Edmund van Vuuren, MPL, with his Community Operations Manager for his constituency, Port Elizabeth North, Ingrid van Wyk, at the debate on the State of theProvince Address in Bhisho on Tuesday.

Honourable Speaker, Honourable Premier, Members of the Executive, Members of the Legislature, officials of the Department of Education, dignitaries and visitors present, allow me, on behalf of the Democratic Alliance to warmly greet you this afternoon.

Honourable Speaker, as members of the Portfolio committee on Education, we have visited certain schools in this vast rural Province of us and have diligently compiled a comprehensive report reflecting the challenges as well as successes. We have also made recommendations which the Department of Education will finally assimilate and hopefully this time around implement without delay. Honourable Speaker, I do not want to dwell on the report as it contains the findings of this multiparty committee, but as the Democratic Alliance we would like to see that the recommendations contained in this report to be adopted as House resolutions, thus legally enforcing compliance.

It has been said on many occasions, even proved, that this Department of Education in the Eastern Cape is going downhill so fast that their speed cannot even be captured on a speed recording device. We still have a multitude of mud- and unsafe schools of which the eradication thereof is taking place at a snail’s pace. Learners in certain sections of the rural areas are subjected to multi subject teaching, thousands of deserving learners are not transported and the majority of schools are not adhering to the seven-hour school rule. Non-assessment of educators in the classroom situation and teaching time is not maximised.  Together, the high absentee rate of learners and educators has resulted in this education vehicle being unstoppable on the downhill.

It is also evidently clear, Honourable MEC, that it comes as no surprise, given the undesirable position that this Department is in and the overarching influence of Unions, more specifically the South African Democratic Teachers Union, why parents in the Eastern Cape are choosing to move their children, albeit at great costs and personal and financial sacrifices, to the Western Cape for quality, yes quality and not only basic education.

Honourable MEC, the agreement that was signed between the Provincial Government and Sadtu clearly indicates that all court appointed temporary educators must be reinstated and that the bargaining chamber should be resuscitated to address the filling of all substantive vacant posts. Honourable MEC, the Democratic Alliance wants to know why the temporary educators are only being reinstated from February, whilst the vast majority of them have already been at schools since the beginning of the year. Does this imply, Honourable MEC that you must reinstate 4000+ temporary educators, irrespective whether temporary educators have already been appointed? How will these additional temporary educators, not budgeted for, be remunerated, while it seems there are no funds to pay the current temporary appointees? You must also bear in mind Honourable MEC that you have yet to pay arrear salaries to educators since 2010 and amounting to +R15 million as well as leave gratuities and bonus allowances not paid to educators already retired in 2011. Honourable MEC, are these temporary educators already appointed or to be appointed going to be made permanent, or if not, until which date are they going to be kept in the system?

Honourable MEC, the Democratic Alliance is deeply perturbed that education is denied to thousands of learners through the non-movement of additional educators from schools where their services are not needed as per the 2012 Post Provisioning to schools where teaching and learning has seized in certain subjects due to more than 5 500 substantive vacant posts not filled.

Honourable MEC, parties that have signed the 8th of February agreement has accordingly agreed that all employees who have been suspended without following procedures or in respect of whom 60 days have lapsed without charges being preferred against them, will be reinstated in their employment with immediate effect. This decision begs the question as to which suspensions are affected by this agreement. Is it only those affiliated to the Sadtu action and will charges be formulated again? The Democratic Alliance is deeply concerned that should charges not be formulated again, that these employees that have been given relief through this agreement might get away with serious offences. The Democratic Alliance is also concerned that the employees, against whom charges have been formulated, might also slip through the net as a result of the disciplinary processes been questioned and rejected.

Honourable MEC, our learners have not been given the opportunity this year to get off the ground. Besides vacancies not filled, we had educators who by choice were not in class and who are using our learners as fodder to settle scores with the Department. This Department has lambishly capitulated to the demands of the Union which has resulted in an agreement being signed.

Honourable MEC, to effect changes in this beleaguered Department of Education we need leadership that is brave, leadership that is bold, leadership that will act in the interest of all learners, without fear or favour. We need leadership that can look beyond this big board that says Unions are in charge of Education in the Eastern Cape. Honourable MEC, we need Leadership that is assertive, that would have reprimanded or admonished the Union for their loutish behaviour in deserting our learners during their illegal go-slower. Yes Honourable MEC, GO SLOWER, because if they had been going faster before, we might not have been the worst performing Province pertaining to Grade 12 results. Learners have rights too. The rights of learners are just as important as the rights of Unions, but the balance has become totally skewed

The Democratic Alliance supports the report. I thank you.