POLICING IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE: Comparing Firsthand Knowledge with Experience from the West,
© 1996 College of Police and Security Studies, Slovenia


POLICING AND DISTANCE EDUCATION IN SOUTH AFRICA: A PROCESS IN TRANSFORMATION

Willem Bosman, David Frost

Seen against the backdrop of a difficult and repressive history, the current challenges facing south africa are by no means insignificant. The country needs to be rebuilt, a need spelt out in the reconstruction and development programme adopted by the government of national unity.

On an educational level, the biggest challenge lies in addressing the enormous imbalances in skills and experience between different sectors in the community, as well as in the police. The role distance education can play in this regard, is undeniably important, although we are of the opinion that significant progress is not possible through traditional distance education, or "correspondence" (education).

To enable distance education to address economy of scale, while still providing sufficiently skilled police officials, a new approach to distance education in general but for police in particular is needed. We propose an integrated learner centred model as an effective tool in addressing mass education without compromising on the quality of the education.

INTRODUCTION

The purpose of this document would be:

Transformation in the new South Africa was never going to be easy, that much was known before the journey was embarked on. Faith must not be lost now as now is the time to identify dysfunctions and to work harder than ever to make things work…

BACKGROUND

South African history could be described as a bitter one. It has been dominated by colonialism, racism, apartheid, sexism and repression. In 1948 the unwritten legislation regarding apartheid was formalised under the leadership of DF Malan. This led to an increasingly racially distorted society, in which the white population was largely favoured and held power. An unwillingness to change, regardless of sanctions and international pressure, embargo's, condemnation by and suspension from world bodies, resulted in South Africa becoming isolated from the international community.

This situation started to change after the famous 2nd of February 1990 speech, of the then president, FW de Klerk, the release of now president Nelson Mandela, culminating in the April 1994 general election that resulted in the coming to power of the first democratically elected government in South Africa.

In his book, Long Walk to Fredom, Nelson Mandela writes the following:

"...The true test of our devotion to freedom is just beginning. I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter. I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended."

THE RECONSTRUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME (RDP)

To address the tremendous problems created by past practices, the Government of National Unity (GNU) has implemented the African National Congress' Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) as policy. This is an integrated, coherent socio-economic policy framework that seeks to mobilise all people and resources to eradicate apartheid and build a democratic, non-racist and non-sexist future.

The principles of this policy are:

The key programmes of the RDP are:

The Minister of Finance, Trevor Manuel, has the following to say in this regard:

"The challenge facing South Africa with the post-apartheid reconstruction and development programme (RDP) and the effort required to make our economy more competitive internationally also has a direct bearing on the education and training sphere. It is widely recognised that of all obstacles facing South Africa during the next few years, the skills and experience gap is probably the greatest. At tertiary level, this gap is a challenge to all five components of the training process, technikons included. It is necessary that technikons strengthen their potential skills supply programme, with the new courses convincingly focused in terms of the RDP needs and the industrial restructuring challenges facing virtually every sector of our economy."

The skills and experience gap in the police is just as obvious, as in the rest of South African society, but may be even more important to address as a matter of urgency. The fact is that crime in South Africa is way beyond the acceptable norms of a "stable" society. Crime has become one of the major stumbling blocks in South Africa's aspirations to make our economy more competitive internationally.

Although there are many reasons for the increase in crime, this paper will focus on the role tertiary institutions in South Africa have to play in addressing the specific needs of the police, the assumption being that an effective Police Service will result in a reduction of crime and thus a climate more conducive to maximising the implementation of the RDP.

The challenge to police education, in particular tertiary education, is by no means small and it needs a bold new approach. "Correspondence" education, and in fact education alone, will probably never be able to eliminate the skills and experience gap in the SAPS, while simultaneously realigning experienced, skilled police officials from a "force" to a "service" orientation.

This does not imply that education does not have a significant role to play in this transformation. In fact, the role of education, and specifically distance education cannot be emphasised enough. Dedicated distance education institutions have a major contribution to make to the RDP through the exercise of their core function. Most registered distance education students are, in our experience, in full-time employment.1 Distance education institutions can and must provide educational and training opportunities that will help transform the police.

