By Hon Mrs Madlopha Mthethwa MPL
The Inkatha Freedom Party acknowledges the Education Budget allocation of just over R45.464billion for the 2016/2017 financial year. This equates to 41.8% of the province’s total budget and therefore reflects the importance that is placed on education as a vehicle to eradicate poverty and give hope to our children. For this reason it is essential that those who are trusted with the lives of children and the future of our province, are people of integrity, people with vision and not people who only think of personal and family benefits. It is unfortunate that when many officials see such huge budgets, all they think of is how they or their families can get a slice of it instead of thinking of that little child in a deep rural school somewhere in KwaZulu-Natal. It is time for this government to ensure that every cent of this budget is used to benefit our children.
It is ironic that since the ANC came into power it claimed to place education as its priority, going so far as to acknowledge the crisis in education, making bold claims about interventions and the eventual successes it would bring. Unfortunately for our learners, the ANC government’s approach to solving the education crisis has come to very little. Hon Speaker, it is often said, and rightly so, that throwing money after a problem will not solve anything. Even though this ANC government is given far larger budgets than what was given to the IFP-led government, it is not able to improve the quality of education in KwaZulu-Natal. Ever since the ANC took over KZN, the matric pass rate has been on a downward slide, proving that throwing money after a problem will not make the problem go away. What is needed is leaders with vision and a bold strategy that will restore the good results that were achieved under the IFP.
Given this department’s critical mandate of educating our people, we have to be particularly critical of mediocrity. We cannot allow substandard performance to jeopardize the entire nation’s chances of a better tomorrow. I would therefore like to paint a picture of the state of education in the province, in order to emphasise just how important it is that this budget vote is optimally utilised in order to improve the quality of education in KZN.
Hon Speaker, it is therefore shocking that this department, several times chooses to proclaim in newspapers that the education in the province is not in crisis. Instead of acknowledging the steady destruction of our school system in KZN, this administration pats itself on the back for it’s so called “many achievements”. I daresay this is a blatant case of education denialism. Unfortunately, like Aids denialism, the consequences of education denialism will also be felt when it is too late.
Hon. Speaker, even though we spend 41.8% of the provincial budget on education, it will serve little purpose if our learners are not in the classroom on time. Our school transport is in shambles and our learners are in grave danger as they are forced to travel to school in unroadworthy vehicles and on the back of bakkies. This practice needs to be stopped immediately, that is, if we value the lives of our young ones. I know that the provision of scholar transport falls within the functions of the Department of Transport, but education is the priority of the department we are engaging with in this debate. I want to urge that there is more inter-departmental consultation in this regard. Keeping in mind that a day before schools opened this year the MEC responsible for transport said, and I quote “NO pupil will be left stranded without transport.” Has this MEC travelled the provinces’ roads to see how many learners are left by the roadside and how many have to walk torturous distances to get to school? I’m just asking? When will schools in and around Mdletsheni area benefit.
The IFP is of the view that this crisis is a product of poor quality teaching, poor school infrastructure and bad school management, all of which are issues that must be urgently addressed at a provincial level. This is significant because studies show that school leadership is “second only to classroom teaching as an influence on pupil learning” and that schools cannot improve learner outcomes in the absence of talented leadership. A key issue that therefore needs attention is the introduction of performance targets for both educators and principals, as well as development of strong school leadership.
KZN NEEDS EDUCATION INFRASTRUCTURE POLICY
Education as a fundamental human right for all children may not be realized in KZN if strategic measures are not put in place to ensure adequate infrastructure provision to schools. THE IFP IS HIGHLY CONCERNED ABOUT THE INFRASTUCTURE BUGETARY CUT. The IFP welcomes the Provincial Priority allocation of R150million in this financial year to improve sanitation at our schools. During school visits it was observed that many schools do not have toilets. In her Budget Speech on page 13 the MEC for Finance makes reference to the backlog of water and infrastructure at 453 schools. We are hopeful that this funding will bring relief to many schools in KZN. Districts have to democratically distribute these funds to needy schools and not to their cronies.
School infrastructure in many rural areas is not conducive to education. Without suitable infrastructure a school cannot function optimally and produce the kind of results that we would like to see. It is vital when we consider the fact that school infrastructure or resources, impact on how well teachers are able to teach and learners are able to learn. Learners attending schools with better infrastructure tend to perform better than learners who come from schools with not enough resources.
The IFP is very concerned about safety in many of our schools. There have been far too many incidents some of which have ended tragically. The incident that took place in Nsuze High School in Durban where one pupil was stabbed to death and five were injured is high condemned. School violence, when it occurs, has a negative impact on schools and communities where the incident takes place. Schools need to be better protected so as to reduce risk factors and promote an environment that is conducive to effective teaching and learning. I was hoping that the MEC will put a certain portion of her budget aside in order to maintain stability in our schools.
We are aware that the allocation for Norms & Standards for this financial year is R2.124billion and that funding is allocated to school in accordance to the enrolment. On page 233 of the Green Book we are told that according to the updated poverty distribution tables, the number of learners in quintiles 1 to 3 should be 65.5%, but in reality we are told that this figure sits at 74%. This is a huge difference that can only be ascribed to the presence of “ghost learners”. The sooner the department is able to complete its head count process, the sooner will we see savings in the Norms & Standards allocation being made to the schools concerned. It is essential that the department names and shames those principals and officials who are complicit in inflating pupil numbers in order to defraud the department.
While it is encouraging to note that schools in quintiles 4 and 5 are now also benefitting from the National Schools Nutrition Programme, it is disappointing that there have been many reports of erratic provisions of meals and the supply of meals that do not conform to the standards expected. The tender process has also come under scrutiny many times due to alleged corrupt practices in the tender process. This department must ensure that corruption is eradicated and that our children receive the meals that government is paying for.
TECHNOLOGY IN RURAL SCHOOLS
The development of rural science and technical education in KZN continues to encounter numerous challenges despite the existence of sound policies aimed at promoting the teaching of science subjects to students in rural areas. In fact the lack of science facilities would be forcing students, especially in rural areas, to abandon any dreams of studying science. Schools that do offer physical sciences do not have adequate science laboratories that reinforce learning through hands-on experiences this needs to be taken into account when decisions are made regarding the provision of infrastructure and the supply of LTSM to schools.
Many schools lack conduits for computer-related cables; electrical wiring for computers and other communications technology. The IFP has noticed that although university graduates were encouraged to work at the grassroots level to ease employment pressure, and many of them have answered the call, few would stay in the rural areas due to a lack of facilities at our schools.
NO REPAIRS TO DAMAGED SCHOOLS
During our school monitoring as a Portfolio Committee on Education at the beginning of this year we found that many schools were damaged by storms and till today no repairs have been done. Learners are staying in ventilated classrooms without rooftops even when it’s cold or hot. Why the department has failed to repair these schools?
Hon Speaker, KZN must put our kids and our future first, and make education improvement our priority. The province has already sunk to the bottom nationally. KZN is no longer a place to feel confident that your child will get a world-class education.
I thank you
Mrs Thembeni Madlopha Mthethwa MPL
071 884 3844