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Higher Education Sees Many Deaths Due To Covid

Wednesday, August 26, 2020 - 16:20Author: Sakinah Samuels

The Minister gave updates on where the Higher Education now stands as we moved into Level 2. Over 1000 individuals were said to be affected by Covid-19 in the sector as he also spoke on deaths at Universities and TVET Colleges.

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80 lives were lost in the Public Higher Education sector due to Covid-19. Of these deaths, 35 were University staff members, 9 were University students and 36 were staff and students from the TVET College sector.

Minister Nzimande said in his media briefing that a report from 6 August showed that 1552 people tested positive for the coronavirus in Higher Education. 975 were staff members while 577 were students. 

There are 2040 staff and students who are quarantined due to suspecting that they have the virus or they have been in contact with someone who had Covid. 2076 individuals in the sector also chose to self isolate. 

He also said that over 29 000 staff and students were being screened daily at campuses. 

There are 115 555 students who were issued with permits to come on to campuses. This makes up 20% of the student population. However, some made the decision to continue remote learning, said Nzimande.

A total of 33 985 students are currently living in University owned residences as at 6 August which translates to 28% of the residence capacity. A further 27 177 students are living in University leased and managed accommodation. 12 473 students are in University accredited accommodation while 9 899 students are now living in private accommodation vetted by the Universities.

It was also said that some institutions will end their academic year this year while others might only end in April. However, Nzimande says “that gap is too big”. It is obvious that better resourced institutions will finish earlier which also means that they will take the best off students and leave the rest to other institutions.

The Department is of the opinion that it must be a gap of a month and Vice-Chancellors have agreed and said that Universities never open at the same time, even under normal circumstances. They are therefore aiming for all Universities to have finished their academic year by February 2020.

Those institution who are at risk of ending in April will work closely with the Department as they want to start the academic year around that time. All stakeholders agreed that there shouldn't be major differences when it comes to opening Universities.

Another aspect mentioned was the relationship Higher Education has with Basic Education in terms of Matrics. Matric results come out on 23 February which this makes the proposed academic dates easier. Students don't apply then, they apply now, said the Minister as he urged students to apply to universities and TVET colleges now.

The Department of Higher Education is therefore working with the Department of Basic Education to figure out how the Basic Education academic period will affect the incoming University academic year.

 

Tags: higher educationBasic EducationBlade Nzimandeangie motshekgaacademic yearsave the academic yearbuti manamela. coviduniversitytvet collegecovid19Covid-19coronacoronaviruslockdownsa lockdownday of lockdown

UIF To Continue TERS Payments After Suspension

Wednesday, August 26, 2020 - 16:03Author: Simbongile Makanda

Earlier today, the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) had stopped paying out claims to workers. This is following an investigation into the payment system of the Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS).

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The UIF has now decided to continue with the payment system during the investigation. Michael Cardo of the Democratic Alliance confirmed that payments were back after a meeting with the UIF commissioner today. 

"We had portfolio meeting with the UIF Commissioner, Minister Nxesi, and the Director General of the Department, where they confirmed that payments would continue,” he said.

“But nobody said what impact of [the suspension and AGSA investigation] will have on the backlog payments going back as far as April, or on the fund’s ability to provide relief to the workers who have applied.”

The Auditor-General South Africa (AGSA) had made the Department of Labour aware of the suspicious nature of past payments that were made to people who were either dead, in prison or minors. 

Earlier, UIF spokesperson Makhosonke Buthelezi said the UIF had been trying to get the situation under control. 

“This issue is under investigation, however, we normally check IDs against the Home Affairs database. That is why in some cases we’ve been able to stop payments where Home Affairs confirms that the applicant is deceased,”

“Some of the things we’ve done to curb fraud include bank verification prior to payment, blocking the payment where anomalies are detected such as multiple UIF reference numbers against one bank account, and we’ve also introduced business rules to deal with some of the control deficiencies like payments to underage or overage claimants. We’re still going to appoint a team of auditors to follow up on all payments made,”

Businesses for South Africa (B4SA) released a statement, expressing its disappointment in the sudden investigation. 

“It is with deep disappointment that B4SA has learned from its representatives at Nedlac that all payments of Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) benefits have been halted pending investigations by the Auditor-General"

"B4SA strongly supports the mitigation of fraud risks, and urges that criminal charges should be brought against all alleged perpetrators. However, the unilateral halting of all payments, and the very poor communication of the situation by the UIF leadership, is grossly unfair to all employees and their employers who have legitimate claims," 

The organisation feared that the investigation would badly affect those that the UIF TERS scheme aimed to help. 

 "The UIF system is incapable of remedying the relatively small number of fraudulent claims without disadvantaging the millions of legitimate claimants is an indictment on the UIF system."

Now that payments are up and running again, workers can expect their TERS payments. 

Cardo said many workers are still left in the dark and he hopes the UIF will let them know more  about how their payments will work during the investigation. 

 

This is a developing storyTags: uiftersunemployment insurance fundTemporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme

Government Confirms Finishing Dates For Academic Year At Varsity and College

Wednesday, August 26, 2020 - 15:28Author: Alan Hammond

With the delays caused by the national lockdown universities and colleges are scrambling to complete the academic year. The government is still firmly committed to saving the academic year but realises that it cannot be completed before the end of December.  Minister Blade Nzimande has now confirmed his discussions with the universities and college and the dates that have been confirmed for the end of the 2020 academic year

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There was some guidance from the Department of Higher Education on the completion of the academic year when he addressed the media from Pretoria. Minister Blade Nzimande informed the public that his department has been in regular contact with the leadership of universities and colleges to ensure that the sector remains co-ordinated.  

Nzimande explained that while some institutions might be able to complete the academic year by November or December, others might need until April next year to finish all teaching and assessment. He stressed that such a large gap would be undesirable and only exacerbate the gap between the privileged institutions and those who are struggling.  It could lead to the better-resourced varsities having the first pick of top students for the following academic year, further entrenching the gap. 

