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Govt looks to specialisation schools for skills development

Read time 3min 50sec

Four months into the 2019 calendar school year, the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) has already opened two specialisation schools focused on creating a skilled labour force.

It is well known that SA faces a digital skills gap, with government, organisations and industry veterans all calling for an increased focus on skills development in key sectors.

To respond to this challenge, the Gauteng education department has dedicated special attention to establish learning facilities focused on maths, science and ICT; engineering; commerce and entrepreneurship; sports and performing and creative arts.

This also forms part of the department's strategy to change the province's historical reliance on traditional sectors for job creation by changing the history of township education.

Led by Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi, the GDE has so far launched seven specialisation schools, with the latest launch being on 9 April. The first school, Curtis Nkondo School of Specialisation, was launched in 2016.

The department will next launch the Kwa-Thema Skills School on 18 April, reveals spokesperson Steve Mabona.

Mabona says schools of specialisation seek to nurture talent. "They also respond to the skills shortage and close the gap between school and higher education as well as schools and industry."

"We are responding to the needs of the economy in terms of the skills shortage in the country, especially defining our role as basic education in the fourth industrial revolution," he adds.

Smart challenges

The department has prioritised skills development and ICT adoption, but not all of the specialisation schools are purely smart.

The GDE defines a smart school as one that enables the use of ICT for curriculum delivery. The classrooms are fitted with smart boards and educators are resourced with laptops, while learners are given tablets in full ICT schools.

Some of the ICT-ready schools the department has opened boast facilities such as smart classrooms, smart science labs, smart multi-purpose rooms, libraries and dining halls.

While the GDE champions ICT adoption in schools across the province, these efforts are not without their fair share of issues. Shortly after the ICT programme was introduced, schools became prime targets, and criminals started setting up syndicates in communities to steal smart boards.

Lesufi previously acknowledged the ongoing theft of smart devices, adding that criminals have set up syndicates in communities to steal smart boards. The MEC has urged parents and community members to play an oversight role and protect the school infrastructure.

The department is tightening security in schools but has also mobilised the security cluster to prioritise these schools in their policing plans, Mabona points out. "We have also mobilised school communities and stakeholders to defend this infrastructure because it belongs to the community."

Preparing for 4IR

Meanwhile, this week, the Presidency finally announced the 30-member commission that will coordinate the development of SA's national response through a comprehensive action plan to deal with 4IR.

In addition, the Presidential Commission on 4IR is expected to identify relevant policies, strategies and plans that will position the country as a competitive global player.

Speaking at the launch of the digital economy summit and 4IR SA partnership yesterday, communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams revealed in addition to the commission, government will establish work streams to focus on skills and jobs for the future.

"We want to look at the challenges and the potential threats in the jobs industry for the future. We also require the expertise of the labour unions, policy-makers and industry players who must make sure there are jobs.

"We require people who are going to look at the social impact of the 4IR...the commission is there to provide strategic leadership that must be given to the country," Ndabeni-Abrahams said.

She said it was important to build capacity for the 4IR by making sure the workforce is ready for the revolution.

According to a statement, the universities of Johannesburg and Fort Hare are also focusing a lot of research attention on 4IR, with a number of different projects and courses.

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