Rev. Loni retires after 30 years of service

Author: SO Loni
Date: 01 July 2022

My entry in the Department of Education goes as far back as 1st January 1991 when I was appointed as a Lecturer for Biblical Studies and Philosophy of Religion at the then Griffiths Mxenge College of Education.

In 1999 the process of rationalising the Colleges of Education within the Eastern Cape came to its completion; resulting; amongst others; in the closure of Griffiths Mxenge of Education.

Such a closure coincided with the introduction of Continuous Assessment (CASS) in the entire Province; and from Griffiths Mxenge I was placed at Provincial Office under Curriculum (with Mr Tywakadi as Director) where I was one of the Six (6) officials who were responsible for the introduction of CASS) across the Province.

Eastern Cape was divided into 6 Regions then and I was responsible for EG Kei Region which was stretching from Qumbu covering Mt Frere Mt Fletcher, Matatiele, Mt Ayliff Mbizana, Lusikisiki and Mzimkhulu which was part of Eastern Cape during that time.

I later moved to Professional Development as SES under Dr Pieterse as a Director; and Mrs Thembisa Limekhaya as CES.

This is where I picked up a program that makes my soul to feel good even at this very moment:

What is that proggramme?

When colleges of education were official closed down; some of the students were in the process of completing the Diploma and they were left out without a proper plan as to how they could complete what was outstanding. Some were owing subjects like chalkboard or library science or just two courses to complete.

Hearing this “cry” in the society and in the streets of our cities; I single-handedly initiated a program that ended up enabling ALL the students from the Colleges of the Eastern Cape completing their studies and becoming qualified educators. Many of them are now in our schools:

The guaranteed support from the Department was the use of Government Vehicle and accommodation for the program and NO FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS.

Such support was enough to enable Mrs Limekhaya and myself to hold constant meetings with the late Professor Ngubentombi who was the Head of the Department of Education at the University of Transkei.

He embraced the program fully and systems were in place; supported by his academic staff.

The rule was that “no student will qualify to sit for examinations unless he/she has attended a block of three weeks uninterrupted lectures on the subject he or she was to write.

Advert went out to mostly- read News Papers and 1100 candidates responded and completed the program with the “University of Transkei” qualification endorsed by Eastern Cape Department of Education.

As I look back on my 30 years of service; this program makes me fill happy.

Then I moved to HIV @AIDS and Social Planning where I was appointed as CES for Social Planning:

Three programs remain central in my heart during my period at HIV@AIDS:

  1. Learner Support Agents: This is an old program that kept on being modified periodically. It makes use of unemployed young people who have completed their Grade 12, and place them in schools.

  2. The purpose is for the unemployed youth to become “peer mentors” to the learners of the school where learners are free to share anything and everything that is a threat in them (a) Attending the school regularly (b) completing schooling (c) Progressing from grade to grade (d) Receiving the necessary support they need.

  3. There are reports from Principals on how the intervention of these Learner Support Agents have actually improved the ethos of the school resulting in improved academic performance.

  4. It is worth mentioning that this Learner Support Program carries a “Life Skill” benefit with it.

    Remember this is not a permanent job but a yearly contract. It is heart-warming to note that the facilitation; presentation and report writing skills of many of the LSA’s served as spring-boards for them to greener pastures.

  5. Also it is worth noting that some of the LSA’s were able to save part of their stipend and register for further studies (many for Social Work) hence when we were in search of Social Worker interns for our schools; we prioritised them since they are the product of our program.

  6. Lastly on LSA: For me this was also a poverty alleviation program. The 900 LSA that we were paying stipends every month were using part of that stipend to put a plate on the table for a number of people. So we were not serving 900 people but far more than that. This is exactly why “my hair would stand” when there is a month when these LSA’s could not be paid.

