Today I visited the Lovemore Park Farm School in the Eastern Cape. This school, just 15 minutes outside of Port Elizabeth, has been abandoned by the Department of Education, and is on the brink of collapse.
The terrible conditions in which these children must endure is not only an infringement of their constitutional right to access education, but is also in clear violation of the constitution’s emphasis on the rights of the child being of paramount importance in all matters.
- The boys toilets are broken and locked. The children are forced to use the nearby bush;
- The school does not have access to safe drinking water;
- The pre-primary phase class fluctuates depending on the day and has been as low as 4 learners. This is because the other 30 learners cannot attend school as they cannot pay transport fees;
- The school only has two teachers. It is currently two short;
- The computer room is locked as they are short of teachers;
- The feeding scheme was stopped because of a lack of funds;
- Several rooms on the property have adults residing in them. They work on neighbouring farms and pay rent to the school; and
- A large pile of garbage lies a few metres away from one of the classrooms.
One year ago, DA Councillor Stanford Slabbert arranged a site inspection with senior education officials to highlight these issues at the school. To date nothing has happened.
On the 25 July, Leader in the Provincial Legislature Bobby Stevenson took the matter up with the Eastern Cape MEC for Education, Mandla Makupula. There has to date been no response to his letter.
It is now necessary to elevate this matter further. The DA will therefore be writing to the Human Rights Commission to report the Department of Basic Education for their violation of the rights of these children, and others across the province.
The DA Shadow Minister for Basic Education Annette Lovemore will also be submitting parliamentary questions to Minister Motshekga to get answers as to how this has been allowed to happen across the province.
Indeed, Lovemore Park Farm School is not the exception. Across the Eastern Cape, schools continue to lack the necessary funding, maintenance and teachers to ensure that our children receive a quality education.
There are still an estimated 565 “inappropriate structures” in the Eastern Cape;
- These included 395 mud schools, 13 wood schools, 22 metal schools and 135 prefabricated schools;
- Scholar transport remains erratic due to non-payment of service providers;
- The Department’s has a 60% vacancy in the administrative arm of the Department, not allowing it to properly assist schools;
- The Department experiences critical skills shortages at district level;
- The Department has failed to spend most of its Financial Management and Quality Enhancement Conditional Grant;
- The Department’s capacity constraints at district level prevent it from effectively monitoring the implementation of the Eastern Cape Schools Building Programme.
To be put simply, the Eastern Cape has a serious backlog in education infrastructure, and the government does not have the money or the skills to fix it.
At the heart of the problem is the poor leadership demonstrated by the ANC in the province. Pervasive corruption and maladministration – which eventually forced the National Department to intervene – has meant that the children of this province are on their own.
This is in clear contrast to where the DA governs. In the Western Cape, the provincial government will build 81 new schools in the next three years, which would replace many school buildings that had fallen into disrepair. The total budget for this project would exceed R3 billion.
In addition, the Western Cape Department of Education spent 99% of its total budget in the 2011/2012 financial year.
The results are there to see. The Western Cape received the highest pass rate (82.9%) in the 2011 Matric Examinations and the Eastern Cape received the lowest (58.1%).
The ANC is costing young South Africans their futures. Without access to quality education, and basic skills in literacy and numeracy, our young people cannot hope to find a job.
This is why the DA has made education through job creation a central pillar of our Plan for Growth and Jobs. In order to grow our economy, and create more jobs, we must ensure that we provide a quality education to all of our children.
The DA will do everything possible to ensure that this happens. We will fight for the children of the Eastern Cape – and we will not give up until they too can benefit from the many opportunities a growing South Africa will offer.
Dr. Wilmot James