Mafikeng - In order to expand the economy of the North West, Premier Edna Molewa has focussed the provincial government's attention on skills development.
"For our economy to expand, the question of skills development is an important one beginning from Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) up to tertiary education, both at school and in the workplace," the premier said, tabling her 2009 State of the Province Address in the North West Legislature on Friday.
She said the opening of over 252 ABET centres between 2004 and 2008 formed part of their efforts towards attaining a 100 percent literacy rate in the province.
"We are making some progress as functional literacy has improved from 57.1 percent in 1996 to 66 percent in 2007, but there remains an estimated 698 000 people older than 20 years who have not completed Grade 7," she said.
With regard to Early Childhood Development (ECD), Ms Molewa said the number of subsidised ECD centres had increased from 184 in 2006 to 290 in 2007. "To ensure equitable distribution of the service to all those that are eligible within the province, an additional 386 ECD sites have been registered through the massification project.
The ECD subsidy has also received an increase from R6 to R12 per child per day.
Evidence of the province's efforts in strengthening education, the 2008 matric results were better than previous years.
"We have registered some progressive success in our matric results, with our graduation from a 64.9 percent pass rate to 68 percent over the past four years. Let us take inspiration from the 71 percent pass we registered in 2003, which shows the levels we can actually reach, if not exceed," she said.
Premier Molewa further highlighted that the flagship quality enhancement project of 60 Dinaledi schools has exceeded the national allocation by ten.
"This project already proved effective when in 2006 when 100 more matriculants passed Mathematics at Higher Grade, and 83 more learners passed Science on Higher Grade. This achievement arises as part of our efforts to support schools when we supplied all our high schools in the province with science equipment."
Ms Molewa emphasised that one of the contributing factors to the ongoing achievements in education was the provincial government's concentration on educator training.
"This is demonstrated by the 75 percent rise in the number of educators who were subjected to ACE Maths, Science and Technology training between 2005 and 2008. Our equipping of 314 schools with access to the Internet in the three years, 2005 to 2007, is also a positive contributory factor," she cited.
In the Further Education and Training sector, Ms Molewa said student numbers stood at 23 113 in 2007/08, while the proportion of the population with a qualification higher than Grade 12 improved from 16.6 percent in 1996 to 26 percent in 2007.
The provincial government also funds 180 tertiary students, through the North West Arts and Culture Council (PACC) in arts and culture disciplines.
Through the Taung and Potchefstroom Agricultural Colleges the provincial government will continue to render specialised agricultural education with more women significantly entering the field.
In December 2006 the Department of Labour awarded R98 million grant to support three years of skills development for unemployed youth as part of PGDS/ASGI-SA Strategic Projects.
The premier said the of R98 million grant has complemented their own workplace skills training where the province have, since 2004/05, been registering one thousand unemployed youth per annum in internship programmes.
In the public service, bursaries have been allocated based on the skills development needs in the province, accordingly between 1994 and 2008 about 4 000 students received bursaries.
Between 2004 and 2008 skills training budget increased from R100 million to R269 million and a minimum of 102 000 skills development interventions were made. Premier Molewa said the province intended to increase this number through participation of unemployed youth in the learnership and internship programme.