Over 600 schools impacted by KZN floods – Phaahla

HEALTH Minister, Dr Joe Phaahla, says more than 630 schools were affected by the floods in KwaZulu-Natal with 101 of them being inaccessible and 124 suffering extensive damage.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga together with KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Education Kwazi Mshengu accompanied by senior officials visited the affected schools in the various districts.

Addressing the media in Pretoria on behalf of the Social Protection, Community and Human Development Cluster, Phaahla said the basic education sector has been severely affected.

“We can confirm that 64 learners have been reported to be deceased while five are still missing. One educator and one food handler have also passed away,” Phaahla said at Thursday’s briefing.

Schooling is proceeding elsewhere in the province but that in the affected areas, attendance is uneven.

“Attendance is uneven but we remain hopeful that with all the support there will be a gradual increase to learners and teachers returning to school.We will also monitor on how youth and youth with disabilities will return to school and how this will impact on their education.

“It is in times like this that we need to collaborate, unite and focus on solutions that will provide relief to all those in need. We appreciate all the offers of assistance from partners in the private and public sectors.

“We extend our appreciation to our social partners who have initiated various interventions to assist in helping all those in distress. It will be a long road but together we can so much more to minimise the impact of the devastating floods,” Phaahla said.

Earlier this month, Cabinet declared a National State of Disaster in response to floods, which have wreaked havoc in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of the Eastern Cape.

At a briefing on Sunday, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala, said the construction of temporary residential units has started at Ilembe District, Ugu and eThekwini.

The Premier reported that, as of Sunday, 17 438 households have been affected by the disaster while 121 687 people were affected, and 435 people lost their lives.



Gugu Ndebele assumes role of Deputy Chairperson of Rhodes University Council

RHODES University Council has elected the Executive Director at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls (OWLAG), Gugu Ndebele, its new deputy chairperson.

Ndebele succeeds Reverend Canon Dr Vicentia Kgabe, who became the first woman deputy chairperson of Rhodes University Council in 2020. Dr Kgabe was, in 2021, elected the Bishop for the Diocese of Lesotho.

Ndebele holds a Master’s degree in Organisational Change and Management obtained at the University of Manchester, as well as a Management Advancement Programme. She also has a certificate in Adult Basic Education and Training awarded by the University of the Witwatersrand and a Post Graduate Diploma in Adult Basic Education from the same institution.

She has a combined experience of over 30 years in education and social development and is recognised as one of the most passionate children’s rights leaders in South Africa. For 18 years, she was the Deputy Director-General of the Department of Basic Education and has also served as the Chief Executive Officer at Save the Children.

Ndebele is also on the Executive of the Gauteng Central Region of the Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa (ISASA).

Ndebele is very passionate about the environment. She is one of the Directors of Global Organisation 4 Brighter Youth (GOBY). GOBY aims to educate South African families about the importance of reducing, reusing and recycling waste while removing plastic waste from our environment, especially beaches.

Ndebele’s footprint extends beyond the country’s borders. In 2019, she was a panellist at the Forbes Women Africa: Leading Women Summit. She was previously nominated by Save the Children International and other Child Rights Organisations to the Executive Committee of the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children.

In 2016, she was appointed Vice-Chair of the UNSECO-led Global Alliance for Literacy (GAL), and in 2017, Ndebele was named Literacy Ambassador by the Minister of Basic Education for her contribution and commitment to improving literacy in South Africa.

Ndebele is a proud mother of three.

“We are delighted that Ms Ndebele accepted the role as deputy chairperson of Rhodes University Council. Her extensive experience in education and passion for guiding young women to become successful leaders is perfectly in line with the University’s vision and values,” Chair of Council Judge Gerald Bloem said.



Western Cape Department of Education launches a five-year strategy to boost, improve Maths literacy among learners

OUTGOING Western Cape MEC for Education, Debbie Schafer, has launched the Strengthened Mathematics strategy to boost and improve maths among learners in the province.

The strategy, to be rolled out for the next five years, includes professional development and training, the creation of professional learning environments, research, partnerships and parental and community support.

The strategy has been in development for the past two years and takes into account changes and developments as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I won’t unpack the detail of the strategy as you have heard from many capable officials doing so, but I hope that you have found these two days to be a celebration of Mathematics teaching, and a source of encouragement for the task ahead,” said Schafer. 

“Our Maths teachers have already done incredible work to get our children interested and improving in Maths – and I am glad that the new strategy has a strong human resources component to it. You are our most valuable resource in this endeavour and you can really feel a love for the subject when we engage with these teachers.”

