Legislature speech: 2015 School Visits

Legislature Speech notes on 2015 school visits – 17 March 2015

By: Edmund van Vuuren (MPL)

DA Shadow MEC for Education

  • One Classroom One teacher campaign to have 3909 vacancies filled.
  • No clear plans and procedures in the filling of Incremental Introduction to African Languages (IIAL).
  • Six leaners unfairly expelled without due processes being followed.

Honourable speaker, it is indeed an honour and privilege to represent my party, the Democratic Alliance, in this debate today regarding the multiparty visits to schools at the start of the academic year 2015 and to give an assessment of the outcomes of these visits.

Honourable Speaker, protocol observed, greetings to all present here today.

Honourable Speaker, we as members of this multiparty portfolio committee have once again, as per our legislative mandate, visited numerous schools in this vast rural province of the Eastern Cape. We have presented today a comprehensive report reflecting our findings and recommendations of which the Democratic Alliance supports 100%.

Honourable Speaker, this exercise has been undertaken on an annual basis for many years without House resolutions being fully implemented by the Department of Education. We are submitting today a report with a myriad of repetitive findings, such as not all deserving learners benefiting from school transport, high vacancy rate within schools, shortage of furniture within all schools we visited, lack of ablution facilities, and if these sanitation facilities exist – they need urgent attention, the deteriorating state of school infrastructure and the slow pace of rationalization and realignment of small and unviable schools.

Honourable Speaker, the Department of Education is not complying with legislative processes in that house resolutions should be implemented. The repetitive findings are indicative of a Department ignoring legislative processes.

I am of the opinion that mechanisms should be put in place to track the implementation of house resolutions in order to compel the Department of Education to comply with legislative decisions taken within this chamber. It will also negate the one sided reporting and it will allow the committee to refute reporting that is not concise.

Honourable Speaker, we still have perennial post provisioning issues in our schools. These post provisioning issues have been festering since 2003, with (as per a written reply dated 4 February 2015) 3909 vacant posts which have not yet been filled. Also, schools are currently experiencing difficulties (as per a written response dated 23 January 2015) to find educators from the pool of more than 5000 excess educators that are professionally and suitably qualified, to teach the following critical subjects – Mathematics, Physical Science, Accounting, Agriculture and Afrikaans as well as teaching subjects in Afrikaans.

It is for this reason that the Democratic Alliance has embarked on a One Classroom One Teacher campaign, which culminated in the handing over of a petition signed by more than 3000 concerned parents and citizens, demanding that there should be a teacher in each and every class in every school across this province. We welcome the issuing of a bulletin to fill more than 1270 PL II and III vacancies, however, most of the problems are encountered within PL I vacancies.

With this One Classroom One Teacher campaign, we envisage to sensitize stakeholders of the universal sufferance of a large number of learners denied the opportunity of being taught by a suitably qualified educator. How does this Department of Education expect quality education to be provided at schools like Hillbrow Secondary, Tembukazi Junior Secondary and Nonkanyana Senior Secondary School in the Lusikisiki District that must do without 15, 10 and 10 substantive vacancies respectively. These are the issues that have fuelled the fire within the Democratic Alliance to be part of the solution by embarking on the One Classroom One Teacher campaign.

We care about the school community and we want each and every child to have access to quality education as enshrined in our constitution. Education is the foundation of opportunities. Let us find solutions to the challenges in order for our children to benefit from these opportunities.

Honourable Speaker, the Democratic Alliance supports the Incremental Introduction of African Languages in school from Grade R and 1 in 2015 as per the IIAL policy as well as from the Grade 8 learners.   Although this is a deviation from policy regarding the Incremental Introduction of African Languages to Grade 8 learners, we none the less support these good intentions.

Honourable Speaker, what is of concern is the haphazard assignment of additional educators into these newly created posts without proper consultations with school governing bodies. There are no clear guidelines and processes to fill these posts. The district offices are in the dark, as the filling of these posts is a Head Office competency. It was indicated in a circular that the IIAL posts will be supplementary to the staff establishment of schools, but as matters currently stand, certain schools have to redeploy some of their permanent staff in order to accommodate the IIAL educators.

