Tom Stokes, MPP
DA KZN Spokesperson on Education
Last week’s back to school oversight visits by KwaZulu-Natal MPP’s show that while schools are functioning in most parts of the province, they are yet to prove effective.
Visits by DA MPP’s reveal that most schools are clean and secure, are in receipt of learning materials, have improved upon their registration processes and have learners in classrooms and teachers present. Yet any analysis of KZN’s Annual National Assessment (ANA) and matric results indicates that there is not much progress in terms of education itself.
What is very clear – at every school – is that school management – in particular principals – determines the success of a school. Competent principals are able to turn around under-performing schools in a very short space of time. This was witnessed time and again. It is not the diminishing ability of learners that has seen some schools plummet from an 80% matric pass rate to the low 40’s but rather poor management and a dearth of skilled subject teachers that has created this breakdown.
While the province’s matric pass rate is up in terms of percentages, the quality of this qualification is not increasing rapidly enough. At the heart of the problem is the desperate shortage of qualified teachers in the core subjects of maths and life sciences, particularly at junior school level. The current GET certificate does not address this, with teachers now able to achieve their qualifications without being competent in teaching numeracy. This has left a new generation of young school teachers without the ability to teach effectively in this area. The result is very little progress in the classroom between Grades 3 and 9, with many learners scoring less than 10% for numeracy skills in last year’s ANA results.
The shortage of skilled teachers requires urgent focus from the KZN education department. Last year the DA requested a plan of action on the upgrading and replacement of teachers in the province. The plan supplied was inadequate. I have since requested that a far more comprehensive multi-pronged plan be presented at portfolio committee level – one which must include feedback on how the department will deal with the replacement of some 14 000 qualified teachers. Solutions offered by the DA include the opening of teacher training colleges, space being made at Universities and Technikons and in-service training courses.
The obvious lack of teaching competency within the so-called “difficult” subjects at the province’s schools must be dealt with urgently. Currently, an entire generation of young people are being exposed to an inferior educational system, with dire consequences.