Education, health take centre stage in Eastern Cape

2015-02-20 13:21

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Eastern Cape premier Phumulo Masualle has made big promises in his second state of the province address in Bhisho today, with education and health receiving most of his attention.

Thousands were in attendance as Masualle delivered his address at the grounds of the Bhisho Legislature in a large marquee.

The premier painted a picture of a province making progress and advancement towards changing its fortunes.

He said in a bid to eradicate mud schools the construction of 97 schools had been completed in the past three years, while 134 new schools were planned for the new medium term expenditure framework, with 20 other new schools also planned for the 2015-2016 financial year.

More than 5 500 schools in the province now have access to ICT connectivity, and 90% of all learner and teacher support material was delivered before the official opening of schools in January, compared with 83% in 2009.

Masualle said in an effort to improve access to education to the poor, more than 90% of schools in the province were now no-fee schools.

The province also placed focus on early childhood development, with centres having increased from 1 324 in the previous financial year, to 1 460 in the current financial year.

“In the same period, 4 484 out of 4 557 targeted schools now have grade R classes. The number of children registered in grade R increased to 152 873 in 2014,” Masulle said.

He added that in 2015 the government would focus on the professional development of early childhood development practitioners.

In a rosy speech, which focused on the government’s achievements, the premier said more than one million children were benefiting from the school nutrition programme.

The scholar transport on the other hand benefited 57 176 children, an increase from 54 000 in 2013.

In a province plagued by accidents involving school children transported in the back of bakkies, Masualle said his government was currently “beefing up policy” to improve the governance of the scholar transport programme.

Masualle also called on all districts to “pull up their socks” in order to improve the matric pass rate after the province came last again in the class of 2014, with results marred by group coping.

“Notwithstanding the slight improvement in the 2014 matric results, we cannot be content with the below-average performance in most of our schools. This must change and we call on all districts to pull all stops to ensure better leaner attainment,” he said.

As part of the National Health Insurance, two hospitals – Bambisana in Lusikisiki and Zithulele in Elliotdale – were being revamped.

Five new clinics would be constructed and 40 consulting rooms added to existing clinics around the province.

Masualle said the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in Mthatha would be expanded into a central hospital attached to the Walter Sisulu School of Medicine.

“In 2015-2016 we are going to complete the 530 bed flagship project at the Cecilia Makiwane Hospital in East London at a cost of R935 million. An additional 17 clinics will be completed at a cost of R332 million, most of which are in the NHI pilot district of OR Tambo,” he said.

Masualle said R189 million would be spent on training of 2 344 healthcare professionals in the province.

“In 2015-2016, we will continue to provide training opportunities for healthcare professionals locally and through collaborations with the Cuban government,” Masualle said.

The premier said the province was making significant impact in the reduction and treatment of tuberculosis and HIV/Aids infections.

He said the province’s work with the Eastern Cape Aids Council was making strides in scaling up access to antiretroviral treatment which contributed to an improved life expectancy.

Masualle said the province was working hard to transform the economy to create jobs and sustainable livelihoods.

He said that this was done against an economy that recorded one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.

The province’s unemployment rate currently stands at 30.8%, and youth unemployment stood at 50%.

He said a total of 24 737 jobs were created against a target of 13 234, through the Eastern Cape Development Cooperation, the East London Industrial Development Zone, and the Coega Development Cooperation.

And 14 investments were targeted at the province’s industrial development zones to the tune of R2.2 billion.

“As part of promoting the province as an investment destination of choice, we are developing an investment promotion strategy aimed at creating and enabling environment for a vibrant economic growth in the province,” Masualle said.

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