July 2, 2011 marked the 100 days countdown towards the Census 2011 count which takes place from October 10 to 31. We are 100 days from a very momentous census, the third after South Africa became a democracy, the third post-apartheid census and third after our local elections. The census is important in ensuring that the government makes decisions on the basis of evidence.
A good census provides an opportunity for policymakers to use credible information at the lowest possible level and facilitates better planning and monitoring and evaluation, where planning and service delivery counts.
This is unlike information provided by our household surveys which accounts for performance at the provincial level.
As we mark the 100 days, the messages for Census 2011 are both about census enumerators and households.
Enumerators will be tasked with enumerating everyone within the borders of South Africa. Our messages target households so that the respondents open their hearts and their doors and ensure that they are counted.
This countdown provides a platform for Statistics SA’s mass communication campaign which highlights mechanisms for dialogues with the country about Census 2011.
A population census is the most complex and massive exercise a national statistical office undertakes, and for many people the census may be the only time that the state reaches them and collects information from them. It requires that the country is mapped and divided into enumeration areas.
This has already been done and the country is now divided into 103 576 enumeration areas. It also requires that a questionnaire be developed and printed, and this has already been done.
There are three types of questionnaires that will be used: First, will be for people who will be in households on census night; questionnaire B is for people in transit and on holidays on the reference night and questionnaire C is for populations that will be in collective living quarters on census night.
The Statistics Act of 1999 gives the statistician-general or officials delegated by the statistician-general the right to enter premises and collect data and in the same act respondents are obliged to answer questions. In this regard the obligation of the statistician-general is to ensure that questionnaires and other field materials used by Stats SA are in the language that the respondent understands.
It is for this reason that the questionnaire for census 2011 has been translated into the 11 official languages and people who will prefer to enumerate themselves will also have a self-enumeration guide in all the official languages.
Our census messages are also translated into the official languages.
Census taking requires that a huge number of people be appointed and Census 2011 has already deployed 124 district census co-ordinators. About 5 500 fieldwork co-ordinators will be appointed in August. A total of 30 000 supervisors and 120 000 fieldworkers will be appointed for the numeration period.
We have received a total of 192 000 applications for these posts and we are verifying qualifications and obtaining security clearance for criminal records. We are also in the process of identifying where we have gaps so that we can start with targeted recruitment.
Census 2011 has obtained training materials and these will be used at 3 000 training centres across the country. To this end we have developed fieldwork training manuals and we are finalising our verbatim training guide and training slides.
By the end of August a Census 2011 training video will be produced.
The 100 days countdown propels our publicity campaign to greater heights to encourage all households to participate.
This will pave the way for our enumerators to reach all corners of the country. Plans are in place to ensure that there is a co-ordinated interface between the respondent and the enumerator.
In September we will be putting up posters of the enumerators who will be counting you in the areas where you live.
Census 2011 is a community-centred project and we urge you to work with us towards success. This project is for citizens who choose to live a better life. A successfully executed census depends on all of us.
Pali Lehohla is statistician-general of South Africa and head of Statistics SA.