Premier Magashule delivered the State of the Province Address in Bloemfontein on Tuesday.
The Premier announced that an Education Indaba will be held from 25 - 26 February to review the entire education dispensation, from Grade R to Grade 12, in the Free State.
“We will use this opportunity to engage with all stakeholders in the sector to review and assess our performance and to chart a way forward that will ensure that we continuously improve the quality of basic education,” said the Premier.
While ensuring a balance in the ratio of teachers to learners, Premier Magashule said the provincial government has to ensure that it converts qualified part-time educators into permanent employees.
“We have increased the enrolment of Grade R leaners to 53 704 in 663 public schools and 263 community-based sites across the province. An additional 2 900 leaners will gain access to Grade R in the next financial year,” said the Premier.
Hunger alleviation efforts in schools, through the National Schools Nutrition Programme, are currently benefitting 573 284 learners.
The Premier said the province remained committed to achieving a provincial target of a 90 percent pass rate, with 40 percent bachelor passes for the Class of 2016.
The Free State obtained an 81.6 percent matric pass rate in the 2015 National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations, maintaining its third position amongst the best-performing provinces in the country.
Provincial bursary programme
“In support of our national government and tertiary institutions, specifically those in our province, we reconceptualised our provincial bursary programme to assist more students to further their studies in undergraduate and postgraduate programmes at various local and international universities.
“We are fortunate to enjoy very constructive relationships with the University of the Free State and the Central University of Technology. We will extend our current collaboration with both universities in respect of our student programmes,” said the Premier.
He said from 2009, the provincial government has allocated 7 572 bursaries to deserving students.
“This year, our top 100 students, black and white, were awarded bursaries while we also assisted 800 students with registration fees at the Central University of Technology and the University of the Free State,” said the Premier.
Funding for 322 post graduate students from 2015 will continue until the completion of their studies.
The provincial government has afforded more than 500 students the opportunity to further their studies at various international universities, including 201 students studying medicine in Cuba; 277 students pursuing various courses at universities in China, including medicine, agriculture and engineering; nine students pursuing their studies in pharmacology in India and 37 students pursuing their studies in engineering, medicine and international trade and economics in Turkey.
The Premier said 104 students have just returned from India after completing an advanced Information Technology (IT) course.
An additional 400 students will be afforded the opportunity to pursue their studies in Russia, Bulgaria, Belarus, Germany, Turkey and Madeira in Portugal.
“[A total of] 133 of them will study medicine at the Peoples Fellowship University. Others will study nuclear science at other universities in Russia. Students will pursue agricultural and veterinary science studies in Belarus and Bulgaria, 48 will do artisan related courses in Germany, four postgraduate students will go to the Freiberg University in Germany to study in geology related fields.
“We will further send 50 students to study engineering, economics and international trade in Turkey. Following the visit of the President of the regional government of Madeira, Portugal, in December, we agreed to send IT interns to be linked to an established private sector company, ACIN, in Madeira,” said the Premier.
He said the first group of students will depart at the end of February to go to Turkey where they will start with the language programme before they start their majors in September 2016, and the rest will depart in March and April 2016 respectively.