Speech notes by P.E. van Vuuren on the 2018/19 Budget Vote for the Department of Education. 17 May 2018

Honourable Speaker, Honourable Premier, Honourable Members of the Executive, members of the Legislature, officials from the Department of Education, dignitaries and visitors, I solemnly greet you.

The Department of Education has been allocated R34.7-billion for the 2018/2019 financial year.

Please bear with me for a quick breakdown of the budget:

  • There is an increase of 6.8% for compensation of employees
  • There is an increase of 3.8% for Goods and Services
  • There is a 2% decrease in Transport and subsidies
  • And a colossal 23,1% decrease in Payments for capital Assets which includes a decrease of 10.9% specifically for Infrastructure

I acknowledge that the decrease in the budget for infrastructure is as a result of the decrease in budget from National Treasury, but the fact still remains that due to the National mismanagement of funds by the ANC, it has filtered down to our province which results in the people, particularly, the children in the Eastern Cape being the hardest hit.

In addition to the above-mentioned disaster, the funds for infrastructure for the 2018/2019 financial year have been allocated to service active contracts. This is not necessarily a bad thing but it does mean that there are no funds that have been made available for the building of new schools for the mentioned financial year.

A decrease in the Infrastructure budget means an increase in the backlog that currently exists in the need for additional schools in our province. The Department is digging themselves in an even bigger hole and soon this hole will be so deep that there will be no return and there will be no light visible to guide our next generation on a foundation for opportunity.

Earlier this year, a young girl, Lumka Mkhetwa from Bizana lost her life due to the insufficient, unsafe, unguarded, insecure infrastructure, specifically the lack of proper or in some cases, no appropriate or adequate ablution facilities – our children in this province are forced to endure life-threatening conditions when exercising their human right to access to education by attending school.

One would think that a lesson, an expensive lesson, would have been learnt from the death of young Michael Komape in Limpopo in 2014 and that our Department of Education would have introduced preventative methods.

It is almost unbelievable to think that in the year 2018, almost 30 years into our democracy that our children in the Eastern Cape still have to attend school in mud structures and attend schools that have insufficient or no sanitation facilities.

The Eastern Cape Department of Education will need R4,405-billion to eradicate the sanitation backlog in the province. Let me remind you that the total infrastructure budget for 2018/2019 is R1,489-billion, and already committed to the incomplete project.

The dire need for sufficient infrastructure is evident all around us, when you drive around our province, when you open a newspaper, when you speak to learners and parents, but yet the Department still fails in this section, as evident in the R530-million unspent infrastructure budget in the 2015/2016 financial year that was subsequently returned to National Treasury.

If you have a look from page 67 to page 81of the 2016/2017 Annual Report for the Department of Education, you will notice that not one single infrastructure target was met, yet there was unspent budget.

Our learners and schools continue to be plagued by the lack of teachers in critical subjects such as Mathematics and Science, Technical Subjects, African Home language and Afrikaans Home Language even though this has been an issue for many years.

The need for special schools in our province is evident, with reference to Nelson Mandela Bay alone, we have 1 164 learners with special needs on waiting lists to attend school. It is a great initiative of the Department to state that they would like to increase the number of Full-Service Schools from 30 to 60 in 2018/2019, but yet there is no budget set aside to accomplish this.

The dropout rate continues to be a burden in our province. 152 230 learners registered for Grade 10 in 2015, and a mere 82 257 learners registered for Grade 12 in 2017. Taking into consideration that one reason for the massive difference in the registration numbers could be that learners have failed grades, it does not add hope to the situation that there was a drop of 54% in the number of learners who should have been registered for Grade 12 in 2017, whether it is due to failing a grade or any other reason.

We need to prioritise the learners of this province by supplying the needed resources and expertise in a timeous manner. Children go to school to learn, not fight for their basic right to receive an education.

The Department has unfortunately failed millions of learners through the years in the form of textbooks not being delivered on time, not having a teacher in front of every classroom, hazardous infrastructure and teachers not receiving their salaries on time. These are constraints that have contributed towards failing our youth.

The Democratic Alliance is elated to see the plans surrounding ICT in the school learning environment. The anticipated rollout of laptops, tablets and cellphones is a much-needed step into the future. With the vast geographical layout of the Eastern Cape, technology is the only manner in which outlying schools and learners will be kept up to date with the fast-paced world.

ICT can improve education through various means including increasing the efficiency of school systems, providing diverse and extended life-long learning opportunities, expanding educational access and innovative curriculum delivery. It is also enabling learner information to be integrated into school management, intervention and assessment systems.

The importance of training to use the equipment to its full potential cannot be stressed enough. You cannot give someone an aeroplane and expect him or her to fly without teaching them how.

Learners with Profound Intellectual Disabilities must be given attention. As the Constitution states, access to Basic Education is a fundamental right and no child should be discriminated against. It is with great concern that we acknowledge the 1 164 learners with special needs who are on a waiting list to attend school in the Nelson Mandela Bay area and the 23 learners on a waiting list from the OR Tambo district.

It is alarming to notice that only 9 out of the 60 posts for PL1 Special Schools have been filled. We are in hope that the allocated budget will be utilized to its full potential to address the needs of these learners.

During the school visits at the beginning of 2018, the portfolio committee identified a profound problem in the lack of appropriate kitchens, which comply with health requirements, and in some instances, there were no kitchens where classrooms had to be converted or used as kitchens. A child cannot be expected to perform or concentrate on an empty stomach.

The Democratic Alliance is of the firm belief that if the Department of Education pays attention to the following bottlenecks, our quality of education will improve, underperforming schools will decrease and the two-tier education system will be systematically eroded.

The Department needs to:

  1. Introduce competency testing for Principals to ascertain whether they are suitable for the post they have applied for – this is a national policy
  2. Have performance contracts signed by duly approved principals in order for them to be held accountable for the performance of their schools
  3. Have teachers assessed within the classroom situation in order to assist teachers with classroom management and lesson presentations – this is currently being opposed by a certain teacher union. And you know who that teacher union is…

Madam Speaker, It saddens me that the Department of Education and the ANC is still, after 24 years of being in power, failing the children and future of our country. With policies and plans that look very promising on paper and in the media, it fails to be implemented and monitored on ground level.

Changes in the everyday life of people, namely children, in this province are not made on paper, it is made on the ground, with hard work, passion and an ear willing to listen and act.

This province, especially our Education Department, is in need of Total Change in order to be a vehicle for change.

The DA supports the report.