THE vast majority of pupils in the Eastern Cape benefit from the no-fees schools programme, with 81% not paying fees in 2013. This is well above the national average of 62.4%.
The Eastern Cape has the second-highest number of pupils not paying school fees, after Limpopo at 91%.
This was revealed in Statistics South Africa’s latest report, titled “Education series II: Focus on schooling in Eastern Cape”.
Despite the no-fees programme, 23% of children in the province indicated lack of money as the reason for their lack of attendance at school.
Nearly one in five girls gave family commitment or marriage as a reason, while 8% cited pregnancy as a reason.
The report, which gives an analysis of the province’s schooling system up to 2013, reveals that 61% of pupils have child support grants.
“Overall, 19% of schools in the province have computer laboratories, with 33% having internet access,” it said.
Of the roughly 601 000 foundation phase pupils, 19% were considered deprived.
For the intermediate phase this was about 31% of nearly 380 000 pupils, and for senior phase about 35% of 362 000.
Libode has the highest number of deprived schools in the province, with 29.
The Port Elizabeth district has 10 and Uitenhage has one.
The index uses variables such as access to basic services like water and electricity, and pupil-teacher ratios.
The report indicates that in the Eastern Cape, 20% of pupils enrolled in Grade 1 are older than the expected age.
Statistician-general Pali Lehohla states in the report. that “in spite of the challenges, general education attainment for the province has exhibited an upward trend since 2002.
There has been nearly a seven percentage point decline in individuals with no formal education.”
Lobby organisation Equal Education’s provincial head, Lumkile Zani, said it was time for other departments to assist the beleaguered Department of Education.
“Many people do not realise that about 80% of [the education department’s] budget goes to salaries, while the other 20% goes to infrastructure. This is not enough to address the backlog,” Zani said.
DA MPL Edmund van Vuuren said the department had too many officials and districts. “We need to rationalise immediately.”
He said he had informed the SA Human Rights Commission about the lack of basic services at some schools.
“There are still about 600 schools with no toilet facilities. There are still too many schools without electricity.”
Provincial spokesman Malibongwe Mtima said the department had made strides in identifying which schools still required basic services.
“We joined up with the national department to roll out an ICT programme to ensure that 1 500 schools we have identified will be connected for E-learning,” he said.