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.

#SafeSchools: SAPS have a vital role to play in keeping schools safe but need resources

The statement below follows the DA’s oversight visit to Eldorado Park SAPS today. Pictures of the oversight visit can be accessed here, here, and here. Please find attached soundbites in English by DA Shadow Minister of Basic Education, Ian Ollis MP, in Xhosa and Sotho by DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Basic Education, Nomsa Marchesi MP, and in Afrikaans by DA Member of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, Sonja Boshoff MP.

Today, DA Shadow Minister of Basic Education, Ian Ollis MP, DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Basic Education, Nomsa Marchesi MP, DA Member of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, Sonja Boshoff MP, and DA Shadow Minister of Police, Zakhele Mbhele MP, visited Eldorado Park SAPS as part of the #SafeSchools campaign.

The delegation met with the station commander to discuss school safety and the violence which has, for a long time, gripped the community of Eldorado Park. An officer at the police station admitted that, despite their efforts at preventing crime and drug abuse in the area, there are simply not enough officers to patrol all 29 schools in the precinct.

The police say there have been a number of shooting and stabbing incidents. The SAPS have brought NGOs to schools and distributed pamphlets to raise awareness about drug abuse, however 50% of all drug arrests in Gauteng were made in Eldorado Park and there are over 2000 such arrests per year. The DA was also told that the community’s eight secondary schools, each with over 1200 learners, all have drug problems.

Patrols are currently being undertaken at identified hotspot schools but the police officers are under-resourced during peak times (mornings and afternoons when schools start and end).

Eldorado Park is just one community among many in South Africa battling to end the violence which has had an adverse impact on its children. Without the national government’s intervention, this battle cannot be won.

The SAPS could do more to ensure safety but they need the resources to do so. A Safe Schools call centre modelled on the DA’s Western Cape one would be very beneficial to the community of Eldorado Park and the national government must seriously consider replicating it in other provinces.

We reiterate our call to President Cyril Ramaphosa to urgently respond to school violence through a collaborative effort by various government departments and South Africans can join this call by signing our petition at https://protectourchildren.co.za/. Our children’s wellbeing and safety should never be compromised. Their right to a safe learning environment must be upheld and the DA will strive to ensure this.

The ANC cannot be trusted with our children’s education

Note to Editors: The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Basic Education, Nomsa Marchesi MP, during the Budget Vote on Basic Education.
Chairperson,
I would like to dedicate this speech to the 18 learners who tragically lost their lives in a minibus taxi accident in Bronkhorstspruit in April this year.
As they say in Isi Xhosa: lala ngoxolo, akuhlanga kungahlanga.
Many children in this country are forced to travel vast distances to get to school.
Like the learners at Chief Nogonyama Technical School in Illembe district in KwaZulu-Natal – which we visited at the beginning of the year – who walk up to 10km a day to gain access to a basic education.
Chairperson, we need to speak honestly about providing education infrastructure in rural and township areas.
On Monday I visited Vuwani in Limpopo, a full year after 28 schools there were burned to the ground during protest action.
As I visited school after school, I quickly realised the Department had sent contractors and architects to assess the damage, but then disappeared. The mobile classrooms are still there, and buildings have not been mended.
My oversight ended at Vhafamadi Secondary School – a school that was burned to the ground. It now stands as a state-of-the-art school built in just three months by a donor – the Shandukani Foundation – together with the National Lottery.
In just three months, a quality learning environment is available to learners. But sadly not to all in the area.
Historically disadvantaged learners are not getting fair service delivery. Is this because they are not allocated enough funds? Shockingly, the fact is that the money allocated to improving these schools is not being spent.
In the 2015/16 financial year alone, R424 million was returned to National Treasury instead of being spent on infrastructure. Limpopo returned R86 million in that year, and in 2016/17 underspent on infrastructure by another R67 million.
Learners of Vhudzani Secondary School – another school burned during protests – has to this day, not received even one of their allocated literature books. They are forced, by an uncaring ANC government to make do with photocopies.
We learned last week that the Limpopo Department of Education has again failed to meet a deadline to deliver textbooks to schools. This is after the MEC promised they would be available by the end of March.
531 Limpopo schools are still waiting for crucial Maths and Science textbooks.
Education departments cannot continue to blame bad contractors and implementing agents.
The reality is, that when these problems with underspending and not delivering textbooks happen every year, it is time to take a long hard look at the leadership in that province who have been appointed by the ANC.
MECs who are repeat offenders must be taken to task, so should the Minister of Basic Education.
Minister Angie Motsekga is ultimately responsible and must be held to account – yet on the textbook issue she told us “I don’t do the plan”.
When protests flared in Vuwani again this year, disrupting the education of nearly 30 000 learners who missed 11 days of school, she simply said: “if they continue to burn schools, let it be”.
This is not leadership. This is passing the buck.
The ANC cannot be trusted to step up to the plate and achieve real change across this country.
The DA takes the commitment to a quality basic education for all learners very seriously. Where we govern, we work with, and not against, other stakeholders to achieve the best possible outcomes for our learners.
This is why the Minister last week confirmed that according to the new ‘inclusive basket of criteria’ for matric results, the Western Cape came out tops in 2016.
Is it not time that we see that kind of progress in other provinces too?
I thank you.

