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Democratic Alliance statement by
Safiyia Stanfley, MPL
DA Provincial Spokesperson on Education
Let’s talk quality of education
26 May 2016
Note to editors: The following is an extract from a speech delivered by DA NC Education Spokesperson, Hon. Safiyia Stanfley, during the Northern Cape Department of Education budget debate in the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature in Kimberley today.
Following the budget presentation by the Northern Cape Department of Education, the Democratic Alliance submitted a number of written questions. I want to begin by thanking the department for the prompt response we received. It helped to clarify some of the concerns we identified in the budget presentation and it shows a willingness from the department to engage on issues. I appreciate this effort from the department and trust that it will be continued going forward.
It is impossible to talk about the budget of the Northern Cape Department of Education without talking about the quality of education offered to our learners first.
In the global knowledge economy, one’s success depends on the quality of education offered at school – with a high quality of education, our learners are empowered to fulfil their potential, to pursue economic opportunities and to contribute to the growth of the country. We see how the Democratic Alliance achieves these goals in the Western Cape, where every learner who passed grade 12 in 2015 passed with access to tertiary education. This is the quality of education today if our children are to enjoy a better tomorrow.
As the Member of the Executive Council for Education outlined, considerable financial and human resources are being poured into the education system in the province. The question we have to ask ourselves, unfortunately, is if we are seeing a proper return on our investment. Are we getting value for the money being allocated to education?
The answer, Honourable Speaker, is absolutely not.
The 2015 matric results showed a qualitative and quantitative decline in the Northern Cape. We cannot be satisfied with a 7% decline in the overall pass rate, a 3% decline in the amount of bachelors passes, a 6% decline in the Mathematics pass rate, a 5% percent decline in the amount of diploma passes and a pass rate of only 31% per cent amongst progressed learners.
Furthermore, a comparison between the pass rate in quintile five schools and the quintile one to three schools shows that the targeted interventions in the lower quintiles have failed. While the Northern Cape quintile five schools had a collective pass rate of 91.5% in 2015, quintile one schools had a pass rate of only 60.4% per cent – and it was even lower in the quintile three schools. The same trend was visible in 2014. We have to ensure that the quintile one to three schools are receiving not only resources from government, but resources which improves the quality of education offered to the learners.
If SADTU wasn’t calling the shots in education, Honourable Speaker, the Annual National Assessments would likely have shown cause for concern as well!
Dit is natuurlik maklik om mooipraatjies te maak en onderwys te verhef tot die status van ‘n nasionale prioriteit. Maar dan moet die begroting en aksieplanne van die departement hierdie voorneme weerspieël. Die begrotingsplanne van die onderwysdepartement wys egter dat die boekjaar wat voorlê, geen opwindende nuwe voorstelle bevat wat die gehalte van onderwys kan verbeter nie. Wat is die nut van ‘n stelsel om afwesigheid te monitor as die stelsel nie akkurate inligting kan weergee nie? Ons moet die wurggreep van SADOU op die onderwys breek sodat al ons leerlinge onderrig kan ontvang van toegewyde onderwysers wat elke dag betyds in die klaskamer is en vir die volle dag onderrig gee.
The fact of the matter, Honourable Speaker, is that there is a group of excellent teachers who dedicate their days to their learners. But for every wonderful educator, there are many who cannot teach and many more who simply will not teach. We need to address the challenges posed by lazy, unwilling and incompetent teachers if we want to improve the quality of education being offered to our learners.
Honourable Speaker, learners with disabilities deserve the same opportunity to education as those without. We need an inclusive education component which can realise and implement this right efficiently and cost-effectively.
It is therefore welcome to note that the department sets itself the target of retaining more and more learners with disabilities in the education system. A target of retaining 2% more learners with disabilities each year seems to be realistic, feasible and very necessary. Considering the fact that we have as many learners on the waiting lists for public special schools as we have enrolled at those schools, Honourable Speaker, we also need to consider the quality of infrastructure offered to learners.
Dit is kommerwekkend dat die jaarlikse begroting geen voorsiening maak vir die sub-program Skoolsport, Kultuur en Media onder die program Inklusiewe Onderrig nie. Aktiewe deelname aan skoolsport hou vele voordele in vir alle leerlinge en dit is belangrik dat alle leerlinge die geleentheid gegun word om hul vermoëns te ontwikkel.
Agbare Speaker, vir leerlinge met leer- of fisiese gestremdhede hou skoolsport- en kultuurbedrywighede ook terapeutiese voordele in.
Ek wil daarom ‘n ernstige beroep op die onderwysdepartement doen om te sorg dat die sportfasiliteite by openbare spesiale skole opgeknap word. Kom ons gebruik die swembad van die Elizabeth Conradie skool as ‘n voorbeeld. Swem word beskou as ‘n uitstekend sportsoort vir leerlinge wat fisieke of leergestremdhede het, aangesien dit gesondheids- en terapeutiese voordele vir leerlinge inhou. Om die swembad op te knap en te sorg dat die leerlinge gereeld kan gaan swem, moenie gesien word as ‘n onnodige luukse nie – dit moet beskou word as ‘n noodsaaklikheid soos boeke, ‘n klaskamer en skryfpapier.
Honourable Speaker, infrastructure cannot exist on paper alone. The department has to eradicate an existing infrastructure backlog within a constrained fiscal space – but it is easy to get the impression that poor oversight and inadequate monitoring of implementing agencies contributes to the backlog. In the 2014/15 financial year, for example, 75% of the irregular expenditure incurred by the department related to the procurement processes followed by the implementing agencies for infrastructure projects. It is therefore shocking that the budget plans contains no action steps to improve monitoring of implementing agencies and to ensure that the procurement is being done in accordance with the relevant laws and regulations. Does the department not know how much money it is wasting or does it simply not care?
We also urge the department to take the contents of its Provincial Infrastructure Plan seriously. We cannot allow the continued exposure of learners and their families to schools constructed from asbestos, that have inadequate sanitation or that have an unreliable electricity supply. More can and must be done to ensure that infrastructure projects are all completed within time and on budget; yet the budget contains very little detail on how this will be done.
It is not only the physical environment which matters, but also the psychological environment. With violent incidents being reported on a daily basis, the safety of our learners at school is becoming more and more worrying. While we welcome the initiatives being planned by the School Safety sub-directorate, it is worrying that the sub-directorate does not have the strongest record in actually implementing and carrying out its intended plans. We cannot consign the plans to the shelf once we have adopted them; they must become a living reality in every class in the province.
Provincial Spokesperson for Education
084 919 4157
076 551 0312