Equal Education (EE) hopes that President Zuma will reaffirm education as his top priority, and, crucially, give more concrete form to his good intentions.
In 2004, then President Thabo Mbeki stated in his state of the nation address that all mud schools would be replaced within a year:
“- By the end of this financial year we shall ensure that there is no learner and student learning under a tree, mud-school or any dangerous conditions that expose learners and teachers to the elements;
- By the end of the current financial year we expect all schools to have access to clean water and sanitation.”
And yet, according to the latest government statistics, the National Education Infrastructure Management Systems (NEIMS) Report, published by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) in May 2011, of the 24 793 public ordinary schools:
Promises have been made for too long.
In 2011 R700m was allocated to eradicate mud schools and provide basic infrastructure such as water, toilets and electricity but this has not been spent. To the best of our knowledge, not a single mud school in the Eastern Cape was eradicated in this financial year ending in March.
The Auditor General recently published a comprehensive and damning report on Eastern Cape education (available here: http://bit.ly/zmsUp9). The report recommends that “National norms and standards for infrastructure should be developed...” It also states that “To further strengthen the measures above, the Auditor-General of South Africa recommends that the Department of Basic Education should monitor the provincial school building programme.”
And yet Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga has thus far refused to show leadership on this issue. The Norms and Standards have been drafted but sit dormant and inactive. Department policy stated that they would be introduced by April 2011, but this date came and went. Equal Education is preparing a major escalation in its campaign on this issue, an aspect of which will, reluctantly, be litigation. We hope that leadership from the President and the Minister will make this unnecessary.
The Auditor General’s report explains why this is so important:
‘Studies show that there is a link between the physical environment in which learners are taught, teaching, and learning effectiveness, as well as the student learning outcomes.’
If the state wants to invest in infrastructure, as is now being discussed, start with school infrastructure. And start with a plan.
NATIONAL INTERVENTION IN PROVINCIAL EDUCATION DEPARTMENTS
When weak provincial governments lack capacity or are hobbled by corruption, Equal Educations supports firm national intervention, including the use of S100 of the Constitution. This happened in 2011 in the Eastern Cape. But the President failed the country and its children when he backtracked from a Cabinet's decision to place the EC under national intervention. Later, when there were conflicts between the national government and the province, the President said the "province will implement the national intervention and the National Department of Education will monitor the intervention". This is absurd, illogical and unconstitutional. Section 100(1)(b) requires is a takeover of the provincial administration by the national government. We hope the President provides clarity in this regard.
In his 2011 state of the nation address President Zuma said:
“The focus in basic education this year is Triple T: Teachers, Textbooks and Time.... The administration must ensure that every child has a textbook on time.”
And yet this is not the case. According to a Social Surveys 2009 study, half of all learners aged 16 – 18 are sharing textbooks. Both textbooks and workbooks are not universally available, and in places unacceptably late in delivery.
Teacher development and support
Ultimately what happens in the classroom depends upon motivated, well-remunerated, well-trained and well-supported teachers. Retraining programs, particularly to build subject-content knowledge must be doubled. Barriers to entry into the profession for foreign teachers must also be eased. Graduates who want to become teachers – especially those with Math, Sciences and Engineering degrees – need to received guidance and support.
FIXING EDUCATION REQUIRES COMMUNITY MOBILISATION
Equal Education will continue to be a partner for President Zuma and his government. We work with officials at district, provincial and national level to improve schools. We bring problems to their attention and work with them to resolve them. We urge the President to rally more learners and parents into the cause of active involvement in their schools.
Yoliswa Dwane 021 461 4189 / 072 342 7747
Doron Isaacs 082 850 2111