Through union actions, our children will not only be denied an education but food as well

The Democratic Alliance (DA) rejects threats by unions to drag the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, and her Department to court in order to stop the reopening of schools. This will not only deprive millions of learners of necessary schooling but will also deny 9 million learners on the national school nutrition programme a nutritious meal per day.

On 29 May, Minister Motshekga announced that school nutrition will be available to all learners when schools open on 1 June 2020 for grades 7 and 12. The re-scheduling of school opening a week later, have put a damper on food provision at schools.

9 million learners in 19950 quintiles 1 to 3 schools, as well as identified special needs schools are provided with daily meals through this programme.

The Minister of Social Development who was tasked with feeding learners during the lockdown has failed dismally to do so. The few food parcels provided by the Department of Social Development has not reached the neediest households and are not providing learners with the necessary nutrients.

Approximately 30% already live in households in which only one person is employed and with the advent of Covid-19 dietary diversity may be reduced, leading to malnutrition which can increase the risk of micro-nutrient deficiencies. Younger children can experience nutritional shock resulting in increased wasting and stunting that can have long – term effects on health and educational outcomes.

During this period of lockdown, the Western Cape provincial treasury allocated R18 million in additional funding to the Western Cape Education Department towards a feeding scheme for children. On average 100 000 children were fed every week. Progressive initiatives like these should be encouraged which ensure the well-being of every child.

Children are not the vectors of spreading the disease, so what is the trade –off in putting their future in jeopardy? Educator unions should consider the inequality gaps in societies and realise that most children don’t have the luxury of a proper meal especially during lockdown.

The Minister has already gazetted the return date to school and she should follow through with her plan to open schools tomorrow for the livelihoods of the 9 million learners whose nutrition is compromised because of the lockdown.

We cannot allow educator unions to use the Covid-19 pandemic as a guise to take over control of ministerial duties, compromising the education and holistic well-being of our children.

Decline in key subjects spells bad news for SA’s economy

The number of high school students electing to take subjects vital to our economy such as Accounting, Mathematics and Physical Sciences is on a steady decline, and this should set alarm bells ringing for the Department of Basic Education and government at large.

The 2019 Schools Subject Report shows that the number of learners who write exams for the above-mentioned subjects has decline each year since 2015. Moreover, the number of learners who then go on to pass said subjects is even less. See table attached here.

  • The number of students taking Mathematics declined from 263 903 in 2015, to 222 034 in 2019 – with just 121 179 of those students passing the subject this year.
  • The number of students taking Physical Sciences declined from 193 189 in 2015, to 164 478 in 2019 – with just 124 237 of those students passing the subject this year.
  • The number of students taking Accounting declined from 140 474 in 2015, to 80 110 in 2019 – with just 62 796 of those students passing the subject this year.

Currently our job market is facing a huge shortage of engineers – which requires Maths and Science – and health professionals, also requiring Physical Sciences as a high school subject. While the Department of Basic Education has acknowledged the current trend occurring in these subjects, the declining figures over the last five years provide a clear indication that nothing significant is being done to change this.

The lack of improvement in the poor performance of critical aspects of our education system lays at the feet of the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga. Indeed, the Democratic Alliance agrees that it may just be time for the Minister to step down. This move would allow for fresh minds that will help South Africa to focus on the quality of our education which can also speak to the needs of our ailing economy.

Despite massive budgetary constraints, the quality of education in the DA-led Western Cape is on the rise, with the province number one in terms of numbers of distinctions, as well as the top 3 students of the Class of 2019 all coming from Western Cape schools. This once again shows how DA governments are committed to building a South Africa that is functional and an economy that benefits all citizens.

#Matric2019: Real pass rate is 38.9%

The DA congratulates each and every learner who passed the National Senior Certificate (NSC) exam and wishes them the best on the road ahead.

However, whilst Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and the Department of Education are celebrating an all-time high matric pass rate of 81.3%, the Democratic Alliance can reveal that the real pass rate is in fact 38.9%.

