While young people are already able to apply for thousands of temporary positions as part of phase 2 of the Department of Basic Education’s employment initiative, issues with phase 1 of the Basic Education Employment Initiative (BEEI) are yet to be addressed. Earlier this week, the Department announced that applications for phase 2 are now open. This forms part of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme.
“Some 300 000 temporary education assistants were employed during phase 1 towards the end of last year. The entire programme was poorly constructed and placed a lot of pressure on schools. There were issues with payments and contracts and a part of the programme was during December and January when it was school holidays,” says Dr Jaco Deacon, acting CEO of the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (FEDSAS).
Deacon says although role-players were invited to comment on the programme before the implementation of phase 2, none of the issues were addressed properly. “In many provinces principles were forced to make unauthorised and unlawful payments because the provincial education departments did not play their part. In addition schools were expected to train the temporary workers and to keep them busy. Schools were also forced to accommodate more young people than were allowed according to Covid protocol.”
Deacon says phase 1 of the initiative was chaotic and was characterised by poor planning and mismanagement. “It further tarnished the image of education.” FEDSAS supports the project as a social programme in school communities rather than an education project. “We have a lot of empathy with unemployed youth, especially since many of them were still part of the school system not too long ago. However, they will benefit more from a structured programme with actual work experience than from what appears to be yet another social grant.”
In a letter to the Department of Basic Education FEDSAS proposed a detailed and thorough plan for phase 2, including the role of school governing bodies in the initiative. “The current implementation framework contains a number of legal contradictions and flaws, which could result in problems with labour legislation.” FEDSAS has also offered to provide support with the training of school governing bodies and other role-players.
“The timing so close to the local government election is already suspicious. FEDSAS would like to believe that the initiative is focused on actual employment and poverty alleviation rather than a political ploy,” says Deacon. “School governing bodies are in a position of trust towards a school and this project can only be supported in that context. It is important to remember that the value for schools should outweigh any other factor – even if it is a presidential initiative.
“Schools will benefit more from this project if the youth are at the schools during the school term and not during the long December holiday. We also need to know who the employer will be – this will determine the legislation that will govern the relationship.” FEDSAS will only support phase 2 of the employment initiative if all of these issues are addressed properly.