SADC steps up support for learners in distress

By – SAnews.gov.za

Leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are proving beyond doubt that investing in education is the best bet for ensuring a stable, prosperous future for the region.

Representatives from all 15 member states of the regional bloc are attending a SADC Care and Support for Teaching and Learning (CSTL) Steering Committee and Sharing meetings held in Gauteng.

South Africa’s Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, on Tuesday joined education officials from SADC to consider key issues hindering access to quality education.

“As a region, we are separated by borders but we are faced with similar challenges such as lack of universal access to quality basic education, inequality, unemployment, poverty, uneven economic growth and the burden of diseases, including HIV/Aids,” said Minister Motshekga.

These conditions, the Minister stressed, have a direct impact on learners’ ability to access education, stay in school and reach their full potential.

The steering committee is sitting in a three-day conference to share best practice on implementing the CSTL programme. The programme is the vision of the SADC Secretariat to provide care and support for learners across schools in the region in a harmonised and mainstreamed manner.

Minister Motshekga said the goal is to harmonise the implementation of the programme’s initiatives so that every vulnerable learners within the SADC region receives similar care and support.

The gathering offers an opportunity for all to share best practice in the area of care and support, and for each country to learn lessons from others.

Removing barriers to learning

Through the CSTL programme, the Minister said, the SADC Secretariat seeks to provide support services to remove the barriers to learning.

“We continue to sensitise teachers to the early identification of barriers, what to look for, how best to support learners and how to build care and support networks in every school for referral purposes, where necessary,” Minister Motshekga said.

South Africa will use the platform to share some of its best practices with its sister countries, and this includes initiatives such as the National School Nutrition Programme, National School Hygiene Programme, National School Deworming Programme, no fee schools and scholar transport, among others.

The national Department of Basic Education said the increasing employment of Learner Support Agents (LSAs) in schools is one of the programmes that the country prides itself in.

SADC Acting Director for Gender, Social and Human Development, Lomthandazo Mavimbela, told SAnews that employing LSAs across educational districts is a success story from which other countries can learn.

“The LSAs are there to assist learners with referrals to services such as social welfare,” said Mavimbela, noting that South Africa is generally doing well in terms of learner support.