DA calls for SAPS deployment to schools across the country following vandalism spike

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on the Department of Basic Education to work closely with the South African Police Service (SAPS) to ensure maximum  visibility of the police at our schools during the Covid-19 lockdown.

This follows the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, confirming that 397 schools have now been vandalised across the country since the lockdown. Mpumalanga, Gauteng, Western Cape and North West are the hardest hit with each having more than 50  schools affected. 

The DA strongly condemns these acts of vandalism.  

There is an urgent need to put preventative measures in place to protect schools from being soft targets for criminals. This is because opportunists and criminals are taking advantage of this lockdown and it is therefore critical that the we have increased police visibility at schools during this time.

The Minister confirmed that the damage at schools have primarily been caused by vandalism and theft. It is also telling that perpetrators have now started to target nutrition centres where food items are stored. It speaks to the increased desperation for food during this lockdown. 

These acts, however, will cause immeasurable damage to the functioning of schools and on the education of learners post the lockdown.  It is, therefore, critically important for Minister Motshekga to engage Police Minister Bheki Cele to find urgent solutions which will enable the SAPS to patrol high-risk schools. 

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.

Almost half of 2007 Grade ones, did not write matric in 2018

While the Department of Basic Education (DBE) celebrates this year’s 78.2% matric pass rate, Minister Angie Motshekga has again failed dismally to address the large number of learners who don’t write matric in the first place.

Nearly half the learners who enrolled in Grade 1 in 2007, didn’t write the full-time matric exams in 2018 as they were expected to. These learners are either stuck repeating grades or being lost to the ANC’s failing education system completely. The Minister admits that retention should be part of the measure for matric, but conveniently forgets this each January when it’s time to release matric results.

The role of the new Multiple Exam Opportunity (MEO) on this year’s marks is also striking. The Eastern Cape, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Northern Cape all had over 15% of their candidates writing only some of their exams in November 2018, with the rest in May/June next year.

The DA is concerned that these candidates will not go on to actually complete their remaining exams. When we asked the Basic Education Director-General earlier this year how many of these learners actually finished their second batch of exams – he couldn’t tell us.

If these learners aren’t finishing their exams, they are just being dropped from the system to inflate provincial pass rates. So, not only are learners dropping out or getting stuck before matric, we now have the potential to lose thousands of learners who don’t complete the MEO.

A good quality, timely matric qualification is essential for school leavers to further their education and training and secure jobs to put an end to the cycle of poverty.

In the DA-run Western Cape, we continue to keep learners in school and maintain the lowest dropout rate in the country. We will keep fighting for learners to have the best possible start to adult life, unlike the failing ANC which simply drops struggling learners to inflate their pass rate.

#SafeSchools: ANC government must act on increase in school violence

The DA notes with concern the increased number in reports of violence at schools. These reports paint a grim picture of how schools have become unsafe spaces for South African learners.

Just this week a video circulated on Twitter of a male teacher hitting a female pupil in class. There have also been a number of videos showing teachers and pupils in physical altercations.

Earlier this year at Eldorado Park Secondary. Two pupils got into a fight and one was stabbed. The fight occurred at the time SADTU teachers were on strike and there wasn’t anyone to supervise the class. This is exactly the situation we are concerned about.

The DA has repeatedly called on the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to support our  #SafeSchools campaign in order to curb violence at schools.

This week, the DA will continue its fight to make schools safer for learners, teachers and school staff, as we will be making our submissions at the Essential Services Committee (ESC) public hearings which start on Wednesday, 11 July 2018.

In April, the DA submitted an application to the ESC to declare that there should be a minimum staff presence at schools during education strikes.

This all forms part of the DA’s initiative to ensure that children are kept safe and supervised during strike action.

It is time for the ANC government to prioritise safety at schools. Our children deserve access to an educational environment that is free from violence and conducive to them reaching their full potential.

Pit toilets: ANC government has subjected learners to undignified conditions for far too long

Please find pictures attached here, here and here.

Today, DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Basic Education, Nomsa Marchesi MP, and Buffalo City Coastal Constituency Leader, Kevin Mileham MP, visited Khayelitsha Primary School in East London, where learners use pit toilets and discussed sanitation backlogs and related issues with staff members.

The DA has been visiting schools across the country to raise awareness about the health and safety threats that learners are exposed to on a daily basis as a result of using pit toilets. After more than two decades into democracy and several children dying in pit latrines, the ANC government still has not provided suitable alternatives for these learners and this demands immediate attention.

