KZN capable of becoming best Education province

Mbali Ntuli, MPL

DA KZN Spokesperson on Education

The challenges facing KZN’s Education Department are tough – but they are not insurmountable.

KZN Education has a mandate to make our province the best it can be when it comes to learning.  That success begins and is determined by MEC Peggy Nkonyeni and her department.

The DA recognizes the many good interventions currently underway within the department and the fact that the MEC and her officials acknowledge that there is still much to be done.  Yet a look at past KZN budgets shows that while intervention areas have been identified, plans are not being implemented.

The analysis or acknowledgement of problems will not solve them.  Only real action and political will to succeed will help KZN reach its goals and the DA challenges the MEC to act during this next term.

The key issues the MEC needs to focus on are;

–          The current matric pass rate which remains abysmally low

–          Sadtu’s iron grip on education which is compromising learners

–          Ill-equipped teachers who are not held to account

–          The absence of matric marker competency tests in KZN

–          The subsequent lack of competent markers for matric examinations

–          The department’s failure to complete its own skills audit amongst teachers

Education is the only tool to change the world.  If KZN is to become the leading education province in this country, then we have to provide the best educational tools. Our teachers must be given the best possible opportunities for development and training.

Teachers are employed by the state first and the ANC-led government in KZN has a duty to protect them from unions which may seek to use them as election fodder or to fight factional battles within political structures. The MEC and her department must send out a clear message that it is teachers that come first and not Sadtu.  This must be a matter of priority during the new term.

The DA urges MEC Nkonyeni to implement strategies which are working well in the Western Cape, a province where there is an excellent matric pass rate and more importantly a high exemption rate. These interventions include;

–           Principal performance agreements which incentivize academic excellence by teachers

–     Audits to root out unqualified teachers

–     Professionalise teaching and provide regular and rigorous interventions to help poor performing teachers

–     Introduce regular marker competency tests so that learners are not compromised

–     Act swiftly against SADTU when they disrupt studies or place resources at risk.

In terms of the financial issues facing the department – they are so severe that they threaten to derail the implementation and success of the Provincial Growth Development Plan (PGDP).

They include;

–          A departmental salary bill with a staggering baseline figure of  R 30.5 billion for the financial year 2014/15 and an expected shortfall of R 833,187 million in meeting the demands of this line item

–          The allocation of more than R5 billion towards compensation of employees at the expense of other programmes and the detrimental effect this is set to have on other key expenditure items including LTSM, Goods and Services and Infrastructure.

The MEC is probably asking herself – “what do we need to sacrifice to meet these wage demands?”A more appropriate question would be – “what value for money are we getting from departmental employees, including management and teachers?”

As much as the DA appreciates the financial constraints within the department, the issues of conduct, performance and competency at management and educator level need to be looked at honestly by the MEC and her senior officials.  In many instances they leave much to be desired and are a direct contributor to the current non-delivery.

The issues within KZN Education are serious but they can be dealt with by approaching this new term with a sense of urgency and conviction.  MEC Nkonyeni, the people of KZN have trusted you with what is arguably the most critical mandate in our province.  The DA is committed to working with you to find solutions to problems which have dogged the department for too long so that learners are given the opportunity to reach their full potential.