Government-run education should aim to provide all young South Africans with meaningful access to world-class learning, in an environment where scholars, teachers and staff can perform at their best.
APP vs the Triad of Quality Education
The DA has long advocated a concept which we have called the Triad of Quality Education. This includes sound leadership, proper infrastructure and parental involvement. A deficiency in any of these areas – all of which have their own facets – will lead to a broken system.
Regrettably, KZN Education MEC, Mbali Fraser’s less than frank presentation on her Department’s Annual Performance Plan (APP) is what the DA has come to expect from some political heads. And as her Department continues to unravel, she is constantly seen on jaunts with other MECs and on other ceremonial platforms.
Financial stagnation and regression
Presentations by the Auditor-General, SCOPA and Treasury bring to mind two words when it comes to the DoE’s finances – stagnation and regression. This Department finds itself surviving on a R1billion overdraft. Then, there is burgeoning staff debt – with no sign of any improvement – on the R493million involved.
Supply Chain procedures are transgressed and there is inadequate monitoring of unauthorised, irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure. The lack of controls in managing this, along with an absence of disciplinary processes, is on a large scale. It is therefore unsurprising that the DA has been told that hundreds of departmental staff are illegally doing business with the department itself with no tool to track, trace or eliminate this.
We are also told that the Presidential Youth Employment Initiative (PYEI) recruitment is filled with deficiencies, with no real value for money derived. The DA has long maintained that the recruitment process is fraught with nepotism and payoffs. One only has to recall the blood curdling banter on social media to see how rife sex for jobs is.
We have seen in KZN how anybody can walk into a school and kill a principal, or a learner, or gang rape a young woman or stab someone. These horrific incidents have become common-place. The DA has advocated a whole-of society approach to this, while also calling on schools who are not playing their part to step up.
While 2.4 million learners “benefit” from the National Schools Nutrition Programme (NSNP), recent school oversights show that some learners eat from broken crockery, food is rationed and in some instances, rotten food is delivered. This, while food handlers are made to cook for School Governing Bodies (SGB) meetings. In KZN, 14 771 food handlers were employed.
Schools in crisis
One of the schools visited was Kanyekanye Secondary School in the Zululand District, where we found a disorderly, broken, filthy, disunited, unsafe and unhealthy facility. This is just one of many schools that has an environment unconducive to teaching and learning. The DA also visited newly-equipped laboratories at an Amajuba school and saw shoddy workmanship which is being touted as part of the Department’s grand successes.
Then there is Prince Zithume High School in King Cetshwayo – which the DA has raised with the MEC. This school has 13 learners – if the information supplied is correct. It is dysfunctional, yet for a whole year its doors have been open, disadvantaging these young children. The principal was found guilty of alleged corruption yet has been transferred to another school. These learners are being failed and the DA will demand answers.
Infrastructure – a vicious circle
Despite a massive R2.7billion infrastructure budget – with almost R2.4billion in additional infrastructure grant funding – there are still schools with asbestos and other inappropriate materials, while KZN still has seven mud schools. Why does this provincial government find itself in the same vicious financial circle year after year? One could easily blame theft and vandalism for this crisis but the fact remains that corruption remains a hole-in-the-bucket, leaking money everywhere.
Solutions for KZN’s schools
It is clear that there is much work to be done and that this MEC needs to get down to the real work. The DA has put together a list of urgent issues and solutions which we expect the MEC to look into. These include;
– Eradicate all schools built with inappropriate and/or dangerous materials
– Diversify funding sources for school infrastructure such as through PPP’s
– Encourage efficient use of government and community facilities including libraries, laboratories and sports facilities by encouraging sharing of facilities including those in the private space
– Enhanced protection of school infrastructure by increasing CCTV cameras in hotspots and linking them to security companies and even SAPS
– Implement short-term interventions to address overcrowding through the internationally learnt system of co-teaching, on-line education.
– Expand availability of mobile classrooms and classes built with durable, alternate, cheaper and safe building methods – an area already being explored in the Western Cape. This must include increasing teacher numbers. There is no shortage in KZN but regrettably many are sitting at home unable to find work.
– Improved accountability mechanisms: The Western Cape’s School’s evaluations authority is already yielding phenomenal results. As far as KZN infrastructure goes, a 10-year post project evaluation and review culture must be established to assess quality and accountability.
Our children, parents, teachers and staff do not have to suffer such indignity. The ballot box of 2024 is near and presents an opportunity for those who want a caring, capable and ethical state. There can be no doubt that they will choose wisely – the writing is already on the wall.