KZN Budget Debate: MEC must stop hiding from his Department’s problems

Democratic Alliance media statement by Dr Rishigen Viranna, MPL

DA KZN Spokesperson on Education

 

KZN Budget Debate: MEC must stop hiding from his Department’s problems

 

KwaZulu-Natal’s Education Department is suffering from a severe lack of leadership as it lurches from one crisis to the next while provincial MEC Mthandeni Dlungwane continues to hide from reality.

The proof is there to see at hundreds of schools across the province. It is there to see today as hundreds of teachers protest outside the Legislature as a result of 6 000 Grade R educators not receiving their salaries. The DA expects the MEC to address this and to provide these teachers with answers. In the event that he cannot or will not, he must be removed.

It is no secret that our province’s Education System is in a disastrous state. Never in the history of any provincial department have there been four major tenders under investigation, namely the National Schools Nutrition Programme, the DoE’s new learner transport tender, the sanitary towel tender which is in chaos with overspending, improper supply and poor quality sanitary towels being handed out to learners and the DoE’s LTSM tender.

But it remains KZN’s learners who are suffering the most as a result of the DoE’s ineptitude:

  • Of the 273 444 Grade 1s who enrolled in 2006 only 124 317 sat for their matric examinations in 2017 – a drop-out rate of 55% and a real matric cohort pass rate of 37%;
  • In most KZN districts, learners are not even reaching the 40%+ pass rate in the 10 gateway subjects which means that the majority of learners passing Mathematics, Physical Science and Maths Literacy are barely getting 30-40% in these subjects;
  • The problem is not only in Grade 12. A recent PIRLS study reported that 78% of Grade 4s or 10 year olds cannot read in their own mother tongue, be it isiZulu, isiXhosa or English and;
  • According to the 2017 Quarterly Labour Force 4th Quarter Survey, 58.7% of the unemployed have a matric or less which means that the current basic education system is creating unemployable youth.

The Department’s finances look equally dismal with R284million set to be lost to the remuneration of iZinduna, another R1b as a result of cuts to the equitable share, more than R20m from the vital Education Infrastructure grant and the impact of the 1% Value Added Tax increase. Despite the DA’s numerous calls and pleas, textbooks and stationery are still not on the list of zero-rated VAT items. All the while the administration’s compensation of employees grows by 11.9%. But it is the day to day effect on ordinary learners and teachers that is most catastrophic:

  • According to the national benchmark, KZN’s poorest schools should receive R1300 per learner. This has been reduced to R955 per learner;
  • No new schools will be built while only the ten schools currently under construction will be completed;
  • Hundreds of schools will remain without electricity, water and Internet connectivity and suffer the indignity of pit toilets; and
  • More than 2 000 DoE posts will not be filled. This in addition to 5000 unaffordable posts in the last MTEF period which included admin clerks, cleaners, bus drivers and officials but which now extends to teachers.

Despite these budgetary constraints and tender crises, the MEC is missing in action with the Premier and National Education Minister, Angie Motshekga having to get involved. This is an indictment against the MEC.

The reality is that a government that cares would have done something by now. It would have spent its efforts on improving the schooling system through investments in teacher training, school infrastructure, and in the provision of LTSM. Yet in 2017/18, KZN’s DoE spent less than 50% of its teacher training budget. This after three previous years of underspending. Add to this the fact that less than 50% of targeted teachers attended training in literacy and numeracy pedagogy.

The education system and the learners of KZN can be saved by a proper caring government and effective, capable leadership. In the Western Cape, the DA’s focus is on improving access to education and quality of education. We recognise that education moves beyond just inputs but must focus on education outcomes to meet the aspirational needs of our young people. As a result, in 2017 every successful NSC learner received a quality pass to access some form of higher education.

In 2019, the voters of our province will have the opportunity to experience total change in the form of a DA-led government.

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