No-show of Education Department officials illustrates contempt for legislature

The no-show of officials from the Zwelitsha head office of the Department of Education in the Provincial Legislature on Thursday 23 February 2012, when the report on schools-visits was presented to the House illustrates contempt for this institution.

This unpalatable conduct is a slap in the face of the MEC for Education, the Premier and for legislative processes in general. This disdainful behaviour is indicative of the mess the education is currently in. This is also a sign of disrespect and arrogance towards an institution that is legally responsible for oversight of the department’s functions and how its budget is spent. This attitude also points to a lack of leadership, allowing such ill discipline to flourish.

There may have been reasons for the non appearance of the officials, but this was not communicated to the Portfolio Committee on Education or to the MEC for Education, Mandla Makupula. The MEC for Education apologised to the House when he was informed that his officials were not present and indicated that he would investigate and give a report.

In the schools report, which was presented to the House, the multiparty education portfolio committee formulated recommendations based on findings made during our visits to 87 schools across the province. It is essential that officials record such House resolutions first hand and digest the concerns raised by members.

The officials are the implementers of decisions taken. If these implementers disregard legislative processes, reports by portfolio committees will gather dust, as has happened in the past.

The Democratic Alliance is concerned about the dismal state of education in the Eastern Cape and would want to see the situation turned around so that our learners are given the opportunity to access quality education. So far our learners have not been given the chance to get off the ground. With the first term nearing its end, numerous substantive vacant posts are yet to be filled and schools are closing early because no supervision can be arranged for classes without duly appointed teachers.

We are concerned how our children’s right to education can be protected if officials act in such a cavalier manner. This attitude brings with it a litany of other unintended consequences which will have a direct impact on the key deliverables of the core function of education, which is teaching and learning.

If this is the manner in which leaders in the Department of Education are projecting themselves, then seriously, we will have major problems in turning this beleaguered department around.

These officials must account for their unacceptable behaviour to all stakeholders and if found that these actions were deliberate than the structures that they account to must be bold enough to deal decisively.

Changes need to be effected, especially in attitude. For that to happen, we need leadership that is bold, leadership that is brave and leadership that will act in the interest of fairness, without fear or favour and to reprimand if need be, especially now, when presented with such a scenario.

Edmund van Vuuren, MPL

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