Education Department fails to identify 90 learners for scholarships

Anthony Benadie MPL

DA Provincial Leader and Spokesperson on Education

Education MEC, Reginah Mhaule, must do everything in her power to prevent the loss of 90 scholarship opportunities for Mpumalanga learners, offered by the Mining Qualifications Authority. The MEC today announced that the department had been unable to identify even a single learner who qualified to be awarded a full bursary to study towards a career in the mining sector.

Speaking at a meeting held by the department with the principals of secondary schools in Mpumalanga, MEC Mhaule said that on 10 December 2014, they had received a letter from the Mining Qualifications Authority (MQA) requesting them to identify 90 learners who could be fully funded towards any field of study in the mining sector.

MEC Mhaule claimed that the department had conducted radio talk shows, issued media statements and posted on social media platforms yet they could not identify a single learner to take advantage of this opportunity.

Simply put, the department claims that, out of 18 971 possible learners who passed maths and science in Mpumalanga, they failed to identify 90 learners who qualify for bursaries.

The MEC further claimed that the department had submitted their report on the bursaries yesterday with “their inside(s) bleeding” as they were unable to take advantage of an opportunity to assist learners with funding. She continued on to lament the opportunities that the province was likely to forfeit if this issue was not addressed.

According to Mhaule, the department had to decline the MQA’s offer due to the province’s poor performance in the subjects of maths and science. The recent Grade 12 results indicated that the number of learners in the province taking and passing these subjects had declined.

In 2013, of the 19 400 learners who wrote mathematics, 11 301 passed. In 2014, there were 17 767 learners who wrote mathematics and only 10 050 passed taking the average of learners passing mathematics from 58.3% to 56.6%.

Mpumalanga is one of the few provinces in the country that has established the Maths, Science and Technology Academy, a vehicle to ensure that there is an improvement of learner performance in maths and science. The department has also increased the number of Dinaledi Schools from 48 to 100 but this is not yielding the desired results.

While the department may claim that it did everything in its power to attract the 90 learners, it is clear that it failed to extend its reach by speaking contacting school principals or constituency offices to help identify suitable learners. It is simply impossible, regardless of the recent grade 12 results, that 90 learners could not be identified to take advantage of this offer.

The DA will urgently appeal to MEC Mhaule to intervene at the highest level by requesting the MQA to grant an extension as we cannot allow an opportunity to fund learners’ tertiary education to fall at the weigh side. We will also request the MEC to launch an urgent public campaign appealing to interested learners to submit applications for these scholarships.