Honourable Speaker, 395 out of 923 secondary schools in the Eastern Cape achieved less than 60% in the 2014 final National Senior Certificate examinations, which equates to 42, 8% of secondary schools.

Out of these 395 underperforming schools, 177 secondary schools obtained less than 40% pass in the 2014 final National Senior Certificate examination, with King William’s Town district having the most underperforming schools, namely 42. They are closely followed by East London with 30, Butterworth with 29 and Fort Beaufort with 28. It is clear where intervention is needed and these districts can take a leaf out of the books of Cradock, Qumbu, Graaff Reniet and Grahamstown who respectively only had 1, 5 and 7 schools that received less than 60% pass.

When in Government, the Democratic Alliance in the Eastern Cape will structure schools for performance to completely eradicate underperformance. We will guarantee a core minimum of resources for each school. We will also take steps, including linking schooling to child support grants in order to reduce the dropout rate. In addition to this, the education system will be restructured so that excellence is recognised and valued, and poor performance is rooted out.

Those schools which meet carefully defined criteria relating to their performance will be given more power to manage their own affairs. However, around 80% of schools in the Eastern Cape do not currently meet the requirements that will allow them to manage themselves effectively. These schools will be the focus of various initiatives aimed at improving their performances, including proper training of principals in all disciplines of school management and leadership, a review of teacher and principal appointments and management audits.

Finally, bold steps are needed to confront schools that are completely dysfunctional and demand better performance from them. The DA will among other things create a dedicated dysfunctional schools task team, implement a mentoring programme and set clear performance targets. The DA will also utilize the services of individuals and retirees that meet certain requirements to take over the management of underperforming schools that have not met their performance targets.

Yes, we will do all the above to provide quality education and to inculcate a sense of responsibility, dedication to the task and accountability for one’s actions.

Honourable Speaker, the Department of Education has indicated that 10 districts within the province took a slight knock in their Grade 12 results as a result of Grade 11 transfers in 2014 who were in the grade for two or more years. It is a fact that the progression of learners was in the past applied in the General Education and Training Band but is now indiscreetly applied to the Further Education and Training Band. Schools were given the power to decide, based on the learners’ performance in grade 11 as to who should progress to grade 12. This policy was not enforceable and it is obvious why 13 districts did not comply.

This policy, which seems not to have been enforced, comes down to unfair promotion, where learners progressed to grade 12 under the illusion that you don’t have to work to achieve goals.

Honourable Speaker, we are preparing our children for a life of mediocrity and promoting officially sanctioned cheating by lowering the bar of progression.

Why drop standards at the very moment the country and in particular, this province, needs to churn out well educated and hardworking young adults who will strive for excellence in whatever they do. This diabolical measure of pushing through pupils who fail grade 11 to grade 12, beggars belief.

Honourable Speaker, in conclusion, there is a general lack of knowledge of the basic legal prescripts relating to education such as the South African Schools Act and more importantly the implementation and adherence of procedures to be followed when disciplining a learner. Six learners, whose names are known to the department of education because there was an article in the media on 17 September 2014, were expelled by a secondary school in the Mthatha District, whose name is also known to the department, without due processes being followed. The actions of the school, SGB Chair, the Mthatha district office through its education development officer and the spokesperson of education is reprehensible in that they claim administrative justice, when no documents or reports can substantiate these claims that fair processes took place that resulted in the expulsion of these learners. In my opinion, it is a travesty of justice in that prescripts of the law were not followed culminating in procedural unfairness.

The processes that were allegedly followed and the processes that needed to be followed as stipulated in Section 9 of the South African schools act are evidently not on par.

Honourable Speaker, up till now no response has been forthcoming from the Mthatha district, to accede to a request on Monday, 9th March 2015, by a very senior official at Head Office to furnish him and myself with all relevant documentation pertaining to this case. I do not condone transgression of Code of Conducts at schools, but I am a firm believer that due processes should be followed in order for appropriate punishment to be handed out.

The Democratic Alliance demands an investigation into this unfair administrative justice process and appeals to the MEC to have these learners reinstated without delay because no documentation could be provided to support the expulsion of these learners.

I thank you.

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