Honourable Speaker, Members of the Executive and Members in the House – in this house, the other day, our Leader, the Honourable Bobby Stevenson set out the Democratic Alliance’s agenda for accountability. This is an exceptionally important issue when it comes to Education and I wish to compare later on the 2008 report on school visits to the 2009/10 report to illustrate this point because very little has changed in these two years.
Accountability is a core issue when it comes to improving education in this Province. Earlier this year when the dismal matric results were announced, the MEC stated that he would take action against principals who were not performing. There are high schools that have performed dismally in the last Grade 12 examinations obtaining a mere pass percentage of less than 30%. My challenge to you today MEC is “what action has been taken thus far?” I am almost certain none has been taken!
SADTU, home to most of our teachers in the province, should be applauded for the zest they display in trying to improve teachers’ working conditions; however the worrying factor is the union involvement during school time. Learners are being robbed of “learning time” because union matters take precedent at schools especially in the disadvantaged areas of our province.
Let us look at a comparative analysis of Grade 12 results obtained in the three clearly defined segregated areas within the Port Elizabeth district. In 2008 the former Model C schools achieved a pass percentage of 95,9%, in the Northern areas 73, 1% and in the township areas 49,9%, resulting in an overall pass percentage of 68,6%. In 2009 in the same order the pass percentages were 94,4%, 71,04% and 45,8%, with and overall pass rate of 65,3%. The number of underperforming schools in the township areas has drastically increased with only two schools in the underperforming band in northern areas. These are actually the same two schools that underperformed in 2008.
Given the historical reasons, for example the fact that the previously advantaged schools are still at an advantage in terms of resources and overall structure, the question begs to be asked: What are the reasons for the discrepancies in the results obtained within the groups alluded to? We know it is a fact that schooling has been interrupted by union meetings and learners left unattended within schools in the worst performing areas. In some of these schools senior educational specialists are not allowed into classrooms to assess the quality of subject matter given to learners. The MEC of Education must clearly state how and what measures are going to be invoked to obtain and sustain a uniform quality education within all our schools in this province.
The portfolio committee has been conducting school visits across the province for more than a decade and each year a report is submitted to the Legislature that lists most of the same challenges. This in fact amounts to an exercise in futility, in that the report is debated, adopted and added to the pile of others gathering dust in Bhisho, with the same exercise repeated 12 months later and with none or very few of these House resolutions implemented. This is indeed a very sad indictment of this Department not meeting the challenges in education as emphasized in the adopted school visit reports. Most of the challenges listed over the years are of a similar nature and are not adequately addressed are. Such as:
• The high rate of furniture shortages in schools.
• Late deposits of allocation of funds to schools.
• Shortage of Learner Teacher Support Material due to a lack of appropriate school funding.
• Scholar transport and school nutrition are not properly monitored as there are learners who qualify, but are not benefitting.
The above findings are only but a few of a repetitive nature and every year general recommendations are made in order for these challenges to be addressed, but for reasons only known to the Department themselves, these challenges will remain challenges and the opportunity provided through quality education is lost to the vast majority of our learners, striving for a brighter future.
Honourable MEC there are some issues of concern that I would like to bring to your attention.
• In 2006, the DA councillor for Ward 41 in Port Elizabeth had the foresight to alert the district office of the need of a high school to be built in Booysens Park. Unfortunately, only when the community took to the streets three years later then only intervention took place.
• We also have a situation in the Willowmore area which is known to your office as well as the district but nothing has been done yet. Is your department once again waiting for the community to take to the streets first before in order for this matter to be resolved? The MEC needs to state unequivocally in his response today whether he is going to allow resources to be wasted or whether these schools are going to be rationalised for the benefit of the community.
• The situation at Greenpoint Senior Secondary School is being politicized and the role of the community is being flagrantly dismissed. The Democratic Alliance believes that part of politician’s responsibility is to ensure quality education by laying a solid educational foundation. Parents and politicians who compromise our childrens’ education for political self interest must be held responsible for the chaos in the education system at present. The needs and preferences of unions and politicians should never be allowed to supercede and shadow the interests and needs of any school community. We strongly urge the Eastern Cape Provincial Department of Education not to allow their utterances and actions to cause instability, divisions and disillusionment within the school communities when responding to sensitive issues as was the case with the appointment of a principal at Greenpoint Senior Secondary School in East London. The Democratic Alliance trusts that similar scenarios would be handled in such a way that abilities and competence should be the deciding factors in any future appointments and not race, creed , favouritism or jobs for pals.
The Democratic Alliance believes that in an open-opportunity society where abilities and capabilities are foremost, all officials and principals must sign performance contracts with clearly defined targets for improving learner performance.
In conclusion, quality education is the cornerstone of the open-opportunity society. Expanding access to a quality education for all is the best affirmative action there is. The Democratic Alliance accepts the school visits report unreservedly.