Speech notes: Edmund van Vuuren MPL — 2016 school visits

  • Unfilled Substantive Vacancies
  • LSEN Learners being Marginalised
  • Unspent R530-million Infrastructure Grant.

Honourable Speaker, it is always an honour and privilege to represent my party, the Democratic Alliance, the party in waiting to govern the Nelson Mandala Bay Municipality after the forthcoming local government elections.

Honourable Speaker, protocol observed, and greetings to all present here today.

As members of the multiparty portfolio committee we have once again, as per our legislative mandate, visited 68 Public Ordinary Schools across the 23 education districts from 13 to 15 and 17 to 22 January 2016.

We have once again compiled a report with more of the same findings, such as a high vacancy rate amongst teachers and non-teaching staff, and a shortage of educators especially in Mathematics, Accounting, Physical Science and Afrikaans.

In January 2015 there were 5103 substantive vacancies in schools in the Eastern Cape and 6453 additional teachers.  In January 2016, there were 5727 substantive vacancies with 5478 additional teachers.  Honourable Speaker, the shortage of teachers in our Eastern Cape schools is a cause for major anxiety and anger amongst teachers, principals, parents and learners of affected schools.  For the last two years, and as recent as the first three weeks of school in the Northern Areas, schools have been closed in a desperate attempt to send the strongest message possible to Zwelitsha that education cannot continue without teachers.

Honourable Speaker, even an ANC MPL, who is a member of this house, has laid criminal charges against the Department of Education in connection with the closure of schools in the Northern Areas of Port Elizabeth, due to the teacher shortages.

Honourable Speaker, this same ANC MPL together with other ANC members have also illegally occupied the Education District Office in Port Elizabeth, for the same reasons given above.

These two actions have been seen by some as commendable, but was rather seen as an ANC confused about what the solutions are, that they now have been laying charges against each other, if the court interdict to evict the ANC members from the Port Elizabeth District Office is also to be taken into account.  By opening a case against the Department of Education, the ANC MPL is actually admitting that his own political party has failed the people of the Northern Areas by not providing the necessary human resources, and therefore implying that the ANC cannot be trusted with our children’s education.

Honourable Speaker, the Democratic Alliance has embarked two years ago on a One Classroom One Teacher Campaign, where we have handed over of a petition to representatives of the MEC on 27 February 2015 at the head office in Zwelitsha, signed by more than 3000 concerned parents and citizens, demanding that there should be a teacher in each and every classroom in every school across the province – but sadly our attempts to impress upon the Department of Education as to the seriousness of the situation, has unfortunately fallen on deaf ears.  As can be seen, and I cannot over accentuate, that the post provisioning norms in our schools have deteriorated to such an extent that vacancies increase year on year without any solutions in sight.

Honourable Speaker, there is a shortage of educators especially Mathematics, Accounting, Physical Science and Afrikaans.  In some of the schools that we have visited where there were a shortage of teachers to teach these critical subjects, it was noticed that the staff establishments of these schools have been fully populated without any of these teachers been appointed, although these subjects form part of the different streams within the school.

It is inconceivable that posts are filled at certain schools, for convenience of just filling a substantive vacant post without considering the needs of the school.  The department cannot allow schools to have teachers appointed with more of the same educational qualifications, resulting in inappropriate qualified teachers teaching subjects of which they lack content knowledge.

I sincerely hope that the recommendation for appointments will be closely monitored in order to have the correct mix of teachers at our schools.

Honourable Speaker, we have a multitude of learners with special educational needs in our public ordinary schools that are not progressing.  Many of these learners are not assessed for appropriate placement resulting in some of these learners not attending schools.  I do not know whether the Honourable MEC for education is aware of how many of these LSEN learners we have in our system, and whether there are any concrete plans available to either assist them within the public ordinary school system or to have all of them placed in appropriate institutions which will be conducive to their own circumstances.

Currently, the Department of Education is doing very little to enhance their progress for a better life.  This Honourable Speaker is not acceptable.

Honourable Speaker, the DA repeats its call that the Eastern Cape MEC for Education, Mandla Makupula, should resign and spare the province from another year of self-denial, failure and bumbling for one disaster to the next.  The latest shocker has been the loss of R530-million of the Eastern Cape’s Education Infrastructure Grant.

Early this year, we also called for the MEC to do the right thing, after the disappointing matric results of the Eastern Cape for 2015 56.8 %, despite the MEC’s prediction of a 75 % pass rate, a drop of 8.6%.

It’s time for fresh political governance at the helm of this department to sort out the toxic environment where unions are in control and the bureaucracy is fraught with corruption and maladministration.

It is time that the Premier, Phumulo Masualle, shows his commitment to fighting the legacy of the past by providing a good education system.   Education is the ticket out of the poverty cycle, but the dreams and hope for opportunities for our learners are being destroyed by a dysfunctional system.

Honourable Speaker, once the right leadership is in place, this ship can be turned around by considering the following:

  1. The re-introduction of school inspectors must be fast-tracked.
  2. The roll-out of access to Information Technology to all schools.
  3. Consolidate the 23 districts:  there are too many dysfunctional and underperforming districts that have no impact on the educational outcomes.  This will create a more streamlined and effective district system.
  4. Increase district support to schools, especially those who are under-performing.  Assistance by departmental officials to schools should be monitored – current monitoring is not done at the scale expected.
  5. The methodology of appointing principals should be reviewed.  Too many are appointed that don’t have the appropriate capacity.
  6. Implement a more coordinated system for the development of our teachers in order for them to be confident on subject-related matters and become knowledgeable as to the subject content.  Remove the content gap systematically and programmatically.
  7. Task-on-time by teachers should be non-negotiable and time frames should be adhered to with respect to curriculum delivery and completion.
  8. Inefficiencies such as timeous filling substantive vacant posts and the provision of resources must be addressed urgently.
  9. Teachers need to be evaluated and assessed within the classroom by the department to determine the effectiveness of curriculum delivery and the quality of the lesson presented.
  10. Leave registers must be managed more effectively and absenteeism must be nipped in the bud.
  11. For years and years, the portfolio committee on education and experts alike have spoken, but little ever changes.    The recommendations of the portfolio committee must be implemented.

Let’s make this province a place of rising opportunity.

Honourable Speaker, the Democratic Alliance supports the report.