Honourable Speaker, Honourable Premier, members of the Executive, Honourable members and Colleagues, Officials from the Department of Education, dignitaries and visitors – I warmly greet you today.
Honourable Speaker, as a member of the Democratic Alliance, I will be failing in my objective assessment of the performance of the Department of Education if I do not concede that inroads have been made in the delivery of some quality education to our learners. I must acknowledge and affirm that more learners than ever are being fed through the National Nutrition Programme. The Department has also increased the no fee schools to 5337, which constitute 93% of all schools where school fees are not charged. Honourable Speaker, it is also gratifying that processes are in place to permanently appoint 2924 temporary teachers.
Honourable Speaker, with all the strides made to improve the quality of education in the Eastern Cape, the Democratic Alliance is deeply perturbed that education across the Eastern Cape was disrupted for long periods due to the ineptitude of the Department of Education to fill vacant substantive posts and to timeously pay thousands of teachers. Teacher shortages have resulted in teacher pupil ratios escalating to 1:100, about 3 times the national average of schools. The shortage of teachers, which incidentally has to be attributed to managerial incompetence and bad planning, has resulted in a myriad of schools shutting down indefinitely. This, Honourable Speaker, has negatively affected the educational progress of our learners in previously disadvantaged schools. Honourable Speaker, this annual repetitive destruction of our education system through bad planning by the Department, indecisive action by delegated authority, non-implementation of policies and arrogant and resistant behaviour by the South African Democratic Teachers Union to collective agreements must never be condoned and must be condemned for the damages it’s causing to our fragile education system.
Honourable Speaker, it is time for the MEC for Education, the Honourable Mandla Makupula, to act with the necessary assertiveness in reassigning the more than 6000 teachers in excess to the more than 8000 substantive vacant posts – it is time to act – promises upon promises have been made about the movement of excess teachers, and up till now these promises have not come to any fruition. People want to see implementation of decisions and not continuous vague promises – Our learners deserve more – Honourable MEC Makupula, please do not fail them because Education is the Foundation for opportunities – Is that the Legacy you want to leave behind!
Honourable Speaker, it was stated that there are more than 9000 unresolved health related cases in the Department of Education where employees have been on extended leave. The Democratic Alliance is obviously very disappointed that there are so many unresolved health related cases, and we demand to know from the Honourable MEC how he envisages solving this problem when the Government is in dispute with the Health Risk Manager. It is unacceptable that there has been a low approval rate. Genuine ill health cases have also been recommended not to be approved by Human Resource Management. The lack of decisions by the Accounting officers has culminated in huge cost implications for Government. This unnecessary cost implication has contributed to the undesirable personnel versus non-personnel expenditure of 90:10. Honourable MEC, the Democratic Alliance demands that those that are genuinely sick be relieved without delay. The positions vacated by this process can then be advertised to be filled in a permanent capacity and simultaneously bring relief to the cost pressures on compensation of employees. Honourable MEC, have you been made aware of a totally blind teacher whose application for ill health retirement was continuously declined for the last couple of years. Her husband had to resign his work, accompanied his wife to school and taught her class under her guidance and supervision. This, Honourable MEC, is morally indefensible and should have been referred to the Human Rights Commission – THIS IS ABUSE, IF EVER I HAVE SEEN ONE. I certainly hope that this blind teacher has by now been relieved of her duties.
Honourable Speaker, the Democratic Alliance is in principle not against the closure of small farm, rural and unviable schools. We understand that unviable schools remain a challenge as well as uneven schooling prototypes. Honourable Speaker, 310 unofficially closed schools were listed in the Provincial Gazette, dated 2 November 2012, to be officially closed because of drastic decline of learner enrolment and for the optimal usage of state resources. Honourable Speaker, some of these schools listed for closure have not been unofficially closed for reasons submitted, but have been run into the ground by the Department of Education. Let me qualify why the Democratic Alliance is blaming the Department of Education for the closure of some of these schools. I have visited such a school in Port Elizabeth where the parents have unofficially closed down the school 3 years ago. The parents closed the school because they have complained to the Department that the Principal was abusing alcohol and that the teachers were ill disciplined, resulting in their children not been taught and their children wandering the streets during school time. The parents’ requests to the Department for intervention fell on deaf ears, resulting in them removing all their children and enrolled them at financial sacrifices at other functional schools. This Honourable Speaker is a classic case of the Department running a school into the ground. This tragic collapse of a once functional school would never have happened under a DA government – How many schools in a similar situation have been unofficially closed because of the lack of empathy shown towards the needs and concerns of communities and the non-intervention of the delegated authorities to accede to reasonable requests.
The Democratic Alliance supports the report.