School crisis: National steps in

The National Department of Education is to step into the Eastern Cape’s endlessly crisis-ridden school system.

The Constitution limits central government’s power to intervene in provincial education departments. However, an intergovernmental protocol has paved the way for a national rescue team.

At 50.6% the Eastern Cape’s latest matric results were the worst of the provinces. The department has been haunted by persistent managerial problems, including fraud and corruption, and teacher unionists describe it as too politicised and without direction.

Compounding this have been regular changes of MECs and department heads and a 64.5% head office management vacancy rate. The department, which has never received an unqualified audit report, has consistently failed to spend its budget.

The teacher vacancy rate in some Eastern Cape districts is 82%.

The rescue plan, expected to kick in next month, will focus on five areas including financial and human resource management, support to schools that under-performed in the 2008 matric exams and filling teaching posts.

National Director General Duncan Hindle said: “We’ll ensure we don’t leave until there are sustainable systems to turn the situation around.”

This is national government’s second salvage operation. In 2004 the Public Service
Department sent a team to turn around the entire provincial state sector.

One of its members, the national education department’s Chris Madiba, said last week that when the team moved out in 2005 he was confident the necessary systems and organisational structures had been installed and top leadership positions filled.

“But because of the nature of the province, and judging by the latest initiative, it would appear things did not work out as they should have,” he said.

Thabo Mohlala

Thabo Mohlala

Thabo reports for the Teacher newspaper, a Mail & Guardian monthly publication. Apart from covering education stories, he also writes across other beats. He enjoys reading and is an avid soccer and athletics fanatic. Thabo harbours a dream of writing a book. Read more from Thabo Mohlala

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