James Masango MPL
Provincial Chief Whip of the Official Opposition
The MECs for education and community safety, security and liaison, Reginah Mhaule and Vusi Shongwe should refrain from threatening truant learners with arrest, and rather focus on the causes for their not wanting to attend school in the first place.
According to media reports on Wednesday, during a school safety outreach programme at Jerusalem High School near White River, MEC Shongwe said that any learner caught loitering and doing shopping in towns during school hours would be arrested.
Besides the fact that MEC Shongwe’s remarks are completely out of line, as neither the South African Schools Act nor the Criminal Procedures Act make provision for the arrest of truants, both MECs should rather pay attention to the reasons why learners are bunking school.
A good starting point would be address the general state of disrepair and infrastructure shortages currently experienced in the majority of the province’s schools, which would have a positive knock-on effect of creating a stable platform for quality and decent education.
Furthermore, the MECs would do well to take a critical look at the so-called example set by teachers, who have yet to commit to government’s yearly commitment that every teacher would be in class, on time, teaching for seven hours a day. It is quite ironic that MEC Shongwe, who so clearly enjoys portraying himself as the “enforcer” of Mpumalanga, made no mention of arresting truant teachers, probably because he knows that the trade union movement would not take kindly to such remarks – ultimately damaging his own political fortunes.
MEC Shongwe and Mhaule’s knee-jerk reaction is over exaggerated and in no way pays attention to the deep-rooted problems with Mpumalanga’s schools. Government cannot continue to ignore the fact that effective quality education can only take place in a stable and dignified environment. As conditions in our schools improve, learners’ academic performance will improve as they take pride in their schools and in their work.
The DA is on record over the need to declare education an essential service and subjecting all teachers and principals to clear performance management targets. But while the ANC leadership continues to bow to the demands of organised labour, the quality of teaching and learners’ performance will suffer.
Education in Mpumalanga is at a crossroads, and the executive must pay closer attention to the causes thereof and stop trying to treat the symptoms.