Therefore a co-ordinated approach has been agreed with all higher education institutions completing the 2020 academic year by the end of February 2021. The academic year of 2021 will start between the 15th March and 15th April 2021. As the Matric results will be released on the 23rd of February 2021 this will allow first year students to join the academic year with other, returning students. 

Minister Nzimande was at pains to stress that those wanting to study next year should not wait to apply then, but in fact must apply now for study next year. 

"You must apply now to the TVET College or the university. All the results do is show you what courses you can qualify for," explained Nzimande.  

Minister Blade Nzimande was asked by a journalist about the possibility of students at private colleges or higher education institutions being expelled as their parents are not able to afford their fees. This is alleged to be happening even when the parents demonstrate that they have been retrenched or have a reduced income because of Covid-19. 

"Private institutions have been taking a guide from us but we are responsible in so far as we register them, but they are private institutions".  "They follow the opening and closing times from us".

Deputy Minister Buti Manamela explained that they have been working with leadership of private institutions and have discussed the plight of students with them. "It is quite unfortunate - we may not be able to do much as it relates to students who may be de-registered". The Deputy Minister explained the government finances were already stretched with supporting NSFAS students and similar commitments. "We implore the private institutions to listen to the plight of students and to make arrangements on the basis that the students can complete their studies," said Manamela.

Tags: Blade Nzimandeacademic yearCovid-19campuslockdownpuff and passPrivate Colleetvet college

Still No Word From NSFAS On When Devices Will Be Delivered

Wednesday, August 26, 2020 - 13:37Author: Sakinah Samuels

Parliament expressed concern that students still have not received the laptops they were promised by Government and that this could also be involved with an alleged interference in the process. However, NSFAS has responded to the concerns shown and laid out what they've been doing.

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It has been four months since Minister Nzimande announced students would get laptops from NSFAS. Concern has now been shown by Parliament about his delay in devices as allegations of interference also came up in connection with it. NSFAS has since released a statement to clear up the air about thee allegations and where they stand with getting the devices for students.

Committee Chairperson Philly Mapulane says delays are unnecessary and has said, "We would like to appeal to Dr Carolissen not to allow any undue interference with the supply chain management processes of NFSAS, and to speedily conclude this process of the procurement of the laptops so that students from poor and working class families can be able to study and be taught remotely."

Tenders are issued when there is a request for a company to supply goods to Government as formal processes are needed here. Many cases of corruption has come as it deals with large amounts of money, sometimes millions at a time. hat these under interferences could mean is that someone could be interfering with the tender procedures to favour one company over the other. NSFAS said in a statement that they are following the correct formal processes that need to be done with issuing, and in their case canceling, a tender.

Due to these delays, Committee Chairperson Philly Mapulane said that laptop deliveries might only happen next year around February if the allegations of interferences are true. This will badly affect students and will interfere with efforts to save the academic year. They won't be able to continue their academic programmes which have already been on pause for months for some.

Mapulane said that the country can't afford another procurement scandal and that they have given space to the NSFAS Administrator, Randall Carolissen, for this week to finalise the process and if it isn't finalised, they would then have to come in as urgently as possible to interrogate delays and allegations.

It was said that the intention of this alleged interference is to collapse the process and get it finally aborted so that the process can restart. This would then affect over 700 000 students but some might have received laptops already. There are however still a lot who don't have devices and are still waiting for laptops to be delivered as it was promised by Government.

About these delays, NSFAS responded, "NSFAS did some groundwork to ensure that there are no further delays on this project" and continued to apologise for the delay saying that they take the issue of compliance, thorough and fair processes firmly.

After the announcement, “NSFAS then prepared the tender document and advertised a tender on 26 June 2020 for the supply and delivery of the digital learning devices (laptops) for NSFAS funded students.” However, it was established that no acceptable bid was received and that the tender did not meet all the requirements and had to be cancelled.

On the new tender drawn up, NSFAS said, “A notice to advertise the new tender will be submitted to the Government Printing Works on 28 August 2020, for publication on 4 September 2020. The new tender will be published in the Government Tender Bulletin, the National Treasury E-tender portal and the NSFAS website on 4 September 2020, with updated requirements.”

NSFAS has said that once they appoint who will be supplying them with devices, it will be delivered and that the “ completion of this project is of paramount importance and priority to NSFAS”.

Although NSFAS has made it clear that they are carrying out the processes to procure the devices, they still aren't answering the question on everyone's minds of when these devices will be ready and at the end of it, students still haven't received their laptops and as it seems according to their statement, it might still take a while. 

Read the full statement from NSFAS here

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Motshekga Under Fire By Opposition Parties

Wednesday, August 26, 2020 - 12:28Author: Simbongile Makanda

Not only does the Basic Education department have to answer to unions, but it also has to answer to opposition parties who don't miss a chance to have a say about how they want schools to be run. This comes after learners in some grades returned to school on Monday, as planned by the department. 

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Minister Angie Motshekga was criticised by opposition parties for the way that her department has handled schools during the pandemic.

Despite this, Motshekga said she is happy with the work that her department has done to make sure that the school system is ready. 

“We have endeavoured to do everything in our power that while we rescue the academic year of 2020 we also make sure it is not at all costs. The safety of our children and our educators and workers remain paramount.”

She was however aware that 78 teachers have died because of covid-19 related causes. She said her department introduced a staggered approach to reduce overcrowding at schools. 

“Our strategy to rescue 2020, this staggered approach, is predicated on two pillars - it's around the curriculum training for all the grades, except for grade 12.”

“We have consulted more than 60 organisations. I had a platform where I spoke to more than 200 NGOs, I had consulted all teacher unions and I had consulted all parents and all different associations in the sector."

Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) member, Siphosethu Ngcobo questioned the education department's decision to have a phased-in approach. Ngcobo said the approach has not had the outcome that the department had hoped for. 

“This shows the phased-in approach to be completely irrational, given that there is no water available for a vast amount of learners to wash their hands. The situation is so bad that even access to the most basic sanitation infrastructure is a dream for many schools,” he said.

