School functionality inspections by the Democratic Alliance (DA) as part of the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature’s programme have revealed some of the province’s very worst schools.
The inspections, which took place across the province for three days last week also show that the same problems continue to persist – year in and year out.
These include shocking infrastructure (see picture here) with appalling toilet conditions such as at Nomathiya High School in Mtubatuba (see picture here) overcrowding, absenteeism and poor attitude of both educators and learners, dysfunctional School Governing Bodies (SGBs) and ongoing union interference – to the point where unions would rather disrupt teaching and learning while learners come second.
Other findings by the DA include:
- At Khanyanjalo High School in Dumbe there are 24 toilets but only six are functioning. This means that there are 203 learners per toilet;
- Many schools are being charged huge amounts for electricity by Eskom. Meanwhile, large sums of money paid to these schools in order to pay this debt cannot be accounted for;
- Widespread vandalism and theft of property – particularly at night when there is no security;
- Admin Clerks being used as teachers as is the case at Mthombowesizwe High School in Ehethani, Nongoma;
- Drugs, substance abuse, child-headed households, teenage pregnancy are the norm in many schools, particularly those visited in the Zululand area; and
- Learner transport – or the lack thereof – which one of the most prominent issues causing learners to walks tens of kilometres daily.
The inspections show that government is failing to create an environment that is conducive to teaching and learning in many of KZN’s public schools. Many of the schools visited are a complete failure – not due to learners, but due to adults who are not able to work together to find solutions.
This is symptomatic of uncaring, unmotivated Departmental officials and school staff, who have in turn created environments where it is simply impossible for learners to excel.
At Sinenhlanhla School in Glendale, Stanger, the DA found a school with serious challenges – so bad in fact that the SAPS were called in on Monday last week after angry parents blockaded entry to the school. Schooling is now however back to normal.
Classrooms at this school are in a terrible state and are overcrowded while teaching takes place mostly in prefab facilities with little ventilation and no fans. The Acting Principal reported that learners fainting is a normal occurrence during summer.
To add to this, the toilets are in a terrible state, and there are no facilities for educators, who have to go to the neighbouring school if they need to go to the bathroom, or the bush if urgent.
This school also has no water and has to buy water and have it delivered for the purpose of cooking. While there is a feeding programme, the delivery of water remains unreliable and affects the provision of meals.
While these are serious issues, the real problems lie with massive absenteeism by educators, with one teacher not having been at school since October, with no excuse. The DoE has committed to checking whether she is still being paid.
Even worse, some subjects were simply abandoned during the final months of last year. Given these conditions, it is not surprising that only one learner managed to pass matric. There were also 21 pregnancies in the school last year. There also seems to be a breakdown in the relationship between school management and the SGB. Many of the problems at the school can be traced back to this.
At Silokoza High School in the Alfred Duma Municipality, the DA found a similar situation:
- School infrastructure is shocking with windows that are broken or missing and some classrooms without doors. When it rains, the goats that roam the school property run into these classrooms;
- The school has no electricity while security is also non-existent, with holes in the fencing;
- The toilets are so bad that the principal told us not to use them; and
- The SGB is dysfunctional and the Education Chairperson was not even aware of the school’s results.
Within the Harry Gwala Municipality, the five different schools visited by the DA revealed similar challenges with most schools having poor cleaning or maintenance plans and other issues which include:
- Three of the five schools have challenges with running water;
- Drug abuse and sale of drugs, with little intervention by SAPS when reported by the school;
- Teenage pregnancies varying from 2% to 5%, with no steps taken by schools or SAPS when underage girls are impregnated;
- While the NSNP was present in schools, there were extremely poor working conditions and non-existent hygiene regimes;
- Three of the five schools are without permanent principals and there are only temporary appointments, with one such case dragging on for two and a half years; and
- Certain schools struggle with factions amongst staff which negatively impacts on the filling of vacancies and a drop in pupil applications. Sibongumbomvo regressed from a 100% pass rate to 44% in one year, with little or no intervention by the Department or unions
In addition, only one of the five schools had water-born sewage. Two had VIP toilets and two used pit latrines. Of the schools visited only two ablution facilities were of an acceptable standard.
At Sibongumbomvo – a school which caters for learners from Grade R to Grade 12 there is also no separation of toilets for juniors and seniors, while the Foundation Phase also does not have the necessary ablutions specifications.
Meanwhile, theft and break-ins remain a constant challenge and at with Qoqisizwe High School, the entire computer training system and equipment were stolen.
To date there remains no case number, nor have there been any arrests by SAPS. In the more rural schools, faction fights are prevalent, leading to violent clashes.
Learners have even taken to wearing a specific colored bracelet to identify their faction. Yet again, there is no interventions from SAPS or even the traditional leaders.
The DA acknowledges that funding remains a huge challenge within the DoE. In order to deal with the shortfall and free up funds for the above critical issues to be addressed, the DA will motivate for the MEC and his Department to turn their immediate attention to the Merger and Closure process of some 900 schools in the province which have already been identified. While the current policy does not stipulate on the number of learners required to keep a school viable, it does, however, give powers to the MEC and provincial DoEs to determine non-viable schools.
This initiative must be approached as a provincial project and it must be completed within a set timeframe.
The DA, during last year’s budget debate, also made recommendations on how the Department could raise additional funds.
Instead we were accused by KZN Education MEC, Kwazi Mshengu, of being ‘out of touch’ and ‘racists’.
The conditions seen by DA MPLs last week are simply unacceptable. The DA believes that MEC Mshengu’s version of what the schooling year 2020 will look like that – delivered in a press conference on Monday last week – belies what we found on the ground.
In fact, the oversight inspections show little more than a right royal mess of epic proportions. Trotting around the province making ineffective commitments and creating false impressions is habitual of this ANC-led government. This must stop.
The DA will continue to monitor the situation and pursue every lawful avenue to hold the MEC to account. Our children deserve the right to a quality education.