Y Cassim Speech Notes: Debate on the 2021 State of the Province Address

Issued by Yusuf Cassim, MPL

Honourable Speaker, Fellow South Africans… I greet you with the universal greeting of peace, As-salamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

Hon. Premier, Members of this house, visiting schools over the last two weeks, were confronted with the anguish of crushed hopes caused by the recurring theme of broken promises.

I myself was part of the team visiting schools in the Chris Hani West District.

At Ikwezi Secondary School, in Hon. Kontsiwe’s village, there is no physical science teacher and only one mathematics teacher for grades 8, 9, 10 and 11.

Hon. Premier, in your SOPA address last year, you made the following promise, and I quote, “We will ensure that we support our schools thoroughly so that every learner reaches the finish line of Basic Education Schooling. This means our schools will be resourced adequately with teachers”.

Ikwezi Secondary school is one of a whopping 607 schools without sufficient teachers. Only 30% of their learners passed physical science.

As for learners reaching the finishing line of Basic Education Schooling, Over the past 3 years, 221 626 learners have disappeared between their grade 10 enrolment and their final examinations. Your department responded by mumbling about learners moving to other provinces or private schools… 221 621 of them? The ignorance is palpable.

At the same school, Educational Assistants appointed on the 1st of December last year have still not been paid, along with close to 10 000 in the province. How exactly do you expect educational and general assistants to work for three months without pay?

Shame on you! Do you even care that our people have children to feed and yet to expect them to work as slaves? It is disgusting!

At Phumlani Primary School, lives are at risk in dilapidated 1979 prefabs with splitting asbestos roofs. One of over 1400 asbestos schools in the province that have given up hope in the promises made to eradicate unsafe and inappropriate structures.

Michausdal Primary was scheduled to be demolished and rebuilt. The CDC visited them twice, and they heard nothing since. Just like at J A Ncaca Primary, where a grade R block was scheduled, followed by radio silence from the same implementing agent. At J A Calata the school is literally sinking with the imminent danger of the entire school collapsing.

Sadly, like the emperor, the Premier has no clothes. His promises are laid bare. His 2019 SOPA promised to intensify the rollout of E-learning through the use of WIFI connection in schools to increase learner and teacher interaction. Yet two years later, only 8% of schools have internet connectivity.

Which brings us to the SOPA delivered last week.

You bemoaned your work being negatively affected by the covid 19 pandemic, with learners spending most of their learning time at home. Yet the reason they spent more learning time at home than necessary is because your department sat on their hands for over a month before making any preparations to reopen schools, pushing back the reopening of schools by months before finally procuring PPE at up to five times their retail value.

You claimed that school nutrition was delivered during the lockdown is nothing more than a blatant lie.

The only province to have done so was the DA Governed Western Cape despite my office writing to MEC Gade pleading for us to do the same. Departments were eventually ordered by the courts to provide meals during the lockdowns and yet despite this, only 3,25% of our learners received meals from the SNP during lockdown.

Your boast of 39 schools being completed during your term is a sore point as 96 projects were incomplete at the start of 2020, with contractors walking off sites since then due to non-payment as penalties, interest and standing fees mount.

You claim that 103 000 learners are being accommodated with scholar transport. Premier, it is only 87000 learners being accommodated, so again you have no clue!

This is down from 124 000 who were accommodated last year, while around 140 000 learners actually need transport to get to school.

Perhaps your most embarrassing utterance is your boast of 55 000 learners receiving tablets.

Your department ignored treasury procurement regulations to avoid any competitive bidding so as to handpick Iqbal Surve’s company to lease tablets at three times the price it would have cost to buy them.

Those tablets are worthless as the high court has suspended the contract pending a court review, and schools are struggling to get them back from learners.

What a complete mess and embarrassment.

Hon. Premier, your promises will continue to ring hollow unless we chart a new course built on competence, calibre and consequence management rather than chaos, cadres and corruption.

We can fix this mess but only through rebuilding on the rock of good governance. Unless you can show me one instance of consequences for the mess our education department is in, this will remain a pipedream.