He feared that infections would rise in schools because many learners, teachers and staff share public spaces. 

“Without these most basic preventive measures in place, it is obvious that the phase-in approach is not the safest, most reasonable option as doesn't take into account the interest of our children and teachers.”

Reneiloe Mashabela of the Economic Freedom Front said the department was not ready to reopen schools because many schools have struggled for years to get services delivered.

“Towards the end of 2019, only 56% of schools in the country complied with minimum physical infrastructure standards, only 76% of schools had running water and 80% had adequately functioning sanitation,” said Mashabela.

Gauteng Education Department spokesperson, Steve Mabona said Gauteng schools handled the return of learners well, as there were no incidents that were reported. 

“Indeed we are pleased with our plans so far. We just want to appeal to parents to support schools, educators and learners accordingly during this phase.

“We are happy with the first days of welcoming the majority of our learners, and looking forward to receiving Grades 5 and 8 on August 31.”

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SASSA R350 Grantholders Encouraged To Use Bank Account

Wednesday, August 26, 2020 - 12:20Author: Sakinah Samuels

SASSA is urging those who receive funds from the R350 grant to seriously consider changing their payment method to using a bank account. They have therefore opened up their system for applicants to change their preferred payment method.

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SASSA will reopen their system for approved applicants of the R350 grant to change the method they want to be paid in. The payment of the COVID-19 grant is quicker if paid into a bank account, and applicants without bank accounts are encouraged therefore to open accounts.

The period for preferred method of payment is scheduled for Monday, 31 August 2020 to Sunday, 06 September 2020, 24 hours a day. Approved beneficiaries of the grant can change their payment method by visiting https://srd.sassa.gov.za during this period.

SASSA CEO Totsie Memela explained that, “During this period, beneficiaries can change from receiving their grants at the post office to receiving them through their personal bank accounts. They may also change from one bank to another if they prefer to."

This development with the grant is an effort to address the challenges some beneficiaries have experienced in trying to access their R350 grant from the Post Offices. She said it is important for beneficiaries to understand that they should not go to the Post Office before they have received the SMS notification that says funds are available.

“The SMS notification is used to limit the numbers of people reporting to a Post Office on a particular day and also to ensure that sufficient cash is available,” Memela said.

When choosing a bank account, Memela said beneficiaries should ensure the account is in their name. SASSA cannot pay money for one person into an account held by another or if the bank account is closed. 

“The payment process is delayed if money is sent to a closed account, as SASSA has to wait for the funds to be returned before sending it to the Post Office for collection. Clients who update their details are advised to ensure that their information is captured correctly to avoid any further delays,” Memela explained.

“There are many entry level, inexpensive options on the market – some of which can be opened online. Clients who have just been approved for the relief grant by SASSA and have received an SMS to upload and verify their bank details can do so at any time and need not wait for the window period.

“The sooner the details are uploaded, the quicker the payments can be made,” Memela said.

Cash transfer

The CEO announced that clients who chose to receive their special grant through cash transfer will get their August 2020 payment through this preferred method.

Memela said, “They must ensure that the cell phone numbers they provided to SASSA to receive payments, are registered in their own names and not names of other people like relatives or neighbours. It is mandatory that the cell phone number should have gone through the RICA (Communication-Related Information Act) process in order for payment to be done through it."

“Any citizen who does not update their information during this window period, or who provides incorrect banking details will have the payments for the remaining months sent through to the Post Office,” Memela explained.

Responses to frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 SRD grant can be found on the WhatsApp platform on 082 046 8553.

To conclude, SASSA has said that anyone who doesn't update their information during this window period, or who gives incorrect banking details will have the payments for the remaining months sent through to the Post Office.

Press release: #SASSA Opens Window for Payment Method Change #SASSACARES @The_DSD @nda_rsa @PostofficeSa @GovernmentZA @GCISMedia pic.twitter.com/Br2IKocWpy

— SASSA (@OfficialSASSA) August 25, 2020

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Why Do We Still Need To Go To The Office?

Wednesday, August 26, 2020 - 12:01Author: Terrique Alie

An office is a term that can be defined as an area where an organization allows their employees to perform business-related tasks. The main purpose of working in an office setting is to provide a focussed environment that helps employees fulfill their duties effectively. An office has all the necessary tools and resources needed to get the job done. 

 

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What are the benefits from a business perspective of working at an office?

  • Great sense of team unity 
  • Greater sense of collaboration and teamwork
  • Engagement and interaction with colleagues 
  • Communication is easier 
  • Structured working schedule (example; 9am to 5pm with an 1 hour lunch) 
  • Corporate space/ setting for client and team meetings 
  • Increase employee retention 

Is an office space essential?

This can be a debatable question. Since the global pandemic, many businesses have had to adapt to working remotely. As companies scramble to get back to normalcy after the effects of the pandemic, many workers prefer working from home. Provided that businesses arrange the necessary tools and resources to employees, working remotely from home could not be a bad thing after all.  

The benefits of working remotely from home:

  • Flexible schedules 
  • Less time spent on commuting 
  • Increased productivity 
  • No office distractions
  • Increased independence 
  • Customized working space/ environment

Challenges of working from home:

The fear that most companies have about working remotely is that there is a great sense of autonomy and less control and supervision over workers. It is not easy to manage team tasks when employees are spread across multiple locations. However, management can put into place various techniques to track the progress of tasks and ensure that the team reaches their deadlines and targets. Building and maintaining trust is another factor to consider especially when you cannot physically see what people are doing. Here, communication is one of the most important key factors, especially when it comes to working remotely as it requires constant communication and feedback. Therefore it is imperative to clarify any misunderstandings and ensure that everyone is kept in the loop and know what is expected from them. 

There are many factors one has to consider before taking the route to working remotely from home such as the nature and size of the organization, operational requirements,feasibility, productivity and the cost of equipment/ technology. It would be everyone's ultimate dream to work in the comfort of their own home. With the right set of tools and resources, it can be an incredible way of working from home. 

