Minister: Schools dysfunctional

2010-03-11 22:10

Cape Town - Many schools are "dysfunctional" and pupils are leaving the foundation phase without basic literacy and numeracy skills, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said on Thursday.

Motshekga said at a media briefing in Cape Town that the downwards trend in the matric pass rate over the last year - the pass rate fell in all provinces with the exception of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal - was a "cause for concern" and pointed to problems lower down in the system.

"Many of our schools are dysfunctional," she said.

"South African learners exit the foundation phase without basic literacy and numeracy skills required to succeed later on.

"The majority of teachers lack the required subject knowledge, are not teaching what they are trained to teach and too often lack the commitment to teach for six-and-a-half hours every day."

R140bn infrastructure backlog

Motshekga said time use during school hours meant the curriculum was often not covered "as it should be".

"Homework is not given or marked and teachers seldom provide meaningful feedback to learners on their work," she said.

One of the department's major difficulties was ensuring a culture and sense of accountability among all participants in the education system.

Infrastructure challenges at schools were "immense", she said, with a backlog estimated at R140bn.

"We still have many poorly constructed mud buildings that collapse with the first rains."

Graft in provincial departments was disabling the rapid response on addressing such problems.

"Despite budgets to address these issues, the backlog grows in some provinces rather than being eliminated."

Pupil pass target

Schools, especially those in urban areas, were being plagued by drug, alcohol and sexual abuse and violence.

Motshekga said the department was taking a number of steps to improve the situation.

She said her department had set a target of having 175 000 pupils - up from the current 105 000 - pass their national examinations and qualifying for a bachelor's programme at a university by 2014.

By 2014 the department hoped to have 225 000 pupils passing mathematics and 165 000 passing physical science.

She said because the department "stands and falls" on the quality of teachers, it was paying "more attention to teacher development".

"We are expecting proposals and recommendations from the working groups for an integrated National Teacher Development Plan by the end of March.

"Final decisions will then be taken on what will be implemented in April."

The department is in discussions with the presidency and Treasury on increased finance for school infrastructure.