History is already compulsory

A recent reply by the Minister of Basic Education to a DA question has re-ignited the debate on whether or not history should be made a compulsory school subject.
It needs to be made clear that history is already a compulsory subject for all learners up until the end of Grade 9. The DA supports this because all learners should emerge from school with a solid understanding of the history of their country, their continent and the world.
At issue is whether history should be made compulsory until the end of Grade 12 (the Further Education and Training or FET phase). A ministerial task team is currently looking into the desirability and feasibility of this.
At face value, the DA does not support making history compulsory in the FET phase on the grounds that it will curtail learner choices. Learners are already compelled to take their home language, a second language, mathematics/maths literacy and life orientation in this phase, leaving just three electives.
In the FET phase, learners should have some latitude to decide for themselves what their area of specialisation will be. If a learner wants to be an engineer, for example, she should be free to decide on three elective subjects that will improve her prospects of succeeding as an engineer.
This does not mean that it is acceptable for learners to leave school without a rich understanding of our complex history and the foundations of our constitutional democracy. Indeed, our current curriculum already provides for this.
The compulsory history curriculum up until the end of Grade 9 includes a diverse array of modules covering African and South African history from ancient times to the struggle against apartheid to the present day.
This is augmented with the ‘democracy and human rights’ module in life orientation (compulsory to Grade 12) that covers topics such as ‘diversity, discrimination, human rights and violations’, ‘democratic participation and democratic structures’ and ‘responsible citizenship’.
If learners are finishing school without a sound knowledge of our past and how it shaped the present, then the problem lies with the quality of teaching and not the curriculum.
According to the Minister of Basic Education, the task team she has set up will complete its work at the end of November 2017. We look forward to the task team’s report and trust there will be widespread consultation before any decisions are made.

193 grade 3, 4 and 5 school children fell pregnant

A response to a DA parliamentary question has revealed that 193 pupils in Grades 3, 4 and 5 fell pregnant between 2014 and 2016. If school children from Grade 6 and 7 who fell pregnant are added, this number increases to 1 449 children.
This information should shock every South African. Young girls, most under the legal age of 16, are having their futures undermined, likely through being taken advantage of or abused.
The DA will urgently submit further parliamentary questions to find out if these girls are under the age of 16 and if so, whether any charges have been instituted against those responsible, as this would be statutory rape. We will also investigate whether these girls have since returned back to school, following the birth of their child, what support the school and the Department of Basic Education have provided them to catch up on the syllabus, and whether counselling and other emotional support has been provided.
The parliamentary reply showed that 18 357 pupils fell pregnant in 2014, 15 504 in 2015, and 8 732 in 2016.
Although the overall numbers seem to indicate a drop in school pregnancies, the Department of Basic Education was not able to provide the statistics for Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal. Traditionally, these two provinces account for large numbers of school pregnancies, a total of 6 477 in 2014 and 5 178 in 2015 combined.
It is vital that the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, provide these missing numbers as a matter of urgency so that a realistic and honest assessment can be made and solutions can be found.
These young girls cannot be lost to the system and the department must follow up to ensure that they continue to attend school.
Keeping children in school should be our major priority if we are to ensure that every person, no matter the circumstances of their birth, are able to live a life they truly value, filled with opportunity. This is something the DA will continue to fight for.

SACE fail to answer corruption allegations and Minister must now investigate

On 20 January 2017, the South African Council of Educators (SACE) committed to respond, in writing, to the allegations of corruption put to them by the DA by the end of February. However, a month has passed and the DA is yet to receive any correspondence from SACE on the matter.
The DA will now present these allegations of corruption to the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, to demand that she investigate possible corruption at SACE.
SACE is mandated to ensure that teachers and principals who are accused of misconduct are held to account. Their role is, therefore, critical in ensuring our children are kept safe from those educators who wish to harm them.
The DA condemns the failure by SACE to respond to these allegations and they must be held to account for their lack of transparency when it comes to their own misconduct.
Whistleblowers have alerted the DA to various irregularities at SACE, including:

  • The CFO not having the qualifications, skills and experience for the position, and resorts to intimidation to scare off any objections to his alleged corruption;
  • The COO appointing unqualified investigators to probe corruption;
  • Nepotism regarding administrative positions at SACE;
  • The IT systems at SACE being improved by a company without a proper tender process; and
  • Irregularities regarding the salary pay scale of SACE employees.

In the meantime, the Public Protector has been investigating these allegations, as well as a long list of other alleged corrupt activities at SACE.
The abrupt resignation of the CEO of SACE, Rej Brijraj, on 31 January 2017, has lead the DA to believe that there may be substance to the allegations.
The DA demands that Minister Motshekga provide clarity on her department’s awareness of the possible crisis at SACE and her assurance that she will investigate the matter fully.