“We have been concerned about our province’s performance in Mathematics for some time. While we have had, and continue to have, the highest matric pass rate for Maths in the country, there has been a worrying trend in Maths participation.”

“We have also seen a gradual improvement in systemic test results, until the [COVID-19] pandemic came along and reversed a lot of those gains – especially in the early grades. So the Department had to take these learning losses into account when developing the strategy too.”

31% of 15-16 year olds in a multi-country study by the Programme for International Student Assessment said that they were nervous of doing Maths problems. 

33% said they would get tense doing their Maths homework, and 60% worried that Maths classes would be difficult. 

Studies also show that girls are more likely to experience this anxiety than boys are. 

“This anxiety is developed from an early age, and our children look to us as adults and especially as parents for guidance. In fact, studies have shown that teachers’ and parents’ attitudes toward their students’ and children’s ability in Maths are key determinants in the development of “Maths anxiety” in learners,” she said.

“We need to think about how we speak about Maths as adults. (I’m excluding our Maths teachers here of course, because we know you all have a special love for numbers that you try to instil amongst your learners!)”

The Western Cape had the highest mathematics pass rate in the country in the 2020 National Senior Certificate, but continues to look at ways at improving its annual performance.



Eswatini: how social pressures and poverty affect the ability of children to navigate school

THE population of Eswatini (previously called Swaziland) is slightly below 1.2 million people, and about 58.9% of the people live below the nationally defined poverty line – living on less than US$1.9 a day. For years Eswatini has also had the highest prevalence of HIV and AIDS in the world. In 2019, about 27% of the country’s population was HIV positive.

One of the devastating effects of HIV and AIDS, coupled with poverty, has been the escalating numbers of vulnerable children in the country. For example, in 2012, the number of children classified as vulnerable in Eswatini was estimated to be at 181,000. In 2016 this number had escalated to 241,377 – about 71% of the 339,968 child population.

Vulnerable children are children who are orphaned, live in a child-headed household or come from a poor family background. Despite the different situations that make them vulnerable, these children share one thing in common – and that is extreme poverty and unmet basic needs for survival. In 2005 the country committed itself to providing free education for vulnerable children. The policy only came into effect in 2009, and aligning the commitment with practice has been a mammoth task to achieve.

An illustration of this is that only 51% of the vulnerable children in the country do not make it into secondary school.

In my PhD I explored how vulnerable children in three rural primary schools in Eswatini experience school, and the ways in which they make meaning of gender. The aim was to understand the implication of these factors on their social welfare, gender equality, their quality of education and experiences of school.

For my thesis I drew on eight pieces of research. I found an intricate interchange of culture, tradition and societal narratives in the way the vulnerable boys and girls constructed gender and also experienced school.

Poverty acted as a contextual site for the experience of school and gender, in ways that aggravated the gendered inequalities against both the vulnerable boys and girls.

I argue that the vulnerable children of Eswatini have challenges that affect their experience of school. In the school contexts they are discriminated against by both insensitive teachers and learners. In the home contexts, these children have greater responsibilities that compete with their study time.


The study was conducted in three primary schools in rural areas of Eswatini. Thirty children (ten from each participating school) participated in the study ranging in age from 11- 16 years. Individual and focus group interviews were used. I also spoke to nine teachers, (three from each school) aged between 24 and 60 years.

I found that the schooling experiences of these children weren’t only framed by and based on poverty and vulnerability. They’re also constrained by the complex dynamics of the two. While the trauma of losing parents and living in poverty affected these children psychologically, some lacked basic things like candles.

For some, the burdens that came with the responsibility of ensuring the welfare of the whole family were too heavy on the young children. All of these made it harder for them to cope with and succeed at school.

The findings also highlighted that besides poverty and vulnerability, gender was also a strong determinant of the vulnerable boys’ and girls’ experiences of school. I found that stereotyped constructions of gender compromised the learners’ schooling experiences.

My research found that boys in rural Eswatini were under social pressure to conform with ideas about masculinity. For example, in rural schools boys felt that to be male they should be heterosexual, and they judged each other on the basis of heterosexual relationships. The boys within these relationships were expected to be providers as “real men”. That is, the girls expected money from these boys, yet vulnerable boys didn’t have the means. The result was that they experienced disgrace, ridicule and social exclusion at school from the girls and other boys.

