Speech notes: Annual report of Department of Education 2017/18

Shadow MEC for Education, Edmund Van Vuuren

Hon Speaker, Hon Premier, members of the executive, colleagues, officials, dignitaries and visitors, it gives me great joy to represent the Democratic Alliance in this debate.

Madam Speaker, I delivered my maiden speech on 17 June 2009. I can recite that speech today, almost 10 years later with limited changes, and it will still be relevant to the Department of Education today.

The 2017/18 Annual Report on Education paints a dismal picture for the future generations of this province and this country and shows that the Department of Education is a department unraveling at the seams, unable to spend money on critical projects, while wasting funds through irregular expenditure and non-core business.

Education, which is responsible for 42% of the provincial budget, deteriorated on the qualified audit outcome obtained in prior years.

Madam Speaker, this is the reason why schools are not being built and why learners are still forced to go to school in mud structures and use pit toilets!

There are schools in our province that have been made empty promises for many, many years. The school buildings are literally falling apart, the buildings are danger zones, but yet it is expected that our children attend these schools, where, in many cases, they put their lives at risk as walls crumble around them, roofs collapse and floors disintegrate leaving gaping holes.

Madam Speaker, many schools in the Eastern Cape have unhealthy and unhygienic ablution facilities. In some cases, where there are no ablution facilities, learners, both male and female, have to relieve themselves in the bushes. This is not right and the children of our province deserve so much more.

Honourable Speaker, the Department expects a lot from the teachers but expect them to teach in environments that are not conducive to teaching and learning.

The Department underspent its allocated budget for the 2017/2018 financial year by a massive R213,4 million, with almost R93 million not spent on Early Childhood Development centres.

A scandalous R1.6 billion was recorded as irregular expenditure, with more than a billion of this falling under the umbrella of infrastructure.

Madam Speaker, the 2017/2018 financial year was also the fifth year in a row that the Department has received a qualified audit report.
For five years the Department has been unable to identify and rectify its errors.

Instead of taking disciplinary action against cases of irregular expenditure that constituted a crime, these cases were not even reported to the South African Police Services.

No disciplinary action, or even hearings, was conducted for cases of financial misconduct.

Allegations of theft or fraud with regards to forging financial documents over R100,000 were not reported to authorities. Officials who work for the Department, and who have private business interests in contracts awarded by the Department, have been allowed to fly under the radar.

Madam Speaker, basically, corrupt officials within the Department are being left to steal and loot from the people of the Eastern Cape with impunity.

I want to then pose the question, what is the role of Risk Management within the department if no action is instituted against fraud and corrupt activities? Why are only school principals targeted for financial misconduct, while officials with higher ranks are not touched? Why this selective application of consequence management? It is clear that laws and regulations are violated with impunity because it appears that the organisational culture allows it.

Madam Speaker, the fact that almost 3000 teachers are teaching subjects that they are not qualified to teach is a huge contributor to the state of affairs within the Department of Education. Of these unqualified teachers, 659 teach languages, 392 teach Mathematics and 319 teach Science.

It is hardly surprising that learners across the Eastern Cape are taking to the streets to express their dissatisfaction of the state of their education, when vacancies at schools have still not been filled and thousands of teachers placed are not qualified to teach the subjects they are presenting.

Honourable Speaker, the Democratic Alliance applauds the improvement of the 2017 Matric results by 5.7% from 59, 3% in 2017 to 65% in 2017. And although, still last in the country, we believe that this improvement was as a result of focussed plans developed for schools with over 100 leaners and under 75% pass rate in 2017.

Honourable Speaker, as the 2018 Matric season comes to a close, there can be no doubt that this year has been one plagued by violent protests across the Eastern Cape. The climate of violence and unrest that is prevailing throughout the province will no doubt impact negatively on this years end results as learners have had to go into exams with heightened stress, disillusionment and anger.

Just some of the incidences reported include:

  1. In Sutterheim matrics had to dodge rocks thrown at them as they were escorted to a safer venue flowing violent clashes at the towns Mlungisi township.
  2. In Flagstaff, matric learners burnt down the administration building of the Ndaliso Senior Secondary School and assaulted their deputy principal as some progressed learners prevented other learners to write English First Additional Language.
  3. In the Enoch Mgijima local municipality, the historic Sterkstroom High School was razed to the ground in a suspected arson attack.
  4. In King Williams Town, workers from the National Education, Health Allied Workers Unions protested outside the St Thomas School for the deaf during matric exams. Fortunately, these learners all wrote their sign language examination.

The DA is also concerned about the lack of preparation ahead of the exams with many learners taking to the streets to protest about the lack of teachers and teachers who were teaching subjects that they were not qualified to teach.

While we are hopeful that the province will reach a 70% pass rate, this will no doubt have a negative effect on the matric results in the province.

The DA would like to see more learners passing their matric exams so that they can enter the job market. The DA’s vision for the Eastern Cape is a provision of quality education that prepares learners for work and opportunities in a fast changing global economy.As part of our recovery plan to achieve a continuous sustained upward trajectory in our schools’ overall academic results the following needs to be done:

  1. A mentor programme must be introduced and sustained to assist, especially under performing schools.
  2. Appointments of principals should be reviewed as too many schools lack leadership which negatively impacts on the academic excellence of our institutions.
  3. All critical posts should be prioritised and populated with appropriately qualified educators.
    Teacher programmes for teacher development and subject development must be developed and made compulsory for targeted educators.
  4. E-learning, apprenticeships and supervised after school curricular and extra curricula programmes must be introduced.

Honourable Speaker, our results will improve, our learners through the apprenticeships offered will be skilled for the labour market, and our quality passes will escalate due to the development programmes offered.

The Democratic Alliance wants to see each and every learner reach their potentials through commitment and grit and through the sheer guidance and knowledge imparted by educators that are dedicated to the cause.

The Democratic Alliance supports the report.