E Cape schools off to a rocky start

Coastal provinces generally matched the successes recorded in the inland provinces when their schools reopened on Wednesday this week. But, by Thursday, the picture in the Eastern Cape was still unclear regarding the renewal of temporary teachers’ contracts and the delivery of textbooks and stationery.

Overall, the start of the school year in all four coastal provinces—the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape and the Eastern Cape—went “overwhelmingly well”, said Dingani Ngobeni of the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu).

But the delivery of textbooks and stationery has been especially bad for KwaZulu-Natal’s grades seven and 10, as well as in parts of the Eastern Cape, he said.
Despite this, teaching had started in most schools, as it had in the Northern Cape and Western Cape.

He also noted that some schools in KwaZulu-Natal’s deep rural areas were withholding pupils’ report cards. “This is a trend in these areas.”

Silumko Radebe, fieldworker at Wits University’s education policy unit, said pupils in the Eastern Cape were being especially hard hit by the lack of no-fee schools, given the endemic poverty in the province.

While there was consensus about successes and problems in three of the four coastal provinces, reports emanating from the Eastern Cape remained deeply contradictory. “Above all,” said Ngobeni, “the problem there involves outstanding payments of teacher salaries and the non-renewal of temporary teachers’ contracts. This is causing anxiety and hindering teaching.” He could not by Thursday estimate the numbers of teachers affected.

But there is no problem, said Loyiso Pulumani, spokesperson for Eastern Cape education minister Mkhangeli Matomela. “The contracts of all temporary teachers have been extended till the end of January. We released a bulletin this week listing all posts available for filling thereafter. And, at the beginning of February, we’ll be issuing another bulletin for 1 000 posts.”

By the end of the first term, “all posts will be permanent ones”. He also said 96% of textbooks and 98% of stationery had been delivered by this week, “and we should be done by Friday”.

David Macfarlane

David Macfarlane

David Macfarlane is currently the Mail & Guardian's education editor. He obtained an honours degree in English literature, a fairly unpopular choice among those who'd advised him to study something that would give him a real career and a pension plan. David joined the M&G in the late 1990s. There, the publication's youth – which was nearly everyone except him – also tried to further his education. Since April 2010, he's participated in the largest expansion of education coverage the M&G Media has ever undertaken. He says he's "soon" going on "real annual leave", which will entail "switching off this smart phone the M&G youth told me I needed".   Read more from David Macfarlane

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