GDE closed 11 schools in the past five years

The Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) has closed 11 schools in the province in the past five years. This has occurred while learners continue to be taught in overcrowded classrooms and an environment not conducive to teaching or learning.

This information was revealed in a recent written reply by MEC Matome Chiloane to questions tabled by the DA in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature.

Of the 11 schools that have been closed, three were converted into Public Special Schools, while the department has deserted the rest. Gauteng schools are overcrowded, lack resources and their infrastructure is dilapidated, which puts the lives of learners and teachers at risk.

Parents are opting to take their children to schools that perform better, where there is discipline and minimal disruptions during school days. Some schools are forced to shut down because they are being abandoned by parents and guardians seeking better quality education for their kids. However, this leads to more pressure on the resources of schools receiving a high influx of learners. There is also an additional financial burden because of the need for scholar transport for learners travelling further to receive an education.

Gauteng has a demand for more than 120 new schools that need to be built, but the department is closing schools. Unfortunately, the infrastructure of many of the schools that have been closed is not being utilised.

The DA proposes that MEC Chiloane looks at repurposing the infrastructure of the schools that have been closed since 1994, as with the proper investment and maintenance, this will help meet the demand in the province.

It will also be crucial that the department ensures that leaders fit for purpose are appointed to lead these schools.

Learners taught in overcrowded classrooms due to GDE’s failure to procure sufficient mobile classrooms

Gauteng learners continue to be taught in overcrowded classrooms and exposed to dilapidated infrastructure due to the Gauteng Department of Education’s (GDE) failure to build adequate brick-and-mortar schools and to provide sufficient mobile classrooms.

This has negatively impacted the delivery of quality learning and teaching, resulting in many schools continuing with the rotational learning system.

Since July 2022, GDE has only managed to provide 90 mobile classrooms across Gauteng schools costing the department a total of R31,855,678.40.

The Gauteng MEC revealed this information for Education, Matome Chiloane, in a written reply to the DA’s questions tabled in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL).

The number of mobile classrooms the department has provided is deficient because there is severe overcrowding in many of our schools and a dire need for mobile classrooms.

Furthermore, most of our school’s infrastructure is old and dilapidated, lacks regular and proper maintenance and has resulted in learners being taught in overcrowded mobile classrooms which have exceeded their life span.

This indicates poor planning by the department because they are aware of the infrastructure challenges faced by our schools.

The department is underutilising the service providers as it only appointed 15 providers to procure mobile classrooms. We believe this is the core reason for the delays in the procurement of mobile classrooms because several other service providers who should have been contracted have not been.

The DA demands that the GDE open the procurement system for mobile classrooms to all service providers in its database to fast-track the delivery of mobile classrooms at schools. This procurement process must be fair, transparent, and with less red tape to ensure all eligible service providers can do business with the government.

We will continue to put pressure on the MEC Chiloane to ensure that schools across the province are well-equipped with adequate infrastructure. We will also ensure that his department provides sufficient mobile classrooms as a temporary measure to ease school overcrowding.

GDE R432 million PPE scandal report must be made public to ensure accountability

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng is demanding that the Gauteng MEC for Education, Matome Chiloane make public the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) R432 million Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) corruption report to ensure accountability.

This will ensure that officials and politicians implicated in this corruption scandal are held accountable and are made to pay back every cent stolen from the department.

The DA has been reliably informed that the report has been handed over to MEC Chiloane and instead of making it public, he is still keeping it in his office.

The fact that the MEC is keeping the report raises suspicions that he might be trying to shield his comrades that are implicated, or he is playing a delay tactic.

This money which was meant to decontaminate schools and ensure the safety of learners during the Covid-19 pandemic was looted over three months.

The report contains detailed information on how the money was looted and exposes the culprits.

The Auditor General (AG) probed this matter and the department promised that the report will be finalised by September last year.

The DA also tabled questions to the former MEC, now the Premier, Panyaza Lesufi, who indicated in his response that the report will be finalised by October last year. However, to date, the report has not been made public.

The DA will write to MEC Chiloane and demand that he releases the report within 14 working days. Should he fail to release the report, we will use the Promotion of Access to Information Act to force him to make the report public.

If there is nothing that he is hiding, MEC Chiloane will abide by the DA’s demands and release the report within 14 working days.

Learners denied education as Gauteng Education fails to place them in schools before the start of the academic year

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng is concerned that the Gauteng Department of Education has failed to place all learners who applied on time before the new academic year starts tomorrow, Wednesday, 11 January. This means thousands of learners will not attend school on day one of the 2023 academic year.

The online system seems to be easily manipulated as learners who have siblings or reside next to schools were not placed or allocated space far from their siblings or place of residence.

MEC Matome Chiloane must account for failing to place all learners who applied on time but were still not placed. Parents informed the DA that the appeals process was flawed and failed to consider reasons, only offering a general standardised response. This is a confirmation of the flaws in the current online system.

The DA urged the department to use online applications to ensure proper planning and allocate resources to high-demand schools. Unfortunately, the department has failed dismally.

Late applications will compound this problem. The lack of consequences against responsible officials is the main reason learners will be frustrated and sit at home without commencing their learning for the year.

