DA calls for urgent Education portfolio committee in order to assess plans for the road ahead for learnersforward

Issued by Dr Imran Keeka, MPL – DA KZN Spokesperson on Education
20 Jul 2021 in Press Statements

The Democratic Alliance in KZN has called for the portfolio committee on Education to urgently convene in order to assess damage to schools and for members to scrutinize the plan to safely and effectively reopen learning institutions.

The DA has written to KZN Portfolio Chairperson, Honourable Sifiso Sonjica, on their gazetted dates. The call comes after the province experienced wide-scale violence and looting last week which saw the destruction of an estimated 50 schools.

The DA is deeply saddened by the acts of sabotage and destruction to schools and all other property as a result of the current wave of domestic terrorism. We extend our condolences to all who lost their lives during this period.

We commend and express our gratitude to all those citizens who stood their ground to protect what was theirs and who lawfully supported our law enforcement agencies during this difficult time. It tugs on the hearts strings to see South Africans – united in our diversity – working hard to help each other through such very hard times.

What is now required is for KZN’s Education MEC, Kwazi Mshengu, and his Department to brief the committee on the road ahead for learners, particularly those at affected schools.

In particular, we need to hear about the provision of learner transport, to other schools, for those learners whose schools have been totally destroyed. An update on plans for the safe return of the full complement of learners for the upcoming term amid the third surge of Covid-19 is also required.

While recent reports indicated that up to 40 KZN schools were damaged during the last week, the figure has now spiked to at least 50. Earlier reports also indicate that two schools were completely gutted while others suffered various degrees of damage from broken windows to stolen equipment.

Given that education officials are not in their areas of work, a full assessment cannot yet be made and the number could well be more. During the harsh lockdown last year, more than 300 schools were damaged so the full extent and financial implication will only be known once schools are open and an assessment is conducted.

The school security programme, while a total failure, could understandably not be in operation during this time – even where it did work – given the very real fear of loss of life.

The budgetary impact of the past week in our province will be felt extremely hard within KZN’s Education Department which has already had a cut of some R6.2 billion. This will severely hamper new projects and affect maintenance – not to mention the added burden of wanton destruction by people who do not care for the future of all of our children.

Regrettably, the Department’s spokesperson has already admitted that it does not have the money to fix schools that have been damaged in recent riots. This news could not come at a worse time given the severe strain already placed on our learning institutions as a result of Covid-19. The DA has been warning about budget issues for a number of years and the outcome of a scenario where there will not be money to do things.

A conducive classroom environment that is properly resourced is absolutely necessary for quality education. The sad reality now is that while both these aspects are already strained or absent in many of KZN’s 6 200 schools, they are set to be even worse due to the acts of a few criminals.

Any destruction or damage to schools and other infrastructure are acts of both terrorism and treason and the DA has made it clear that charges will be pressed against the instigators. There can be no other course for the DA after these individuals showed a complete lack of regard for the lives they were endangering and the livelihoods they would destroy in their ill-considered acts.

Communities who know who the culprits are that destroyed their children’s schools are implored to work with SAPS to bring them to book. It is the very least that can be done.

The DA has, during this time and always, remained at the forefront of oversight and we remain committed to this. We will always go and see for ourselves and will continue to be part of the solution even if there are some, in government, who are intent on blocking us from doing our constitutionally mandated jobs.