In 2017, a total of 1 052 080 learners were enrolled in grade 10, yet only 409 906 learners eventually passed matric last year. This means only 38.9% of grade 10 learners actually wrote and passed matric.

This is for the most part due to an extraordinarily high drop-out rate, which means that hundreds of thousands of learners are denied the chance to write matric, let alone pass it.

This is an indication of a dismally failing system, not a functional and successful one.

The DA-led Western Cape is the province with the lowest drop-out rate (33.4%) and therefore the highest real pass rate, standing at 54.8%.

Attached (click here) is a table of the real pass rates of each province. This table, for instance, shows that, while according to the Department’s calculation (disregarding the drop-out rate), the Free State is the top-performing province with a pass rate of 88.4%. The truth, however, is that this province’s real pass rate only stands at 38.4%.

The real national pass rate for 2018 was 37.6%. The real pass rate of 2019 is, therefore, an improvement of a mere 1.3%.

For years now the DBE punts the national pass rate because it shifts the focus from their perpetual failures as an ANC government.

The slow poison of drop-out rates between grades 10 and 12 is eating away at the future of the youth of this country.

Since 2015, which saw the highest number of pupils who sat to write their matric exam, there has been a steady decline each year. This should be a real and urgent concern for the DBE.

A further concern is the shocking pass rate from June results of the Multi Examination Opportunity (MEO) – only a disappointing 7.1% passed.

Nevertheless, however dismal this percentage is, it is used to inflate the pass rate and when phased out this year, the high drop-out rates will inevitably increase. Only then will we see the real performance of the Department.

Every child has the right to quality basic education.

If we carry on this trajectory, more than half of all learners who start Grade 1 this year, will never see the inside of a NSC-exam room.

Let us not allow the wool to be pulled over our eyes and neglect the hundreds of thousands of young South Africans, failed by the system and who will most likely never be able to enter the formal labour market.

Minister Motshekga tells parents to look after their children “outside” classrooms if they opt out of Comprehensive Sexual Education

In a response to a Democratic Alliance (DA) question in Parliament on Wednesday on whether the Department of Basic Education plans on formulating an alternative policy to the Comprehensive Sexual Education (CSE) for parents who choose to opt-out their children, the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga responded by stating:

“If parents want their children not to learn what other children are learning, [parents] will have to come to our schools [and] when it’s the class for that subject [CSE] come and look after their kids outside. After the class bring them back.” 

The DA is flabbergasted by the Minister’s comments as it speaks to a great insensitivity to the genuine concerns of parents across the country.

In a previous response to a DA Parliamentary question, the Minister stated that parents will be able to opt-out of the curriculum provided they can have an alternative curriculum that meets the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) requirements. Now, the Minister has gone a step further by stating that parents will have to mind their children at school, during the period when the CSE is being taught.

Given the confusion and fear which exist in the public domain about the content contained in CSE material, the DA would have expected a more serious and responsible response from the Minister.

Parents and schools need to be satisfied that the level of detail included in the CSE is age appropriate and not harmful to children.

The DA is of the view that sex education must strike a careful balance between equipping young people with the information they need to make the right choices, without unintentionally over-sexualizing learners.

Minister Motshekga confirms budget cuts will stall school infrastructure targets

The Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, has admitted in a reply to a Democratic Alliance (DA) Parliamentary question that budget cuts will have a negative impact on the Department’s ability to meet infrastructure targets for Basic Education, stating that “the reduction will have a negative impact in terms of meeting the Minimum Uniform Norms and Standards for Public School Infrastructure”.

In addition to this, these cuts will further exacerbate the Department of Basic Education’s (DBE) failure to meet its own annual infrastructure goals to upgrade dilapidated schools through its Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI).

When asked how the DBE will ensure budget cuts allow for the continuation of infrastructure projects, Minister Motshekga responded by stating “provinces will have to revise their plans and delay planned projects that cannot be funded as a result of the cut”.

