Even with three extra weeks due to lockdown measures, the Eastern Cape Department of Education has not been able to prepare schools for the opening of the 2021 academic year.
Based on a school readiness report presented to the Education Portfolio Committee yesterday afternoon [Thursday, 11 February 2021], only 63% of schools have received their textbooks and grade reader deliveries, with around 20% of schools still awaiting the delivery of their workbooks.
The report further revealed that 610 schools in the province are without school principals, and 607 schools still do not have sufficient teachers appointed.
It is inconceivable that these critical vacancies have not been filled, or that textbooks have still not been delivered.
A capable state would have ensured that all the relevant logistics were sorted out at the end of the last academic year, would have ensured these critical vacancies were filled, and would have used this extra time to resolve any outstanding problems.
It is also shocking that no provision has been made to resolve the lack of sanitation facilities at the 1 598 schools identified last year.
In fact, some of the schools are now even worse off, as the 979 schools that were provided with mobile toilet facilities have been informed that, should they wish to keep these facilities, they may have to pay for them from their own maintenance budgets!
This is another example of the knock-on effect of the free-for-all spending on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at massively inflated prices by the Department last year.
Hairdressers and estate agents have become overnight PPE millionaires, while the children who were meant to benefit, will once again be forced to risk their lives, using pit latrines in the veld.
It was also revealed that 9,388 general and teaching school assistants have still not been paid for December and January and the SA-SAMs schools administration system update has still not been implemented, which has hampered school planning.
The long-touted audit of assistive devices required by special schools has still not been completed.
Next week the Democratic Alliance will be deploying our public representatives from across the province to conduct oversights at their local schools, to determine the true state of school readiness.
These findings will be collated and presented to the Education Portfolio Committee.
Where Department officials have failed to fulfil their mandates, the DA will insist that they be held to account and where schools are in need, urgent interventions will be called for.
The DA will not sit idly by and allow the futures of our children to be stolen by a crippled and corrupted Education Department.