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20 Jun 2005

Factsheet 8 : Workplace Policies in Public Education: A Review Focusing on HIV/AIDS.

Sue
Press Release

Key findings: A review of all key Department of Education’s (DoE) workplace policies as well as two unions’ HIV/AIDS policies, concludes that the transformation of the education sector has been on the whole successful. The major criticism is centred on the difficulty in implementing the new policies. In relation to HIV/AIDS, there are some concerns about important issues, not covered in the policies, such as implementation, the inadequate consideration of the impact of HIV/AIDS on educators.

Results

The transformation of the education sector has been successful in integrating the previously dispersed and separate education departments, introducing new policies, and beginning the process of equalising resources and ending entrenched privileges.

While implementation has only been partial, the foundation has been laid for work that is more systematic in future. Some policy objectives, such as the establishment of the school governing bodies (SGBs), have been achieved in virtually all schools.

One of the major critiques is centred on the difficulty in implementing the new policies. The analysis found that many of the policies make extravagant promises, based on a vision of an ideal system, but these will be extremely difficult to realise given the current constraints on resources. Although the issue of access to resources is highlighted in the National Education Policy Act and the School Act there is still an implicit assumption of full, or reasonable, access to resources. This is particularly difficult for poorer schools and therefore hampers implementation.

In relation to HIV/AIDS, there is a concern about a lack of theory of behaviour change in the National HIV/AIDS Policy, inadequate information on treatment issues, and a lack of clarity on how educators who are affected by HIV/AIDS will be assisted by the DoE.

The Norms and Standards for Educators Policy presents another policy implementation challenge whereby most of the educators are concerned about their expected roles. These wide ranging roles and demands can only be practically possible in certain environments

The analysis also pointed to problems of policy implementation due to a disjuncture between the national office and the provincial and district offices of the DoE, a lack of resources, inadequate planning for implementation and inadequate preparation on the ground for the introduction of the Policy.

The analysis also noted a lack of awareness of the real context on the ground where the Policy is being implemented, especially from the national office of the DoE. Policies often recommend actions for which there are no resources available and where the recommended networks either do not exist, or are already overstretched. Some resistance from educators and DoE officials also contribute to implementation problems.

The current monitoring and evaluation (M & E) structures in DoE appear to be largely uncoordinated. A considerable amount of data is collected and many of the policies have included M&E plans, however, these M&E structures have not been adequately implemented and there are significant problems with using the data which incorporates multiple formats. There are efforts to address these problems, but a full review of the M&E system is required to ensure the effective operation and implementation of policies and to permit rapid feedback that would allow for the ongoing development of these policies.

Recommendations

The use of policies to spell out a vision for education, without the immediate intention of making the policies workable, creates confusion on the ground among those who must implement them. Specific plans for implementation, including the provision of additional resources, are required. South African Council of Educators (SACE) need to cooperate with the DoE in the implementation of policies.

There is inadequate consideration of the impact of HIV/AIDS on educators, especially in schools that are likely to be more affected. At a minimum, there should be a policy on the provision of relief teaching, especially in schools with a heavier burden of HIV/AIDS-related illnesses and deaths among educators.

To encourage behaviour change, it is necessary to bring social and contextual factors affecting behaviour, into consideration. Important risk areas of infection, like child abuse and gender violence, constitute a significant gap in the current Policy. Issues such as treatment and the role of antiretroviral (ARVs) drugs in the treatment of AIDS also require attention.

Rather than making assumptions about schools’ and districts’ abilities to implement policies, there is a need to develop better links, communication and trust between all levels of education – national, provincial and district offices, and that of other Government departments.

There is also a need to bring educators in as supporters and advocates of the policies and this should involve ongoing work with the educators, SACE and unions. However, care has to be taken that the overload of new policies and the additional workload that comes with these policies, do not alienate the educators.

There is also a need for a more concerted and directed approach to M&E of policies, with emphasis being placed on addressing the current shortcomings around information gathering and the implementation of M&E strategies.

Since all potential respondents ? from the DoE?s national office to the educators themselves ? reported negative experiences arising from evaluations, efforts need to be made to reduce fears about evaluations and to encourage a cooperative approach to evaluation. All stakeholders should be involved in the development of an M&E approach.

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