Cape Town - A project that will offer new hope for pupils who have repeatedly failed Grade 9 and could be at risk of dropping out of school has been designed by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED).

Bronagh Casey, spokeswoman for Education MEC Donald Grant, said pupils would normally have to pass Grade 9 to transfer to further education and training (FET) colleges, but the pilot project would cater for pupils who have not met this requirement.

“The WCED will invest about R10 million in 2013 in a pilot project to provide occupational courses at FET colleges for learners wanting to take this option,” Casey said.

The WCED has partnered with FET colleges, Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs), adult education and training centres, and the Department of Labour on the project.

“The partners plan to provide technical qualifications that could lead to further studies at FET colleges or to employment,” Casey said.

Casey said 695 Grade 9 pupils who are 18 years and older were screened for the project by the Department of Labour.

The WCED matched 416 of these pupils to six FET colleges across the province.

“The WCED will work with FET colleges and SETAs to develop a range of programmes. The programmes will include a bridging course to improve literacy and numeracy skills and theoretical, practical and experiential learning,” Casey said.

She said the partners planned to include a minimum work placement period of six months.

The WCED would ask parents and pupils to sign agreements if they wished to participate. The pupils would be able to enrol for the pilot at FET colleges on January 21.

Casey said the department would subsidise each pupil, including transport, and would organise further information sessions for parents and pupils in January to ensure that they are fully informed about the project.

“The project offers new hope for learners and a pathway out of poverty and unemployment, while providing scarce skills needed by the economy,” she said.

In June, the Cape Argus reported about the province’s high Grade 9 failure rate and that schools and the WCED were trying to tackle this problem.

At the end of last year, 28 percent of the province’s Grade 9 pupils failed, the highest failure rate of all grades. - Cape Argus