 

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New Campus For Mitchell's Plain - A Long-Held Dream Realised

Wednesday, August 26, 2020 - 11:55Author: False Bay College

False Bay College will be expanding and building a new Mitchell's Plain campus. The College to start the design planning phase for the campus which, in the long term, will be able to accommodate over 5000 students and will serve Mitchells Plain, Strandfontein and surrounding communities.

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In April 2019, a 15-year struggle and dream of the College to build a fully-fledged campus in Mitchells Plain was fulfilled when former Minister of Higher Education, Minister Pandor announced a significant funding investment for the establishment of a new False Bay TVET College campus that will serve Mitchells Plain, Strandfontein and surrounding communities.

The College is delighted with the City of Cape Town’s announcement on 11 June 2020 of the approval of the transfer of Erf 49076 in Mitchells Plain (Bay View) to the College for the building of this campus. The land transfer now enables the College to start the design planning phase for the campus which, in the long term, will be able to accommodate over 5000 students.

“We wish to thank the Department of Higher Education and the Council for this huge vote of confidence in the College. This campus will enable the College to address two major challenges in South Africa, namely providing access to high quality training that addresses the scarce and critical skills in South Africa and in so doing, addressing the challenge of youth unemployment,” says Karin Hendricks, Acting Principal.

The Mitchell’s Plain campus is currently located in Merrydale Road where the College is renting a wing of a primary school. In its current form, the campus offers post-matric qualifications to more than 600 youth from the surrounding communities. The new campus, will however, increase access to programmes that address the skills needs in the tourism, creative media, business BPO, wholesale and retail, and the services sectors. It will also deliver bridging programmes for youth that will enable them to access programmes where they do not meet the entrance criteria.

The support and buy-in from the surrounding communities is critical for the establishment of a new campus that serves the Mitchell’s Plain and surrounding communities. In the coming months, the College will engage in a social facilitation process to ensure that the surrounding communities are consulted on the development of the campus.

The new Mitchells Plain Campus will complement the College’s existing campus presence in Khayelitsha, Fish Hoek, Westlake and Muizenberg.

To expand its offering in engineering related programmes, the College received a grant from the National Skills Fund (NSF) to establish an engineering campus along the Swartklip road. To this effect, the College has entered into a lease agreement with Airports Company South Africa to use the existing buildings at the old Denel Site. The funding received from the NSF is geared towards repurposing those buildings for education and training purposes.

Nelson Mandela once said that education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. This echoes False Bay TVET College’s belief. The institution has confidence that through providing access to education, it can indeed change the lives of young people, communities, and society as a whole.

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Facebook Fellowship Program Applications Now Open

Applications for the 2021 Facebook Fellowship Programe are currently open and will close on October 1, 2020. They encourage people of diverse backgrounds and experiences to apply, especially those from traditionally under-represented minority groups.

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The Facebook Fellowship is a global program designed to encourage and support promising doctoral students who are engaged in innovative and relevant research in areas related to computer science and engineering at an accredited university.

The program is open to students in any year of their PhD study. They also encourage people of diverse backgrounds and experiences to apply, especially those from traditionally under-represented minority groups. Applications are evaluated based on the strength of the student’s research statement, publication record, and recommendation letters.

Facebook Fellowship Award Includes

  • Tuition and fees paid for the academic year (up to two years/four semesters)
  • A $42,000 annual stipend to cover living and conference travel costs
  • Paid visit to Facebook headquarters for the annual Fellowship Summit (pending COVID-19 restrictions)
Eligibility Criteria
  • Applicants must be full-time PhD students who are enrolled in an accredited university (in any country) by the start of the Fellowship 
  • Students must be involved in ongoing research related to one or more relevant disciplines 
  • Students must remain enrolled full-time for the duration of the Fellowship to receive program benefits
  • Students should not apply for Facebook Fellowships if they are actively being funded by Facebook through some other sponsorship or collaboration and/or if they are actively being supervised (or co-supervised) by a Facebook researcher. If in doubt, please email [email protected]
PagesOpportunity Closing Date: Thursday, October 1, 2020Opportunity is closing in 35 daysOpportunities Offered By : FacebookArticle Category: ScholarshipsTags: facebook jobsfacebook jobs south africafacebook fellowsjipfacebook internfacebookfacebook opportunitiesopportunities for graduatespuff and pass

Department Denies First Day Failure

Tuesday, August 25, 2020 - 16:41Author: Simbongile Makanda

Yesterday was another first day back at school for learners. Some schools have allegedly not been coping with the demand. This has upset some unions who have been wanting the department to step up and act before learners are badly affected.

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The Basic Education department has denied claims that it is facing a crisis in schools, where some are being overcrowded. This is not the case, according to the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU).

The department's spokesperson, Elijah Mhlanga said schools were still adjusting to taking in more learners on Monday.  

 “Let’s allow the system to take in learners, to settle down and then we will assess the situation again. We should refrain from using the word crisis. There is not crisis. We need to think of solutions.”

He said some schools faced challenges with the new timetable system, which works by rotating which days certain grades go to school. This is part of the department's plan to make sure all schools follow social distancing measures. 

“We believe the rotation system will work as it allows us to keep schools as 50% capacity and to maintain social distancing.”

SADTU is not confident in the department's ability to keep schools under control.

“We are receiving information from our structures that there are still administrative and structural challenges at a number of schools, particularly at township and rural schools. That is what we are picking up,” said SADTU secretariat officer, Xolani Fakude.

Fakude said the union was worried that learners from disadvantaged schools would be badly affected by the failures of the department. 

“Some schools are reporting that it’s difficult to have 50% of occupants in class because there have not been additional teachers. There have not been substitute teachers appointed.”

“We are now facing a drastically reduced academic year and, in all this, it's likely that learners and teachers, especially from disadvantaged schools, will struggle to be ready for a combined June and November,” he said.

SADTU is now calling for the department to go back to the drawing board to figure out a new system for schools. 

