BHISHO has asked the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Blade Nzimande, to reopen the former Cape College in Fort Beaufort to train teachers in critical subjects.
This comes after Nzimande announced plans last week to re-introduce teacher training colleges.
But Nzimande’s office would not provide further details on what colleges would be reopened.
Teaching colleges were shut down in the Eastern Cape between 1998 and 2003 due to an oversupply of teachers, among other reasons.
In many cases they have since been used to house various government departments.
Speaking to the Daily Dispatch yesterday, Mzoleli Mrara, chairman of the provincial portfolio committee on education, said Bhisho had approached Nzimande to create specialised colleges for specific subjects.
“The process started in 2010 and a year later a team was sent by DHET [Department of Higher Education and Training] director-general [Gwebinkundla Qonde] to do inspections.
“We did our assessments and found infrastructure at these colleges was still intact. Some colleges have residences that can offer accommodation for students.”
He said he was unsure about the progress made by Nzimande’s department, but government departments occupying some of the colleges would have to vacate them.
Mrara said Fort Beaufort was chosen because of its proximity to the University of Fort Hare, which had relations with other teaching colleges in the past such as the former Lovedale College.
Other areas such as Lusikisiki, Matatiele and Sterkspruit could also get colleges reopened if the pilot programme in Fort Beaufort produced positive results. “We have a shortage of teachers for maths, science and accounting,” said Mrara.
“There is also a huge demand for foundation phase teachers where the schooling system begins. This is a great opportunity for the province, but a policy will need to be formulated to regulate it.”
The province is also moving towards restructuring the schooling system to form two categories – primary and senior secondary levels.
Currently, there are problems with scattered small schools from lower, junior and higher primary to junior secondary schools, which was creating problems in the education system.
Plans were also afoot to merge schools with low pupil numbers to form combined schools.
Mrara said this would assist in establishing schools that would specialise in certain subjects and be feeders for colleges to create a pool of specialist teachers that were in huge demand in the province.
“There is an abundance of teachers for general subjects which is problematic,” he said. “We need specialised teachers.”
Independent education expert Graeme Bloch said new institutions at tertiary level as laid out by the recent government legislation were needed, but government should not re-open old colleges.
“They gave us many of the problems we have today.”
East London education expert Dr Ken Alston raised questions about the staffing of these colleges and whether graduates would ever get jobs in the department.
COPE MPL and education spokeswoman Angela Woodhall said some of the colleges were in a bad state and questioned whether there would be enough jobs for graduates. — email@example.com