Basic Education: Budget Vote 15
By Hon Alfred Mpontshane MP
IFP Education Spokesperson


National Assembly, 13th April 2011

Honourable Chairperson:

The former Mayor of New York, Mr Rudi Giuliani once said during a visit to South Africa: "What this country will be like 20 years from now is really being determined in the schools in this country, not in the political arenas or the business arenas." These words are a stark reminder that many students, and indeed South Africa as a whole, face an uncertain future.

Minister, our education system is in dire straits. A recent in-depth report by the international news channel Al Jazeera, called South Africa's children a generation at stake. A wasted future is what many of South Africa's children face and without the prospect of a proper education and therefore a proper job later in life, their futures are indeed at stake. Their future prospects are further diminished by falling standards in education. While South Africa has made impressive strides towards meeting the delivery of primary education for all, in the process the quality of education has dropped. According to some surveys, South Africa is falling behind countries like Mozambique and Zimbabwe. These are the stark realities we face today and which we must address through this Department's budget tabled here today.

While we are all aware that it is a constitutional right of every child in this country to receive an education, education must be delivered in surroundings that are conducive to learning and by teachers that have been adequately trained to teach the various subjects. Every learner has the right to a safe and clean school environment - an environment where learning and education are nurtured, an environment where no learner goes hungry.

Unfortunately we are not meeting these constitutional imperatives.

Since attaining democracy, South Africa has increased access to education dramatically. But for a country that spends proportionally more of its GDP on education than the international norm, somewhere, we have gone wrong.

What are the critical challenges? Let me unpack these challenges:

1. Eighteen schools achieved a zero matric pass rate in 2010. Five of these schools were in the Eastern Cape, four in Limpopo and three in KwaZulu-Natal and one each in both Gauteng and the Free State. This statistic remains unchanged from 2009. Are these schools being put under the spotlight by the Department? Is the Department rendering immediate emergency assistance at these schools? Have we commissioned critical analytical studies to ascertain what the causes of the zero pass rates are?

2. Despite a massive portion of the budget being allocated to infrastructure each year, we still have 400 mud schools, all in the struggling Eastern Cape, We should no longer tolerate a situation where children go to school in buildings made of mud, or without water or electricity. Government statistics have recently shown that 3600 of the schools in this country are without electrification, 2500 are without adequate water supply and an astonishing 92% of our schools are without libraries. Minimum infrastructure standards for our schools must be adhered to and those schools found wanting must receive urgent and immediate Departmental assistance. The fact that eight of the ANC-controlled provinces have now had their infrastructure allocations withdrawn is a terrible disgrace, and it points to a systematic collapse of our education system.

4. Social ills must be addressed through the continuing education of our youth and through a campaign of moral revival. Gangsterism, drug and alcohol abuse, absenteeism, ill discipline, teenage pregnancy and sexual promiscuity result in dysfunctional learning environments. Minister, we need to implement a specific school programme, aimed at character education, which must aim to cultivate within our students an innovative spirit and practical skills, transforming them into exemplary builders of our democracy.

5. The various teacher unions, but most notably SATDU, have become a serious problem. They have clearly shown us that they are prepared go to any lengths, even at the expense of our children's education, to get what they want. They appear to be in charge of the Department of Education and not the other way around. Will the government be held to ransom each and every year by the unions in respect of salary increases? Will teacher strikes become the norm every September/October just before the matrics' sit for their final exams? Government must adopt a tough approach and seek to further regulate unions so that instances such as the crippling teachers' strikes we experienced last year are not repeated. 

6. Lastly, one of the major concerns to the IFP is the fact that 1700 South African science teachers are not qualified to teach science - meaning that at least 50 000 learners are not receiving teaching from qualified educators. Especially in many rural areas schools have to do without properly trained teachers. This is a disgraceful situation and we need to ensure that qualified, trained and well-equipped teachers are found in each classroom, in each school countrywide.  

The IFP has always been committed to "Education for Liberation", which we championed during our liberation struggle, and which we continue to champion today. Education is as valuable for strengthening democracy as it is for overcoming oppression. Knowledge is power. Knowledge is the new world currency. We can deliver a quality education for all. 

The IFP wish the Minister and her Department all the best for the year ahead. 

I thank you.

Mr Alfred Mpontshane MP
on 083 441 6201