“As a union we strongly advise the department to rather focus on innovative ways of restructuring the curriculum, which should in particular consider the extension of the academic year to 2021.”

“But the [department], instead of doing that, reduces the number of days because they are trying to fit it in. It is our strongest view that this system will not be ready because there is also those who are in poorer schools. We feel that there are a lot of rushed decisions that have been taken.”

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School Governing Bodies Against Call From SADTU

Tuesday, August 25, 2020 - 15:45Author: Simbongile Makanda

There are less than 3 months to go until matric learners start writing exams. The Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (FEDSAS) is once again siding with the Basic Education Department, as it hopes for no more delays. 

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FEDSAS CEO, Paul Colditz says he does not support SADTU's call to push the start of matric exams from 5 November to a new date of 26 November 2020. 

"Matriculants have been back in school since the first of June, they have indeed lost a couple of weeks but that has been made up with the shortening of the school holiday and the postponement of the date which the exams will be written." he said. 

Colditz argued that postponing the exams would not benefit learners. 

"We believe that the learners are ready and that they are eager to finish their school career and start writing."

He said he is aware that there are some matric learners who will be more advantaged than others, but he hopes the department will make provisions for them. 

"I'm equally convinced that the department of Basic Education and uMalusi, in considering the results of the matric exams, will make provision for those learners who may have been prejudiced."

Colditz also hopes the department will allow learners to rewrite the exams if they have been negatively affected by the timing and other circumstances. 

As the year draw closer to the final exams, education experts have warned that schools will face classroom shortages.

They fear that this will affect the 1.1 million learners that are scheduled to write the final matric exams. 

Learners in grades R to 11 will still be at school when matric learners start writing their exams on November 5, making it very difficult for classrooms to be available. 

Naptosa Executive director, Basil Manuel said “most ordinary schools don’t have halls and gyms that can be used as exam venues”.

SADTU is disappointed with the department's failure to deal with these problems during the 4 week break. 

"The DBE should have used the short break from the 27 July to fix all the problems to contribute in the suppression of the community transmissions,"

The Federation of Governing Bodies for SA Schools says there's no need to postpone the final matric exams. The Federation's Paul Colditz says reports on the ground suggest that pupils will be ready to write exams as scheduled. He joins us to talk more about this. #DStv403 pic.twitter.com/gdtDQif3x8

— eNCA (@eNCA) August 25, 2020

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Covid Antibody Tests Are Available In SA - Here's what to know

Tuesday, August 25, 2020 - 14:19Author: Sakinah Samuels

Covid-19 antibody tests are approved and are now available in South Africa. With this, you could find out if you're immune to the coronavirus or not. Here's some information on what exactly an antibody test is and how it works.

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Covid-19 antibody tests have been approved for South African and you might be able to prove whether you're immune to the virus or not. This could surely be a big move in the Covid-19 game in our country.

An antibody tests is a test which uses your blood to see if you had the virus before. If you recovered from the test, your body would have produced antibodies so this is what the test checks for.

All it requires is a prick on your finger and the blood taken from that is put in a vial that is then analysed. 

These antibody tests are not exactly perfect though. Even though they could read negative, there's a chance you could still have had the virus. This could be because:

  • Insufficient sensitivity of an antibody test.
  • Acute phase testing (specifically within 14 days post-symptom onset).
  • Some patients may not form detectable antibodies, especially following asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection.
  • Waning of antibodies over time, and as soon as 1-2 months in asymptomatic or mild cases.

The same also goes for a positive result. This could be due to insufficient specificity of an antibody test or cross-reacting antibodies, like those directed against other human coronaviruses.

The test doesn't necessarily mean you're immune to the virus, all it says for sure is that you've had the virus before. 

The Department of Health said:

The detection of antibodies may not correlate with immune protection. A positive antibody test therefore should not be regarded as proof of immunity and mustn’t be used to reduce or abandon protective measures. Issuing an “immunity passport” based on a positive antibody test is not recommended in SA or by the WHO.

The time it takes to identify if you had the virus before is 21 days after it entered your body. If you are to wait for 35 days or more after being sick to do the test, the results will probably come back inconclusive.

Seven businesses have been licensed to distribute the tests, which are made in China. The general public will not have access to these tests  which will only be administered by registered professionals in the healthcare sector. 

 

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Department Launches Free Support For Matric Learners

Tuesday, August 25, 2020 - 13:38Author: Simbongile Makanda

Grade 12 learners have lost a lot of school time, making their final year of high school more difficult than usual. The department has been trying to figure out new ways to reach learners while they learn from home, and Woza Matrics is just that. 

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Woza Matrics is a programme that will air on television, starting on 1 September 2020. It will be available on SABC 3, DStv and Openview (Channel 122) from 8:00 - 10:00 and 13:00 - 15:00.

The programme will air seven days a week, and if you happen to miss it, it will also be available for free on the DStv Now Catch up app.  

Woza Matrics will cover a range of grade 12 subjects like:

  • Maths
  • Maths Literacy
  • Life Sciences
  • Geography
  • Physical Science
  • Accounting, Economics
  • English First Additional Language
  • History
  • Business Studies.

Not only will learners get the programme, but more learning materials will be posted online when the programme airs on 1 September. 

Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga is happy that the programme has come at the right time for matric learners. 

“This initiative has come at the right time when we are working to get schooling back on track. Matric is always stressful but 2020 has been filled with unusual stresses. I want to congratulate all our Grade 12 learners and their families for the perseverance and determination.

“It is abundantly clear that additional support is required for learners and we will continue to provide this. There are a few months left before the end of the year and Woza Matrics will give learners the support they need to prepare for the final exams,” said the Minister.

She thanked all of the sponsors and partners for helping the department to make Woza Matrics a reality. 

“I am most grateful to SABC, Multichoice and eMedia Investments, who have so generously made their broadcast networks and expertise available to Woza Matrics; and to the content providers including DigiCampus, Mindset and Monyetla Trust, who have shared all their excellent content with Woza Matrics,” Motshekga said. 

