BLADE Nzimande, minister of the department of higher education and training (DHET), has announced teacher training colleges would be reopened in the Eastern Cape next year.
However, senior administration officials in his department yesterday declined to provide details about the planned colleges – locations, budget allocations, focal areas for training and progress made so far, among other aspects.
DHET director-general Gwebinkundla Qonde would only say colleges would be reintroduced. “The colleges are going to be reintroduced in the Eastern Cape. Wait for it to happen.”
DHET spokeswoman Vuyelwa Qinga said: “The Minister will make an announcement about this at an appropriate time.”
She refused to comment further.
Parliamentary portfolio committee on higher education chairman, Ishmael Malale, could not be reached for a comment on the matter.
On Thursday last week, Nzimande was quoted in the national newspapers saying teacher training colleges in the province together with Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal would be reopened next year.
He said the first college was to be reopened this week in Mpumalanga.
He made the pronouncement at a New Age business briefing in Johannesburg.
Nzimande said the new colleges needed to focus on the development of teachers for the foundation phase.
This comes amid ongoing tensions in the province between teachers’ unions, led by the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) and provincial education over teaching jobs.
Nzimande’s announcement received a mixed reaction from opposition parties in the Eastern Cape, who welcomed the announcement, but said a clear plan was needed to make the programme work.
DA shadow MEC of education Edmund van Vuuren said the party welcomed the announcement.
However, Van Vuuren said training for teachers would have to focus on early childhood development, foundation phase and critical subjects such as maths, science and accounting.
Van Vuuren said the ANC-led government had made a “huge mistake” by closing teacher colleges.
“They thought there was an oversupply of teachers and there is another disgrace happening in the department, that of Funza Lushaka bursary students, who received thousands of rands from the department to study towards a teaching qualification but are still yet to be placed at schools.”
He said close to 200 qualified teachers, who studied through the bursary, are sitting at home.
“They are treated the same way as temporary teachers. According to the contract they signed with the department they are supposed to be at the school after three months of finishing their studies, but that is not happening. They have to sue the department for that,” Van Vuuren said.
UDM MPL Jackson Bici said he hoped thorough research had been conducted to ensure there would not be hiccups in the programme.
“We need to know what research has been done to warrant the reopening of these colleges because we have a problem of unions especially Sadtu fighting with the department over the number of teachers in the province.”
Bici said colleges would have to focus on critical subjects and government would have to place graduates at schools.
Attempts were made to get a comment from COPE, the leading opposition party in the province, but were unsuccessful.
Nzimande’s announcement was welcomed by Sadtu’s national executive committee.
“Our education system requires highly qualified teachers for quality public education. The deliberate improvement of our teachers’ competencies will improve learner achievement,” the union said in a statement. — firstname.lastname@example.org