DEMOCRATIC Alliance education spokesman Edmund van Vuuren received a tonguelashing from Education MEC Mandla Makupula during a sitting of the legislature in Bhisho last night.
Makupula was responding to Van Vuuren’s assertion that the Eastern Cape Education Department could cut more than 11 000 teaching posts for the 2013 school year due to a R3.4-billion shortfall for the 64 752 posts budgeted for this year.
This information was presented to the legislature’s education portfolio committee by superintendent-general Mthuywa Ngonzo last week and made headline news, but Makupula accused the shadow MEC for education of “abusing the trust” vested in him as a portfolio committee member.
Van Vuuren had earlier called on the MEC to urgently negotiate a bailout package with the Treasury to cover the R3.4-billion shortfall, or face 11 287 teaching jobs being lost.
“Losing these posts will leave over 300 000 Eastern Cape learners without a teacher in 2013. The consequences from teacher unions and schools will send us straight back to the type of crisis with which we started the 2012 academic year. Schools will be forced into a dogfight over who keeps their teachers and who doesn’t,” Van Vuuren said.
He said the Eastern Cape was heading for a “teaching crisis” unless the MEC acted on the budget shortfall needed to pay teachers.
In response, Makupula lashed out at the shadow MEC, accusing him of “grandstanding” and releasing “internal” information to the media.
“There is a thin line between accessing information that is internal to the department and information that is the official position of the department,” Makupula thundered. “It was disheartening when I read the newspaper and realised Van Vuuren did not bounce [this] off me as a courtesy. What I read in the papers was malicious.”
Makupula said the figures were derived from a “discussion document” which he was considering ahead of the Friday deadline, when the department must finalise post allocations.
“I was considering what to declare on Friday and suddenly someone accesses an internal document and decides 11 000 teachers are likely to lose their jobs. Van Vuuren at times abuses that he is a portfolio committee member.
“We have taken an oath that information we share with the portfolio committee is still at the discussion stage and we trust it will be handled sensitively.”
Makupula also accused Van Vuuren of releasing “reckless and inaccurate numbers” regarding vacant posts.
Van Vuuren said there were 6 763 vacancies in public schools, but Makupula argued that the correct figure was 3 821 posts. “I do not know where he gets 6 763 posts,” said the MEC, who also denied the need for a financial bailout plan as suggested by the DA. He confirmed that he would declare the teacher post allocation on Friday.
Following the sitting, an uncowed Van Vuuren stood his ground, saying Makupula had failed to prove him wrong.
“He is in a corner and doesn’t know how to get out of it. I still believe over 11 000 posts will be cut. I expected him to say he would look at the possibility of additional funding, but he missed the boat. He is angry and has not given us solutions.
“I was actually very shocked at what he said,” Van Vuuren said.