DA calls for a debate on basic education

2010-10-28 14:38

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has called for a parliamentary debate on the problems facing basic education.

DA spokesperson Wilmot James told a media briefing today that he had recently concluded a series of visits to some of the poorest schools in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo.

“The substandard level of infrastructure and support provided at these schools demonstrates how far we have to go to provide an optimal standard of basic education to all of our students,” he said.

Basic amenities, such as electricity, water and sanitation, were slow to non-existent in the areas visited. Without them, children were in essence unable to enjoy their constitutional rights.

James thus proposed a debate be held in Parliament on problems facing basic education in South Africa. He further proposed this debate include what the government should be obliged to provide for pupils, and what penalties officials should face if they failed to roll out school infrastructure on time.

He had also requested from the Eastern Cape and Limpopo MECs details of the steps being undertaken to address the desperate infrastructure shortfalls at the schools visited, and others in a similar state.

According to the latest National Education Infrastructure Management System report from 2007, of the 24 000 public schools in the country:
» 25% did not have water facilities.
» 15% did not have sanitation facilities.
» 24% were overcrowded.
» 75% did not have libraries.
» There was a shortage of 31 254 classrooms.
» 50% of Eastern Cape schools used ordinary pit latrines, and only 20% of schools in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo had flush toilets.
» 90% of secondary schools lacked functioning laboratories.
» 68% of schools had no computers.
» Only 2% of schools were equipped for disabled pupils.

These failings had recently been highlighted by the court case brought by seven “mud schools” in the Eastern Cape.

Comprehensive norms and standards for schools were prescribed by former education minister Naledi Pandor in 2008/09.

Implementation of the norms and standards, from educational spaces to service provision, had been reasonable in some provinces, but inadequate in others, such as the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and the North West.

“The fact is South Africa’s children deserve better,” he said.

There were three fundamental aspects to having a quality education system. First, teachers should be qualified. Secondly, teachers should work in a functional environment with clear rules for recognising performance and ensuring accountability. Thirdly, there should be a modern curriculum delivered in a built infrastructure serviced appropriately according to existing norms and standards.

“Either the courts will compel governments to act and do so in a timely and responsible manner, or we can. It is for that reason that I proposed a debate in the House on this matter – so that we can start defining what government should be accountable for when it comes to providing a basic education,” James said.

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