Over 19 000 young people, who have been employed as education assistants, have received a temporary life-line after their contracts were extended by a month.

The assistants were employed in December last year, as part of the Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme. The aim is to mitigate job losses in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

In April last year, President Cyril Ramaphosa committed R100 billion to job creation, as part of a stimulus package for the country. The Basic Education Department was allocated R7 billion of which the Free State received R411 million.

Linda Nyezi is one of 19 000 young people who were able to find employment and is happy with the experience she has acquired.

Nyezi is placed at Pholoho Special School in Bloemfontein and has a qualification in Early Childhood Development. “In the future, I want to do teaching. So these skills will help me on how to be a professional teacher,” says the assistant teacher.

The Principal of Pholoho School, Xoliswa Didi, says assistant teachers make it easy for educators to interact with every child at school.

“They play a very important role. As our school is a SID school where learners are slow, some have disabilities. We are coming from a long way, learners were resting because of lockdown. Those educational assistants played an important role because they were assisting teachers. While the teacher is busy with a lesson, the educational assistant is busy with other groups to try to coach learners on how to read, to do Maths and also busy with helping teachers mark task of the learners,” explains Didi.

The provincial Education Department says assistant teachers have really helped with the catch-up plan amid challenges the sector has been experiencing due to the coronavirus.

“We’ve lessened the workload of educators and learners were given more time by teachers. Teachers were able to help learners to recover from the list times that they are experiencing, the school ground was properly maintained the administration blocks were resourced with people that we’re able to help,” says the department’s Acting Director of Human Resources, Tello Kgodumo.

The assistants’ contracts were supposed to have ended at the end of March but talks are under way to prolong them for longer than a month.