FS Education’s financial woes negatively impact on schools and learners

Mariette Pittaway

DA MPL in the Free State Provincial Legislature:

The below speech was delivered by Mariette Pittaway (MPL) during the debate on the Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill 2015/16 in the Free State Provincial Legislature today.

 

Altavoz Honorable.  Yo me da gran placer para iniciar mi debate en español ya que esta parece ser la lengua del futuro en el Free State.

 

Madam Speaker, seeing that in yesterday’s debates the issue of language came up a few times I am sure I can start in the language of the future in the Free State.

 

As the beautiful province of the Free State will soon be getting 40 Cuban engineers, 40 Cuban medical doctors, 20 Cuban medical specialists, 5 Cuban dentists and 100 Cuban nurses to join us, it will be wise to start taking Spanish lessons.

 

What is this government implying with the mass recruitment of Cubans into the Free State?

 

Are our own people who hold these qualifications not good enough?

 

Is it that this ANC government of Premier Ace Magashule would rather have our Free State people unemployed?

 

Honourable Speaker,

 

According to Stats SA, in every province, the unemployment rate amongst the youth is more than double that of adults.  Over the period 2008-2014, the unemployment rate among both youth and adults increased.

 

The largest increase over the period occurred in Free State by 13.3 percentage points among youth and by 8.1 percentage points among adults.

 

The Honourable MEC of Education, Tate Makgoe, celebrated the Free State’s 82.8% matric pass rate in 2014.  Although we dropped to third place nationally, I wish to congratulate him on these statistics.

 

But, allow me to give you the actual pass rate, taking into consideration the pupils that the system has let down.

 

MEC Makgoe replied to a written question that 55 625 pupils were enrolled for Grade 10 in 2012, but by the start of 2014, only 26 633 had enrolled for matric.

 

This means 29 547 learners (53%) just dropped out of the public school system without the necessary skills and the basic level of education needed for adult life.

 

By factoring in the pupils who were supposed to have been in matric, but had failed or dropped out of school before the writing exams, the actual pass rate is 39 percent.

 

Almost 30 000 pupils had been left behind by the Free State education system.

 

What are the reasons for this?

 

Honourable Speaker,

 

Is it because the department started this financial year with an R1,2 billion shortfall?

 

Currently the Department cannot pay subsidies to schools, having a direct negative impact on resources available to capacitate teachers and supply learner materials and teacher aids to schools.

 

The Phambili Public Combined School in Xhariep cannot pay its electricity bill due to failure by the department to pay subsidies since the 3rd quarter last year.

 

Young qualified teachers appointed to schools have not received a salary since January this year.

 

Or is it the quality of teaching in our schools?

 

I salute and thank those teachers who are showing continued commitment to the education of our children.  Unfortunately there are also teachers who are letting our children down.

 

A study conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) found that almost 20% of teachers are absent on Mondays and Fridays.

 

According to Matthew Prew of the Centre for Education Policy Development, South Africa has not had a teacher development system that seeks to empower teachers to use best practise teaching techniques since the closure in the mid-1990s of the country’s teaching colleges.

 

In an investigation into educator leave in the South African ordinary public schooling system, a research commissioned by UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) and a study undertaken for the Department of Education, found that when a teacher is away the unavoidable consequence is a loss of teaching and learning time.

 

Madam Speaker,

 

In addition, when teachers are away from school, learner absence also increases.

 

What is the Department of Education in the Free State doing to improve this situation?

 

The DA’s Education Policy’s preamble reads:  Education is a constitutional right, a basic human right, a strategic priority and the best possible vehicle to empower South Africans and to develop our country.

 

To improve education outcomes, the DA’s focus will be inter alia on:

 

  • improving school management and teacher quality
  • promoting accountability through appropriate assessment of academic performance

 

The release of the Annual National Assessment (ANA) results for 2014 show that the Free State Department of Education and Honourable MEC Tate Makgoe, have a long way to go to improve numeracy and literacy skills amongst Free State learners.

 

Most shocking are the results for Grade 9 learners.  Only 5.1% of learners in this grade obtained an acceptable achievement of 50% and above for mathematics.

 

These results show that we can no longer deny that the poor performance of learners in the province is directly linked to the poor quality of teaching and the poor management of our schools.

 

It is evident that the education system in the Province is in crisis.

 

The great Nelson Mandela said:  “Education is the great engine of personal development.  It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation.”

 

It is time for this ANC government to stop pretending that all is well with Free State Education.

 

To continue on this path is to deny future generations of Free Staters the future of opportunity they deserve.