The Road to Education not Maintained – Budget vote debate on Education

Dr GA Grootboom MPL

DA Northern Cape Spokesperson on Education

Hon. Speaker, Hon. Acting Premier, Hon. MEC’s, Hon. Members, I want to start by uttering my disappointment because it does not show that we are examples to the Northern Cape.

When you leaders, sitting here, holding the highest offices in the province, fail to instruct a municipal manager to ensure that the road that leads to the pride of the Northern Cape looks like it does, it is a disgrace and a serious indictment against the leadership – this is about educating. When you look at this 120 meter stretch of road, it is understandable that incidences of service delivery protests are justifiable.

In the words of former President Nelson Mandela: “Our children are the rock on which our future will be built, our greatest asset as a nation. They will be the leaders of our country, the creators of our national wealth, those who care for and protect our people.”

Year on year we arrive here, put plans forward, the opposition dissects the plans and the votes but suggestions fall on deaf ears. Why? Because bureaucrats are guided by political imperatives that seem to romanticise apartheid – they are continuously reminding us of our apartheid past but fail to plot a road through the legacies of apartheid. It is sad when you are stuck in the past, unable to free yourself mentally and emotionally, like when you ask a question to assist schools you are reminded of a history we were all part of. Bureaucrats are like that, a train on a track, guided by policy but failing to see the children playing next to the rail because, should they try to help those, the train will derail as they are told not to think but to do. It is in this chasm that we totally forget why we are in the business of education.

The educational imperatives which drive us, fail in recognizing that it is not our past that holds us back but rather our inability to see the future!

Why then are we surprised when our provincial throughput from Grade 10 to matric declined by 15% whereas the Eastern Cape had a throughput increase of 30% and why do we express shock when our National Assessment results are poor? It is because we miss out on the opportunities to assist those small communities crying out for help!

But this happens when:

• Education management allows the flouting of PFMA and Treasury regulations by allowing overspending of R113 million.

• When senior managers decide who gets which tenders.

• When we cannot ensure that our educators are at school teaching and when in actual fact 15% of educators are absent from school without impunity. I had an article in the DFA – the education spokesperson unveiled the so-called plan to tackle this but the department at the portfolio meeting had nothing to say in this regard. Who is fooling who?

• When unions decide that educators cannot be evaluated and monitored (maybe I should suggest that the department deploys the Quality Assurance unit, as their spending is in any case fruitless and wasteful because no action is taken against management).

• When you have (or should have) a unit that addresses racism, gender and diversity and this unit is totally dysfunctional because it has failed to be the champion of non-racism but is punishing schools which are stuck in the past – the whole unit must be demoted or suspended.

• When in May, a school like Phillipvale Primary School has still not received any books and their allocation of R109 000 has not been given due to centralization policies of book distribution. When you buy books from national that confuses children (demonstration).

Amidst all of the above, it is ludicrous to still expect an improvement, yet you do because we believe in education however poor. We believe in the future. It is that future of hope that we must hold onto. Unfortunately that future dims when educators mention things like books not arriving at schools, schools are victimized and ordered not to speak to out. This is the mental enslavement I am speaking about! An adequate response would be to call in the official and seek answers. Not punish the complainant.

Hon. Speaker, Hon. MEC

When we talk about advancing education in our province, the DA would like to make some proposals with the aim of: redressing past imbalances; reconciliation; delivery: and diversity.

Redress:

1) Set clear benchmarks for Dinaledi schools rather than just allowing them to plod along.

2) Use the information statistics and integrate them with performance measures in order to target the distribution of resources where most needed, but not to the disadvantage of other schools.

Reconciliation:

3) Set more money aside for infrastructure repairs before there can be no repairs due. After 1994, no allocation was made for infrastructure repairs of former white schools. Our children are schooling there. When we ask for attention to these repairs, don’t give us a history lesson.

4) Use your retired expert teachers, allocate them to your poor performing schools to assist – even if it is just to get the school’s administration on par.

Delivery:

5) Hold district managers and school principals accountable to performance contracts to ensure they do their part and remember that a bonus can be withheld!

6) Get subject educators to write standardized knowledge assessments on their subject fields (doctors and dentists do it – why – because it increases knowledge and expertise). In addition, when you give training to educators, monitor improvement in learners’ performance and see if there was a change in educator performance. Look at what is practical from a systems point of view!

7) Use resources wisely – why over visit former Model C schools? Go and assist your poor performing schools!

Diversity:

8 ) Use your expertise in the form of retired educators and let them enrich the poor performing schools with their wisdom, at the same time giving these schools their own benchmarks of attainment – with schools diversity plans.

9) Task and monitor the work of your gender/diversity unit for continuing work of anti-racism rather than allowing them just to draw salaries.

In conclusion, I was disappointed in myself when you correctly reprimanded me in that there is no such thing as a Model C school. Your school allocations, however, have not moved away from seeing them differently. These schools still make do with what they get and they will continue to outperform all other schools. Why – there is something called work ethics and the cultural capital of wanting to learn. You want to be seen as high priests of morality but fail to think what you are doing to the poorest of the poor.

Lastly, to close off, I would like to suggest that when you write your MEC speeches, you make sure that you understand the content of what are saying, and not just use big words because they sound high learned. The simplest of words can convey the profoundest of messages. “apartheid geographical spaces wrongly used”

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