Hon. S Ngcobo
The Department of Basic Education is critical to the future of our country. As such, anything that happens to this Department has immediate and long-term implications for South Africa.
It is sad that this Department has been one of the biggest casualties of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Since 2020, our children have not received meaningful learning, due to ongoing disruptions to their learning as a result of the pandemic. They have been deprived, for the most part, of their right to learn due to the lockdown.
This has implications for the future direction of this country. As such, one would have expected a robust response from this Department to the pandemic. One would have expected all funds made available to this Department to be utilised optimally to ensure the provision of quality basic education for all children.
However, the Department has not fully mitigated the implications of the pandemic due to uncertainties in its response. As a result, rural learners have mostly lost out, putting their future in jeopardy and increasing inequalities.
The IFP calls on this Department to fulfil its medium-term plans to provide proper school infrastructure, high-quality support materials for learners and teachers, and to provide nutritious meals for learners. It goes without saying that the economic implications of the pandemic have a negative effect on our poor communities and that our learners look to this Department for the provision of not only their education but also their meals. This Department must not let them down.
The Department must deliver on its promise to provide learners with access to appropriate and safe infrastructure at schools, through the Education Infrastructure Backlogs Grant. It is unacceptable that more than 20 years into this democracy, we still face the shameful reality of mud schools and open pit toilets, which not only ravage the dignity of our learners but also cause tragic losses of lives. This is an indictment on this Department and the Government.
The Department must thrive to make it possible for our rural learners to receive quality education. The conditions of our rural learners must be improved so that they don’t have to walk long distances to school. The scholar transport obligation must be fulfilled, as ordered by the High Court in KwaZulu-Natal.
The conditions of work for our teachers must also be improved, to enable them to deliver fully on their promise to educate this nation. Hence, textbooks and other necessities must never be in short supply and should arrive on time.
The Department must go back to basics, as its name suggests. Getting the basics right in this Department will go a long way in enhancing basic education in this country.
Honourable Members, the IFP accepts this Budget.