Lois was invited to the launch of the Bitou 10 Foundation (a cluster of 10 schools in the Bitou municipal area) in Plettenberg Bay. It was most interesting and useful. The schools are very much like ours with many of the same needs as well as a similar focus. Some function well and some a lot less well. We saw one school making considerable progress with regard to literacy and were able to spend time with Marlene Rousseau who is doing the literacy work. Numeracy remains static – as it does here, in the country as a whole and, indeed, globally. Aarnout Brombacher (maths specialist with his own consultancy) has done an investigation in the Bitou schools and was able to pass on some useful ideas which have been given to Frank.
The National Minister of Education was impressive and she gave interesting input regarding the Departments’ thinking over the next few years. One of the issues is that of textbooks. No publishers will be allowed into schools to “bribe” schools into ordering their publications. All textbooks will be scrutinized and only quality publications will be placed on a select list from which schools may order. At last!!
The Minister also informed us of the results of a Task Team set up to investigate what makes well-functioning schools work. Ex- Model C (white), DET (black) and HOR (coloured) schools doing well were investigated. The top three factors which came out of the study were: 1. Quality teachers (commitment, passion and work ethic) 2. Teacher competence (subject knowledge, teaching skills) and 3. Learner competence (understanding, thinking and application of knowledge). The next two were consistent application of school rules and regulations, followed by a will at the school to achieve academically. A copy of the full report written after the visit is available in the office.
Perhaps the most useful contact made during the visit was that with the Special Advisor to the Minister, Martin Mulcahy. The Minister has diarized the 19th April to open the new building.