Gauteng tackles strike aftermath

Johannesburg - The Gauteng provincial government remained upbeat on Wednesday that plans were in place to help the province recover from the recent public servants' strike.

Gauteng was among the provinces severely affected by the three-week crippling mass action with more than 80 percent of the schools forced to shut down while hospitals turned away patients.

Unions, who are demanding an 8.6 percent wage hike and R1000 housing allowance, on Monday announced the suspension of the strike pending ongoing talks with government.

Now teachers face a challenge of having to cover 10 weeks of work in six weeks to ensure that matric pupils were ready for their final exams scheduled for next month.

Addressing reporters, Education MEC Barbara Creecy said a series of "contingency plans" will, among others, help the province recover the lost four weeks of teaching time.

Creecy said while learners have lost time in the education programme because of the strike, authorities remained confident that teachers would be able to help them recover the lost time.

"What is required now is for all of us, teachers, learners and parents to support and rally behind the matric class of 2010 with the single objective of helping them prepare for their exams," she said.

Answering a question, she acknowledged that there were fears about a potential drop in this year's matric pass rate. "I am concerned about the pass rate as I believe anybody would but all is not lost. We don't want the pupils to throw in the towel, our duty is to help them through …we are dealing with a serious challenge and one thing we do not have is time and what we are trying to do is to do our best with the little time that we have, it's important that learners sit for the exams, it's important for the credibility of the exams."

The province will ensure "maximum time" for syllabus completion and at the same time allow the learners "enough" time to prepare for their preliminary exams.

Officials also admit the extent of the challenge teachers were facing in light of the preliminary exams next week.

Learners in the province will write two exams a day, a three-hour paper in the morning and a two hour paper at noon. Plans are also in place for learners to attend afternoon lessons to prepare them for the next paper.

A condensed provincial timetable will be in place for schools that have not been able to write their preliminary exams to allow for more classroom work to take place.

Two weeks into the strike, learners were encouraged to form study groups and self-study material was distributed to several communities. Creecy said there were over 70 verified sites with between 100 and 300 learners each, operating throughout Gauteng.

"We are very encouraged by the fact that ordinary learners themselves are taking responsibility for their own learning on a large scale," she added. - BuaNews