Angie: I’m tired of excuses

2016-12-18 06:04
Pi in the sky Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. (Picture: Joshua Sebola)

Pi in the sky Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. (Picture: Joshua Sebola)

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Johannesburg - Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga says she is tired of excuses presented by officials when the department fails to deliver essential services to schools.

“I’ve told officials to take responsibility, evaluate, monitor tightly and take action where they delegated authority,” she told City Press in a wide-ranging interview about the state of basic education in the country.

She particularly expressed serious concerns about weaknesses in the delivery of textbooks in schools categorised as section 21 – those that get a budget from her department because they have no resources of their own.

“I would like to have each official performing assigned duties without any excuses,” she said, adding that 2017 should be the year in which a system of accountability is entrenched in her department.

Motshekga said she would like to leave behind “a well-functioning education department” when her term of office expires in 2019 – indicating for the first time her concerns about how history will judge her legacy.

“I think we have made so much progress in terms of policy and I’ve said, let’s not bring new things, but make sure that what we’ve agreed to nationally resonates in the classrooms.”

She said the department needed to produce a well-coordinated business process for every aspect of basic education in the country. It must emulate the same standards and consistencies applied when conducting national senior certificate exams.

“We all know who is going to set exams. The process is clear to everybody. Provinces know their role. We know dates for supplementary exams and everybody knows what they are doing.

“I don’t fold arms when there is a paper leak. I take responsibility because I delegated authority,” Motshekga emphasised.

Another weakness was in schools’ infrastructure development, where officials continued to blame the department of public works for not doing its job.

Her department faced another controversy a few days ago after it sent out a circular to schools announcing advancement to the next grade of learners in grades 7, 8 and 9 for pupils who received 20% in maths.

Amid the outcry, a three-day maths indaba was held at the department’s headquarters where experts were invited to provide inputs on how the country could better improve teaching and learning of mathematics.

The inputs would be used towards drafting a unique framework for improving results in mathematics.

Motshekga said it was a coincidence that the indaba was held at the time when the country was still grappling with the matter of advancement of pupils.

She said the indaba had been initially planned for September, but it was rescheduled pending the results of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study to help analyse these with experts.

The minister reiterated the department’s position that the 20% advancement mark was not a pass rate. “People are just not listening and they have preconceived views, which I think are formed by some trust deficit.”

She said the announcement was an error in policy that schools have been raising and it was being corrected to help them deal with promotions for next year. “It has nothing to do with this indaba,” she quipped.

Asked about allegations that the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) had forced the department to abandon the Annual National Assessment (ANA) system by encouraging its members to not participate in the programme, Motshekga said: “Fortunately, we had already realised that we were over-assessing, which was a problem. It was not Sadtu...it was all teachers’ unions and we were on the same page. We said it was getting expensive to do ANA annually. It also denied us an opportunity to rectify what we picked up,” she explained.

She emphasised that the department had good relations with unions without which the system would be dysfunctional.

“Unions are not lapdogs of the employer [government]. They used ANAs as leverage for other things that were part of the difficulties we had in the sector,” she said.

Asked about the weaker provinces such as the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo, Motshekga admitted that they were a real concern for her. However, she hoped that KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo were finally getting things right following the appointment of senior staff and political heads.

Despite having a new head of department, Themba Kojana, who previously worked at the national department of basic education, the Eastern Cape was still battling to improve its delivery levels, from infrastructure development to the supply of textbooks and the allocation of teachers.

“Things are extremely bad there... It’s going to take a while for the Eastern Cape to get things right. I think they are tired of being at the bottom and I think that’s the right attitude.

“I even said to [ANC general-secretary] Gwede [Mantashe], the Eastern Cape will be in a hole, but because of its strong community, it will soon rise,” she said.

Motshekga confirmed that her intervention in the Eastern Cape had lapsed, saying Cabinet had asked that she continue to monitor and assist where needed.

Read more on:    sadtu  |  gwede mantashe  |  angie motshegka  |  johannesburg  |  education

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