The SABC is glad to be on board with the launch of the programme, and hopes many matric learners will benefit from the educational programmes. 

“As a public service broadcaster, we are duty-bound to ensure that our content includes a significant amount of educational programmes, particularly during a period when it is most needed,” said SABC GCEO Madoda Mxakwe.

eMedia Investments CEO Khalik Sherrif said the success of Woza Matrics will be seen next year once learners have written their exams. 

"We wish all matriculants the best in this time and hope they benefit from the Woza Matrics 2020 content."

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Capitec Bank Customer Service Vacancy Opportunities

Capitec Bank has an opening for Customer Service Reps. No experience required but individual needs to hold a Grade 12 National Certificate

To welcome clients and coordinate the branch flow through efficient queue functioning, providing excellent client service by assisting clients at the ATM and to complete transactions on any remote or self service channels.

Experience

Minimum:

  • No experience required but individual needs to hold a Grade 12 National Certificate

Ideal:

  • At least 1 year’s client service experience within a retail/ financial/ banking environment

Qualifications (Minimum)

  • Grade 12 National Certificate / Vocational

Qualifications (Ideal or Preferred) Knowledge

  • Basic calculations
  • Knowledge of Capitec Bank products and business processes (internal)

Skills

  • Communications Skills
  • Computer Literacy (MS Word, MS Excel, MS Outlook)
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  • Problem solving skills
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  • Adhering to Principles and Values
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  • Presenting and Communicating Information
  • Delivering Results and Meeting Customer Expectations
  • Following Instructions and Procedures

Additional Information

  • Clear criminal and credit record
  • Must have access to transport (personal/public)
  • Flexible and mobile across regions is an advantage
  • Must meet the minimum requirements on psychometric assessments
  • Must have fingerprints which are detectable/recognisable on Capitec Bank’s internal electronic banking system
PagesOpportunity Closing Date: Monday, August 31, 2020Opportunity is closing in 5 daysOpportunities Offered By : Capitec BankArticle Category: CareersTags: capitec vacanciescapitec bankOpportunity available in: Eastern Cape / Free State / Gauteng / KwaZulu-Natal / Limpopo / Mpumalanga / North West / Northern Cape / Western Cape

Graduate Programme For An Analyst At Woolworths

Woolworths Financial Services would like to offer University graduates (class of 2020/2021) the opportunity to work for a dynamic retail bank within the Mother City. We invite Africa’s best minds to join our Graduate Programme, designed and structured to maximise learning opportunities and unlock one’s full potential within the Financial Services industry.

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Students At These TVET Colleges Can Get Funded By NSFAS

Tuesday, August 25, 2020 - 10:55Author: Sakinah Samuels

You qualify for a NSFAS bursary if you plan on registering or you are already studying at one of the public TVET colleges Not sure if NSFAS funds the TVET College you're at or plan to go to? Well, now you can find out. Read further.

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NSFAS provides funding to TVET College students that extends beyond just your fees. You need to apply or be studying at a TVET College to qualify for financial assistance. Students who intend to study at private institutions will not be assisted by NSFAS. 

NSFAS provides funding to vulnerable students who cannot afford to pay their own fees and have a annual household income of less than R350 000. NSFAS funding extends further than just paying your tuition fees. It also covers books, accommodation, transport and there are other benefits as well.

NSFAS funds students at the following TVET Colleges:

  • Boland College
  • Mnambithi College
  • Buffalo City College
  • Mopani South East TVET College
  • Capricorn College
  • Motheo College
  • Central Johannesburg College 
  • Mthashana TVET College
  • Coastal KZN College
  • Nkangala College
  • College of Cape Town
  • Northern Cape Rural College
  • Northern Cape Urban College
  • East Cape Midlands College
  • Northlink College
  • Ehlanzeni College
  • Orbit College
  • Ekurhuleni East College
  • Ekurhuleni West College
  • Port Elizabeth College
  • Elangeni College
  • Sedibeng TVET College
  • Esayidi College
  • Sekhukhune College
  • False Bay College
  • South Cape College
  • Flavius Mareka College
  • South West Gauteng College
  • Gert Sibande College
  • Taletso TVET College
  • Goldfields College
  • Thekwini College
  • Ikhala College
  • Tshwane North College
  • Tshwane South College
  • Ingwe College
  • Umfolozi College
  • King Sabata Dalindyebo College
  • Umgungundlovu COllege
  • Lephalele College
  • Vhembe College
  • Letaba College
  • Vuselela College
  • Lovedale College
  • Waterberg College
  • Majuba College
  • West Coast College
  • Maluti College
  • Western College

Qualifying and getting funded by NSFAS means nothing if you are not registered to a University or TVET College.

You are also encouraged to apply to NSFAS as soon as you can as the demand for funding is expected to grow due to the effects Covid-19 and the lockdown has had on employment and finances.

NSFAS applications for 2021 are now open. NSFAS does not accept emailed or posted applications. For more information on how to apply, click here

Other NSFAS related articles for you to read:

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Thousands Waiting To Be Assessed For SASSA Grant

Tuesday, August 25, 2020 - 10:36Author: Sakinah Samuels

SASSA is currently experiencing a backlog of applications for the disability grants. This is a major issue as many South Africans depend on this grant to survive but due to offices being closed and a shortage of doctors, applications cannot be approved.

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About 20 000 South Africans are now on waiting lists to be assessed by a doctor to benefit from SASSA's disability grant. Western Cape has the biggest bulk of these with 4945 applicants. Minister Lindiwe Zulu said there are 19 053 people waiting.

North West comes in second with 4574 applicants, Gauteng has 2553, Limpopo 1664, Kwazulu-Natal 1632, Mpumalanga 1165, Eastern Cape 835, Northern Cape 359, Free State 309.

The Social Development Minister said, “In order to address this, SASSA Western Cape has been granted authority to deviate from normal tender processes by National Treasury to appoint doctors in the George and Boland areas through a closed bidding process by approaching all doctors listed on the HPCSA database as a fairness measure".

