BY HON T.P MADLOPHA-MTHETHWA IFP MPL
Allow me to begin by officially congratulating the Hon Kwazi Mshengu on his appointment as the MEC of Education in KwaZulu-Natal. Today, Hon Speaker, we as the IFP would like to assure the people of this province that, they can trust us as an official opposition to hold the Department of Education accountable. We are ready to tackle critical issues heads-on through robust oversight.
We therefore, urge the Hon MEC, to hit the ground running ensuring that this R54 Billion budget allocation is used excellently and accordingly.
This is why Hon MEC, the IFP is expressing its disquiet with regards to unauthorised and irregular expenditure for 2018 which amounted to R485.86 Million. Effective and appropriate steps must be taken to prevent irregular and unauthorised expenditure. We would like to know of consequence measures that has been put in place to reduce irregular expenditure in this department.
Employees Doing Business with Department and later Resign
The IFP feel that the Department is not tough on state employees who commit fraudulent activities against state departments. 34 Education employees were reported to have done business with Department while 89 were reported to have done business with other state institutions. The Department fails to pursue and recover funds of cases of employees who have resigned. This is very concerning and we call upon the MEC to act decisively as some of these employees have jumped to other departments and other schools.
Rural Allowance Fraud
This Department paid 279 educators the Rural Incentives and Allowances fraudulently as they faked information about schools they teach in and counterfeited their details. The IFP believes that the department must implement a strategy to recover these monies from all these corrupt teachers who benefitted fraudulently, even those who might have resigned. We feel that making them to sign the Acknowledgement of Debts is just not enough. Also, the department must implement a tight consequence management strategy alongside vetting system that will eliminate corrupt employees.
However, Honourable Chair, I will be failing in my objective assessment of the performance of the Department of Education if I do not acknowledge the progress that has been made in the efforts of delivering better education and learning facilities for our children over the years. But producing quality and skilled learners require quality learning environment, quality schools, with adequate infrastructure, technology, enough classrooms, suitably qualified educators, sanitation, electricity, transport, healthy food, water and sporting facilities.
The department claimed in its 2019 APP that 100 per cent of provincial schools have water provision. Akusilo iqiniso leli, ziningi izikole ezinganawo amanzi nhlobo eMkhanyakude nakwabanye oMasipala kulesifundazwe sethu. It is not true that 100 per cent of schools have access to sanitation facilities and have electricity in this province, not mentioning libraries and laboratories. There are more than 1000 schools who still uses pit latrines in this province alone. The department should stop misleading people and use the budget allocated to fix these critical issues.
We urge the Department to fast track E-Learning and revitalisation of Agriculture in our schools. The IFP believes that Agriculture is indeed, our primary economic driver and by revitalising it at Primary school level, the country will be able to deal with food security threats and eradicate poverty while creating employment.
E-learning will equip leaners for the much talked about fourth industrial revolution. Therefore, the department must fast track the implementation of e-learning especially in rural areas. In 2019, functional ICT, laboratories and fully resourced libraries are a must.
Safety and Discipline
Hon Chair, safety in our schools remains a concern. Teachers and learners are victimised and killed within the school premises in broad-daylight. The school security measures are weak. Schoolyard violence and bullying has dominated news headlines over recent years in our province. The IFP has been calling for the department to install improved security measures to curb the uncontrollable levels of bullying, violence, gangsterism, undisciplined learners, fights between learners and smuggling of dangerous weapons to schools.
However, the IFP welcomes the sourcing of well-trained volunteers from our communities, to be deployed to 3000 schools in KwaZulu-Natal as part of an interdisciplinary approach by the government to combat the scourge of school violence. But this plan will not work if it is for merely gate keepers without adequate training and resources.
The IFP emphasizes the importance of instilling Discipline through a strict Code of Conduct, of both learners and educators must be returned to schools. Schools should together with stakeholders implement code of conduct system that will enforce discipline in schools. We must bring back a culture of accountability throughout the system, at educator and management levels.
The IFP is gravely concerned with learners who to this day, continue to disappear from the schooling system. This province has one of the highest percentage of learners who drop-out of school (44%) during the 12 years of schooling. The real matric pass rate for this province in 2018 was 37.6% if you include the number of 2016 Grade 10s who did not write their matric in 2018. The department must address this issue with the urgency it deserves if it is serious to address youth unemployment. IFP believes that Hon MEC together with the National Education should consider an introduction of a compulsory financial and entrepreneurial literacy and portable skills training subjects from primary school level to address the issue of rising unemployment of unskilled learners.
Grade R Teachers
The IFP is of the view that Grade R educators are as important as any other educator in any other grades and they should be remunerated as such. But at the beginning of the year we witnessed more than 6 000 Grade R educators protesting because they were not receiving their salaries. The IFP expects the MEC to address this by providing them with better pay and accommodation. The government to live up to its promise of formalising Grade R and attaching it to primary schooling years so that every first grade of schooling for every learner in the country is Grade R. In the meantime, we welcome the salary adjustments of Early Childhood Development Practitioners from R6 500 to between R7 250 and R7 750.
Recruitment of Teachers
IFP advocates for a fair recruitment processes where all teachers should be given equal job opportunities. All qualifying teachers should be treated and recruited fairly by the Education Department; preference should not be only given to FUNDZA LUSHAKA bursary recipients. The department has a surplus of unemployed teachers then the IFP believes that they should be hired as assistant teachers to address the existing over-crowding issue in schools, where some students do not get adequate attention and end-up being labelled as slow-learners. The bursaries that are allocated for gateway subject like maths and physics are highly welcomed. Unfortunately, students are helped to enter universities; they change streams and do other subject. There must be a close monitoring of this project and defaulters be penalised and this House be informed as to how many have defaulted.
Continuing Professional Teacher Development
The IFP believes that competence of school principals is very critical in the delivery of excellent education to our children. It is a fact that some schools still lack discipline and have incompetent principals. Therefore, the IFP is gravely concerned with inability of the Department to effectively implement programmes that are meant to strengthen school management capacity to ensure working districts and schools.
This is because, about 75% of principals and deputy principals who participated in the continued teacher development programme (CPTD) aimed at improving teaching and management styles, failed to achieve the minimum score required in the stipulated three-year period. A majority of principals did not participate at all. We demand a plan from the MEC on how he plans to encourage principals and deputy principals to participate and accomplish goals set for this program. This province needs more school leadership with effective and critical management skills. From the top down level, it is imperative that we address this over the next few years in order to structurally transform the education system holistically.
Lastly Hon Chair, the IFP strongly believes that it is now high time for all schools to be opened up for routine Audit inspections alongside the robust oversight, we need to ensure that all these challenges and demands are addressed accordingly. Hon Chairperson, KZN must put our kids and the future first, and make education improvement our priority. Our education is no longer a place to feel confident that your child will get a world-class education.
I thank you