POLICE TRANSFORMATION

Since 1994 the new government has faced tremendous challenges in the field of Safety and Security. Crime, victimisation and internal problems in the South African Police Service (SAPS) have come to a head. Compounding this, has been the rationalisation, amalgamation and transformation processes taking place in the SAPS. This implies:

Rationalisation, amalgamation and transformation must result in changing the attitudes of society towards criminality and victimisation. This requires a community based and supported police service, which in turn requires new skills and competencies to be developed by police officials. These skills and competencies are essential in breaking down barriers that have been erected between the community and the police over many years. In a large part of the South African community, the police need to change from being the enemy to being an essential "friend" in the community. Transformation within the SAPS must lay the framework for the orientation of policing to be receptive to community needs. Community participation is included in this regard.

It must also succeed as reconstruction and development is dependent on a basic level of stability and all people have the right to live in a safe and secure environment. The transformation must relate to eliminate bureaucratisation, under-resourcing and unequal distribution of resources. Also of importance, is:

By internalising community policing the following is of importance:

In summary, the following can be highlighted:

To create a safe and secure environment for all people in South Africa.

To achieve this, all relevant role players must become involved, including those of tertiary education on a national and international level.

THE NEED FOR TRANSFORMATION OF EDUCATION IN SOUTH AFRICA

The lack of structure and co-ordination of the present higher education system has resulted in a desperate shortage of graduates, with particular shortages in the science and technology fields. The essence of this being:

MASS PRODUCE SKILLED WORKERS OR LOSE OUT.

Economic imperatives, are as much behind moves to introduce a mass-based higher education system, as is intense political pressure. Unless the country starts producing more graduates with the right kind of skills, notions of international competitiveness will remain elusive offerings at the end of the proverbial rainbow.

If,

then the following would be relevant:

MASS PRODUCE SKILLED POLICE OFFICIALS OR LOSE OUT.

On face value this seems to be a contradiction in terms. Mass production and real quality do not often seem to go together. The fact is that when both are essential, as it is in South Africa and probably many other countries, ways and means need to be found.

ESSENTIAL BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON DISTANCE EDUCATION IN GENERAL AND TECHNIKON SA SPECIFICALLY

The challenge faced at the dawning of a democratic society is to create an education and training system that ensures the ability to realise the full potential of all in society. Open learning and distance education are seen as major elements in restructuring the higher education system to make it more accessible and in so doing develop the human resources of the country on a large scale.

South Africa has a primary, secondary and tertiary education structure. The tertiary educational structure consists of technical colleges, technikons and universities. In order to provide the necessary backdrop to a problem-solving approach to distance education, and police education in particular, more information about Technikon SA, currently the only distance education technikon in South Africa, is essential.

The University of South Africa (UNISA), is by far the leading role player in distance education at university level in South Africa, with in excess of 130 000 students from six continents around the globe. UNISA is more than 100 years old and has in many instances paved the way for new approaches in distance education. A healthy partnership / relationship exists between our respective institutions.

Technikon SA was established 15 years ago as Technikon RSA. It had 4 000 students and employed 22 lecturers. Today it boasts more than 80 000 registered students, a staff component of 1 000 plus 1 500 part-time lecturers. It has three academic divisions presenting 70 programmes of study. It is the largest institution for career-specific education in Southern Africa and aims to serve learners in South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. It came of age in 1995 with the installation of its first chancellor, placing its qualifications on a par with those of other tertiary institutions of repute. From 1996 onwards, Technikon SA was placed in a position to confer B-Tech degrees, and it is currently engaged in a far-reaching transformation process that is in line with the objectives of the RDP and learner-centred education. Of the three academic divisions in Technikon SA, the division Community Safety and Criminal Justice is made up of three programme groups:

The Police Practice programme group has for more than ten years presented a National Diploma in Police Administration, which has formed the backbone of tertiary education for policing in South Africa. This qualification was one of the major requirements for granting admission to commissioned officer rank in the SAP. As needs have changed, the following qualifications have been added:

Of the almost 150 000 members of the SAPS, 25% are students of Technikon SA (+/- 38 000), which represents 48% of the total number of students at Technikon SA.

THE INTEGRATED LEARNER CENTRED DISTANCE EDUCATION MODEL (ILCDE) AS AN INSTRUMENT IN SUPPORT OF THE RDP

In the past, Technikon SA, as many other distance education institutions, operated as a "correspondence" institution. Students received lecture notes by post, and likewise turned in assignments that were evaluated by distant lecturers. Twice a year, if they were able to travel to the Florida Campus, students attended contact sessions with lecturers. The emphasis of the traditional model of distance education is on teaching by the lecturers, rather than on learning by the students. The inevitable result is that students learned to pass an examination, rather than to acquire the competencies needed to be effective in their work.

