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South Africa: Everybody Deserves Good Service
Source: The Star Newspaper, by Thami ka Plaatjie , http://www.iol.co.za/the-star/everybody-deserves-good-service-1.1502881
Source Date: Monday, April 22, 2013
Focus: Institution and HR Management
Country: South Africa
Created: Apr 22, 2013

If Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has her way, South Africa will officially open a new National School of Government in October. This will be a first for public servants in particular. In the past, the role and responsibility of teaching public servants was carried out by the South African Management Development Institute (Samdi) which has since been reconstituted as the Public Administration Leadership and Management Academy (Palama).
Under the leadership of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Richard Baloyi, a call was made for the re-interpretation of the role and mandate of Palama to meet the ever-urgent needs of skilling and reskilling the public sector. This call became the first pointer in the direction of a path towards the creation of the new cadre that will be equipped with the higher socio-political consciousness to serve the people of South Africa.
It is an accepted fact that most public servants are skilled in some form or another, it was also an accepted fact that their skills need to be continuously aligned to the ever-evolving overall strategic thrust and ethos of a developmental state and a people-centred government. This orientation re-enforces the centrality of the people, and their rights and desires on a day-to-day basis and how the conduct of government can be harnessed to satisfy such rights to efficient and effective services.
A school is by any standard a place of learning.
In the case of a doctor, it is widely accepted that they have a common understanding of the human physiology and will apply by way of diagnosis and prognosis, interventions to arrest the ailment, like any other doctor who has acquired the same knowledge anywhere in the world.
Such may as well be the expectation placed on the graduates of the National School of Government, that they will give and should give, the same service to every recipient and citizen, regardless of where they are located.
The overriding desire of the National School of Government is to seek to equip and arm the public servants with the same cognitive public service skills, service orientation, compassionate sense of duty and diligence in carrying out such a public service duty.
In other words, the National School of Government seeks to standardise the manner in which its servants provide a service to the public across all sections of society.
A citizen of Cofimvaba can expect to be treated the same as the citizen of Clifton in Cape Town, and so can a resident of Ka-Dukuza be served in the same way as that of Sandton.
The specific focus of the School of Government will be to inculcate the ethos of professional conduct across all sectors of government. Linked with the above, will be the determination to equip public servants with the necessary skills and orientation that will enable them to deal proactively with endemic service delivery challenges.
The escalation of service delivery protests speaks to the declining professional ethos that can be linked to failure to implement agreed-upon plans like local economic development or sheer indifference to the needs and persistent complaints of the citizenry.
The National School of Government seeks to ensure that the public service possesses a greater appreciation of their role in the realisations of the goals of the developmental state that is transformative in outlook, service focus in scope and people-centric in orientation. Understanding and appreciating these imperatives of a developmental state requires persistent skilling and reskilling.
The National School of Government will be open to all public servants from the lowest clerk to directors-general, deputy directors-general, and chief directors to members of Parliament and ministers. The curriculum will be based mainly on the theory of public administration, government policies, the National Development Plan and other related forms of macro policies.
Service delivery case studies will also receive greater attention with the hope to avert their occurrence and pre-empt them.
Students or people who are not necessarily in the employ of public servants will not be precluded from being accepted as students of the National School of Government. These will include matriculants who desire to pursue a career in public service, and the unemployed graduates. Other graduates will also be accepted, subject to accreditation.
The teaching methods would have to adapt to ever-changing teaching innovations which must encompass contact tuition, distant learning and e-learning.
The teaching methodology must also take into account the fact that most of the students will be adults with families and related obligations. This consideration must, of necessity, enable the school to orientate and fashion a particular teaching methodology that will be appealing to its learners. The use of technology and e-learning will be a vital new variable in the manner of teaching adults who are in the public service. The benefits of e-learning are immense, given the fact that it will save on time expended on contact tuition, stay in the residence and extended leave of absence from work.
To assist in the realisation of this mammoth obligation, the minister of public administration has appointed an advisory committee that comprises prominent academics and administrators to guide and see the project to its conclusion.
This advisory panel will, for now, act as both the council and senate of this envisaged institution until it gets off the ground. These include Professor Job Mokgoro, a convener and chairman; Professor Mokubung Nkomo; Professor Sibusiso Nkomo; Professor Viviene Taylor; Professor Itumeleng Mosala; Professor Nomathemba Mangi; Berry Gilder and Dr Trish Hanekom. These eminent scholars and administrators will be assisted by Professor Sipho Seepe and Professor Daniels Plaatjies from the office of the minister.
This school will be premised on a curriculum that accentuates the importance of lived experiences and theoretic knowledge-based tuition, practical application and work-based case studies. This approach will militate against the acquisition of knowledge for its sake as a celebrated form of self-serving esoteric obsession.
The use of work-based case studies will defeat the notion of uncritical wholesale importation of other people’s experiences often called international references.
Our education system must be informed by the concrete dynamics of our environment, lessons, trials, history and envisaged future. Our education system must be intended to creatively assist us in solving our own problems and also enable to produce the cadre who will be an asset to the community and nation.
In contrast, the Western education system produces people who scorn their society and who see themselves above such a society.
All things considered, it looks like South Africans will wake up in October to embrace a new academy which will equip its public servants with the much needed appreciation of serving both the poor and the rich with the same zeal, devotion and compassion.
As Charles Dickens wrote, and entitled his seminal book, we wait with Great Expectations for the entrance of a new maiden.
Plaatjie is a Member of the Advisory Panel to Minister Lindiwe Sisulu Minister of Public Service and Administration
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