Hon Mrs TP Mthethwa MPL
Our education system is in crisis. Poor education lies at the root of most of South Africa’s problems, including unemployment, poverty and inequality. Without a dramatic improvement in education, the crevasses in South African society will continued to deepen. Education is a debt that the present generation owes to future generations.
During our oversight visits at the beginning of this year when schools opened for the 2015 academic year we experienced many challenges. I observed that there is a huge problem with the School Nutrition Programme, where service providers complained about late payments by the Department of Education and uncertainty about their contracts. This issue has been a problem for a long time but the Department has failed to solve it. Most schools still lack suitable cooking areas and storage rooms for cooking resources. We should not have a situation where our children go hungry when money is available to feed them. It is sad that the problem is largely an administrative one.
We noted a shortage of learning materials and resources including science laboratories, libraries and proper sanitation. Many schools, especially in the rural areas experience a lack of adequately qualified teachers. These problems need to be solved if we want to fix our education system. We cannot expect learners from disadvantaged communities and under-resourced schools to compete on a par with their peers in well-resourced schools. It makes a mockery of the matric awards function that is held at the beginning of each year.
We want to know from the MEC what measures she has put in place to ensure the adequate supply of qualified teachers to schools especially in the rural areas of this province? Secondly, what is the MEC’s response to the plans by the Department of Basic Education to take mathematics teachers out of school every Monday to receive training? We are of the view that such a programme will lead to severe disruptions of teaching and learning in schools. Many mathematics educators also teach other subjects so their absence from school will affect subject areas and also the general discipline at schools.
The IFP has been championing the issue of scholar transport in this House and in the portfolio committee for several years now, but the Department has failed dismally to provide safer transport for our children. Eight children died in Imbali when their bakkie overturned. This is due to this inept department’s failure to provide safer transport.
The Department of Education has violated the learners’ right to basic education by failing to provide them with transport to school. We demand that this department must provide urgent time-bound remedies to deal with this problem.
Many learners have to walk long distances to school in order to access education. The failure by the Department of Education and the Department of Transport to provide safe transport violates learners’ right to education as enshrined in Section 29 of the Constitution.
We recommended that these Departments should review their memorandum of agreement regarding the provision of scholar transport to ensure that it’s consistent and does not prevent learners from going to school, thus violating their right to education. Departments must provide the Committee with monthly written reports on the progress made towards the delivery of transport to the learners of the schools.
It is sad that the Department of Transport has not yet implemented the Provincial Policy on Learner Transport for Public Schools. Furthermore there is a need to accelerate the finalisation of the Provincial Policy on Learner Transport for Public Schools as the age group of 5-14 is hugely affected by road fatalities and this can potentially affect the productivity of the South African economy.
The delays in the implementation of the Provincial Policy on Learner Transport for Public Schools means that learners in rural areas and townships will continue to be transported with the most unroadworthy vehicles, exposing them to fatal road accidents and interruption of their ability to learn and progress through the education system. The Department of Transport, therefore, needs to prioritise both the education and safety of our children.
We further demand that the MECs of Education and Transport must ensure that learners of Fezokuhle Primary School and other affected learners are offered safe scholar transport so as to avoid such tragic incidents in the future.
SAFETY IN SCHOOLS
Safety at schools around the province remains a concern despite the Education Department’s promise to step up security measures. This department is downplaying the problem of safety in schools. The department needs to have a long-term plan to implement stringent security measures in all KZN schools. Many schools, especially in townships, have cited the lack of financial resources as one of the reasons for the lack of sufficient security. Many of them have no security guards on their premises 24/7 because they cannot afford to pay private security companies for those services.
Langalibalele Primary School in Inanda is one of the many schools that needs security. Criminals are stealing school furniture and food meant for our children. We demand better security measures at schools to ensure that teaching and learning takes place in a safe environment. The MEC must conduct an assessment on the status of security measures at schools around the province. Teaching and learning cannot take place in an unsafe environment.
MEC Peggy Nkonyeni must come out of her office and be hands-on in conducting site visits at schools in order to experience first-hand and get facts about issues concerning security at schools. We want to see the MEC being active in this matter as she does when she campaigns for the ANC during by-elections.
Issues concerning safety of teachers and learners must be prioritised. We demand more action in resolving education matters rather than seeing the MEC attending ANC rallies and campaigns.
We recommend that new buildings can be designed with crime prevention elements that include single entrances with locked doors and buzzers. The lack of security makes schools vulnerable to thieves who come in to steal electrical appliances and metal objects.
The MEC and HOD must ensure that education managers at all levels do their jobs efficiently. We should not have a situation where subject advisers and SEMs do not conduct regular visits to schools in their circuit and offer assistance.
These officials have a crucial role to play in ensuring that schools are functioning well.
I thank you.
Mrs Thembeni Madlopha-Mthethwa, 079 114 3015