DA KZN: KZN may have as many as 200 000 ghost learners

Francois Rodgers, MPL

DA KZN Spokesperson on Finance:

AN investigation instigated by KZN’s Finance Portfolio committee in July last year into actual learner numbers has revealed that there may be as many as 200 000 ghost pupils in the province.

Today, during a Finance Committee briefing, KZN Education MEC Peggy Nkonyeni reported that a headcount to authenticate pupil numbers was only partially completed, with uThungulu the only district out of 11 in KZN to have completed this process.

The MEC’s feedback on uThungulu has revealed that;

–          286 principals inflated learner numbers

–          Of these, 150 are currently under investigation and facing disciplinary charges

–          The number of pupils overstated in uThungulu alone stands at 17 000

Given that this is only one of 11 KZN districts – and that this may well be the norm – then we could be looking at overinflated learner numbers of 200 000.

Should this prediction prove accurate, the department could well be facing fraudulent payments and costs in excess of hundreds of millions of rands.

If this is so it will be the largest scandal to rock KZN.

It is abundantly evident that the MEC and her department do not have their fingers on the pulse of education in our province.  Today’s report bears testament to this.

Missing from the MEC’s report though, is the financial implication of such wide-scale abuse of the system.  Inflated pupil numbers would have an impact on the number of teacher posts, the school nutrition programme, text books and learning aids.

It appears that fraud and corruption are endemic within the KZN Education Department.  The recent exam marking scandal involving educators and now the news that principals are inflating pupil numbers bear this out.

The DA believes that the MEC and her senior officials are groping in the dark when it comes to effective oversight and controls within the department. The department under its current leadership is an embarrassment to KZN and the country.

The MEC can no longer be allowed to fiddle while Rome burns.

The DA demands that she put together a plan – with time frames – indicating how she will deal with the current disarray in her department.  If she is unable to do so then she must do the honourable thing and resign.