The horrific drowning of a child in a latrine at the Luna Primary School in Mbizana on Tuesday, 13 March, must serve as a wake-up call to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and Education MEC Mandla Makupula to stop making excuses about budget constraints because they cannot spend the money. The ANC-led government must act now to sort out the infrastructure mess at schools in the Eastern Cape. This incident highlights the extent of our broken province and the urgent need to fix it.
It is ghastly that a family has suffered the loss of a child while the powers that be are blissfully lethargic – year in and year out — about the appalling conditions and lack of infrastructure and dignified sanitation at so many of our schools:
- Last year, the national Department of Basic Education once more failed to spend the Schools Infrastructure Backlogs Grant for the Eastern Cape. This means R415-million or 26% of the R1.574-billion that was allocated to the province went unspent.
- Only yesterday, education MEC Makupula announced in his budget and policy speech in the provincial legislature that the budget for school infrastructure had been slashed by 11%, despite the huge backlogs.
- In the media today, the National Council of Province (NCOP) were reported to lament the shortcomings in schools infrastructure that continues to plague the province, They were informed that there are still 32 mud schools in the Alfred Nzo West area. Mbizana falls in this district.
- Yesterday saw the start of a Bhisho High Court case between Equal Education and the Department of Education to compel the department to meet the infrastructure target to fix schools, which was meant to have been completed by November 2016.
How many more children must die needlessly, how many court cases must be held, how many more of our children will be left in the poverty trap because they are not given the benefits of a decent education?
While the Superintendent-General of the provincial Department of Education, Themba Kojana and the NCOP-delegation who are currently in the province have been swift in visiting the family of the child who died in Mbizana, a courtesy visit will hardly alleviate the needless suffering of our learners.
What we need is action. A DA-led provincial government bring Total Change and end the structural poverty that grips the Eastern Cape. Having access to a good education and dignified facilities provides a child with an opportunity for a better future. Without these opportunities, millions of people in the Eastern Cape cannot escape the poverty trap that has been inflicted on them by poor governance. — Edmund van Vuuren MPL, Shadow MEC for Education