The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education has urged the Department of Education in KwaZulu-Natal to earnestly work at refining areas of concern raised by the committee during its week-long oversight visit to the province. The committee has concluded its oversight and has made various pointed recommendations that are aimed at enhancing the system to enable it to deliver quality education as envisioned by Section 29 of the Constitution.
“The 83% National Senior Certificate results is testament that there is renewed energy and commitment within the system to do better and ensure a quality education, especially for the poor. But to achieve more the system requires solutions to areas such as infrastructure, scholar transport, sanitation and teacher support to improve delivery of lessons,” said Ms Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba, the Chairperson of the committee.
The committee has welcomed assurances that interventions are already being implemented in schools visited by the committee. However, those interventions must be rolled out throughout the system to ensure a positive ripple effect.
The department’s commitment and the evaluation tools that will be implemented by the committee will ensure that the visit is not ceremonial, but has a direct impact on the lives of the children and on the country at large. “We must hasten to say that oversight is not a tick-box exercise and that recommendations arrived at are aimed at changing the environment that leaners are exposed to daily. Our main preoccupation is changing the lives of learners and a commitment to action by the department will ensure that our efforts bear fruits,” Ms Mbinqo-Gigaba emphasised.
Despite the general readiness of the system to commence with the 2023 academic year as demonstrated by the completion of the delivery of learning and teaching support material (LTSM), district support of schools, the roll out of the National Nutrition Programme, and the collaboration between schools’ senior management teams and the school governing bodies, the committee remains concerned by the enormous challenge facing the department to provide scholar transport.
“The provision of scholar transport is a serious challenge and requires refocus to prevent learners as young as six years walking for over three kilometres to get education. The question the department should be answering is how do they make available learning opportunities closer to where learners live on one hand or providing adequate transport where schools are far,” Ms Mbinqo-Gigaba suggested.
Adequate infrastructure and the availability of safe sanitation and water is also another area of concern that requires urgent attention. The committee welcomed the assurance that the department is rolling out a borehole programme to address the lack of clean water affecting the majority of rural schools. The committee has also called for the department to work with sister departments and municipalities to ensure that water is made available to the learners.
While the committee acknowledges that the department is facing funding shortages, the committee is encouraged by the department’s commitment to prioritising the hiring of teachers to ensure that there is a teacher teaching in every class. The committee also urged the department to ensure that support staff is made available, especially in special schools.
The committee will collaborate with the provincial legislature’s Education Committee to ensure that constant monitoring is done as a mechanism to hold the department accountable on the promises it made to the committee.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Republic of South Africa: The Parliament.