Cape Town - Teachers together with pupils who are part of the Western Cape Education Department’s #Backontrack programme, are seeing the fruits of their labour.
For many it introduced them to a whole new world and a passion for education and even a rebirth of understanding.
The #Backontrack programme is offered to over 15 000 learners in Grade 4, 7, 8, 10 and 12 from 333 schools across the whole province. Schools were selected based on their performance in the 2022 annual systemic tests and the 2022 matric exams.
The programme was to assist schools in catching up after the time lost due to Covid-19.
The WCED has allocated R118 million in the 2022/23 financial year for a Foundation Phase reading programme in three languages with training and the distribution of decodable readers and anthologies for Grades 1 to 3.
A further allocation of R288 million has been made over the next three financial years to add to this existing support.
George Manera of Crystal High, who is in Grade 10 said the programme refreshed his way of thinking.
“I liked the way the teachers taught us, they showed us short cuts on how to solve the equation,” he said.
Lavender High School pupil, Jade Lucas, shared the same sentiments and now has bigger dreams for the future.
“I liked the way the teacher tutored us Mathematics as I got to see things from a different view and with being at a University setting, experiencing everything, it opened my mind, I told myself this is where I want to be one day when I am done with school.”
Drene Uys, one of the teachers who facilitated subjects for the back on track programme was given more insight on how to change their way of thinking and teaching.
“I teach grade ten to 12 at Fisantekraal High School,” she said.
It just gives us that edge, giving review before we start the subject.“
Sibulela Sikiti, a teacher at Intsebenziwano Secondary School in Philippi said the programme has taught children to focus their minds inside the classroom.
“When they came to the programme, it helped to ease their minds,” she said.
“And this helps with them remembering their studies.”
Vanessa le Roux of Parents for Equal Education said they were calling for insight into the programme.
“At this point, we must be honest, it seems as if this back on track programme, is being rolled out in secret, there is no transparency, or communication to civil society, on how their money are being spend, how many learners have been selected, whether they made any strides in this programme,” she said.
With children as young as nine and ten years old, struggling to read, the WCED Minister, David Maynier, remains concerned about reading.
He is working hard to improve their Progress in International Reading and Literacy results which showed how academics dropped by 32 points in 2021, and has given insight into their #backontrack programme and additional classes.
The PIRLS revealed that 81% of Grade 4 pupils in the country were unable to read, 12 426 Grade 4 pupils were assessed in one of the 11 official languages, while 9 317 Grade 6 pupils were assessed in English or Afrikaans.
According to the 2022 Systemic test results, it showed a decline in language scores for Grade three pupils, with the pass rate increasing marginally to 38%.
“South Africa’s average PIRLS score dropped from 320 in 2016, to 288 in 2021, a drop of 32 points on the scale,” he added.
This week, Maynier said they were focusing on languages and Mathematics for Grades between 4 and 12.
“The term-time extra classes are held on alternate Saturdays. (There are also holiday classes for Grades 7, 8, 10 and 12 learners during the school holidays),” he stated.
“The learners start with Mathematics, and then continue with Languages after the morning break.
The identified learners select two subjects that they would like to attend classes for, including options such as Mathematics, Life Sciences, Accounting, etc.”
When asked if reading was a concern, he said: “Yes absolutely, which is why we have invested so heavily in improving reading scores.”
Maynier said the ficus was also on high school children of 1665, and that the focus would be on Mathematics and Language, along with psychosocial wellbeing and life skills sessions,” he added.