In the family context the expectation was that boys should be strong and take responsibility for their siblings. In two of the schools, the principals revealed that these stereotyped constructions of masculinities forced many boys out of the school system to go look for low paying jobs, to take care of their families.

Similarly as my previous study found, girls saw heterosexuality as their only way to financial security. Some girls engaged in sexual relationships just for financial gain. In these relationships the girls had to silently endure physical abuse and emotional and sexual exploitation.

Going forward

A country as poor as Eswatini cannot afford to compromise the education of its children. The question therefore is what can be done to ensure academic success for the vulnerable children?

Approaching the problem requires an understanding of the complex entanglements between the children’s vulnerability, their family dynamics, school life and academic performance. To help these children, the government should take a lead to ensure the country’s economic situation improves. This would be one positive step towards relieving both the vulnerable boys and girls off their economic burdens.

On the other hand, teachers must consider the diversity of their learners, and move beyond concentrating solely on academic performance. They need to attend to individual learners’ needs and the barriers to the pupils’ education.

There is also need to rethink the social norms that have compromised the girls’ and boys’ schooling. Boys don’t have to take on more responsibility than they can manage, and girls be encouraged to claim the power to shape their own lives.



Unisa moves to ‘mitigate against anarchy and lawlessness’

The University of South Africa (Unisa) has issued a statement following protest action which interrupted graduation ceremonies last week.

The university has experienced two incidents of this nature in as many months, as March saw similar protests around salary adjustments.

According to Unisa, members of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU) protested at ceremonies which lead to pepper spray being used.

To combat incidents like this from happening again, there are now measures in play to “mitigate against anarchy and lawlessness”.

Unisa outlines these measures and more media statement (PDF), which are:

The salary adjustment dispute which has been running for a few months has since been amicably resolved. It was the only fundamental issue that had disturbed labour peace at Unisa.Five staff members, who also occupy leadership roles in NEHAWU, have been suspended effective from 19 April 2022 pending the disciplinary hearings, for organising an illegal and unprotected strike, as well as causing the disruption of
the 2022 Autumn Graduation Ceremonies, among others. Such reckless activities have clearly caused harm to the image of the university and scores of workers, students and visitors were exposed to immense risksA court interdict is in place and enforceable against any illegal activity which seeks to disturb the operations of the university. This includes intimidation, harassment and any other related activity as spelled out in the court order. The university is obligated to uphold the law. Workers who are engaged in an illegal and unprotected strike are fully aware of the court interdict and the fact that no union has been granted the certificate to strike by the CCMA. As such, workers are advised to report for work, failure of which disciplinary process will follow in line with university policies and the law.Due to the violent nature of disruptions, the university has taken urgent steps to upscale security at its campuses, as well as to engage relevant government agencies which have the capacity and resources to manage security situations that fall outside the scope of normal labour relations disputes.Management remains open to engage on real and substantive worker issues, including on the strategic issues of transformation and the future of Unisa.
Lawlessness, violence, and intimidation do not constitute part of that agenda.

On the part of NEHAWU, the online platform has not seen a public statement, at least not online.

The official accounts of NEHAWU have ben quiet for some time with its Twitter account not used since late 2021 and its Facebook page last updated on 19th April 2022 about the floods in some parts of the country.

Unisa, in its media statement, goes on to explain that it “continues to be a centre of academic excellence” before listing several accomplishment from its students and staff, pointing out how unlawful protests can impact proceedings.

We do have to take pause new the end of this statement as it unironically uses the term “too big to fail”, a term most people use negatively as it’s rooted in the many, many failures of the US banking system.

“Unisa is too big to fail. It is an important national, continental and global asset that must always be protected by all of us as members of the public and leaders committed to the university’s vision and core mandate,” the statement continues.



36 Leondale High pupils suspended after ‘Dagga Day’ viral video


THE 36 Leondale High School pupils who were captured on video smoking dagga within their school premises have been suspended with immediate effect, according to Gauteng MEC for Education, Panyaza Lesufi.

The ‘Dagga Day’ viral video showed a number of pupils in uniform smoking marijuana on the school premises.

The incident comes after One South Africa Movement leader Mmusi Maimane shared a viral video on social media
showing a number of learners in school uniform smoking marijuana on the school’s premises.

Taking to Twitter, Maimane called for the removal of Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga.

“Fire this minister of basic education immediately. How have we reached this level of behaviour in our schools,” said Maimane.

Following the video, which surfaced on social media last Friday, Lesufi visited Leondale Secondary School.

