Lack of leadership in Education Department leaves schools high and dry

Issued by Yusuf Cassim, MPL
DA member on the Education Portfolio Committee

Despite being instructed by the Eastern Cape Legislature to ensure that a water disaster plan is put in place for schools in and around the Nelson Mandela Bay area, nothing has been done.

Should day zero arrive, our learners’ education will be severely disrupted. Schools could become hotspots of infection as sanitation conditions deteriorate. Learners would be faced with the very real choice of either staying home and missing school, or being forced to go to the bush to relieve themselves.

In response to questions from the DA Education MEC, Fundile Gade, confirmed that the resolution has not been implemented, as the Department “has been struggling with resources and leadership issues.”

MEC Gade should remember that the leadership of the Department starts with him and that it is his duty to the residents of this province to ensure that the Education Department fulfils its mandate.

This follows the Legislature unanimously adopting a motion tabled by the DA in June, calling for the Department to conduct a water crisis impact assessment of all schools in the Nelson Mandela Bay and Kouga municipalities.

The House further resolved that the results of the impact assessment must be used to develop a disaster management plan that would ensure all schools in the affected areas have access to potable water and sanitation through either connected water tanks or boreholes and that resources are made available for schools to fill their water tanks.

The Department was instructed to make the plan available to the Portfolio Committee of Education and implement the plan before learners returned from the June school recess period.

However, this has not happened. Several schools that have already been battling with water disruptions have revealed that they have not even been approached by the Department to discuss their needs.

MEC Gade has committed to completing a full impact assessment by the end of the second quarter of the 2022/23 financial year. He also committed to completing the Disaster Management Plan, but no details have been forthcoming.

I will be writing to the Chair of the Education Portfolio Committee, Mpumelelo Saziwa, to summon the MEC to a crisis meeting to account for his plan and implement the adopted motion fully.

The DA will not sit idly by while the Department drags its feet in the face of pending catastrophe. We will continue to fight for learners to have access to schools, which includes ensuring that these schools have the necessary resources to function.