Oversight inspections at KwaZulu-Natal matric exam centres, conducted yesterday by the Education portfolio committee of which I am a member, indicate that while there have been several isolated incidents, the process appears to be running smoothly at this stage.
The visits, which included Mzuvele High School in KwaMashu, Durban Girls’ High School (DGHS) and the Education Districts for Umlazi and Pinetown, which oversees some 1 100 schools, showed that in most instances, contingency plans are in place, with the exception of load shedding and the impact thereof.
The inspections also revealed that arrangements have been made for two matrics to write their exams after they were incarcerated at Westville Prison as a result of a recent alleged incidents of school-related violence that caused the death of another learner.
Regrettably, the visits have also highlighted the stark difference that remains between some schools and which remains largely unaddressed by MEC Kwazi Mshengu and his Department.
At Mzuvele, the DA found a school which is in a dire state with the following issues;
- No renovations at all since it was first opened in 1966;
- Only eight toilets each for boys and girls despite more than 1 000 learners; and
- Asbestos roofing throughout despite the severe health consequences thereof.
The school is also constantly being vandalised and broken into while the surrounding fence is filled with gaping holes.
According to the principal, even items such as paper, books and fire extinguishers are stolen. Of particular concern though was the principal’s lack of knowledge about MEC Mshengu’s much-lauded recently launched School Safety programme. This is indicative of a complete breakdown in communication by the DoE.
The school, which is also the alma mater of several high-ranking ANC politicians in the province, including current KZN Legislature Chair of Chairs, Themba Mthembu, has clearly been forgotten by both the ANC and its provincial Department of Education (DoE).
During the inspections, the DA also raised the issue of the safety of exam markers. This after an alert from the KZN’s Department of Community Safety regarding the threat of so-called Business Forums possibly disrupting the marking process.
Another issue that the DA raised was the deaths that have occurred at these centres and the need for the DoH to be involved in providing health and emergency services. The DoE must also consider volunteers from the private sector to assist in this regard.
While the DA acknowledges that it has been a tough year for the DoE – with numerous issues to deal with at schools in the province including a surge in violence – it is their duty to ensure that KZN’s matrics are afforded every opportunity to succeed during these important exams.
At the same time, we also encourage learners to keep their heads up, spirts up and their eye on the prize – achieving a good quality matric which will enable them to realise their dreams. They are the future of our great nation.