick, they would be medically boarded, he said.

Lesufi addressed morning assembly at Laudium Secondary School where he warned pupils that drugs in schools would not be tolerated. He told them to respect their school uniforms and to think carefully what they posted on social networks.

During a walkabout at Lotus Gardens Secondary School, he promised that a classroom block gutted by fire in 2008 would receive immediate attention.

HOW IT WORKS:

The paperless classroom is aimed at bringing public schools into the 21st century; to position Gauteng as an ICT-driven education system; and, to do away with the pains of the past, including carrying books around, sharing textbooks or going without them, and having teachers lugging books from classroom to staffroom for marking.

It is four-phased to provide:

* Internet connection for all schools;

* Introduction of e-learning;

* Providing ICT training for teachers; and,

* Rolling out the gadgets (tablets and computers).

The first two phases are scheduled to take place within the first three years of the current administration’s five-year tenure, and the last two in the remaining years.

Twenty-one priority schools have been identified for piloting the project:

* Ten struggle academically, with leadership and management issues;

* Five are “schools of the future”, three of them identified by the MEC; and,

* Six are top schools to which every parent wants to send their child, but where government has not been investing.

 

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Twitter: @ntsandvose

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