By Minister Debbie Schäfer, Western Cape Minister of Education:
The educational needs of our children are diverse. Not everyone can or wishes to follow a purely academic education, and it is therefore important that alternative pathways and opportunities are offered by this Government. It is also important that our young citizens harness skills that are suited and needed in our economy.
In the Western Cape, Schools of Skills offer this alternative opportunity to learners.
The Schools of Skills offer an adapted and differentiated vocational and practical curriculum to accommodate learners who ordinarily cannot cope or achieve their potential in mainstream schools, despite support.
These learners are instead offered an opportunity to create an alternative career path by developing vocational and practical skills. Learners who have an interest in skills development will be assessed at district level and may be referred to a school of skills.
In the Western Cape, we currently have 18 Schools of Skills with 5 Special Schools that have skills units attached, and we are looking to increase the number of places in these schools in the coming years.
A learner can enter a School of Skills from a mainstream school at the age of 14 turning 15 where they will spend four years in an educational programme that supports their learning in Languages, Mathematics, Life Skills, Creative Arts and Natural Sciences and Technology. These learners are also afforded the opportunity to achieve in other areas where they can be successful, such as learning a skill.
Learners are introduced to a selection of skills. They will then specialise in one skill by the end of their four year career.
Schools can select a variety of vocational skills to offer at their school based on the needs of the community, and Province as a whole, from the following list of skills:
- Ancillary Health Care
- Art and Crafts
- Automotive Repair and Maintenance
- Automotive Spray Painting
- Automotive Body Repair
- Basic Welding and Metal Work
- Basic Sheet Metal Work
- Beauty and Nail Technology
- Bricklaying and Plastering
- Early Childhood Development
- Hospitality Studies
- Mixed Farming
- Needlework and Clothing
- Office Administration
Learners in “Year One” are taught the basics of a number of skills from which they will select one to specialise in during “Year Two” to “Year Four”.
Each skills course is based on defined concepts and skills used in the workplace to provide learners with a passport to life-long economic opportunities.
Today I visited Siviwe School of Skills in Gugulethu, a school that serves the communities of Guguletu, Nyanga, Phillipi, Mfuleni and Langa. Siviwe School of Skills was converted from a public ordinary school to a School of Skills in January 2007.
With a staff establishment of 26 educators, and 420 learners, their primary goal is to create a balanced classroom environment that takes into account every learners unique need and ability to learn.
The main focus is on academic and technical skills so that each child is equipped with a skill they can use to contribute to the economy and become active members of our society.
The school offers the four year School of Skills curriculum which consists of 50% academic and 50% technical Skills. Skills offered include bricklaying, welding & metalwork, woodwork & carpentry, hairdressing, needlework & clothing and hospitality.
Language and Mathematics are offered at three different levels to accommodate learner diversity and barriers to learning. The curriculum allows learners, with the necessary ability, to access FET colleges after the completion of the 4 year programme.
Ms Lupondo, school principal, is clearly a very passionate principal who really cares about the interests of the learners. It is evident that she motivates the learners to do their best and she is very proud of the skills that they are learning. I personally witnessed the learners laying bricks, plastering walls, welding, hairdressing, and making very beautiful dresses and shirts.
I was also incredibly luck to sample some of the delicious food made by the learners in hospitality.
I have also been informed that the school offers programmes in welding, bricklaying and sewing to community members after hours. The school’s holistic approach to education and community development is commendable and a true example of what we can achieve when we work ‘Better Together’.
I am so impressed to see what they have achieved. The Western Cape is clearly leading the country in providing skills training which is much needed and provides opportunities for learners which many would otherwise, not have.
Congratulations to Ms Lupondo and the School Governing Body for leading such a successful school.