  7. My apologies to our data captures because sometimes I was rough on them when this happens; and my apologies to my most-seniors for the emails I would constantly bombard them with when this cohort is not paid. I had always believed that they have no “Union” and therefore as the CES responsible for their payment I am their “union” in one way or another.

    B. The second program that continued to warm my heart whilst I was with the Department is the Link between the Department of Education (HIV &AIDS) and Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders in the fight for Safe Circumcision (Mabaye bephila babuye bephila).

  8. This program started off as a support program to the House of Traditional Leaders to curb the death of initiates.

  9. As a Department we started off by allocating nine (9) Monitors in the nine areas that had high number of deaths. The rational was that about 90% of the initiates were our learners. Later we increased the number to 27. Thanks to the Department for supporting the initiative through its Special Projects Funding.

  10. As I retire we now have 100 of these monitors spread across the Province as members of the House of Traditional Leaders made a request for more support especially in monitoring before and during Circumcision period and also educating boys whilst they are still in school.

    Thanks to the Acting Director (Mrs Pumla Gxuluwe) who ensured that this program is now catered for within the Conditional Grant Funding.

  11. One may argue that initiates continue to die even now; therefore our intervention is futile. Until one is fully aware of the detailed statistics for the death of each initiate obtainable from Department of Health through the House of Traditional Leaders; one will remain ever tied-down to the belief that our intervention yields no results.

  12. Think of this one: The media always reports of initiates that have died; say 25; BUT the media will NOT report on the 600 initiates that were found to be on the brink of death by the Monitoring teams and these were taken to Rescue Centres. This tells you that without proper monitoring (our 100 monitors are part) we could easily go beyond 100 initiates who die in the process of Circumcision.
  1. Then few months before I laid off; when nurses were so busy with Covid demands at their work places, needing more personnel; could not service our schools at all with screening and basic Health issues.
  1. This is when we connected with Mensana Company that had almost all the services that were to be offered by our nurses if there was nothing like Covid.

  2. By now this Mobile Health Bus has been to almost all the districts offering health services to learners of Grades 1-4 in particular and by the time I was leaving the Department; arrangements were being made to have it covering other districts before end of 2022.

  3. During the Portfolio Visits on the opening of schools some members of the Portfolio Committee found the bus in one of the schools they were visiting and they greatly applauded the approach.

Whatever contribution I made in the Boardrooms and or Seminars or Workshops or Directorate’s Senior Management; I was just making sure that the richness that God my creator has blessed me for the betterment of the Department of Education; I leave it in the corridors of the Department because beyond those corridors I cannot efficiently use such richness.

“Xeshikweni sitshoyo ukuthi asinasono siya zikhohlisa, ithi yona inyaniso ingabikho kuthi. Xeshikweni sizivuma izono zethu, unyanisekile yena, ukungile kanjalo, ukuze asixolele izono zethu, asihlambulule kuko konke okungalungileyo.”

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins , he is faithful snd just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1st John Chapter 1 verse 8).

I conclude by making reference to the above scripture for a purpose:

My 30 years in the Department was not under one manager; nor was it under one team.

I went through a number of Directors/Acting Directors who were equally responsible for polishing and ripening the programs I cited above that I today claim are a pride to me.

After panel beating of those ideas by the Director; there is absolutely no way that I could fly the program without the support for the entire membership of the Directorate; each playing his or her vital role in the program.

To all of you:

“If ever at one point I became tall within the Department; it’s just because at that point and time I was standing on your shoulders.”

It cannot be that over the past 30 years I have not made you angry; I have not hurt you; I have not made you to go home with an ailing heart; hence the scriptural reference in Paragraph E:

It was never meant to hurt anyone of you my supervisors and or my colleagues but it was all in the spirit of having things done. Please forgive.

I will hence-forth be fully responsible for St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in the centre of King Williams Town next to the Library as their full time minister; with offices within the premises of the church.

Thanks for the enormous experience I gained from the Department.

May God bless you.

Sibakhulu Orsmond Loni.