Kwazulu-Natal Legislature Pietermaritzburg: 30 November 2010
Last week’s debate on mid-term finance reviews and
indeed the debate earlier today underlined the challenge of
underfunding in our Department of Education. We are aware that
additional funding is required for FET colleges, a shortfall in the
2009 and the 2010 wage agreements, OSD costs, Early Childhood
Development and, perhaps most urgently, that underfunding in
education is posing a challenge to the examination process in the
province. The shortfall for examinations has been mitigated by a
mere R10-million allocation in the Adjustments Appropriations, which
this House voted on a short while ago.
At the same time, we mustn’t lose sight of the
fact that education spending remains the government’s largest item
of spending, both nationwide and in this province and that teachers’
salaries constitute the single largest line item in the respective
budgets. The wage bill is staggering and made more ominous every
year following wage agreements. Twice before, in 1996 and 2007, did
the wage negotiations result in a dramatic expansion of teachers’
benefits, most recently with the introduction of OSDs.
As in our consideration of expenditure on ordinary
goods and services across the provincial government, we are quite
right to ask if we are getting value for money in exchange for
funding the Education Department’s enormous wage bill. The
department’s answer to this question should be more rigorous
performance assessments of its employees, and a more comprehensive
crackdown on ghost teachers and absenteeism in the classroom.
It is a well-known fact that budgets for capital
expenditure suffer tremendously in the period after the annual wage
agreements. Capital expenditure revolves in a vicious circle. Poor
spending has served in the past as a powerful incentive not to
invest in capital developments, especially where past spending
records were dismal. This has obviously impacted on maintenance of
the existing infrastructure and service delivery backlogs, which
continue to be among the worst in our province. For all the money
and effort poured into education, our rural and township schools
still reflect the economic realities of their location.
A few comments about the latest public service
strike. More than 2.5 million schoolchildren were adversely affected
by striking teachers and officials in KwaZulu-Natal alone. The
department’s District Offices were also hard hit by the strike with
most operations brought to a standstill. The ANC-aligned teachers'
union Sadtu went further than usual to issue a directive to teachers
and principals, urging them not to cooperate with the department.
This made the task of obtaining information from schools virtually
impossible. We are yet to assess the full impact of the strike once
this year’s matric results are in. Common tests for the first and
second quarters of this year have already revealed that Grade 12
learners did not perform well and the strike probably made the
Education was the only government department to
respond to the strike with a sensible “no work no pay policy” and
for this it deserves praise. It is to be hoped that this policy will
be emulated elsewhere for the duration of future strikes. I hasten
to add that we all respect the constitutional right of teachers and
other civil servants to strike and often we sympathise with their
demands. But, at the same time, we must recognise industrial action
for what it is. It is certainly no paid holiday. The principle of
“no work no pay” should be strictly applied by all provincial
departments in future with the necessary measures in place to ensure
that strikers’ salaries are docked with immediate effect.
Perhaps the most newsworthy part of the MEC’s
service delivery report dealt with the termination of his
department’s contract with Ithala. The reason for this was problems
in the ing of schools, such as compliance and delivery challenges,
which threatened service delivery in the Department of Education.
The fact that a government department cut its ties with a
government-funded development bank is in itself an indictment of
Ithala’s shambolic project management.
The decision to terminate the future working
relationship between the department and the bank, with the exception
of four projects in progress where Ithala has already been appointed
as contractor, appears to have been made under pressure from
communities waiting for schools. This is an example of the civil
society in action and we hope that the pressure from the recipients
of projects contracted to Ithala elsewhere will force the bank
towards the necessary restructuring of its operations and business
I thank you.
Contact: Roman Liptak, 078 302 0929