When the Cape Argus enquired about the reply, DBE spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said each province decided whether they needed the Cubans or not. Picture: African News Agency(ANA)
When the Cape Argus enquired about the reply, DBE spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said each province decided whether they needed the Cubans or not. Picture: African News Agency(ANA)

Western Cape Education Department taken to task for rejecting Cuban specialists

By Sisonke Mlamla Time of article published Aug 17, 2021

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Cape Town - The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) has been castigated for allegedly rejecting the offer from the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to employ Cuban maths and science specialists in the province.

This comes after the DA provincial spokesperson on education Lorraine Botha said that the WCED received “no support” from the DBE to employ Cuban specialists in the province.

When the Cape Argus enquired about the reply, DBE spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said each province decided whether they needed the Cubans or not. Provinces had the option to take them or not.

“Only the Western Cape provincial education departments could explain the reasons for not taking them. The money was available from DBE to support provinces that expressed interest in using the services of the Cubans,” said Mhlanga.

He said the agreement between South Africa and Cuba on professional services in the field of basic education was concluded in November 2016, valid for five years from 2017 to 2022.

Mhlanga said the Cuban subject specialists had been employed to train teachers and not to teach children. They conducted meaningful workshops for teachers and subject advisers that helped them to better understand the concepts making them able to go back into the classroom to teach the learners based on that assistance.

ANC provincial spokesperson on education, Khalid Sayed, said the maths and science pass rate was on the decline in the Western Cape as shown by both the systematic test results and the matric results.

Sayed said it was for that reason that they believed any form of assistance to improve maths and science pass rate should be welcomed and implemented without any delay.

“We will pose questions to the MEC to understand her reasons for turning down this initiative,” he said.

Congress of SA Students provincial secretary Mphumzi Giwu said the two subjects needed special equipment and attention which schools in the townships did not have or were not given.

“We need to call on the department to get specialists as teachers and as subject advisers, and employ more staff for extra classes because there is very little that can be done between schooling hours,” said Giwu.

Progressive Principals’ Association spokesperson Anthea Adriaanse said learner achievement in maths and science was poor, because it was taught by unqualified teachers, especially at primary school level where class teaching was mostly practised and teachers did not necessarily have those subjects as part of their training.

Adriaanse said those qualified to teach did not always possess the necessary skills required as well as scaffolding and pedagogics knowledge.

She said those specialists could have been a great asset in terms of intervention and strategies to improve learner achievement, and to assist teachers with skills development.

Schäfer said, “The WCED has never indicated that they were not offered any Cuban specialists. We indicated in our reply that there are no Cuban maths and science specialists allocated to the Western Cape. This is true.”

She said the WCED did not participate in the project. Concerns regarding the project included additional costs for provinces and language, particularly in the rural areas where Afrikaans was the main language of instruction.

“It seems that Cuban specialists are being given preference over other foreigners, who often find it extremely difficult to get the necessary paperwork to work in SA. This includes maths teachers,” she said.

Schäfer said the WCED had a number of maths and science interventions contributing towards the improvement in teaching and learning of maths and science.

“Our province has the highest maths and physical science pass rates for the National Senior Certificate in the country,” she said.

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