SADTU accepts classroom assistants idea

Parents and activists closed a number of schools in Khayelitsha in June last year because they were "not safe". Archive Photo by Mzi Velapi

Two education stakeholders say they are not opposed to the introduction of classroom assistants that would facilitate lesson plans for teachers that need to be working from home due to covid-19 vulnerability.

The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union in the Western Cape says that even though they still have to discuss the issue of classroom assistants within their structures, they understand that the are coming into education as a result of the extra-ordinary situation of the pandemic that the country finds itself in. The union was responding to a call by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) for those with education qualifications, or who are studying towards a qualification in education, to apply to be classroom assistants. The classroom assistants, according to the press release from the department, will facilitate lesson plans and provide support.

“Classroom assistants will facilitate lesson plans developed by our teachers, and provide support in the classroom where needed. Assistants will be appointed at schools where educators have received a concession to work from home as a result of having one or more of the covid-19 high-risk co-morbidities,” said Kerry Mauchline the department’s spokesperson.

SADTU’s secretary in the Western Cape, Jonovan Rustin, said that while they want to have qualified teachers in every classroom, they understand the measures being taken by the WCED but still need to consult with other structures within the union. “Ideally, we would want to have a qualified teacher in every classroom but we understand the national disaster that we are all faced with; we are currently engaging with structures within the union.”

Another education stakeholder, the Khayelitsha Education Forum (KEF), which has been raising concerns regarding substitute teachers with the WCED, said that they support the classroom assistant initiative as long as it adds value to teaching and learning at schools. “The classroom assistants should not only have relevant qualifications but also have relevant subject knowledge so that it would not just be a matter of baby-sitting the learners for 14 days until the teacher comes back,” said KEF secretary, Haido Mteto.

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According to the department there are 1,787 concessions to teachers to work from home that have been approved but the number is expected to rise.

During a parliamentary meeting of the education oversight committee, the Department of Basic Education said that there are 775 schools countrywide that have been affected by covid-19, with 523 learners and 1,169 staff testing positive. The Eastern Cape has the highest number of pupils that are infected by the coronavirus, followed by the Western Cape and then Kwa-Zulu Natal.

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