Prof Veronica McKay (Deputy Executive Dean of the College of Education) attended the Basic Education Budget Vote Speech, 2012/13 by Mrs Angie Motshekga, Minister of Basic Education at the National Assembly in Cape Town on the 17 May 2012.
Prof McKay was personally thrilled to hear the Minister’s speech because she has been heading a team of Unisa academics (and academics from other Universities) responsible for developing the workbooks. The Minister referred to the workbooks as having an important role to play in addressing some of the curriculum problems facing our schools. In her speech, the Minister identified four priority areas for delivery in 2012/13 namely; to make schools work, to make principals manage the curriculum, teachers to teach, and learners to read, write and count. The Minister mentioned the Department’s workbooks as one of the important strategies for achieving some of these goals.
The workbook project, Prof Veronica McKay explained, provides a lesson a day for teachers to use in their classes. They are intended to support teachers in under-resourced schools although research has shown that their initial uptake has been better in the higher quintile, better resourced schools. Each child should receive between four and eight workbooks depending on the grade the child is in. The books are available in all eleven official home languages, in English as a First Additional Language and for Mathematics. The books were initially piloted in 2011. In this year, the Minister pointed out, that the Department provided the high-quality workbooks to six million learners. “The delivery was expanded in 2012” the Minister stated, “We are [now] providing 54 million books to learners, at no cost to the parent or learner. This is history in the making and we are very proud of this achievement.”
Minister Motshekga also referred to the Department’s commitment to inclusive education. The workbooks are all being adapted and are in the process of being embossed in Braille format for use by blind learners. Large print books are also being developed for the partially sighted. Prof McKay says that her colleagues at Unisa have played a very significant role in adapting the workbooks for the blind.
The Minister acknowledged the challenges associated with delivering 54 million books in the correct quantities of books, in the correct languages to the correct grades. She pointed out that “We’re attending to concerns raised, including those thorny matters around packaging, delivery and quantities.”
Presently Prof McKay and her team are working with their colleagues in the Department of Basic Education to assist with the development of school resource packs and workbooks for Grade R learners as part of the Department’s strategy to improve learner performance in Grade 1 and beyond. As the Minister states, this is history in the making, and a team of Unisa academics play an important role in ensuring it happens.
See pages 3 and 4 in May month’s edition the Department of Basic Education’s newsletter, Pula for more information on the event.