“Transformation” in schools a smoke screen

Tom Stokes, MPP

Democratic Alliance KZN Spokesperson on Education

TRAVEL to any part of KwaZulu-Natal and you will find schools in absolute shambles. Classrooms designed for a maximum of 40 learners are crammed with 120. Schools that should be fully operational for eight hours a day are devoid of pupils and staff after 7 hours. Schools are dilapidated in their hundreds while the province is short of some 10 000 classrooms. And into this mix the province’s education HOD – in a blatant attack on the few schools that are operating effectively – issues a policy directive under the guise of “transformation’, to divert attention from the departments incapacity to solve the real issues of transformation: transforming dysfunctional schools into effective ones.

If there was any logic to the utterings of HOD, Dr Sishi and his spin doctor, Muzi Mahlambi, one could try to engage in some kind of meaningful debate, and seriously address the reasons for this contentious circular. But how on earth will “transformation” occur across the whole schooling population by insisting on a first-come-first-served admission policy? There will not be a single school in the province currently serving Black pupils where White learners will rush to enroll. Are these schools exempt from “transformation”?

For Mahlambi to suggest that it is a case of parents’ concerns about getting their children into their local community school is an attempt to “implement the group areas act in schools based on affordability” is an insult to the thousands of parents of all race groups who have made huge financial sacrifices to ensure their children get the quality education that this government seems incapable of delivering. Besides this, Mr Mahlambi, and, I suggest, Dr Sishi, seem to have no practical understanding of the funding models of our top schools, nor the devastating effect an open gates policy would have on the entire system of fee-paying schools.

This hare-brained plan of the HOD was never brought to the province’s Education Portfolio Committee for discussion, and the deafening silence from the MEC, Senzo Mchunu, on the subsequent furor raised, seems to suggest that this circular may well be the result of a loose cannon on deck. Hopefully the MEC will step in soon before the department is face with another massive legal bill as parents and school governing bodies fight back against this absurdity.

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