The learners at Khayelitsha Primary School have no choice but to use the unsanitary toilets and this robs them of their dignity. There are also Grade R learners using the latrines and they are at risk of falling into the pits as the toilets are not suitable for their age.

Community members also use the toilets and this puts children at risk of getting physically and sexually assaulted.

In addition, the school’s roof is also falling apart and there is no fencing. This lack of infrastructure undermines learner safety and is simply unacceptable.

The Department of Basic Education should have made substantial progress by now in eradicating pit toilets and building safer ones for learners as funding was available.

Instead, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a massive cut of R7.2bn to the school infrastructure budget in February, which is almost as much money that is needed to ensure no learner ever has to use a pit latrine again.

The Department of Basic Education’s (DBE) inability to meet its own Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) targets yet again proves that the ANC government cannot be trusted to keep learners safe and secure the bright futures that they deserve.

The DBE told the Basic Education Portfolio Committee on Tuesday that only 70 schools out of 344 were provided with water, while 45 out of 257 were provided with sanitation this year.

Our learners deserve to learn in a safe environment that will allow them to reach their full potential and ultimately to get jobs, especially now that our economy has contracted by 2.2%.

A DA government will put children first by making a safe learning environment a reality and ensure that learners can study without worrying about their safety whenever they have to use a toilet. Investment in the education sector is an investment to the country’s economy.

One of the most effective ways to solve the unemployment crisis is to ensure that our schools are safe and in a position to prepare learners for the job market.

ANC government still failing to eradicate pit toilets

Today, DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Basic Education, Nomsa Marchesi MP, and DA KZN Spokesperson on Education, Dr Rishigen Viranna MPL, visited Mzwandile High School, Gagisa Primary School (now called KwaMlamuli Combined Primary School), and Huba High School in Richmond to discuss sanitation backlogs and the hazards of pit toilets.

The visits to these schools are a part of a series of such oversight visits.

Many learners across South Africa are forced to use pit toilets as they have not been provided with adequate alternatives by the ANC government.

It is unacceptable that after 24 years of democracy, many learners are forced to use these hazardous toilets. Not only are they unsanitary and undignified, they are life threatening.

Children have died in pit latrines, yet there still appears to be no plan by the government to prevent these deaths by building adequate and safe toilets.

Mzwandile High School is newly-built and does not yet have furniture and textbooks. However, at KwaMlamuli Combined Primary School, we saw how learners are subjected to the indignity and peril of using pit toilets. The classrooms there are also overcrowded, with over 60 learners in a single class.

The Department of Basic Education estimates that it will cost about R7.8 billion to eradicate pit toilets at schools across the country. This funding was available, however this is almost the same amount that the school infrastructure budget was recently cut by in the February 2018 budget.

The ANC government clearly cannot be trusted with our learners’ future when they are failing to meet the basic requirements of keeping children physically safe at schools.

The fact that the Department of Basic Education (DBE) failed to meet its own Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative targets for yet another year proves that the ANC is not serious about making schools safe.

Last year, the DBE failed to connect a single school, out of 620, to electricity. The department yesterday confirmed that, this year, only 70 schools out of 344 were provided with water, while 45 out of 257 were provided with sanitation.

In an economy that has contracted by 2.2%, it is vital that our children get a quality education in a safe and conducive environment that allows them to reach their potential and gives them the best chance of getting a job and contributing to building a better South Africa for all.

Under a DA government, learners will never be afraid to use a toilet. The DA will equip them with quality education and a conducive learning environment that will ensure that they have access to much-needed job opportunities and the bright futures they deserve.

DBE’s repeated failure to fix school infrastructure shows how little it cares about quality education

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) revealed in a Portfolio Committee meeting today that it has yet again failed to meet every single one of its Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) targets.

The DBE confirmed in the meeting that:

  • Out of a targeted 115 schools, only 22 were built (19.1% achieved);
  • Out of 257 schools that needed to be provided with sanitation, only 45 were connected (17.5% achieved);
  • Out of 344 that were to be provided with water, only 70 were connected (20.3% achieved); and
  • Out of 134 that were to be provided with electricity, only 66 were connected (49.2% achieved. The DBE, however, said the remaining 68 schools did receive electricity, but through other programmes)

The DBE attributed its poor performance to underperforming Implementing Agents and a lack of consequence management. They also said construction delays were to blame for these appalling results.

In the previous year, the DBE failed to connect a single school to electricity out of a total of 620. Therefore, not only did the department fail to meet this year’s targets, but plans that should have been put in place have clearly also failed.

Poor school infrastructure contributes to unsafe schools and it is unfair that, after 24 years of democracy, many children across the country are forced to learn in dilapidated and incomplete schools.

