IT’S A TAKEOVER AS PRETORIA STEPS IN: DAILY DISPATCH

“Although the DA is opposed to centralisation, we agree in this case that any intervention that is for the benefit of the learners in this province should be supported.” — Edmund van Vuuren

PRETORIA has officially taken control of the ailing Eastern Cape Department of Education indefinitely following the collapse of its administration.

The intervention was sanctioned by President Jacob Zuma and his Cabinet, which on Wednesday invoked Section 100 (b) of the Constitution to maintain “essential standards of education” in the province.

At a press conference in East London yesterday, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said it had become clear that education conditions in the Eastern Cape amounted to a “serious challenge”.

“Cabinet directed that the ministry embarks on an intervention to address the challenges in education service delivery in the Eastern Cape.”

The takeover comes hot on the heels of an ultimatum by Motshekga to the department to come up with a turnaround plan to address its problems.

In a fact-finding mission in January, Motshekga found the department in “total disarray” following the termination of about 6 000 temporary teachers’ contracts and the suspension of scholar transport and school nutrition.

The department was last week hit with a court order instructing it to reinstate all temporary teachers. It is appealing the ruling.

Yesterday, Motshekga said she was convinced the intervention would result in the creation of long-term capacity in the department and a sustainable turnaround in education.

“I do hope that the relations and spirit we developed will not really make the premier say ‘off my back’,” Motshekga said, adding that the intervention would re-engineer the department and develop long-term institutional processes.

“We will not remove Section 100 until such time, as national, we are satisfied that the province is on healthy footing.”

The intervention, she said, was different from previous ones, and was committed to remaining in the province for three years until her term lapsed, as long as the problems persisted.

She said while progress had been made since her visit in January, time was a determining factor

“In term one we lost most time. In term two there must be complete stability.” Motshekga announced that:

Money had already been transferred to cover the costs of school nutrition;

The department would continue to appeal the court order which stated that all temporary teachers be reinstated;

An audit company would be hired to look into the department’s finances; and

Scholar transport would be run by the Department of Transport.

“We are not making a commitment to take all of the 6 000 temporary teachers, but our target is to have a teacher in front of every learner.

“We will appeal that we be not forced to take temporary teachers ‘ wholesale’ … The difficulty is taking all the teachers, even those who do not need to be in the system.”

The intervention was received warmly by politicians and teacher unions.

ANC provincial secretary Oscar Mabuyane said: “Since inception, I don’t think that department has ever found its proper footing.

“As the ANC, we treat education as priority on our list of priorities … If things don’t go right, national government cannot just fold its arms and watch, because the national department implements its programmes in the areas where people stay. The national department is responsible for proper and efficient running of schools.”

The Democratic Alliance’s Edmund van Vuuren said:

“Although the DA is opposed to centralisation, we agree in this case that any intervention that is for the benefit of the learners in this province should be supported.”

South African Democratic Teachers’ Union Eastern Cape secretary Feziwe Loliwe expressed hope that with the takeover teaching could soon return to normal.

“As an organisation we are really concerned that right now, in some schools, there is literally no teaching and we hope announcements can be made as early as today on temporary teachers, scholar transport, school nutrition, learner support materials.”

MEC Mandla Makupula said: “The intervention is about the people of the Eastern Cape.”

National government will work with director-general Booby Soobrayan and superintendent-general Modidima Mannya complementing one another.

“Their powers remain the same,” said Motshekga. — mayibongwem@dispatch. sabelos@dispatch.co.za