It was generally accepted that the traditional correspondence model will not be able to address the tremendous challenges of a new era in South African history. In the preamble to its Report 150 (95/01), dated January 1995, the Department of Education states: "Technikon lecturers should remain aware of the rapidly increasing numbers of students and the high cost of study at tertiary level, which place a heavy burden on the existing education resources and facilities. Distance tuition will become increasingly important in the future as an alternative and supplementary mode of education to alleviate this problem, and consequently the unique requirements of distance-tuition should as far as possible be borne in mind for all instructional programmes."

The tertiary educational system in South Africa is being assailed by demands from a diversity of quarters. Demands that it should be opening the doors of opportunity; that it should descend from its ivory tower and meet the needs of the community; in short that it should be in the grips of beginning to provide education for all. These demands are understandable, essential and even inevitable, if seen against the backdrop of significant skills and experience gaps that will have to be addressed.

A change of strategy was essential on the part of Technikon SA, not only in terms of addressing the needs described by the RDP, but also in terms of ensuring competent students. In October 1994 the council of Technikon SA gave its approval for the implementation of an Integrated Learner Centred Distance Education model, a system that is based on three fundamental principles:

This model has the potential to indicate that quality distance education could be superior in many instances to contact education. Distance education is, in most cases, more cost- effective than full-time study, as large numbers of students can be enrolled, which obtains economy of scale. Economy of scale, or mass education, cannot be ignored where imbalances need to be addressed at a rapid rate. These economies of scale are achieved with regard to police training, making it a cost-effective and efficient manner of vocationally training police officials and at the same time equipping them with a recognised tertiary education qualification.

Furthermore, high quality learner material will be offered with various learner support measures, to secure satisfactory retention and completion rates. With the ongoing implementation of the ILCDE, students will be able to interact with their academic mentors and with one another.

IMPLEMENTATION OF THE ILCDE

The ILCDE is not a once-off, miracle solution to all the problems experienced in South Africa and more specifically in the police service. It is a process that needs to be gradually implemented, tested and managed to ensure continued learner-centredness. Emphasis here must be placed on continued interaction between the educator and the industry served, to ensure that the principles of cooperative education ar fully implemented.

Decentralisation is essential where students are geographically dispersed. Learner-centred education as implemented in this model cannot be possible without reducing the distance between the education and the learner. This approach has already resulted in 13 regional offices and five sub-offices across the country. Personal assistance will be available in the countrywide network of regional and sub-regional offices in such matters as subject and career guidance, assignment technique and review, tutorials, and job placement. Mentors and academic tutors will also assist students on a regional basis. An example of this is the use of retired police officials and other government employees who have a wealth of experience to plough back into the professionals of tomorrow. A retired regional court magistrate has, in this instance, already indicated his joy and satisfaction in imparting his wealth of legal knowledge to police students. This is the type of public participation which is envisaged by the process.

Regional directors will oversee the functions of the tutor managers and tutors, whose brief it is to provide regular and meaningful face-to face mentorship to students. This decentralisation process will facilitate in enforcing the ideas of local policing issues and a sensitivity thereto of local police officials, without deviating from the national policing needs in terms of competency based vocational training. The mentorship envisaged here, will entrench basic policing philosophies, as well as those unique to a specific environment / region. Cultural diversity and specific human rights issues pertaining to particular regions can be dealt with in this regard.

The implementation of the ILCDE facilitates the concept of open learning, which provides for:

CONCLUSIONS

In conclusion, it can be stated that a skills and experience gap exists. There is a need to address this in the form of mass education. Distance education can be used to great effect in fulfilling the need for mass education. This type of education, must of necessity, be linked to the transformation process currently under way in our country. The ILCDE distance education model could be used to great effect in training the Police.

The identified needs in relation to police training are currently being addressed and it can be confidently stated that, with sufficient international academic trade and interaction, the problems relating to successful implementation of police training can be addressed in South Africa.

To illicit and engage in meaningful dialogue with other countries, who have also recently undergone similar or other drastic political, policing and educational transformation processes.

In effect, a bloodless changing of the guard has taken place in South Africa, for which we are very fortunate and greatful. However. the political goodwill which exists, must be further expanded on, so as to set norms and reach consencus on the matters referred to above, so as to bring about successful implementation thereof, resulting in phenomenal growth of our Rainbow Nation.

NOTES

  1. At Technikon SA 78% of 83 597 registered students are in full-time employment. Approximately 99% of the students currently enrolled in Policing programs, are police officials.
  2. Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda and Ciskei.


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