The parlous state of the South African state education system has seen a boost in enrolment at private schools.
While the problematic supply of textbooks to schools has been in the news recently, it emerged this week that South African teachers on average spend less than 50% of their teaching time in classrooms each week.
The Sunday Times reported this figure was contained in a survey conducted by the SA Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR).
The survey said teachers often did not understand their subjects and that many teachers in state schools bunked classes.
As a result, many parents turned to private schools for their children's education. The number of pupils in private schools increased from 256 283 in 2000 to more than 450 740 to date.
In state schools the pupil to teacher ratio was 30:1, but in the private sector the ratio was 16:1.
Ten percent of 24 451 state schools lacked water facilities, said the survey, and 11 450 schools had pit latrines and 155 still relied on the bucket system.
The survey said 913 schools did not have toilet facilities, the paper reported.
Limpopo department runs out of money
Meanwhile, the Mail & Guardian reported on Friday that Limpopo education MEC Dickson Masemola approved payment of R138-million to controversial textbook firm EduSolutions last year after being alerted that the provincial education department was broke.
The correspondence shows that Masemola and the Limpopo education department’s chief financial officer, Martin Mashaba, were warned in an email by former budget manager Solly Tshitangano on February 25 that there was insufficient money in the department’s bank account to cover its costs, including salaries.
Tshitangano referred to a "resolution taken by the finance branch" to stop payments until further notice and proposed that the department “should not participate in BAS [the basic accounting system] until an overdraft facility is granted by the provincial treasury”.
Despite this, Mashaba, after consulting Masemola, instructed the department’s financial managers to “authorise all invoices that you have received”. An email from Mashaba, dated March 7 last year, says: “After consultation with the MEC [Masemola] to appraise [sic] him on the challenges facing the department, he indicated that the processing of infrastructure payments should continue due to the implications on conditional grant expenditure.” As a result, four payments totalling R138-million were made to EduSolutions in March 2011 for services rendered during the 2010-2011 financial year. Between December 2010 and March 2012, the company received R387-million. And while these payments were being made, Mashaba, in a series of emails in early March and with the endorsement of Masemola, ordered that the budget for goods and services be cut to help the department to pay the salaries of its employees.
Masemola, also the ANC’s provincial deputy chairperson, is facing mounting pressure from the Limpopo ANC Youth League to step down for “underperforming”.
A report compiled by the former administrator of the Limpopo education department, Anis Karodia, for the National Council of Provinces in March accuses the provincial minister of contributing to the department’s R2-billion over-expenditure.
He said there was “subtle interference” by Masemola and other senior officials in the bid adjudication committee in relation to the awarding of contracts and that the national treasury should manage all tenders above R1-million.
On Thursday this week, the New Age reported Masemola as saying that he had done nothing wrong. “The department had operated on an overdraft since 2007 when, countrywide, unions agreed with government in the bargaining chamber to pay occupation-specific dispensation which was not budgeted for.
“This happened before I became MEC and resulted in money moved from the purchase of textbooks, feeding schemes, school transport and others to compensation of employees.”
The Sunday Independent last week quoted three sources who described Masemola as “untouchable, because he is a Zuma man”.
The education department awarded EduSolutions a three-year, R1-billion contract in October 2010 to supply textbooks to 4 000 Limpopo schools. However, the books started to arrive at the schools only in June, after a court application by education non-governmental organisation Section27.