COMMENT ON 2010 POLICY SPEECH FOR DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

The Democratic Alliance is deeply disappointed with the Education and Budget speech 2010/11 delivered by the MEC for Education, Mahlubandile Qwase, yesterday. (subs: wed, 24 Mar). The content lacked substance and was clouded with ideologies.

The policy speech does not lean towards revolutionising the education system. The more this department intends embarking on critical initiatives to deal with the root cause of poor learner performance in Literacy and Numeracy, the more things remain the same, without measurable targets being set or achieved. Too many of our educators in the Foundation Phase are unqualified or under qualified, resulting in a detrimental impact in learners not attaining the required levels in Numeracy and Literacy.

Ominous rumblings of discontent are surfacing because schools are denied better learner: teacher ratios, as a result of oversupply of personnel in non-critical positions. No indications were given as to how this spread amongst personnel will be rectified.

The MEC correctly referred to non-compliance to the legally stipulated seven hours of instruction. Unfortunately no solutions were given as to how compliance to the seven hour-rule will be effected. Many of our disadvantaged schools have on average only three and a half hours schooling per day.

In his 2009/10 Budget and Policy speech, the MEC for Education had allocated an amount of R8,446,000-00 for a Maths, Science and Technology Education Academy to be established before the end of 2009. An amount of R15 million has again been allocated for this important initiative, which according to the MEC will be fully operational this year. Expectations have been created, but unsurprisingly not fulfilled. These deceptive pronouncements should stop, because the citizens of the Eastern Cape are not fatuous.

It is good to note that the MEC envisaged 976 classrooms to be built by the end of this financial year, whilst the continuation of the reduction of inappropriate structures ( mud structures, “Plank schools, Zinc schools”) are taking place fitfully. However, the DA has reliable documentary information where it is indicated that there are 1 576 schools within this Province of which 4 838 mud classrooms are attached to it. It will be interesting to hear from the MEC, how, when and how many of these inappropriate structures his department intends eradicating, as no plan was alluded to in his speech.

The MEC also indicated that his department intends to increase the Grade 12 pass rate by 10%, to 60% at the end of the 2010 academic year. It is indeed a commendable forethought, but the chances are very small. No learner can learn without adequate and appropriate textbooks, therefore achievable outcomes will not be attained. Too many of our learners are sharing textbooks, or do not have access to these much needed resources. The majority of our learners are bereft of adequate resources and opportunities for a brighter future.

The DA is resolute in its endeavours to contribute towards a quality education to all our learners, in vigorously exercising its oversight responsibilities over the Department of Education.

For further information, please contact Edmund van Vuuren, MPL on 072 184 7840