Education system a crisis: DA
Cape Town - Education should be declared a crisis and the school system revamped, the Democratic Alliance said on Wednesday.
Speaking in the National Assembly during debate on President Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation address, DA MP Wilmot James said Zuma was presiding over the greatest expansion of government spending in the nation’s history.
"And the result is that our debt is likely to reach levels close to those of the early 1990s."
Zuma's proposed investment in infrastructure was a good idea and his invitation to involve the private sector was welcome.
This would be a considerable stimulus to achieve the high growth needed to provide the revenues to repay the debt.
Limpopo didn’t order any books
However, this was not enough, James said.
"President Zuma also spoke at length about the success in improving education, and yet, as I speak now, one in three children sit without workbooks," he said.
"There are provinces without new textbooks because some did not bother to order them on time and Limpopo did not order books at all."
Zuma had referred to the improvement in the overall matric pass rate, but had failed to point out that the pass rate for mathematics, the sciences and some languages remained worryingly low.
As a result, universities would not be able to produce sufficient numbers of students with the engineering and technical skills the investment in infrastructure development required.
James said he was shocked when Zuma thanked all teachers’ unions for their co-operation in improving children's education.
"We know full well how the power-hungry Sadtu [SA Democratic Teachers' Union] wilfully sacrifices schooling on the altar of material greed, despite its socialist rhetoric."
"Tell us, Mr President, how will we achieve high economic growth without declaring education to be in crisis and ramping up our grossly underperforming school system?
"Tell us, Mr President, how will we achieve higher growth without an emergency skills programme for the trades to provide the talented young people without whom your plan will fail?
"Tell us Mr President, how will we achieve higher growth without large-scale ideas-based innovation at universities, our science councils and research and development in our private sector?"
James said it was necessary, among other things, to train more and better science and maths teachers and to pull talented science and maths teachers out of retirement.
Maths and science teachers should be recruited internationally and immigration requirements relaxed accordingly.
"We should rapidly rebuild our teacher training colleges. Start the exercise in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape and build the two planned universities for those provinces on that basis."
All trade unions and professional associations should be obliged by law to spend at least half the funds they received through payroll deduction on teacher training, development and services, he said.