The problem which persists seems to be the delay in assessing grants. Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu said SASSA will be giving priority to applicants who were assessed before the lockdown, but did not complete the administrative process. 

These delays were due to there being a shortage of doctors to assess applicants and to see whether they qualify or not. 

DA's Alexandra Abrahams, "It cannot be that in the Western Cape, where there is a backlog of 4 945 assessments, that the DSD has only allocated 10 doctors. Similarly, in the North West where there is a backlog of 4 574, there are only 28 doctors."

They therefore want Zulu to appoint more doctors so that the waiting list of thousands can be reduced. They have also said that this backlog is due to the offices being closed and there have come many calls to reopen them. “Minister Zulu must therefore take full personal responsibility for making an already bad situation even worse due to her arrogance,” said the DA.

The report that comes from the doctor is only valid for three months. This then leaves a bigger group of people waiting to be re-assessed and continue benefitting from the grant. 

SASSA currently has 475 doctors across South Africa who's job it is to assess and re-assess new and existing disability grant applicants. 

Having thousands waiting for approval for the grant is seen as a serious issue as many depend on this grant to survive, especially during this lockdown period. “The Minister must act now to address this backlog, so that those under her care will not suffer needlessly,” Abrahams said.

 

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How The Lockdown Has Affected The Health Of The Poor In South Africa

Monday, August 24, 2020 - 20:59Author: The Conversation

By Chijioke Nwosu and Adeola Oyenubi. Hunger contributes strongly to health inequalities. The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked substantial damage on human lives and the economy in South Africa. But the impact of the measures used to combat the pandemic, such as lockdowns, have not been even. The pandemic has likely worsened the income inequalities that characterise the country’s economy.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked substantial damage on human lives and the economy in South Africa. But the impact of the measures used to combat the pandemic, such as lockdowns, have not been even. The pandemic has likely worsened the income inequalities that characterise the country’s economy.

Vulnerable populations such as low income earners in informal and precarious employment have been most affected by job losses and the resulting income loss. Moreover, while COVID-19 has affected every facet of people’s lives, it is essentially a health problem. The loss of jobs and income is likely to result in reduced ability to access healthcare and a nutritious diet. This, in turn, will negatively impact on people’s health.

We recently conducted a study to estimate how closely health was related to income, in the context of COVID-19 in South Africa. We used data from the National Income Dynamics Study-Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey, a nationally representative survey collected in May/June 2020.

The survey collected information on health, income and other relevant factors during the higher levels of the lockdown. We compared these findings to data collected from the same individuals in 2017.

We found that poor populations bore a disproportionately higher burden of poor health. This was the case in both 2017 and the COVID-19 period. A remarkable finding was that income-related health inequality in the COVID-19 period was about six times that obtained in 2017. This shows that income had a much stronger relationship with health during the COVID-19 crisis than before.

Explaining the inequalities

To measure health inequalities related to income, we used a statistical measure known as the concentration index. The key factors that predicted the observed income-related health inequalities in the COVID-19 era were race, hunger, and income. Each of these factors worsened income-related health inequalities.

Race affected the inequalities in two ways: Africans were more likely to be poor and report being in poor health compared to their white counterparts. The same was true of hunger. On the other hand, income worsened health inequalities through the richer being less likely to be in poor health.

The impact of race on health outcomes, especially in this period, corroborates prior evidence in South Africa and elsewhere. Black people are among the worst affected by the COVID-19 epidemic in South Africa. One of the avenues through which this occurs is higher exposure to hazardous jobs such as working as cleaners or in fumigation of contaminated areas.

The relative disadvantage of historically disadvantaged racial groups to pandemics is well known – especially in the present situation. For instance, African Americans have disproportionately high infection and mortality rates due to COVID-19 in the United States.

Similarly, limited access to quality healthcare can contribute to race-based health inequalities. South Africa’s health system is deeply segmented. It consists of a well-resourced private sector – mostly funded by expensive medical aid scheme membership – and an overburdened public sector which caters for the majority poor masses (mostly Africans). It is estimated that only 10% of Africans belonged to medical aid schemes compared to 73% of whites in 2018.

This two-tier system is in dire need of reform if the country is to tackle health inequalities. Hopefully the country’s move to universal health coverage as envisaged in the proposed National Health Insurance Scheme will mitigate these inequalities and inequities.

The second factor was hunger. Its strong contribution to health inequalities is disturbing, especially given the rights-based approach to food security enshrined in the South African Constitution. The state hasn’t been able to fulfil its constitutional role of ensuring that all South African residents have enough food to enjoy a dignified life. This was especially true during the period of the COVID-19 epidemic.

As we found in this study, hunger not only adversely affects people’s dignity; it also widens the health disparity between the rich and the poor. This is particularly worrying given the high prevalence of hunger during this epidemic. It has become absolutely necessary to protect the health of the poor in South Africa. That is why anti-hunger policies such as the National School Nutrition Programme are even more relevant now.

The final factor contributing to widening health inequalities was income inequality. As earlier indicated, COVID-19 disproportionately affected the poor through a higher likelihood of them losing their jobs, among other things. A higher probability of job loss among already economically compromised individuals and households would not only exacerbate income inequality, but is likely to contribute to worsening health outcomes among the poor given their further limited ability to meet basic needs like food and medication.

Therefore, measures to save the livelihoods of the poor must be sustained during the crisis and beyond.

Way forward

Our paper underscores the fact that the poor bear a disproportionate burden of poor health and that income-related health inequalities seem to have gotten worse in the COVID-19 era.

We believe that this pandemic and the associated lockdown reinforced existing inequalities in South Africa. These were exacerbated by massive job cuts and a depressed labour market.

Policies that address race-based disadvantage – such as universal health coverage as well as anti-hunger measures are urgently needed to mitigate health disparities in the COVID-19 era and beyond.

