SCHOOL INFRASTRUCTURE GRINDS TO A HALT

The Democratic Alliance has learned with trepidation that all infrastructure activities in schools in the Eastern Cape had come to a halt due to a lack of funds, only weeks after the beginning of the new financial year.

The DA is now in possession of a memo written in May this year to all district directors and chief cluster directors. It states that all forwarded information and requests from districts and schools for additional funding, requests for new schools, upgrading of facilities, repairs, renovations, fencing etc. would not receive immediate attention or action. The allocated budget for the 2009/2010 year was found to be insufficient to fund all the needs already on the department’s database. According to the memo, from the Chief Director: Facilities and Infrastructure Management, Mr. Zama Tom, the budget for Facilities Management had been reduced by R360 million.

Chief Directors and their subordinates were informed that all schools had been allocated with their day to day maintenance budgets but that “no other funds in terms of day to day maintenance were available for the rest of the financial year”. Stakeholders were urged to spread their funds as far as possible to ensure it lasts for the whole financial year.

This state of affairs will have a major impact on the outcomes of education in the Eastern Cape. The condition of infrastructure in our schools is not conducive to teaching and learning. A further dip in our year-end results can be expected, because of the horrendous conditions under which our learners must prepare for the finial examinations.

These are some of the contributory factors that portray the Eastern Cape Education Department as the most inept and non-performing in South Africa. The image displayed by the department in this province impacts negatively on economic development and economic decisions: major investors are not interested in doing business with a place that is backward and under-developed.

The current situation means that the backlogs that this province has been facing for the past 15 years will continue. According to the annual report of the Eastern Cape Department of Education for 2007/08, of the 5 885 public ordinary schools in the province, 20% did not have electricity, 19% did not have water and 9% did not have access the sanitation. A total of 1 461 schools were still built of clay or still had to accommodate learners in some kind of mud structure.

Whilst the department alluded to steps taken to relieve the financial crunch it faces at a Education Portfolio committee meeting on 30 June 2009, it is most concerning that it was recommended by the department that no additional mud-structured schools would receive attention this year; additional funding would be required to deal with disasters when they occurred and plans to provide some districts with additional offices and exam centres would be put on hold.

The Democratic Alliance is making an urgent appeal is made the MEC and HOD for Education to arrange a meeting with Treasury and ensure necessary funding.

Many schools still lack the facilities and resources that make effective teaching easier.
The DA believes a core minimum of resources should be a given for each school:

  • A safe and secure environment;
  • A satisfactory classroom;
  • Electricity;
  • Running water;
  • Access to a flush toilet;
  • A telephone;
  • Access to sports facilities; and
  • Enough teachers.
  • For further information, please contact Edmund van Vuuren, MPL on 072 184 7840