The DA proposes that the MEC prioritises resolving placement issues for the learners who applied on time. Thousands of parents and guardians who applied on time are still waiting for SMSs to confirm the placement of their children.

No learner should be denied access to education because the department failed to allocate a school for them. Furthermore, the long wait and uncertainty frustrate parents who still need to buy stationery and uniforms and make transport arrangements for their children.

The DA will continue to monitor developments regarding interventions to place all learners. We will further visit schools to confirm whether MEC Chiloane kept his promise to deliver mobile classrooms to high enrolment demand schools to avoid classroom overcrowding.

Over 31 000 learners remain unplaced as GDE misses the placement deadline

31 549 learners who applied on time for Grades 1 and 8 for the 2023 academic year have not been placed because the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) has once again missed its placement deadline.

This is causing uncertainty among the parents as they don’t know when their children will be placed in schools.

8142 and 23 407 learners for Grades 1 and 8, respectively, are waiting to be placed. The department is citing applications with “incomplete documents” as a reason for not placing these learners on time which is a way of covering up for the glitches in the online admission system and their incompetency.

Based on previous years, online admissions have had multiple glitches, resulting in learners not being placed on time.

The DA has warned the department that they will not meet the deadline for placement because they did not listen to our proposal of opening the online admission process in April. This was going to ensure that the schools and the School Governing Bodies (SGBs) are given an opportunity to assess their capacity and consult with the department regarding additional resources.

Delays in the placement of learners negatively impact parents and guardians who must budget and prepare stationery, and school uniforms, and make transport arrangements for their children.

The DA demands that the Gauteng MEC for Education, Matome Chiloane, ensure that the online system is transparent and outline the schools that still have the capacity and remove those that have reached their capacity so that parents will know which schools to choose from.

We further demand that all unplaced learners should be allocated schools before the schools open in January 2023. This will require all staff members responsible for admission to work extra hours in December to conclude the placement process.

The DA will continue to monitor to ensure all learners are placed and hold MEC Matome to account if there are still learners who have not been placed before the start of the 2023 academic year.

Severe overcrowding at Randvaal Primary School affects the quality of teaching and learning

Severe overcrowding at Randvaal Primary School is affecting the delivery of quality education as the learning and teaching environment is not conducive.

Learners are being taught in the library, school hall and the foyer due to severe overcrowding in classrooms.

Today, the DA conducted an oversight inspection at the school, and we were shocked to learn that the Gauteng Department of Education is aware of the challenges of overcrowding in classrooms, and they have constantly ignored the plea for additional classrooms at this school.

We were told that their excuse has been that the department does not have funds.

This has forced the school principal to utilise the library, science laboratory, hall foyer and the school hall as classrooms. These learning conditions are unacceptable and are not conducive for learners and teachers.

In total there are more than 1500 learners at the school and certain grades have an average of 55 learners per classroom.

See the images here and here.

Our biggest concern is that even though the school is struggling to accommodate the current numbers, it has over 250 applications but can only accommodate 160 of those applications.

Come January 2023, this school will not be able to accommodate all the applicants as they have already reached capacity, and this will worsen the overcrowding.

The DA demands that the Gauteng MEC for Education, Matome Chiloane, provide this school with additional five classrooms to ease overcrowding and ensure that learners are being taught in a conducive environment.

We will further table questions to ascertain when will the department provide the Randvaal Primary School with the funds needed to build additional classrooms.

The DA will continue to fight to ensure that no learner is taught in overcrowded classrooms and that all our schools have access to much-needed resources and that the infrastructure is up to standard.

173 sexual misconduct cases against teachers cost GDE over R10m in precautionary suspension

Gauteng learners continue to suffer under those that are tasked with the responsibility to take care of their well-being while at school. A total of 173 allegations of sexual misconduct were reported against educators in the last five years.

This is appalling and a clear indication that innocent lives are at risk.

Of the 173 allegations of sexual misconduct against teachers, 29 teachers were placed on precautionary suspension and six teachers are currently serving on precautionary suspension.

The average number of days for precautionary suspension is 346 days for the last 5 years and has cost the department R10 595 744,89 to date.

This information was revealed by the Gauteng MEC of Education, Matome Chiloane, in a written reply to the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) question? tabled in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL).

According to MEC Chiloane, 86 educators who have been accused of sexual misconduct are still teaching. Some were found not guilty, and in other cases, sanctions short of dismissal were pronounced.

MEC Chiloane states that 87 educators were found guilty of sexual misconduct and were dismissed.

Furthermore, it is deeply concerning that the department does not keep records of cases that were reported to the police. The department states that the reporting is not the responsibility of Labour Relations, and the victims were encouraged to open criminal cases with the South African Police Services (SAPS).

This means that those found to be guilty were allowed to walk free without facing the might of the law which is unacceptable and denies justice for the victims.

The DA demands that MEC Chiloane must ensure that they speed up the investigation process for the teachers that are currently on precautionary suspension. The slower the investigations are, the more money the department will spend on precautionary suspensions.

