Speech Notes: Education – Consideration of Committee Reports for January 2021 School Visits

Issued by Yusuf Cassim, MPL
Shadow MEC for Education

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

When one looks at the report, one can clearly tell that the department is clearly failing in terms of its mandate to deliver education to our learners.

As the Democratic Alliance, we believe that every individual should have the opportunity to be themselves, to develop themselves and pursue their own ends, however, we currently have learners in our province who because of the failures of our education department, will never have the opportunity to properly develop themselves and pursue their own ends.

This is an indictment on our government.

Our learners can never properly develop themselves if they do not have teachers to guide them along the way. There are 607 schools in our province without sufficient teachers.

On a visit to Ikwezi Secondary school in the Chris Hani West district close to Tarkastad, I was saddened to see that their pass rate for Mathematics was only 30,8% and their pass rate for Physical Science was only 30%. This is not surprising as these learners do not have a teacher for Physical Science. To compound on this, there is also only 1 Mathematics teachers for Grade 8 to 12 learners.

The Department’s annual report in the last financial year indicated that only 62.6% of schools who were allocated teaching posts, were filled whilst only 12.7% of grade 12 learners received 50% or more in Mathematics, and only 26.09% of Grade 12 learners received 50% or more for physical science.

While we had so many schools without the requisite number of teachers, the department does not have any way of being able to properly address the content gap of teachers. Let me remind you of the reality.

Only 33% of Grade R practitioners are appropriately qualified whilst only a third of teachers meet the required content knowledge after support.

Our visits continued to uncover schools with inadequate furniture. In the previous financial year, not a single item of teacher furniture was delivered to any school in the province. It is ironic that this department can pay 3 times the retail price to lease tablets that are not even being used, yet they cannot provide furniture for learners and teachers at schools.

At Pumlani Primary School, the lives of our learners and teachers are being put at risk by being exposed to asbestos. This school, in only one of over 1400 asbestos schools in our province. This dangerously hazardous issue has also been left unaddressed while our learners and teachers’ lives are at risk daily.

Specifically, at Pumlani Primary School, one-fifth of their maintenance budget was being used to purchase PPE, therefore they are unable to even make a dent in their crumbling infrastructure, the infrastructure of which two-thirds are prefabs from 1979. These prefabs flood, dust enters through gaping cracks in the walls and floors and asbestos is exposed above the heads of the teachers and learners.

This is what we warned the department about when schools were informed that they would be left fending for themselves in terms of purchasing PPE from their already minimal maintenance budgets, while the department last year chose to rather pay 5 times the retail price for PPE in order to make cadres overnight millionaires.

It is alarming, that considering all the above, there is still no strategy for this school in the department’s infrastructure plans.

Michaulsdal Primary School in Cradock was built in 1969. The school consists of prefabs and was meant to be rebuilt after 10 years. The school was set to be demolished and rebuilt. The Coega Development Corporation (CDC) visited the school on two occasions, yet there has no further communication with the school in this regard.

The school’s sanitation facilities need urgent attention, and Michaulsdal is also one school, amongst thousands of others, that have fallen victim to empty promises from the department. They have been promised, year on year on year, that infrastructure upgrades will take place. They are still waiting for any of these promises to be delivered.

JA Ncaca Primary School, also in Cradock, was promised a new Grade R block, they are still waiting on promises made by the department after the CDC was appointed as the implementing agent.

JA Calata School, is facing a daily nightmare as the school is literally sinking and is in danger of collapsing. The ablution facilities are sagging into the ground which has caused the roof to become loose; the passage ceilings are loosening due to the movement of the walls; there are cavities under the quad that is being filled with sewerage as there is no drainage putting the entire school at risk of collapsing.

The infrastructure failures of the department are putting our learners at risk daily. It seems as if our learners are going to war every day, instead of going to a school to receive an education to equip them for a successful future.

Not only is the current infrastructure delivery in crises due to contractors walking off-site as a result of not being paid while penalties, interest costs and other additional expenses amounting to half a billion rand, continue to create a higher mountain for the department, but the way infrastructure is built is completely inefficient.

As an example, Sterkstroom School in Sterkstroom burnt down. The school was insured by the principal and the school subsequently received a R20 million insurance payout. On their own, they built a brand-new state of the art school, within the R20 million budget, in just 6 months!

Let’s compare this to the infrastructure upgrades that are still ongoing at Jubilee Park Primary School. 8 years after the start of this project, the department, along with the implementing agents, Public Works, has spent R130 million, and the project is still not complete.

This clearly shows us that the infrastructure programme of this department is highly inefficient and is subject to major price increases. We are building schools for way too much, for way too long.
Sterkstroom school is a shining example of what can materialize when a failing department is not involved.

When we look at the diabolical contract that the department illegally embarked on with regards to supplying learners with tablets, we are once again reminded that the inefficiency of the department runs within every unit of the department.

Tablets have not been returned and not enough has been done to recoup these tablets.

The inefficiencies of the department’s infrastructure programme are already going to cost us more in interest, penalties, and standing costs, in the same way that the penalties incurred with regards to the tablets after the department did not comply with a court order which instructed the department to halt the distribution of these tablets.

The contractors in this regard will not be affected as they will recuperate their costs from the department, while our department is being bled dry while our learners and teachers continue to suffer.

Someone must be held accountable, and heads must roll.