Addressing the learners and teachers, Lesufi said” “The 36 Leondale High School learners captured on video smoking dagga within the school premises have been removed and suspended from the school. Their disciplinary hearing will be held on Monday.”

Lesufi said that investigations are underway so that they can know who was selling and distributing the drugs.

“We want to know who is influencing our children in wrongdoing… Either you want to be a learner or you don’t want to be a learner. We can’t tolerate a situation in which learners smoke dagga on the school premises,” he said while addressing the learners.

Lesufi said that a criminal case would be opened after the disciplinary hearing.



Unisa plead with students to be patient with NSFAS allowances due to be processed before the end of the month

THE University of South Africa (Unisa) has pleaded with students to be patient and allow officials to ensure that the relevant processes are taken for the distribution of student’s allowances.

Some students from Unisa took to social media giant Twitter last week, stating that they have not received their
National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) allowances.

Earlier this month, the university announced that it would be ditching Intellimali and depositing NSFAS allowances directly into the bank accounts of students.

Intellimali is a service provider that handled the disbursements of allowances to students. Unisa and Intellimali had an arrangement for three years that ran its course and was seemingly not renewed.

Intellimali was the company at the heart of the “NSFAS Millionaire” scandal which saw a student incorrectly receive R14 million for their allowance. That case was recently decided in a guilty verdict and a five year prison sentence, but is currently being appealed.

At no point in these proceedings, however, does Unisa mention the Intellimali agreement not being renewed because of this scandal.

The university said it would now be depositing NSFAS allowances directly into the bank accounts of students.

“The three-year agreement between UNISA and Intellimali for the disbursements of allowance
has come to an end on the 31st March 2022.”

The university further announced that it would release all the allowances during the month of April.

“The university is working tirelessly to ensure that allowances are released during this month of
April 2022,” the university said in a statement.

However, Unisa pleaded with students to be patient with the issue of allowances.

“As per the recent message, Unisa is in the process of preparing to pay allowances directly to
students’ bank accounts. Addressing this matter successfully is a priority for the institution. We
plead with students to please be patient and allow relevant officials to ensure that all the
relevant processes are in place for the distribution of these allowances,” the university said.

The institution further added that they do not want to accidentally leave out qualifying students.

“The institution does not want to accidentally leave any qualifying student behind. The team is
working tirelessly to ensure this exercise comes to a fruition. In the meantime, students are requested to ensure that they have active bank accounts. Also ensure that your contact details on myUnisa are up to date and that you have also activated the myLife email. As soon as the online platform for capturing banking details is running, Unisa will inform students accordingly,’ the announcement concludes.



MANDELA nuclear-physics laboratories open in South Africa

SOUTH Africa has completed the construction of two new nuclear labs that will be used to train students and develop novel nuclear-physics detector technology.

The Modern African Nuclear Detector Laboratories, or MANDELA, is a partnership between the University of York in the UK and the universities of Western Cape (UWC) and Zululand in South Africa. 

Officially opened in late March, the MANDELA labs were built by  refurbishing the nuclear laboratories at UWC and Zululand. Funding also went towards the development of fast digital electronics and data-acquisition systems at the lab. UWC nuclear physicist Nico Orce adds that the labs will allow scientists to develop technology for cancer imaging that can be “brought to the poor communities of South Africa and the African continent as a whole”.  

The UK’s Science and Technology Funding Council provided £500,000 from its Global Challenge Research Fund to the project while South African universities also financially contributed. Part of that partnership between South Africa and the UK saw some 20 students from the two South African universities travel to York in 2018 and 2019, where they worked on radiation detectors and ran Monte Carlo computer simulations of new detector designs. 

In the second phase of the project, which will begin this year, the students will carry out computer simulations to create prototypes of next generation positron-emission tomography scanners and develop new detectors for environmental monitoring and mining.

“The idea was to upskill young people through training visits to York and to develop detector development laboratories at the South African universities with similar equipment to what we have at York so they can lead their own efforts and can collaborate with us,” says York nuclear physicist David Jenkins, who led the project. 

Nokuthula Kunene, deputy vice-chancellor of research and innovation at the University of Zululand, hailed the lab for giving students the opportunities and confidence. “We appreciate the labs because it will not only be a case of getting data to analyse, but now students have the opportunity to create the data, which is essential for learning,” she says. 



Varsity Cup final: Maties to draw from DC energy

MATIES will feed off the energy at the Danie Craven Stadium while reigning champions Tuks will lean on a pragmatic gameplan in the Varsity Cup final on Monday night.

