June 15, 2024

Dr Costa (right) and training service provider, Logan Collepen, flanks a careworker


By Simon Manda

Johannesburg-The inaugural capacity building program by the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) recognised care givers that completed the first modules of the Early Childhood Development – Level 5 and Basic Computer Skills at a certification ceremony held in Johannesburg on Tuesday, 12 December 2023.

The Learners with Severe to Profound Intellectual Disabilities Unit from GDE partnered with NPO registered care centres offering early childhood development facilities to train care workers after recognizing a skills gap.

The skills capacity building aims to equip care workers to implement programs for learners with profound intellectual disabilities, support care centres in transitioning learners’ placement from care centres to school, and allow the learners to access quality education.

Commenting on the challenges faced in finding suitable courses for caregivers, Dr Hester Costa, Director of Inclusion and Special Schools (ISS), said, “Many of the care workers lacked educational opportunities or confidence – very few had completed high school (matric). So, in the past three years, we slowly started with building self-esteem and courage.”

“This year, they brought in service providers who started teaching basic computer literacy skills. These skills are needed for caregivers to use the electronic systems required in their work and function more broadly in the modern world. Some of the care workers had to start at a very basic level due to the limited prior education and opportunities for these caregivers. Finding courses that initially matched the children’s needs and the caregivers’ skill levels was difficult.”

The first cohort of 50 care workers was awarded certificates of competency for completing a core unit standard in Mediating active learning in ECD programs and a fundamental component in Applying workplace communication skills. The Early Childhood Development qualification has 120 credits or 1200 learning hours, and the completed two units contribute 22 credits thus far.

The first cohort is expected to complete the qualification before 2027.

The other class of 50 care workers that did the Basic Computer Skills were awarded certification for completing a Media, Information and Communication – Sector Education and Training Authority (ETDP-SETA) unit standard in “Using generic functions in a Graphical User Interface (GUI)-environment”.

“Care workers are lowly paid. We need to start building capacity and recognising them- but not only recognition. Recognition with skill,” remarked Dr. Costa.

Part of the vision of the training program is to include all learners by not leaving anyone behind.

“There are currently 22 schools in the province that are absorbing learners with severe learning disabilities, but the focus is now on the profound learners with disabilities to be transitioned,” said Martha Makgae, the LSPID Grant Manager overseeing the training program.

“We are encouraging more schools to create profound intellectual disability units so that we can holistically cater for the needed quality of education, provide relevant learner-teacher support materials and assistive devices, provide relevantly qualified specialists, provide qualified teaching personnel, offer good nutrition, and provide good transportation systems from home to school. These are a basket of services that GDE partly provide to the learners currently,” she added.

The cohort will resume the skills programme from April 2024 to complete the remaining modules.

One care worker, Salome Molekwa of LESHAD Special Care Centre, remarked, “I want to thank the department for believing in us. As caregivers, we focus on children with special needs, but who cares for us? The department did. Thank you.




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