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Free State decentralises procurement of masks for schools

Staff Reporter

Free State schools will now be responsible for procuring their own masks and other supplies for learners, teachers and administrative staff.

The provincial education department says it has decentralised the procurement of the masks in order to avoid delays in the distribution of the protective equipment and also create job opportunities for the local communities.

“Unlike other provinces in the country, we have decided to make the procurement of masks a responsibility of individual schools,” said Education MEC Tate Makgoe after visiting schools in Bloemfontein on Monday to check their level of readiness and monitor adherence to health and hygienic protocols in light of COVID-19.

“The money for buying the masks has already been allocated to the schools,” he said.

“We want the schools to source the masks for their own communities so that they can create opportunities for local people.”

“We want communities to benefit from their schools,” he added.

“We are going through a very difficult period due to the pandemic, so it’s important for us to create such opportunities.”

Over R15-million has been set aside for the initiative.

The MEC said he was happy that no major hiccups were reported on the first school day of the year and hoped that any challenges would be addressed soon.

Makgoe visited Nozala Primary School in Phahameng and Marang Primary School in Bochabela, Bloemfontein.

“I am quite happy with the level of readiness at the schools I visited,” he said.

School capacity will be limited to 50 percent to allow for social distancing.

Schools are expected to follow a rotational schedule to abide by the limit.

However, learners in the foundation phase are expected to attend school every day as well as those in Grades 7, 11 and 12.

The MEC also interacted with the teaching assistants and general school assistants to see how they were coping since they were deployed across the province in December last year.

The province has hired about 18 010 youths of which over 12 500 are female while about 5 500 are male.

The initiative is part of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme aimed at giving jobs to young South Africans.

The youths started work on December 1 last year and their contracts will run until March 31.

The teaching assistants are responsible for, among others, supporting teachers with technical preparations of the classroom for teaching and learning and ensuring that teaching materials are available and ready for use.

They assist with the reading programme for the foundation phase; support teachers in libraries, science laboratories, IT laboratories and technical workshops, as well as provide after-school support to learners where applicable.

General school assistants support administration staff and do data capturing, issuing of textbooks and record keeping, general maintenance, care and IT support.

“Even in this difficult time we will continue to support our teachers and learners and make sure that all COVID-19 regulations are adhered to,” said Makgoe.

All posts are fully funded and about R411.3-million has been set aside for the project.

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