This is a clear indication of how the ANC’s mismanagement of the South African economy will now begin to affect generations of future learners, who will more than likely not be privy to the education infrastructure and development our young school-goers so desperately deserve. Budget cuts and stalled developmental projects don’t just symbolise a continued lack of infrastructure – it symbolises a continued lack of opportunities for learners.

The Minister’s response indicates that these budget cuts, no doubt a result of the strain our state-owned entities are placing on our fiscal position, will now impact on the DBE’s ability to complete infrastructure projects.

National Government continues to provide billions in bailouts to Eskom, SAA, Denel and the like, when they should be throwing billions into our education system.  There is no alternative way forward towards equality, prosperity and opportunity if we do not ensure our learners have access to the latest and best educational infrastructure.

To cut basic education budgets for infrastructural projects is tantamount to cutting a lifeline of hope, for learners whose only means to change their lives and better their circumstances, is, in fact, through their education.

#Matric2018: Motshekga ignored chronically underperforming schools for a decade

The Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, has essentially ignored chronically underperforming schools for close to a decade.

Every year, the Department of Basic Education includes a list of schools which have had a matric pass rate of 40% or less for the past five years. This year, 13 schools – all from Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal – appear on this list.

Upon investigating this list, we discovered that these schools have been underperforming for longer than five years – in the case of two Limpopo schools, for an entire decade. This means that during her entire tenure as Minister, Motshekga has ignored her obligation to hold provincial education MECs accountable for the performance of these failing schools.

The South African Schools Act states that provincial departments must report to the Minister within three months, on what steps they are going to take to help these schools improve their performance.

Clearly, the ANC can’t be bothered to fulfil this obligation, and the biggest losers are the pupils at these schools who are essentially being setup for failure.

Leriana Senior Secondary School and Mahlaba Secondary School, both in Limpopo, have had a pass rate of 40% or less for ten years. We found them on the underperforming schools list for five years running before 2018. That should mean five reports from the MEC for Education in Limpopo, and five times the Minister has failed to hold the province accountable.

Makobateng Secondary School, also from Limpopo, has been underperforming for nine years. In fact, every single school on this year’s list has been on it before.

Province School Year with 40% or below pass rate
Limpopo LERIANA SENIOR SECONDARY SCHOOL 10
Limpopo MAHLABA SECONDARY SCHOOL 10
Limpopo MAKOBATENG SECONDARY SCHOOL 9
KwaZulu-Natal MSHIYANE HIGH SCHOOL 8
KwaZulu-Natal SOMSHOKO SECONDARY SCHOOL 8
Limpopo BOTSIKANA SECONDARY SCHOOL 8
Limpopo TAUNG HIGH SCHOOL 8
KwaZulu-Natal ISIBANI ACADEMY SCHOOL 7
Limpopo MOKGOMA MATLALA SECONDARY SCHOOL 7
KwaZulu-Natal MAGUBULUNDU SECONDARY SCHOOL 6
Limpopo MATSEBE SECONDARY SCHOOL 6
Limpopo RADIPITSI SECONDARY SCHOOL 6
Limpopo SEIKGONI SECONDARY SCHOOL 6

 

The ANC has washed its hands off the learners at these schools. It has no care for their futures, and whether they can secure a future in employment or further studies. This is the only story the ANC has to tell: one of siphoning government funds for connected cadres, while hardworking young South Africans are abandoned. If things have not changed for these schools for a whole decade, it is time to accept that they will never change while the failing ANC remains in power.

Our children deserve more. This is why the DA is committed to quality schooling for all South Africans – no matter where they live, and no matter what their economic background is.

The real matric pass rate is 37.6%

The DA congratulates all matric candidates who receive their results today. Unfortunately, we must also confront a shocking truth: the real matric pass rate is 37.6% if you include the number of 2016 Grade 10s who actually passed matric in 2018.

