With the same mandate as the existing MEC Response Team (MRT), the District Response Team consisting of five people appointed per district from different portfolios and fields - would respond to issues affecting the functioning of schools.
These include curriculum management, social ills, school safety, school infrastructure, financial management and human resources.
Dr Barney Mthembu, the provincial head of exams, welcomed the initiative and said it was hoped it would set the trend for other provinces to deal with the issue of dysfunctional schools.
Vukani Khumalo, chairperson of the MEC Response Team, said in the wake of school violence reports and other issues that had a negative impact on education, the department saw a need to establish the District Response Team (DRT) which would mirror the work of the MRT.
Addressing district directors, most of whom were selected for the DRT, during its launch at the Department Training Centre in Glenwood, Durban, on Tuesday, Khumalo said MEC Mthandeni Dlungwana took the decision to establish the district-based teams in February to respond rapidly to issues affecting education before it was too late.
He said the responsibility to resolve these issues would still be with the circuit managers, as officials who worked closely with schools. The department recognised that there was a lack of quick response and a lack of capacity to deal with the large number of issues referred to the head office.
He added that the team would resolve the issues on the spot and make recommendations to head of department Enoch Nzama’s office for a directive.
“The team does not have the powers to dismiss but would make recommendations to the HOD. It is not there to take over the work of any department official,” he said.
Khumalo said the instability at most schools was caused by the lack of co-operation between the school and the school governing bodies. Some of the most common reports received by the MRT were linked to the lack of unity within staff at schools, conflicts over promotional posts and the mismanagement of school funds.
“Such issues are prevalent, and they affect the performance of schools. Hence the intervention through the extension of the response team to the districts. The role of the team is to bring together those who have not seen eye to eye,” he said.
According to Khumalo, in cases where the conflict was too deep to resolve,or to mend relationships, the DRT could recommend the parties be deployed to other schools, but could not to fire or suspend them.
Chief District Director Thembelihle Gumede encouraged department officials to play their part by performing their duties to ensure the success of the response teams.