ANGIE TO REDUCE DISTRICTS: DAILY DISPATCH

BASIC Education Minister Angie Motshekga is set to reduce the number of education districts per province to align them to district municipalities.

The proposed policy, intended to reduce the number of officials in the department and improve communication, is currently out for public comment until May 16.

It would see the 23 districts in the Eastern Cape reduced to eight.

In a Government Gazette, Motshekga issued district boundaries and norms, district functions and delegations, and the required staffing posts at district offices.

Concerns have now been raised about the effect this will have on staffing at district offices.

National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA provincial secretary Peter Duminy said the re-alignment would affect job opportunities.

Duminy said while there were already vacant posts in the department, Motshekga’s proposal would mean the department would employ fewer officials.

“There will be fewer posts to fill. In terms of the organogram, there will be a cut down on [job] opportunities,” he said.

Duminy said he hoped the policy would improve communication between districts and schools.

Suid Afrikaanse Onderwysers Unie provincial secretary Barbara van der Walt said there would be financial implications involved as the department would have to deal with employee benefits.

“It’s going to be like moving furniture on the Titanic because some of the officials will have to be relocated and the department will have to pay the costs. There will be shocking effects on the economy [of the province],” she said.

South African Democratic Teachers’ Union provincial deputy secretary Nolitha Mboniswa criticised the move to realign districts.

“We cannot agree with the department on this while there are such anomalies, and especially that the issue of municipal boundaries has its own challenges.”

However, opposition parties supported the realignment process.

COPE MPL Angela Woodhall said: “If these districts are to be realigned, we’ll need people with the right qualifications and management skills. A proper forensic audit of posts will have to be done. The process needs to be planned carefully and broader consultations with unions should be conducted.”

DA shadow education MEC Edmund van Vuuren said they supported the process and hoped it would help manage districts better.

“There are districts without managers while [in] others they don’t know their responsibilities. In other district’s posts, there are vacant posts, while others have been filled on a permanent basis. All these issues do impact on the schools, the lack of delivery of service resulting in children failing at schools.”

The policy has been crafted to set out a common approach to the demarcation, organisation, delegations of powers and resourcing of education districts across provincial departments.

Motshekga said districts were demarcated and had their staff complements established by the MEC for Education.

“The powers and responsibilities of district directors are delegated to them by their head of department or conveyed by administrative order. Until now, such arrangements have not been made according to a national pattern. Such a template has now been agreed by the Council of Ministers and incorporated in this policy for education districts,” Motshekga said.

If the policy is approved as it is, all district directors will know their responsibilities and a clear organogram at district level will be followed by provinces.

The cabinet had resolved all service departments should strive to align with municipalities and the Municipal Demarcation Board has been assigned to assist departments with the process.

Motshekga said although education was not the responsibility of municipalities, such alignment was in line with government’s wish “to streamline and coordinate service delivery across the three spheres of government, national, provincial and local”, she said, adding this was not going to be a simple process.

She said education was unequally distributed across the country.

“The disparities between high and low-achieving districts are gross and unacceptable. The disparities are particularly severe in rural districts, especially those that for generations were part of rural homelands that lacked an economic resource basis.”

The proposed re-alignment norms included:

Each district to have no more than 10 circuit offices and 300 schools;

Circuit offices to look after 30 schools; and

Staff complement in each district should comprise support teams for curriculum, management, pupils, operations. District were also to deal with human resources, financial management and administration matters.

Eastern Cape education portfolio committee whip Pumeza Mpushe said the department had not presented their plan on the realignment of districts.

She said they supported re-alignment of districts. “We hope this will assist to deal with destabilised districts such as Queenstown and Fort Beaufort.”

Eastern Cape education MEC Mandla Makupula earlier this year revealed at the education portfolio committee meetings in Bhisho that his department had yet to move with the re-alignment process compared to other provinces due to challenges. — msindisif@dispatch.co.za