Govt intensifies e-education policy

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The Department of Higher Education (DHE) will intensify a consultative process on an e-education policy for the post-school education and training system.

During his budget vote speech yesterday, deputy minister Hlengiwe Mkhize said this is because the department acknowledges that technology in education is increasingly occupying a dominant space in the 21st century.

“E-learning has the potential to fast-track open and distance education and training, which will enable access for vulnerable groups, including the disabled and learners from rural communities.”

He added that the eventual aim should be to provide free learning materials to the public to promote lifelong learning using ICT.

The deputy minister said the University of Venda and the Council for the Blind display good examples of how ICT can be utilised to provide quality education and training to the disabled.

“We make a firm commitment to enhance our effort to significantly opening up opportunities for skills training for people experiencing barriers to employment caused by various forms of physical and intellectual disability.”

Patriarchal challenges

Despite the great strides made in ensuring that women have access to the same opportunities available to their male counterparts within the education system, Mkhize said remaining patriarchy-related challenges cannot be ignored.

“Women within certain fields of study such as mathematics and science and technology still have to deal with many barriers, cultural stereotypes and attitudes. As the department, we will support research and other projects and do analysis of the status of women in the post-school system, so as to establish the level of skills development, as well as their participation and contribution to the economy.”

The deputy minister explained that this will help the department come up with clear and relevant policy plans that will ensure women become full beneficiaries of the post-school system, and ensure their economic participation.

“One practical project that I am impressed with is Techno-Girls, a South African project aimed at exposing vulnerable young girls from rural and poor families. The output of this project is that girls who have gone through the programme will increase the number of girls in critical and scarce skills, such as engineering, mathematics and technology.”

Seta turnaround

Also speaking yesterday, minister Blade Nzimande said the National Skills Development Strategy III, which was launched in January this year, aims to increase access to training and skills development opportunities and to eliminate unfair discrimination in skills training.

He added that to fulfil this aim, Sector Education and Training Authorities (Seta) need to provide quality occupational and professional training programmes for youth and adults.

“Setas have an in-depth knowledge of the labour market in their sectors, and must have contact with virtually all employers in the country. They are ideally placed to assist educational institutions to access workplace experience for students.”

However, the minister said this has not been happening, and literally thousands of students in universities of technology have not been able to qualify, because they do not access workplace experience to complete their qualifications.

“Setas will now be at the forefront in overcoming these problems. Our department has reconfigured the Seta landscape. I have also taken measures to strengthen governance and management of the Setas to ensure that they become effective.”

Education accounts for 19.4% of the total national budget for 2011/12.

Nzimande said it received R37.4 billion, of which R9.1 billion is a direct charge against the national revenue fund and goes to Setas and the National Skills Fund. “Universities receive R19.4 billion for the 2011/12 financial year and R4.3 billion is allocated for Further Education and Training colleges. Public entities receive R4.1 billion, of which R4 billion is allocated to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

“The remainder is shared by the South African Qualifications Authority, the Council on Higher Education, the National Skills Authority and the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations. NSFAS will disburse R5.4 billion in loans and bursaries this financial year, double the R2.7 billion disbursed last year.”

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