Little wonder that DA MPL Edmund van Vuuren said in his speech on the report: “What is the sense of us fulfilling on legislative responsibilities in doing oversight over the Department of Education if the reports are gathering dust?

There is something immensely sad about the fact that the Bhisho Legislature’s education committee once again submitted its report on school visits conducted at the beginning of the year, listing the same litany of weaknesses that have featured for the past 15 years.

That means that for some children attending schools in the former homelands or those that fell under the administration of Bantu education they have spent their entire time at school as the victims of this sorry state of affairs.

Once again the committee reported that teaching did not start on time at some 25% of schools because textbooks and stationery had not been delivered. Yet again it was reported there was a “dire shortage of classrooms in some schools, which makes it difficult for learning and teaching to take place.

“Some schools are so overcrowded that learning and teaching cannot take place.”

Little wonder that DA MPL Edmund van Vuuren said in his speech on the report: “What is the sense of us fulfilling on legislative responsibilities in doing oversight over the Department of Education if the reports are gathering dust? We are wasting our time going to visit these educational institutions because in most cases even in all cases, our recommendations are not considered and not implemented.”

Some of the other matters that needed “urgent attention”, the committee said included:

  • The shortage of school furniture at about 90% of the more than 100 schools visited;
  • The shortage of mathematics and physical science teachers;
  • The high rate of teenage pregnancy and substance abuse in schools, and
  • Implementation of a rural allowance that would limit the high exodus of teachers in rural areas.

The committee also expressed “alarm” at the high dropout rate at schools.

“Many learners who are still of school-going age simply disappear from the system and no efforts are made to establish their whereabouts. The major problem confronting schools is to accept learners who are said to be over-age.

“There is no clarity in terms of the policy that determines the actual age.”

The lengthy report – only an executive summary was provided – is a damning indictment of the failure of the ruling party to tackle a situation which is preventing countless children from fulfilling their potential and dooming them almost inevitably to the lowest levels of the employment scale, that is if they are even able to find a permanent job.

A separate report on the state of the department’s finances revealed that not only did it yet again receive a disclaimer from the Auditor-General, but also that it is already projecting to overspend in the current financial year by as much as R500-million.

It is difficult to reach any other conclusion, given that the same situation has now existed in schools for 15 years since the advent of democracy, that the administration and their political masters simply do not care. If they did, the situation would not have persisted for so long.

One suspects that earning comfortable salaries they are generally able to send their children to the former Model C schools so they are not directly affected by the parlous state of education elsewhere.

One wonders what goes through the minds of children at these “abandoned” institutions when they see what their peers enjoy, those able to attend former Model C schools with the facilities they offer for academic, cultural and sporting advancement.

The situation also makes something of a mockery of the warnings issued with regard to the shortage of skilled labour that is a critical factor as far as economic growth is concerned. Does the ruling party really believe we can tackle that challenge if we do not get the very basics right and ensure all children, irrespective of where they live, are provided with the opportunity to develop to their full potential.

There is little cause for optimism, even if Basic Education Minister Angie Motshega has dispatched a team to assist the department and has placed it under administration. As with previous interventions, there will be an improvement, but it will be temporary.

Once the intervention ends, those within the administration will go back to their old ways and the education committee will produce another report that mirrors that tabled last week.

It is all too clear that for many children in the Eastern Cape “the doors of learning” will not be opened to all nor will “education . . . be free, compulsory, universal and equal for all children”.


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