Speech by Hon T.P Madlopha-Mthethwa
06 August 2020
I would like to state that we feel vindicated about the conditions we saw in our schools during our recent school functionality visits. The IFP has been a thorn in the flesh through various platforms, raising concerns on the poor state of the learning environment in some schools, especially those in rural areas and townships in our Province.
During this Covid-19 period it was very obvious that we run a parallel education system in an already deeply unequal society. There is one province with the former model C schools, which has more resources required to function during this pandemic, and the schools with limited resources, where most Black children are found. It is upon this august house to address the inequalities in our Province and our country
Over the past 26 years of the new dispensation, the Department of Education has failed to address basic water, overcrowding and sanitary infrastructure in our schools. The schools in this province continue to have chronic infrastructure shortages. The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed, for everyone to see, how the government is failing to prioritise challenges facing our schools, as the same problems continue to persist – year in and year out.
In many of the schools we visited – and those not visited – there is a severe shortage of water and sanitation facilities. Even with the R20 billion allocated towards emergency water provision to municipalities, it is perplexing that some schools still have water issues. The services of Rand Water and IDT were poor and during our visit we observed that tanks bought by the Department were lying on the school premises with no sign of water. Some schools use dirty and leaking water tanks. There were no hand-washing basins, as one contractor was appointed per district, with insufficient manpower. In future the national department must allow the province to do the work for the sake of close monitoring and accountability. Schools are still having the problem that water tankers and the water containers for the hand-washing basins are empty.
The majority of schools in rural areas still have pit latrines. Some ablution facilities no longer have doors and the ablution facilities are full; they require immediate attention. The Department of Education ignores the demands from schools to have these ablution issues sorted out. The schools do not have sufficient and appropriate ablution facilities. Many schools were not ready for the return of learners, as the ablution facilities are a total disaster and a health hazard, as the human waste is at eye level. These are totally unacceptable conditions for our children.
There were many storm-damaged schools and vandalised schools that were still waiting for renovations. In almost all districts it was reported that many schools do not have sufficient classrooms to accommodate social distancing, should other Grades be rolled back. The failure to repair schools will result in learners not practising social distancing. Many schools, which were promised mobile classrooms, were still waiting for deliveries and some are still waiting for those mobile classes now. Furniture is still outstanding in all the schools that were promised and given Parkhomes: we wonder why the Department has taken so long to buy furniture as promised. Installing temporary shelters is not sustainable. Some schools have been using Parkhomes as classrooms for the past four years. This is yet another show of incompetence by the leadership of the Education Department. We challenge the KZN MEC of Education, Kwazi Mshengu, to ensure that these schools are repaired without any further delay.
PPE and Covid-19 Training
We were shocked to learn that teachers and staff were not trained on how to use cleaning chemicals. For those who were provided with training it was of poor quality; they themselves did not understand what was expected of them to ensure Covid-19 compliance in schools. We hope this was resolved by the Department and school management.
PPE was stolen in some schools and other schools did not receive enough PPE. Another concern to us was that the quality of the PPE provided to schools was questionable, especially because the Department had paid large sums of money.
As the IFP, we had indicated that based on the party’s assessment, the Education Department was poorly equipped to reopen schools. We believed that schools should remain closed and not open until all necessary PPE and infrastructure demands were in place to ensure that schools are a safe place for teaching and learning. The unreadiness of our schools resulted to a learner in Bulwer getting raped when she was sent back home to fetch her mask, which she had forgotten home. If schools were not opened prematurely, that learner might have not been raped.
We are concerned about the teachers and learners who are contracting Covid-19 and losing their lives to this invisible enemy. We are also concerned about the shortages of PPE in schools, which puts the lives of learners and teachers at risk.
The IFP urges the KZN MEC of Education, Kwazi Mshengu, to ensure that all the challenges that were observed during school visits are addressed amicably. Schools must be provided with water and sanitation. The MEC must rise above politics and take unpopular decisions in fixing all that is wrong in our schools.
The IFP will continue to monitor the situation and pursue every lawful avenue to hold the MEC to account. Our children deserve a safe and conducive environment for learning.
I thank you.