Read the original story by The Conversation here

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Concern Over Delay Of Devices From NSFAS

Monday, August 24, 2020 - 20:11Author: Sakinah Samuels

Members of Parliament have expressed concern about the delay seen in getting and giving laptops to students who are funded by NSFAS who were promised devices months ago. Companies and external organisations have also seen the urgent need for devices for students to access online learning as many programmes to provide students with laptops have been started.

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Members of Parliament have expressed concerns over the delays in the procurement of the laptops for students who are funded by NSFAS. 

Mid-July, NSFAS Administrator, Randall Carolissen said that students should expect to receive their devices from September onwards. This delay in the provision is due to following proper procedures in the procurement of devices and that they "unfortunately had to work through a lot of bureaucracies", said Carolissen.

The Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology said that it is now four months since Minister Nzimande announced that government will get laptops for all NSFAS students in universities and TVET colleges.

The procurement of laptops for NSFAS students is part of government's strategy to carry out multi-modal remote learning and teaching methodologies in order to save the 2020 academic year, as a result of the country being placed under lockdown.

Portfolio committee Chairperson, Philly Mapulane said, “Students have since been eagerly awaiting the delivery of these laptops, which to date remain undelivered as a result of unnecessary delays in the finalisation of the procurement processes by NSFAS."

“Of great concern, are the allegations brought to the committee, that there is interference with the procurement processes. Attempts are being made to manipulate the procurement process, and to finally get it aborted because certain service providers are not recommended, following supply chain management processes of NSFAS,” said Mapulane in a statement on Monday.

Mapulane said the committee takes these allegations seriously and will be following them up with NSFAS Administrator, Dr Randall Carolissen.

"We would like to appeal to Dr Carolissen not to allow any undue interference with the supply chain management processes of NFSAS, and to speedily conclude this process of the procurement of the laptop,s so that students from poor and working class families can be able to study and be taught remotely. The country cannot afford another COVID-19 procurement scandal," Mapulane said.

In other efforts to provide students with laptops, Gijima, a leading information and communication technology company, has donated 300 laptops to students at the University of Mpumalanga. 

Gijima’s chief marketing officer, Roberta Gumede, “Minister Blade Nzimande recently announced that all NSFAS beneficiaries would receive laptops and data to ensure that they can attend online classes during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, many students don’t qualify for the scheme, and just yesterday, NSFAS announced that about 5 000 students will be cut off from the scheme, as a result of certain information from SARS. This means that there will be more students who won’t benefit from it."

Gumede further explained that 60% of students are not funded by NSFAS and that many students still struggle to fund their studies. These laptops are therefore being given to support the missing middle. "We believe that education is power, a key to success, a differentiator, a ceiling breaker and unleashes one’s potential to greater heights. And as we hand over these laptops today we would like to help the university breach the gap and assist more students at the University of Mpumalanga, in order to help build more inspiring leaders in our beautiful province," said Gumede.

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SADTU Calls For Matric Exams To Be Pushed Back

Monday, August 24, 2020 - 17:04Author: Simbongile Makanda

As 1.1 million learners prepare to write the final matric exam, some of the finer details are not coming together as they should. Education experts are warning that the department could be way in over its head with sorting out classroom space and the marking process. 

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The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) wants the Basic Education Department to push back the start of exams from 5 November to 26 November in order to give learners more time to prepare for the exams.

The council also raised other concerns about how the department has been handling the return of learners and how it plans to deal with the process of marking exam papers. 

Not enough markers

There is fear that the combined June and November exam will cause a few problems with the marking process, because more markers will need to be hired. 

Usually, the department hires markers aged 60 or older. Most of these markers have recently been working from home because they have comorbidities. 

Marking is a “contact activity” and because of this, the department has now said teachers over the age of 60 will not be allowed to mark. 

Spokesperson of the Basic Education Department, Elijah Mhlanga said the department has been facing a shortage of markers even before covid-19 and it was now using this time to get the situation under control. 

“It is being addressed through training and skilling of teachers who have the potential to be appointed as markers.”

Classroom space

The department has been telling people that there is enough space for all matric learners to write, but this is not the case according to experts who say there will be classroom shortages. 

Learners in grades R to 11 will still be at school when matric learners start writing their exams on November 5, making it very difficult for classrooms to be available. 

Naptosa Executive director, Basil Manuel weighed in his thoughts on this and said “most ordinary schools don’t have halls and gyms that can be used as exam venues”.

The NEC also found that 11% of schools were even struggling to make timetables because they were having problems with space and teacher shortages. 

SADTU is disappointed with the department's failure to deal with these problems during the 4 week break. 

"The DBE should have used the short break from the 27 July to fix all the problems to contribute in the suppression of the community transmissions,"

Trimming the curriculum

Along with the worry about matric learners, SADTU is against the government's decision to trim the curriculum for learners in grades 7 and 9. 

"Trimming of the curriculum meant that the academic year would be extended because the pandemic has disrupted the teaching and learning. However, that did not mean that subjects should be reduced but content in subjects be reduced to focus on core concepts, skills, knowledge and attitudes."

Dropping subjects from the curriculum could negatively affect learners because they will have less exposure to the content taught in other subject and will struggle to make subject choices when they enter grades 10 and above. 

The NEC is afraid that this will create a gap in education, as some schools could decide to drop subjects. This will create a divide between schools who have resources and those who don't have access to resources. 

“The Department want to make things easier for themselves at the expense of proper career pathing for the learners,” said the NEC.

Another problem is that the department has not said what will happen to teachers whose subjects are dropped, leaving many feeling uncertain. 

Standardised testing

SADTU is also against standardised testing, as it believes that schools should rather focus on assessments based on school-based teaching and learning plans.

“Teachers as professionals, should be allowed to use their professional judgement."

The council has asked members in provinces to keep an eye out and make sure that no standardised tests are written.

This is a difficult time for learners all over the country, particularly those in public schools with very little resources.

All eyes are on the Basic Education Department to see what it will do to put all matric learners and teachers at ease about the final exam. 

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