By Siboniso Ntuli
The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education has offered at least 120 students bursaries to further their studies at tertiary institutions, in order to become teachers.
"This year, we are funding 120 students who will be studying towards a B Ed. [Bachelor of Education] degree, specialising in mathematics and science and technology,' said provincial Education MEC Ina Cronje.
Of these, 40 were funded whilst already studying towards the B Ed qualification.
"While 60 unemployed youth who have passed Grade 12 will be able to study in specified fields, a further 20 learners were selected from last year?s matric students,' said Ms Cronje.
She further announced that these students, will after completing their studies, be employed by the department in the province, for at least an equal number of their study years.
Each student will receive about R35 000 a year, the department said.
The bursaries come after MEC Cronje took a decision in 2005 to change the bursary system, to deal with the critical shortage of teachers in gateway subjects, such as mathematics and science and technology.
The new bursary system also addresses the number of applications for financial assistance from learners who hail from disadvantaged backgrounds, who passed their matric examinations and want to study at, or are already at tertiary institutions in KwaZulu-Natal, MEC Cronje said.
Instead of giving their limited funds to students to study in the fields not related to education, the department said it entered into agreements with students to study towards a teaching qualification in scarce and critical fields.
MEC Cronje stated that since 2005, the department awarded 116 learners who have completed their Senior Certificate to study towards a B Ed. degree and specialise in gateway subjects.
Other bursaries by education partners for this year include:
· Maskew Miller and Longman, who will add R15 000 to the bursaries of the teaching students.
· The South African Institute for Chartered Accountants - through its Thuthuka programme which supports aspiring chartered accountants - will award bursaries to 42 students to study towards Bachelor of Commerce - Accounting degrees.
· Eskom will sponsor the tertiary tuition for ten students with disabilities and two top achievers in mathematics and science from previously disadvantaged backgrounds.
· Government?s State Information and Technology Agency will fund ten students to study in the information technology field.
· One teaching student will be sponsored by Gem School wear.
· SSI Engineers and Environmental Consultants has sponsored a civil engineering student.
The MEC commended the partners in education for their sponsors and bursaries.
"The department will also continue to offer bursaries to serving teachers to study towards qualifications in critical areas of teaching, as we have been doing in the past three years,' she said.
MEC Cronje said these bursaries were part of a comprehensive strategy to improve the quality of teaching and learning in the provincial schools.
"It is only through significantly improved quality in teaching and learning that we can see improved performance in assessments such as the Senior Certificate Examinations.'