Education and its advancement have been at the heart of my work during my 44-year career as a teacher, unionist and public representative. My organisation, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) prides itself on its staunch support of education. Under the current ruling party, the South African education system is in an alarming state of disrepair. Therefore, it is my duty as Secretary General of the IFP, to ensure that the Party plays an active role in the development and upliftment of South African schools.
The election season is a very difficult period for all political leaders. The 2021 Local Government Elections are much more difficult. We had barely a month to roll out campaigns that we would usually have rolled out over a year, or a six-month period. Despite the chaos that comes with the pressure, a particularly interesting article recently published by the Mail & Guardian caught my attention; “The true state of South Africa’s schools” written by Matthew Sterne.
In this article, amongst other things, he outlines that our country’s education system is one of the most unequal in the world. He points out that schools don’t fail or thrive based on their resources – it is the culture that is more important. He states that “having an inspirational figure at the head of the school will create a community of learning and hold teachers accountable. They understand the power of education to change lives.” Some non-government organisations have realised this and have been working with school leaders to empower them to cultivate a culture of excellence in their respective schools.
When our country was oppressed under the yoke of apartheid, and our people were suffering the dual indignity of discrimination and poverty, Inkatha led the way through self-help and self-reliance. We brought investment to KwaZulu, developed infrastructure and built more than 6 000 classrooms. The schools we built are still standing today, and have become beacons of excellence in communities across KZN. Even during our fight for freedom, the IFP’s message has always been consistent: calling for our people to liberate themselves through education first, so that when we step into a democratic dispensation, we have prepared ourselves to lead in our institutions of governance.
This is important, for two reasons.
Firstly, education must be the number one priority of any government, in any country.
Secondly, it is important to partner with communities. Although schools might not be built by the municipalities, these schools reside in our wards, and it is the role of the community to take care of these schools, so that they remain beacons of excellence.
In the democratic South Africa, the IFP has continued this work in all three tiers of government. We must remember that education is one of the cornerstones of our local communities. However, national and provincial government are tasked to share the responsibility of their functions. By law, municipalities are not mandated to be involved in schools’ functionality. In an African context, we know that it takes a village to raise a child; therefore, municipalities play a pivotal role in helping the country’s educational sector.
A good explanation of this is uMsinga Local Municipality, an IFP-led municipality that hosts an annual matric excellence award ceremony. Their goal is to motivate learners, educators, and schools to pursue excellence in their work. To all teachers, including our teachers who are affiliated with teachers’ unions, I appeal to you to make a conscious decision in this Local Government Election to elect public representatives in municipalities who will choose to be allies of local schools.
Choose representatives who will empower school leaders to cultivate a culture of excellence in their respective communities, such as the likes of the IFP-led uMsinga Local Municipality.
In this election, the IFP has committed itself to continue being an ally of the education sector and to partnering with communities in any municipality where we are voted into power.
Hon. Siposethu L. Ngcobo, MP, is the Secretary General of the Inkatha Freedom Party and the former President of the National Teachers’ Union (NATU).