New education head is up to the challenge

Monday, October 5, 2009

Johannesburg - The new head of the Gauteng Department of Education seems unfazed by the enormous challenge of breathing life into government's vision of turning around the country's education system.

Boy Ngobeni, who took up his post on 1 October, is keen to ensure teachers are in school, in class, on time, teaching and that children are in class, on time, learning.

It is perhaps because he has overcome many personal obstacles that his character has been developed into one which will not allow him to get bogged down by the task at hand.

Born to a family of three in a village with no school and electricity, Ngobeni was the only child to make it past Grade 7. His mother, a farm-worker and pot-maker, had made a commitment to herself and family that she would do everything she could to have Ngobeni complete his education.

He has come a long way since those days in Xihoko Village, Tzaneen.

"To be poor is not an excuse not to make it in life. I had no hope when I was in matric. It was because of my marks - I was one of the top two, that I was able to get a bursary. It was because of the performance itself, that the impossible became possible," said Ngobeni, speaking to the Gauteng Provincial Government.

He adds that education is not a job, but a way of life.

It is that drive and determination to make it despite the odds that Ngobeni hopes to bring to his new position.

His priority is to rally everyone in the department and sector to get behind the learners and teachers and make available the tools necessary for learning and teaching to take place.

"The infrastructure needs to be conducive to the delivery of quality education," says Ngobeni.

The married father of three and Chief Executive Officer of the Gauteng City Region Academy (GCRA), Ngobeni says his stint as the Head of Education will be characterized by an inclusive approach to challenges facing the sector.

"We have to make sure that communities become partners in the delivery of quality education. That education is a societal issue and schools become centres of excellence that are protected by the teacher," says Ngobeni

Ngobeni says once this is achieved, security, vandalism and ill-discipline will no longer be a concern.

An immediate task for him it to ensure the upcoming matric exams are secure and get off to a good start without any hiccups.

A total of 101 218 full time and 8117 part time repeater candidates will be sitting for the Senior Certificate Examination in 790 centres across the province on 26 October 2009. This figure is up by 2 234 from last year's total of 99 984, because of the the 10 Merafong schools which are now registered in Gauteng.

Practical examinations for Computer Application Technology will start on 7 October 2009 and Information Technology on 9 October 2009.

Ngobeni also wants to foster and interest in learning in children. "It is critical to link education and training with capacity-building. Students should not just learn for the sake of learning."

Also on his to-do list is the implementation of the Gautengonline project, a thorny issue for the department.

The initiative was aimed at providing computers to state schools so that learners have free access to the internet, interactive technology and an invaluable educational resource. The project would give learners even in rural areas access to the same knowledge and information as those in suburban schools.

Ngobeni said there was already a team from the department working with the Gauteng Shared Services Centre (GSSC) to tackle the challenges the project was facing.

"Gautengonline is key in building a cadre of learners and teachers that uses new technology. It is my goal that we no longer have jokes about the project and that it becomes accessible to both teachers and the learners."

He said the department would pay specific attention, as beneficiaries of Gautengonline, to making sure it functions as it should.

In looking forward, Ngobeni, understands that the road ahead will not be easy, but judging by his enthusiasm for the job, he might just achieve all of his targets to create a well-functioning department.