Back in class...Edmund van Vuuren, member of the Portfolio Committee on Education, during the annual visits to schools in the province. Here he is with learners of the Zweliyolile Senior Secondary School in the Tsomo-district.

It comes as no surprise that parents in the Eastern Cape are choosing to move their children, albeit at great cost and financial sacrifice, to the Western Cape to complete their education, writes Edmund van Vuuren, DA Shadow MEC for Education.  This article first appeared in the Weekend Post.

Eastern Cape education is on the verge of total collapse with the post provisioning of 2012 not fully implemented and educators on a go slow, resulting in a multitude of schools without their full complement of teachers.

While the Eastern Cape still boasts some of the country’s best schools, the majority of schools, particularly in the poorer communities and the remote rural areas, are providing little or no education opportunities.

Eighty percent of schools in the Eastern Cape are dysfunctional with only 11% of high schools responsible for 70% of the pass percentage of Grade 12 pupils. Thirty percent of our pupils in the Eastern Cape have no textbooks and there are more than 500 mud schools in the province, although, because of no credible databases, this number may be much higher.

The eradication of mud schools is taking place at a snail’s pace and more than 10 000 classrooms are still needed. As a result of shortage of classrooms, the phenomenon of multi-subject teaching has reared its ugly head in a number of small schools in the rural areas. Multi-subject teaching is where multiple teachers teach different subjects to different groups in one classroom. The province also has a multitude of small and farm schools with an enrolment of less than 135 pupils and a staff component between one and five responsible for teaching all grades from Grade 1 to Grade 7 or Grade 10 to Grade12. This scenario has resulted in the unhealthy practice of multi-grade teaching, i.e. one teacher teaches more than one grade in the same classroom.

Eighty-four percent of all schools are in dire need of repairs and ablution facilities and potable water is not adequately provided to the majority of rural schools.

Put simply, the ANC government is failing in its mandate to provide even the most basic education. The very people the ANC promised to serve are now filled with despair and uncertainty, and are leaving the Eastern Cape for a province run by a government other than the ANC.

In the DA-run Western Cape ALL pupils are afforded the opportunity to attend school and receive a basic education, while in the Eastern Cape a number of pupils who qualify to be transported to schools are not afforded this opportunity.

In the Western Cape the majority of teachers are on time, in class and teaching, and unlike the Eastern Cape, which has the highest rate of absenteeism in the country, teaching time is not maximised.

For the DA in the Western Cape, not even the right to a “basic education” is enough. It is the right to a “quality education” that guides every policy, action and strategy of the DA government.

If we just take the 2011 National Senior Certificate (NSC) results into account, the Western Cape outshines the Eastern Cape in a number of ways. The percentage pass in the Western Cape is 82.9% compared to the 58.1% in the Eastern Cape. A total of 38% of the candidates in the Western Cape achieved access to university, compared to 15.8% in the Eastern Cape.

The number of schools in the Western Cape that achieved a percentage pass of 90% or more is 191 out of 358 or 53.4% of all schools, while in the EC 116 out of 918 or 12.6% of schools achieved this milestone. Only 30 out of 358 or 8.4% of high schools in the Western Cape are still classified as underperforming (achieved less than 60% pass in the exam) as compared with 467 out of 918 or 50.9% of all high schools in the Eastern Cape.

It is evident that the quality of education in the Western Cape exceeds that of the Eastern Cape. The question is why?

The problems lie within the Eastern Cape Education Department, which is heavily influenced by the unions. It is financially mismanaged and there is increasing pressure on schools to fill vacancies with unqualified teachers, especially foreign nationals. In the Eastern Cape we are seeing a system rapidly in decline, such as officials doing business with the department, no credible data and information systems, lack of filing systems, little or no internal control measures, resulting in the department receiving adverse financial opinions as well as disclaimers.

The Western Cape is a reflection of a maturing provincial education system responding positively to a number of improvements. More children have access to schools staffed with qualified teachers who are present, prepared and utilising textbooks effectively, and more children are at schools, managed by competent and accountable principals.

It therefore comes as no surprise that our parents in the Eastern Cape are making the decision to relocate their children to a DA- run province.