James Masango MPL
DA Chief Whip in Mpumalanga
This address was delivered by James Masango to the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature during the Debate on Budget Vote 7: Department of Education
Early this year in January, the DA congratulated the Department of Education for the increase in the 2011 matric pass rate, but cautioned against self-congratulations as much work remains to be done to ensure quality education reaches all learners throughout the province.
With regard to the interventions that led to the increased pass rate, both the honourable premier and the honourable MEC, during their questions for oral reply, spoke about a whole range of interventions, but did not say a word about the root causes of failures, and government’s plans to eliminate them. What is important, Honourable Speaker, is for the department to sustain all of its interventions.
Comparing the four districts in Mpumalanga, the Bohlabela district is the worst performer. Though I am not sure of the quality of education inside the classrooms, several visits to schools in the area told a story of classrooms in terrible condition. Buildings were falling apart, floors had large “potholes” roofs were missing, windows were broken, there is a huge shortage of desks and chairs, and in many cases, learners had to use pit toilets because there was no water. When seeing this, one could easily understand why this district is performing so poorly.
It is the duty of the Department of Education and this government, to make create an environment that is conducive to teaching and learning. If not, then one must expect the same results from pass and failure rate. Some schools were still showing storm damage from 2009, despite the damage being reported to this department. This long wait is unnecessary and demoralizes the spirit of teaching and learning.
I understand the decision by the national department to appoint an infrastructure task team to gather data on schools that need maintenance, but it should not be used as an excuse for failure to spend on infrastructure, while there are so many schools that need urgently need repair.
The Democratic Alliance is also concerned with the department’s failure to deliver stationery and text books on time. In some schools where delivery was on time, too little was delivered of both. The department must in actual fact buy more books instead of less. And to make matters worse, the department told the portfolio committee that due to financial constraints, it is not in a position to buy top-up supplies for the 2013 school year. If we are committed in improving the quality of education and the pass rate in our province, then we must think twice about this.
The DA welcomes the revitalisation of the KwaNdebele Training College and its re-opening to start producing teachers again for our province.
We also welcome the announcement of a university in Mpumalanga by President Zuma, but the announcement of an identified land by the premier, remains a controversial issue. Especially when the portfolio of education was not even briefed, when the community of Mpumalanga was not consulted, the criteria used to decide on a venue and the Environmental Impact Assessment has not declared the suitability of the area. Most importantly, the entire issue needs to be investigated, especially when there is so much controversy with regard to land deals in Mpumalanga.