Education experts and unions cautiously optimistic

2013-10-08 00:00

EDUCATION experts and unions greeted the appointment of KZN Legislature speaker Peggy Nkonyeni as the Education MEC with cautious optimism.

Most political parties also welcomed the appointment, with the Democratic Alliance being the lone critical voice yesterday.

Professor Patrick Sibaya, a senior researcher in education at the University of Zululand, said the challenges in education were not unique to KwaZulu-Natal, but were shared with other provinces.

But Sibaya said he had confidence that Nkonyeni would deliver the goods.

UKZN senior research associate Dr Edith Dempster congratulated Nkonyeni and said she faced a huge task.

Dempster said she hoped Nkonyeni would not introduce sweeping changes and would not reverse some of the decisions that had already been made.

“The system doesn’t need many change,s but stability,” Dempster added.

She would like to see Nkonyeni continue with the former MEC for Education, Senzo Mchunu’s, strategy of consolidating smaller schools with larger schools.

“What breaks my heart is the rate of teenage pregnancy,” she added.

Dempster said before the department builds computer labs, she would like them to construct adequate toilets at schools for pupils and for the department to deal with unqualified teachers.

The National Professional Teachers’ Union KZN “cautiously welcomed” the appointment of Nkonyeni.

Union spokesperson Anthony Pierce said the union wished for the new MEC “not to fix it, if it is not broken”.

“She is saddled with the task of completing the initiatives started by her predecessor,” he said.

National Teachers’ Union deputy president Allen Thompson welcomed the appointment and said he did not think that there was a better candidate.

Thompson said some of the challenges that Nkonyeni would face included the closing down of schools, non-payment of a rural allowance for teachers, and corruption in the school feeding system.

“We’re supporting her, but if she wants to make things worse than they are now, we’re prepared to challenge her,” he added.

South African Democratic Teachers’ Union KZN secretary Mbuyiseni Mathonsi welcomed Nkonyeni, but said she came at a time when their patience as a union was running out.

The DA said Nkonyeni’s appointment was driven by political rather than education imperatives.

“That the new premier can appoint an individual who maladministered the province’s Health portfolio during her tenure as MEC — running up billions in overspends — and who has been linked to the multi-million rand ‘Amigos’ fraud and racketeering scandal, indicates the lack of moral integrity that has branded the ANC in more recent times,” DA Tom Stokes said.

Stokes said Premier Senzo Mchunu had few candidates who have the required competence within the ANC in KZN to choose from and in the end he had chosen cadre promotion over talent.

The IFP’s Muntomuhle Khawula congratulated Nkonyeni, saying her predecessor had left a questionable legacy in the department.

“The IFP cannot prejudge Nkonyeni in this new position, but wishes to state that time will tell if she was the ideal choice for this very important portfolio,” Khawula said.

ANC provincial secretary Sihle Zikalala said: “The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal regards the appointment as part of strengthening the provincial government and we urge all the stakeholders to work with the new MEC to ensure that education continues to receive the attention it deserves.”

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