SPEECH NOTES: CONSIDERATION OF REPORT OF PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION ON OVERSIGHT VISITS TO SCHOOLS AROUND CHRIS DISTRICT MUNICIPALITY

Issued by Sanele Magaqa, MPL

Honourable Speaker, members of the executive, members of this house, delegates, officials, members of the public, I humbly greet you.

One of the key roles of a legislature is that of oversight. In the oversight model of the South African Legislative Sector, and I quote “it is necessary to identify the key elements of legislative oversight, that is, the evaluation of the efficacy of Public Service programmes and the appropriateness of financial resource allocations and management, and the relationships between these key elements”.

Conducting oversight should be seen as an exciting time where the legislature as the elected representatives of our people can evaluate the progress made by the executive, determine its strengths and weaknesses, its future plans and offer constructive criticism that is digested and acted upon, even if those offering criticism are not from the same political party.

Oversight is an opportunity for self-reflection and growth.

From 20 to 23 August 2019 the education portfolio committee visited 19 schools in the Chris Hani district. These visits, unfortunately, painted a very gloomy picture of the current state of education in our province.

Some of the general findings included high vacancy rates; learners with no identity documents; schools that are unsafe and not properly fenced; Infrastructure not conducive to teaching and learning and shortages of desks and furniture for both learners and teachers.

Madam Speaker, I understand that the responsibility of educating our province’s youth is no small task and that the department has plans and initiatives to do so.

Unfortunately, it is not initiatives or plans on paper that build schools or provide learners and teachers with relevant resources, it is the follow through; effective monitoring and evaluation; and proper, corruption free governance and management that is at the cornerstone of education in this province.

Specifically, in the Chris Hani district, we need an additional 131 educators to be placed in schools. Vacancies result in the learners of this district not receiving the education that they deserve as there are not enough teachers to do this. It also places more unnecessary pressure on the current teachers as they need to take on extra responsibilities and perhaps even teach subjects that they are not qualified to teach.

There are thousands of learners in this province, and district that do not have identity documents. A child who is attending a school without an ID is a child who cannot be funded for their education or for the school’s nutrition programme.

A solution would be for the department of education, along with the department of home affairs, to initiate and execute an “ID drive” where all schools are visited and every child is registered to receive an identity document.

One department is only one gear within a government. If the gears do not work together, the machine simply cannot work. Inter departmental initiatives are needed and of vital importance in order for the government to work at its full potential and be successful.

School safety has been a concern that has plagues many schools for many, many years. In the Chris Hani district, it was found that there are a large number of schools which are not properly fenced.

This leaves children exposed to criminal activities. With the surge of violence against women and children and gang related crimes in the country and province, this is an extreme act of negligence from the department.

Madam Speaker, we all know that school infrastructure has been one of the major challenges experienced by the department of education in the Eastern Cape for many years. This has been a momentous task for the department that has been aggravated by the growing backlog.

There is a total of 859 schools in the Chris Hani district. Of these:
– 286 need paint and minor repairs;
– 243 are seen as weak where the structure needs attention;
– 141 are seen as very week regarding its current infrastructure;
– 408 mud schools in the district.
– 113 schools do not have running water
– 65 schools do not have electricity
– 426 schools still use pit toilets
– 194 are in need of sanitation facility upgrades

It is not acceptable that, 25 years after democracy, the children of this province, and district, still have to attend school in mud structures. This is debilitating, not conducive to teaching and learning and unsafe.

How is it possible that the Western Cape government does not have a single mud school, but one district in the Eastern Cape has 408?

Madam Speaker, I am 100% certain that no member of this legislature would want to send their child to receive their education in a school made out of mud.

In an age where the world has advanced so much that people are able to grow body parts in a laboratory, the children of the Chris Hani district in the Eastern Cape in South Africa, are gaining their education in a structure made of mud with no electricity and, running water and pit toilets.

This is not the reality that our children deserve.

Madam Speaker, as at 8 July 2019, there were 37 371 children in the province who were classified as having special needs. The Chris Hani district is the home to only 2 special schools and 5 full service schools.

Placing a child with special needs in a mainstream school is unfair on the teachers and hampers on the child benefitting from their education. Special needs teachers, and the supporting staff, are all trained to effectively deal with a learner with special needs in a manner that benefits the learner.

In order for learners with special needs to successfully complete their basic education, we need to provide the correct platform in the Eastern Cape. 64% of special needs matric candidates come from the Western Cape despite it only housing 12% of the South African population. Of the total 3856 matric candidates, only 107 came from the Eastern Cape.

Madam Speaker, along with many other schools in the province, schools in the Chris Hani district have also been affected by gang related violence. A total of 13 learners and 8 teachers in the district have been injured due to gang related violence in schools. One learner in this district, from Zolani SSS died due to gang related violence.

A great concern to the DA is the dropout rate in the district. 14 891 learners registered for grade 1 in 2007 and only 9768 of those registered for grade 8. That means that between grade 1 and grade 8, over 5000 learners were lost to the education system in this district.

It is alarming, and a key indicator of a broken education system, that There is a total of 80 teachers teach subjects that they are not qualified to teach. This is not fair on the teachers nor the learners. This results in the learners of this district not receiving a quality education in key subjects such as mathematics, technology, physical science and many more.

We, as the DA, see opportunity for growth under the Department of Education in the Eastern Cape. Unfortunately, growth cannot be obtained by the current government of the day if the same obstacles are tackled in the same manner year in, year out.