The IFP in the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature is concerned about the number of schools that are reportedly on the verge of closing or being merged.
According to the 1st Quarterly Performance Report (QPR) 2022/23 for the KZN Department of Education – which was presented to the KZN Education Portfolio Committee this week – 10 public schools were reported by Districts to be non-functional during Q1 of 2022/23. These schools are awaiting official notification of closure or merger and once their status is confirmed, the target for 2023/24 will be reviewed.
The IFP is mindful of the fact that the programme of rationalisation, realignment and the merging of non-viable schools is meant to ensure that limited state resources are optimised to benefit every learner in the province. It is also motivated by the drive to improve the overall quality of education within the Province.
However, the IFP is very concerned about these developments.
If the KZN Department of Education goes ahead with these closures, learners in rural areas could be denied access to education. They would need to travel long distances to their nearest towns with unreliable learner transport, as well as the possibility that schools in the towns may be full.
Furthermore, as the IFP we believe that more clarity is needed on how closures are going to be implemented, as it affects parents, teachers and learners. Therefore, the IFP demands answers from the KZN MEC for Education, Mbali Frazer, on the following:
1. Has Supply Chain Management conducted audits of assets in schools identified for closure?
2. In which Districts are these schools situated?
3. Has there been an infrastructure assessment of the schools that will be closed? If so, what preparations have been made for the transfer of immovable assets to Department of Public Works?
4. Has the scholar transport been identified and made available for deserving learners from the schools to be closed – to avoid them dropping out of school or burdening parents with transport costs – where it transpires that they will not be taken to a school of choice?
5. Are the parents and other relevant stakeholders, such as teacher unions, informed in advance about the proposed school closures?
6. What will happen to the teachers, learning materials and buildings of schools that will be closed?
7. When will all school accounts be closed? When will creditors be paid; and when will remaining monies be returned to the Provincial Fiscus?
All these questions must be answered by the KZN MEC for Education. As a political head of the Department, the buck stops with her. The IFP believes that parents must be informed well in advance of any decisions that affect their children. By doing so, this will prevent unnecessary – possibly violent – protests by aggrieved parents.
In addition, we noted in the Report that many Fundza Lushaka Bursary holders are not meeting school curricula needs. This brings the Fundza Lushaka Bursary Scheme into question. Why has the Department awarded bursaries to learners to study subjects that will not be beneficial to schools? The KZN Department of Education should carry part of the blame for high rate of unemployed teacher graduates in KwaZulu-Natal, as thousands are qualified but cannot teach in schools.
The following questions remain: How much has been spent by the KZN Department of Education in awarding bursaries to learners that graduated with subjects that do not align with school curricula? How many teacher graduates are unemployed due to not being able to teach the prescribed curricula in schools? We believe that this equates to fruitless and wasteful expenditure. The IFP would like to state clearly: we not against the awarding of Fundza Lushaka Bursaries to deserving students. However, we are of the firm view that the KZN Department of Education must ensure that students are trained in the appropriate subjects, as required by schools.
Mrs Thembeni Madlopha-mthethwa MPL
IFP KZN Provincial Spokesperson on Education
071 884 3844 / 079 114 3015