SOPA Debate: Premier fails to tackle education and corruption crisis

James Letuka MPL

Free State Provincial Legislature

Note: This is an extract of a speech delivered by James Letuka during the State of the Province debate in the Free State Provincial Legislature yesterday. 

Honourable Speaker,

Let it be said right up front that the Democratic Alliance acknowledges and recognises the progress made in the upliftment of the lives of our people both in the Free State and South Africa as a whole since 1994. It is, however an indisputable fact that the momentum which was established in 1994 has since deteriorated phenomenally, particularly over the last five years.

We see this in how the Premier selectively tackled serious issues in his State of the Province Address.

Speaker, the Premier impressively starts by identifying the five priorities that are said to form the “backbone” of the ANC’s Election manifesto. These priorities are:

  • Education
  • Health
  • Rural Development, Land reform and food security
  • The creation of more jobs, decent work and sustainable livelihoods for inclusive growth
  • Fighting crime and corruption

However, when we look at the current state of education in the Free State there is a disconnect between the much celebrated pass rate of 87% and the reality of the situation. Both the Premier and MEC Makgoe celebrated this pass rate. It is unfortunate that they failed to take cognisance of the real pass rate.

Honourable Speaker, this 87% pass rate is an 87% of only a 40% of all learners who entered grade one. This means that almost 60% of those enrolled in grade one dropped out of school before completing their matric examinations.

Surely this in not something that we should celebrate.

The quality of education is declining. The education system is failing our children. Poor infrastructure and a lack of resources coupled with poorly trained teachers and mismanagement are pushing learners out of school.

Many matriculants that do pass are ill prepared to enter university with confidence. It is a known fact that a great burden is placed on tertiary education institutions to offer remedial programmes to assist matriculants, to bring them up to a basic standard, to cope with the demands of tertiary education.

Many more who do not have the privilege to enter university are left without the basic skills to enter a limited and demanding jobs market.

Education is about quality. The province and the country will be served better if the emphasis and focus can shift towards quality.

Ha dikolo di thuswe, di tshehetswe ka manane a ikegethilen a thuto le tsamaiso ho ka ntsha setjhaba sa mmakgonthe, banna le basadi bat la ntshetsa Profensi le Naha ya ha bo rona pele.

THUTO KE BOKAMOSO BA SETJHABA !!!

The Premier claims that he is committed to improving education, yet today we learned that 52 schools across the province have not received their State subsidies, leaving them unable to meet their financial commitments and delivering quality education.

These schools have made several requests to the Free State Department of Education and the department has made promises that it will facilitate the payment of subsidies to them by the end of April. We are in July now, no payments have been made.

On this matter Mr Jonathan Brayshaw, chairman of the Coordinating Committee of these Independent Schools pleads as follows:

“Ons skole voorsien van die beste onderrig in die Vrystaat en behaal van die beste resultate in die onderwyssektor. As niks gedoen word om die department van onderwys te oortuig om dit wat ons toekom te betaal nie, gaan dit verwoestende gevolge vir die onderwys in die Vrystaat en die land hê.”

We have repeatedly warned the Premier and Education MEC Makgoe about the financial problems within the department. We have repeatedly urged them to come forward with a strategy to turn the financial mess around. All to no avail.

Tell us, honourable Premier, how will you find the R1.2 billion to supplement the department of education’s shortfall?

The Premier is a master of rhetoric. This is clearly indicative of precisely where the problem lies. One can have scores of good things to say and promises to make, but if there is no political will when it comes to implementation all these grand intentions remain but a pipe-dream.

Honourable speaker,

The Premier claims he is committed in the fight against corruption. Yet almost every day we read of a new corruption scandal involving government officials. Corruption, particularly in government circles, has become an accepted culture.

Where is this commitment to cooperate “proactively and constructively” with the Public Service Commission, the anti-corruption hotline, the Public Protector, the Human Rights Commission and the Directorate of Public Prosecution, as the Premier said in his address, without heeding their findings and recommendations. It will count for nothing. Action against those who are corrupt is what is needed, not redeployment.

The premier must live up to his promises, or his legacy will forever be his worst judge.

HA RE SEBETSENG. KE A LEBOHA.