These Grade 10s should be celebrating with other matriculants, but more than half didn’t write matric in the expected timeframe. This means only 37.6% of these Grade 10s passed matric. The others have either become stuck in a struggling education system repeating grades, or worse, dropped out of the system completely.

The ‘real’ matric pass rate for each province reveals a devastating reality: only the Western Cape managed to keep over 65% of its 2016 Grade 10s in school and through to writing matric on time.

  Class of 2018        
Province Gr 10 (2016) Wrote NSC (2018) % Grade 10 (2016) who wrote NSC Passed NSC Passed NSC (%) ‘Real’ pass rate (%)
Eastern Cape 148 346 65 733 44.3 46 393 70.6 31.3
Free State 61 244 24 914 40.7 21 806 87.5 35.6
Gauteng 172 507 94 870 55.0 83 406 87.9 48.3
KwaZulu-Natal 243 935 116 152 47.6 88 485 76.2 36.3
Limpopo 184 028 76 730 41.7 53 254 69.4 28.9
Mpumalanga 90 201 44 612 49.5 35 225 79.0 39.1
North West 66 550 29 061 43.7 23 578 81.1 35.4
Northern Cape 23 082 9 909 42.9 7 264 73.3 31.5
Western Cape 77 182 50 754 65.8 41 350 81.5 53.6
National 1 067 075 512 735 48.1 400 761 78.2 37.6

 

The celebrations by the Gauteng and Free State MECs is a slap in the face to the learners they failed to serve along the way. In Gauteng, 45% of its Grade 10s in 2016 didn’t write matric.

The Free State, with the highest drop out in the country, has a well-known reputation for ‘culling’, or intentionally keeping back learners to inflate pass marks, as confirmed by a Deputy Director-General of the Department of Basic Education (DBE) in 2017. The DA has repeatedly called for a national investigation into ‘culling’, but Minister Angie Motshekga is not concerned.

A new worry is the Multiple Exam Opportunity (MEO), which some provinces have relied on more heavily than others. It is not clear how many of these learners will actually return to complete their exams in June 2019, and many could be lost from the system in the interests of inflating provincial pass rates.

The DA’s priority is clear: to ensure that learners get the best quality matric in the expected time frame, so that they can start their journey into further education and employment on time and in good stead. It is only through this commitment to quality education that learners will be able to break the cycle of poverty that so many young South Africans have been left trapped in by a failing ANC government.

Failing ANC government’s pit toilet plan means some children will still have unsafe sanitation for 12 years

President Cyril Ramaphosa and the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, announced to much fanfare today that the government will eradicate pit toilets at schools by 2030. This means that learners must now wait another 12 years to access dignified sanitation.

This is what the failing ANC government considers an “urgent” plan and means that a child who starts Grade 1 now, could go their entire school career without having access to a safe toilet at school.

This is yet another one of the ANC’s empty promises. The reality is that the ruling party has had 24 years to ensure that school children have access to safe and dignified sanitation. They have failed.

It was announced today that currently, 3 898 schools rely on pit latrines. However, this is now the fourth set of different figures in the last six months.

In March, the total number of schools with pit toilets was 8 679; in April, 5 779; and in May, data from a ‘rapid’ sanitation audit on which the new “urgent” plan is based indicated that the figure was 4 108.

On Monday, the North West Department of Education told Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Basic Education that the figure for the North West was 154. The rapid audit, however,  said this figure was 192.

The Government seems to have no idea which figures are correct. Moreover, it is unclear why a rapid audit was needed in the first place, as the government is meant to continuously monitor school infrastructure, including the number of schools with pit toilets.

This speaks to the far greater problem. Even when funding is available, the ANC is incapable of delivering safe schools to South African learners. This is largely due to the financial mismanagement and corruption at provincial level, which leave learners bearing the brunt.