In addition, l will directly engage with the MEC to ascertain why the department is not opening cases against teachers found to be guilty of sexual misconduct. We also demand that the department submit and register the names of all the teachers found guilty of sexual misconduct under the National Register for Sex Offenders. This will ensure that these teachers are banned from working with children.

Schools should be safe spaces for learners where sexual offenders are not permitted.

I will continue to fight for the safety of Gauteng learners and ensure that these unresolved cases are resolved as a matter of urgency.

Collapsing asbestos infrastructure at Randfontein Secondary School poses a safety and health risk for learners

Learners and teachers at Randfontein Secondary School continue to be exposed to asbestos infrastructure posing a safety and health risk.

Instead of replacing this school with a brick-and-mortar structure, the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) contracted a service provider six years ago to construct a wall to cover the asbestos material. The wall has cracked, and the bricks are starting to fall off which is a danger for both learners and teachers.

The community’s plea for a school to be built with a brick-and-mortar structure has fallen on deaf ears, and the school now relies on parents and donations to fix the dilapidated infrastructure.

There is also a severe lack of proper and regular school maintenance. The ceiling is falling off, gutters are damaged, and there is a challenge with the sewer infrastructure constantly overflowing, causing a health risk for learners.

This information was revealed during the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) oversight inspection at the school today.

Please see the images here, here and here.

Furthermore, Randfontein Secondary is one of many schools across the province that were failed by Premier Panyaza Lesufi, who failed on his promise to eradicate asbestos infrastructure and replace it with brick-and-mortar structures.

The DA demands that the Gauteng MEC for Education, Matome Chiloane, must prioritise eradicating all asbestos infrastructure across the province.

We will also table questions to the MEC to ascertain when all the asbestos schools in Gauteng will be eradicated.

This department is failing in its core mandate to ensure that learning and teaching take place in a conducive learning environment.

Oakdale Secondary School learners continue to suffer as they are taught in old and dilapidated mobile classrooms

Thousands of learners across the province continue to be taught in old and dilapidated mobile classrooms which are not conducive to learning and teaching to take place. Oakdale Secondary School in Ennerdale is one of the many mobile schools in Gauteng that have been desperately waiting to be built with a brick-and-mortar structure.

For the past five years, this school which has 836 learners has been using mobile classes for most of its grades, despite promises by the Gauteng Department of Education that the school will be built with a brick-and-mortar structure.

Recently, one mobile classroom was burnt down and has not yet been replaced.

See the image here.

This information was revealed to the Democratic Alliance (DA) during an oversight inspection at the school.

There is a shortage of mobile classrooms which has severely affected Grades 8 and 9. This will be made worse as the school is expecting to enrol about 300 Grade 8 learners for the 2023 academic year.

There is also a challenge of drugs around the community and the drug users are alleged to be targeting school infrastructure. The school has been vandalised, and there is currently no electricity due to the reoccurring cable theft incidents.

The DA will be engaging with the department to categorise this school as a quintile five because it is not generating any income. The learners attending this school are from disadvantaged families and they are solely dependent on the scholar transport and the nutrition programme. We will also pressure the department to urgently build a proper kitchen for the school and provide additional mobile classrooms.

The DA demands that the new Gauteng MEC of Education, Matome Chiloane, must outline how he will fix the mess left by the former MEC Panyaza Lesufi to ensure that old and worn mobile schools are replaced with brick-and-mortar structures.

We will continue to fight for the education of our children and ensure a conducive learning and teaching environment at all our schools across the province.

MEC Chiloane must act against irregular expenditure and ensure that money is spent on fixing school infrastructure

The Gauteng school’s infrastructure is old and deteriorating, and the environment in which learning and teaching take place is not conducive, yet the department has incurred irregular expenditure amounting to R811 842 000 in the 2021/22 financial year.

The DA is demanding that the newly appointed Gauteng Department of Education MEC Matome Chiloane, must take action against officials who incurred irregular expenditures in the 2021/22 financial year.

The Auditor General has indicated the following on the department’s annual report for the 2021/22 financial year: “Effective and appropriate steps were not taken to prevent irregular expenditure amounting to R811 842 000, as is disclosed in note 23.1 and 23.2 to the annual financial statements as required by PFMA and Treasury Regulations. The majority of irregular expenditure was caused by prior year non-compliance regarding procurement and contract management.”

It is concerning that Programme 7, which focuses on examinations and education-related services, has incurred R772.2 million in irregular expenditure while this programme also underspent its allocated budget by R123 million. This money could have been adjusted and moved to other programmes through virement.

The DA proposes that the department allocate more budget to fund school infrastructure as many schools are ageing and dilapidated, and the mobile classrooms are damaged. The department should also prioritise the eradication of asbestos and mobile schools and replace them with brick-and-mortar structures to ensure that teaching and learning take place in a conducive environment.

The DA is also challenging MEC Chiloane to take decisive actions against officials implicated in irregular expenditure as outlined by the Auditor General’s findings. There are many ongoing forensic investigations into alleged financial irregularities, financial misconduct, and fraud within the department. This can only stop when the political head is committed to fighting corruption and sending a strong message that he will protect the public purse.