It is therefore high time that Minister Angie Motshekga and President Cyril Ramaphosa heed the call by the DA to ensure safety at schools through our #SafeSchools campaign.

By missing these targets, the ANC has proved once more that it does not care about our children’s education.

Depriving children of a safe and conducive learning environment only sets them up for failure and compromising their ability to find work when they are grown. That is why the governing party will ultimately be responsible for destroying the future of children.

Report of the History Ministerial Task Team doesn’t make jobs the focus of basic education

The DA has taken note of the Report of the History Ministerial Task Team (MTT), released by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) yesterday. The report is comprehensive and voluminous, and we look forward to studying its findings and recommendations.

However, of current concern is the proposal that History be made a compulsory subject until Grade 12.

The DA has always supported History being a compulsory subject up until Grade 9 in recognition of the importance of the subject and the need for our youth to be educated about our country’s complicated and often painful past. We agree with Minister Motshekga that “History should … enable learners … to engage critically with the truths of colonialism, apartheid, and the liberation struggle”.

However, we fail to see how this decision by the DBE addresses the biggest challenge in basic education today, namely preparing our learners for the world of work and making sure they have the necessary skills to be competitive in the jobs market once they graduate.

History is vital in producing learners who have a good understanding of South Africa and the world. However, even if History replaces Life Orientation as a compulsory subject until Grade 12, learners are still faced with the problem of leaving school without being prepared for a very competitive and tough job market.

It is important that young people are best placed and prepared for the world of work. With close to 10 million unemployed people in South Africa, the DBE must be seized with solutions to this crisis. The only way we can begin to undo the injustices of Apartheid is to ensure that learners eventually become active participants of the formal economy.

DA calls on Minister Motshekga to support our call for essential services in education

The DA will submit a request to the Essential Services Committee (ESC) next week and ask the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, and her department to support our call to establish an essential service level for school staff.

The Department of Basic Education responded to a DA Parliamentary Question, saying that it would support the declaration of a minimum service level agreement for teachers by the ESC to ensure children are not left unsupervised during school hours.

Adult supervision plays a crucial role in ensuring our learners are safe at school. Having no teachers present at school and in class can lead to terrible outcomes, such as when a fight broke out between learners at Eldorado Park Secondary after teachers had left to attend an unplanned strike.

When five-year-old Lumka Mketwa from the Eastern Cape died in a pit toilet, the teacher wasn’t in class due to SGB elections being held. Her death could have been avoided had there been teacher supervision.

The DA believes that there must be a requirement for enough teachers to be present to supervise learners, and to provide guidance in emergency situations.

We consulted with the ESC in October last year on the issue so that they could advise us on the proper procedure for making a request for them to perform a study on the issue, and make a declaration regarding a minimum level of service. The ESC is responsible for making such declarations, not the government.

We included the declaration of key educational posts as essential services in our list of demands for school safety in a letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa, which any South African can sign at https://protectourchildren.co.za. National and provincial departments, and state entities, must work together to safeguard learners.

The safety of our children must always come first, and Minister Motshekga can help to ensure that children are protected from any harm by endorsing our request to the ESC.

ANC’s R7 billion budget cut devastating for schools

Former Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba’s Budget contains a plan to cut basic education funding by about R7 billion over the next three financial years. These funds are being cut from government schools and will cause the further collapse of school infrastructure, affect the number of teachers and weaken our ability to improve maths and science performance, which are vital subjects.
There is already a huge school infrastructure backlog across the country and many learners will be unable to access higher education if their school infrastructure is left to degenerate.
A reply to a DA Parliamentary Question revealed that, by December 2016, more than 1000 schools countrywide had been built with inappropriate materials, 66 lacked sanitation and over 4600 had pit latrines. A further 81 schools had no water supply and 571 had no electricity connection.
Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) projects are only expected to be completed in 2021 and the Department of Basic Education (DBE) has missed all its ASIDI targets in the past year. Out of a targeted 620 schools, none were connected to electricity and this is just one example of how badly the DBE is failing at addressing poor infrastructure.
The DBE has enough money to meet its ASIDI targets, yet it is simply not being spent. The mismanagement of funds continues to hinder progress in improving schools infrastructure.
Cutting essential education funding is unnecessary as the DA has provided a full budget breakdown of how the budget could be balanced without impacting basic education, but this was ignored by the ANC government.
We are firmly opposed to the R7 billion budget cut and will continue to fight the collapse of the neglect of school infrastructure. Our children deserve to have access to environments that are conducive to learning, not have the money to ensure this cut.