Ahead of the semi-finals, you would have been forgiven for thinking that the decider would be contested by UFS Shimlas and the UCT Ikeys at Shimla Park. Over the course of the league phase, Andre Tredoux’s charges played the most breathtaking brand of rugby. Tom Dawson-Squibb’s side showed similar intent and ambition.

Yet, here we are, on the day of the final, assessing the chances of two unilkely – albeit wholly deserving – title contenders: Maties and UP-Tuks.

Maties made a statement in the 58-19 semi-final win over the Ikey Tigers in Cape Town. After losing heavily to their arch-rivals and Shimlas during the league phase, the Stellenbosch students certainly proved that they have what it takes to beat the better sides in the tournament.

Maties have already beaten UP-Tuks once this season. A lot has changed since that fixture, though, and it’s fair to say that Nico Luus’ side is peaking at the right time. UP-Tuks have relied on the power of their pack and defensive line to win matches. The pressure exerted via their aggressive defence, and their accurate kicking game, has created scoring chances.

Last week, they kept a more-fancied Shimlas side scoreless in the second stanza, and ultimately won the semi-final in Bloemfontein 29-20. Much like the Springboks, UP-Tuks have the gameplan to win big playoffs and trophies. It will be interesting to see how Maties respond to that type of challenge. They have the pack to meet UP-Tuks head on – hooker Sean Swart’s try tally of 12 attests to the potency of the FNB Maties lineout and maul – but it remains to be seen how they will deploy their backs.

UP-Tuks boast a strong kicking game. Scrumhalf Bernard van der Linde, flyhalf Walter Visser and fullback Stefan Coetzee will work together to win the territorial battle for their side.

Nevaldo Fleurs has been retained at flyhalf despite the return of regular pivot Adriaan van der Bank – who has slotted in at fullback. Whether Maties decide to engage with UP-Tuks in a kicking battle or not remains to be seen.

When you speak to the players, all of them acknowledge the crowd – and the energy of the home supporters in particular – as a key factor.

The Danie Craven Stadium will be packed to the rafters with partisan fans on Monday night. While FNB Maties will need to prevail in a series of mini battles on the field to win the war, their campaign will be enhanced significantly by home advantage. As the stats suggest, Maties rarely lose big games at the DC.

That said, few people gave UP-Tuks any hope ahead of their semi-final showdown with UFS Shimlas. They certainly have the personnel as well as the gameplan to score another big upset – and a record-equalling fifth title.

In the earlier kick-off at the Danie Craven Stadium, the NWU Eagles and FNB UP-Tuks will meet in the Young Guns final. Both teams topped their respective groups in the U20 tournament. In the semi-finals, the Eagles edged the UCT Ikeys 33-27 after extra time in Potchefstroom while Tuks beat Maties 35-20 in Pretoria.

When these teams last met, in round four, the NWU Eagles beat UP-Tuks 22-7 in Potchefstroom.



South Africa to introduce new tech qualifications – Nzimande

THE Banking Sector Education and Training Authority has developed new occupational qualifications to address the growing need for formal qualifications related to cybersecurity in South Africa.

Higher Education, Science and Innovation minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, said these qualifications will be registered with the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations, with the government also planning to introduce additional courses at the high school level.

“A training programme in cybersecurity was implemented and recently the SETA also started to train high school students on skills for the future which include coding, software programming and data science,” he said.

He added that the authority has allocated funds to re-skill and or upskill employees whose roles may be impacted by automation, artificial intelligence, and the increased need for data analytics.

Dedicated funding has been allocated to IT-related skills and some programmes that include data management, Cobit 5 and analysing data.

Updated curriculum 

Nzimande said his department has also partnered with US-based networking company Cisco and Chinese telecoms giant Huawei to update the existing TVET colleges curriculum with industry demands in the digital skills area.

“Under the Cisco agreement, at least 3,000 lecturers are being trained in our 50 TVET Colleges to upgrade their skills on Information Communication Technology related NC(V) qualifications.

“Under the Huawei agreement, lecturers currently at 32 TVET colleges are being trained to support the introduction of subjects such as Routing & Switching, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, WLAN, and Security and Cloud Computing,” he said.

Nzimande said that a separate project will see increased training at the country’s primary and high schools. “Several initiatives are in place to digitise teaching and learning which include training of teachers in coding, robotics and ICT Integration into teaching and learning,” he said.