Member Statement by Hon. Jacques Smalle on Education

The following speech was delivered by Jacques Smalle DA MPL, to the Limpopo Provincial Legislature on 22 September 2015 during a Snap Debate on Education.

A highly volatile situation has emerged at Luthuli Secondary School, where the SGB –Chair together with other members are holding the schooling environment hostage and preventing it from rendering its primary purpose: providing the quality education our children so desperately need.

This is the unintentional yet natural consequence that comes with a provincial education department that has consistently failed with distinction at providing schools in this province with the support they need.

While the acts of the group led by individuals with a political agenda can never be justified and should never be tolerated, this is a good indication that these are no ordinary times and they require extraordinary measures.

The group that has occupied the parliamentary village, approached the department and further assaulted 8 learners from  Pietersburg Noord Skool are demanding school furniture and other resources that will ensure the school runs optimally.

This is not just an ‘incident’, this is the beginning of the extreme measures people are willing to take to experience the fruits of democracy they are being denied by the ruling party.

I have for the past 2 years conducted a number of oversight visits to many schools across the province. From Musina to Modimole, from Lephalale to Burgersfort, a common struggle of substandard resources and infrastructure was undeniable and unpardonable.

Many of the province’s   public ordinary schools demonstrate just how far we still have to go to in providing an optimal standard of basic education to all of our pupils.

Delivery of basic amenities like electricity, water and sanitation is slow to non-existent in the areas I visited. Without them, children are essentially unable to enjoy their constitutional rights.

How can they read African poetry, read literature or learn about nature when they feel the stinging cold of Winter while sitting on the floor or concentrate when the ceiling can collapse on their heads at any moment?

Norms and standards are crucial in protecting these learner’s rights which include the right to quality education.

Despite a departmental budget of R 869 million for norms and standards funding in the

2015/16 financial year, schools received a dramatic cut.

The dept. already significantly reduced the national allocation of norms and standards funding, especially to quintile 1-3 schools, from R 1116 to R 538 and a further cut led to schools receiving  R 323.50 .

This is a crisis which needs to be at the centre of our agenda in this august house not a mere discussion point.

I therefore propose that:

  • This house holds a debate on the challenges that have crippled  many of the schools whose Norms and Standards funding have been dramatically reduced
  • The latter must include but is not limited to :

-The debt incurred by schools to service providers

-Inability by schools to procure essential daily goods and services

  • What government should be obliged to provide our learners and what penalties officials should face if they fail to roll out school resources and infrastructure in a timely and compliant manner.

Last year, only 50% passed Science and a mere 33% passed Maths, respectively ,  in Matric  at Luthuli Secondary School.

There are three fundamental aspects to having a quality education system. First, teachers must be qualified to teach their subjects. Secondly, learning needs to take place in a functional school environment, with clear rules for recognising performance and ensuring accountability.

Thirdly, there must be a modern curriculum delivered in a built infrastructure serviced appropriately according existing norms and standards.