A further 3 040 schools have pit toilets that have been replaced, but not demolished. This is exactly the situation which lead to the tragic death of an Eastern Cape learner, Lumka Mkethwa, in March. The President himself admitted that it took the deaths of at least two children for the government to care enough to make a national action plan to eradicate pit latrines.

If the ANC was genuine in its commitment to providing for the basic rights of learners, it would not have cut the school infrastructure budget and would stop the shocking mismanagement of education in provinces like the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

Without a safe and quality basic education, our children have little hope of reaching their full potential, getting a job and creating a better future for themselves.

South African learners deserve better than a government which is full of empty promises. Where we govern, the DA is committed to ensuring that every child has access to dignifies sanitation. We remain committed to the safety of learners and not the enrichment of government officials.

Child Protection Week: DA lays criminal charges against SACE officials for failing to vet teachers

Today, my colleague, DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Basic Education, Nomsa Marchesi MP, and I laid criminal charges against the South African Council for Educators (SACE) CEO, Ella Mokgalane, its Chairperson, Mabutho Cele, and other SACE board members who may have known about SACE’s failure to adequately vet teachers in terms of section 47 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act.

SACE is required by law to vet teachers against the Sexual Offenders Register before issuing licences, but have failed to do so for at least 10 years, potentially exposing many children to convicted sex pests.

This follows the admission by SACE, in a reply to a DA Parliamentary question, that they had not vetted teachers against the Sexual Offenders Register or Child Protection Register before issuing licences, as is required by Section 47 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act.

SACE has failed our children and, as Child Protection Week draws to a close, it is imperative that the teacher vetting body’s leadership is held accountable.

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) recently stated in a report that SACE did not, in fact, have to work through the DBE to gain access to the Register.

This does not absolve Minister Angie Motshekga from responsibility, as SACE is an entity of the DBE and her department should have ensured that they were not breaking the law.

Minister Motshekga should now prove that her department is committed to ensuring children are safe at schools and support the call the DA has repeatedly made for this through our #SafeSchools campaign.

We have also urged President Cyril Ramaphosa to end sexual and physical violence at schools through a collaborative effort by the national Police, Basic Education, Social Development and Justice Departments, together with provincial departments of education.

The DA trusts that the SAPS will investigate SACE’s failure to abide by the law. Those who have potentially put children at risk through this vetting failure must be accountable.

Our children cannot achieve their full potential when schools are unsafe. The government needs to take swift action to make sure our children are safe at school.

Child Protection Week: Minister Motshekga must launch investigation following video of learner’s sexual assault

Following the emergence of a shocking and explicit video on Facebook of a female learner, who appears to be dazed, being sexually assaulted by male learners, Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, must launch a full-scale investigation.

As the country marks Child Protection Week, it is shocking that so many of our learners are still not safe from sexual and physical violence at school.

Earlier this year, the DA embarked on its #SafeSchools campaign, urging President Cyril Ramaphosa to make our schools safe for children so that they can realise their full potential.

One aspect of the campaign is to ensure that the pandemic of sexual and physical violence at schools is addressed through a collaborative effort by the national Police, Basic Education, Social Development and Justice Departments, together with provincial departments of education.

We have also asked Minister Motshekga to support our call, but our plea has so far fallen on deaf ears. It is clear that Minister Motshekga is failing at her mandate to keep children safe at school.

This was confirmed again by the DA who revealed this weekend that SACE have failed to vet a single teacher against the Sex Offenders Register or the Child Protection Register for at least a decade. This means that the Minister and SACE have failed to keep our children safe by issuing licences to teachers who may be sexual predators.

The two registers are meant to protect children from predatory school staff and the fact that SACE has not checked them for at least 10 years shows that the government clearly has little regard for learners’ safety or their rights.

Minister Motshekga must now prove that she cares about the safety and well-being of learners by taking action to ensure that learners can go to school without fear of being sexually abused either by their fellow learners or by those teachers who are meant to educate and protect them.