EDMUND VAN VUUREN SPEAKING ON THE STATE OF THE PROVINCE ADDRESS

It was very encouraging to hear from the Premier that the Eastern Cape remains firmly committed to improving access to education and strengthening thereof. The Democratic Alliance concurs with the Premier and affirms that all of those involved in the education of our children should pull up their sleeves in order to support learner participation.

An environment should be created where officials who are caring, knowledgeable and organized will have the opportunity to support schools, teachers and learners. Sadly this environment is palpably amiss, resulting in the core business of the Department of Education not being adequately executed. The timeous payment of school subsidies are not adhered to, late delivery of Learner and Teacher support material is still the norm and the lack of urgency to eradicate mud structures and fixing of dilapidated school structures are examples of misplaced priorities.

This Provincial Government must through acceptable measures and interventions improve the life chances of all its children through the provision of quality education, which is unfortunately glaringly lacking. To this end all children must remain in school for as long as possible and achieve optimal results. There are still too many learners of school-going age at home, which is discernible and who is at home for all the wrong reasons, namely report cards being withheld, failed and denied access to schooling and because of untested behavioural issues.

The Premier has also indicated that mechanisms will be put in place to deal with corruption in procurement processes and general fraudulent activities within the Departments. Unfortunately, a large number of officials as alluded to by the senior management of the Department of Education, are refusing to declare their interests, resulting in a conflict situation. These officials are beneficiaries of contracts with the Department of Education. They should be hunted down and fired. Sadly, educators at Selborne Primary in East London are bearing the brunt of fraudulent activities within the offices of the Department of Education, and up to date no official related to these fraudulent activities was apprehended, charged or dismissed. It is interesting to know what measures are going to be put in place to curtail corruption and any other fraudulent activities and how these perpetrators are going to be brought to book.

The Premier has also indicated that procurement processes will be improved to ensure timely payment of suppliers and service providers within the regulatory 30 day period. The Democratic Alliance is waiting with abated breath as to how this is going to be achieved. Currently Service providers doing business with the Department of Education are not paid and were told to wait for the new financial year. Through this uncaring and selfish behaviour, the Department of Education is contributing to the destruction of small businesses who are entirely dependent on these funds to secure a quality livelihood. Even Grade 12, 2009 markers, 51% of them, and marking centres have as yet not been paid.

On a recent school visit to the Alfred Nzo District we were reliably informed that mud-schools are flourishing and learners are still taught under trees and in the open. I have experienced this myself, and sadly the pronouncements made by the Premier that mud structures are being eradicated, does not hold water for the school community in the Alfred Nzo District. This is an indictment as to the degree of services provided to our learners, and through this lack of service delivery this Department of Education is failing our children. Education is the foundation of our future and failing to invest in it will ultimately result in a banana republic.

In conclusion, the dismal 2009 Grade 12 results, albeit a slight improvement is a testimony of weak leadership within our schooling system. The Democratic Alliance is of the opinion that the substance of the Government should be right, officials should get down to disciplined, deadline-driven work, and officials should be appointed on the basis of their fitness for the intended purpose, not their political connections. Cadre employment destroys the ability of Government to deliver. It is the root cause of the failed State. The Democratic Alliance wishes to alert the Eastern Cape Government to refrain from embarking on this route.

I thank you.