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Noon-meal, VICTERS programmes enthuse South African team

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EXCHANGING IDEAS: Education Minister M.A. Baby in conversation with a group of educationists from South Africa at his office in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday. Photo:S. Mahinsha
EXCHANGING IDEAS: Education Minister M.A. Baby in conversation with a group of educationists from South Africa at his office in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday. Photo:S. Mahinsha

Staff Reporter

Delegation studying education system in the country

Seven-member team is on a visit to India and Thailand to study human resource practices, education management information systems Outflow of students to private schools is one of the main challenges faced by the public school system in South AfricaSouth African team surprised over the lower pay for teachers in rural areas than what is given to those in cities

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The noon meal scheme in Indian schools and VICTERS programme, initiated by the Department of Education in the State, have come in for praise from a visiting team of educators and administrators from the Education Labour Relations Council of South Africa.

The seven-member team is on a visit to India and Thailand to study human resource practices, education management information systems, conditions of service and teacher training programmes in schools in the two countries.

Before coming to Thiruvananthapuram, the team visited schools and colleges in Delhi, Hyderabad and Bangalore.

Fikile Hugo, national negotiator of the South African Democratic Teachers' Union (SADTU) and team member, told The Hindu on Monday that one of the main challenges faced by the public school system in his country was outflow of students to private schools.

Similar problem

In their discussions with officials of the Education Department, led by Secretary, General Education, Lida Jacob, the team was told how Government schools here too faced a similar problem. "We were told that the Government was thinking of moving to a six-day week for schools, of introducing an assessment system for teachers where the results of a particular subject over three years would be analysed to identity teaching problems. We were told that the teachers would not be punished, but helped to improve," Mr. Hugo said.

In South Africa, the performance appraisal system for teachers is more stringent and teachers are liable to be even dismissed if their performance does not meet the required standards, he added.

Mr. Hugo said the team was surprised that teachers in schools in rural areas actually got paid less than their counterparts in the cities. "Their housing allowance and so on is lesser than what is given to those in cities. In our country we actually pay more to retain educators in rural areas," he said.

The noon meal scheme in schools across India and in Kerala in particular proved to be of great attraction to the team. According to team member and council administrator Ndoweni Eric Shandukany, such a system, though it exists in his country, is heavily dependent on the initiative of individual schools and is not at all coordinated.

The team's interaction over the Edusat with teachers from different districts in the State proved to be an eye-opener for the delegates. "The idea of Edusat is just brilliant. We need such a system in South Africa," Mr. Hugo said. "If we can reach teachers in faraway areas using such a system, teacher training would improve like anything."

Involvement of teachers

However, the union activist in Mr. Hugo was surprised at the fact that the level of involvement of teachers' unions in the decision making process here was much lower than what exists in his country. In South Africa, according to him, the Government cannot implement many things without signing an agreement with teachers' unions first. "Here, the teachers can hold protest marches that is all. Obviously, there is a lot you can learn from us," he said.

Another aspect of the education system in Kerala that caught the team's imagination was the existence of the Public Service Commission, a body that serves as the recruiting agency for all Government institutions.

According to Mr. Ndoweni, schools in South Africa directly recruit teachers and so, can fire them without asking anyone. "It is also nice that in Kerala teachers are appointed on a need-based manner, on a vacancy basis, and not on a budget basis as it is done in South Africa. There you have so much money you can hire only so many teachers," he explained.

While preparing their report to the council, the team members will highlight the impact of the application of information technology on the State's general and higher education system, Mr. Hugo said.

The team members visited the Cotton Hill Girls' High School here on Monday, held discussions with Minister for Education M.A. Baby and also watched a presentation on the activities of the State Institute of Educational Technology. The team left for Thailand on Tuesday morning.

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