Cabinet lifeline for EC schools

For the first time since 1994, national government has invoked legislation and taken over the running of a provincial education department.

The Cabinet decided at its weekly meeting this week to use the Constitution to enable the national department of basic education to take control of the Eastern Cape provincial department, which has been racked by crises since schools reopened in January.

Speaking in East London on Thursday Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said that Cabinet had authorised her department to intervene.

“Cabinet directed that Section 100 of the Constitution be used in order to provide the required constitutional and legal authority for this intervention,” she said.

“Cabinet was of the view that this intervention, which is made in the spirit of co-operative governance, will pave the way for an immediate resolution to all pressing problems in education service delivery in the province,” Motshekga said.

Her spokesperson, Granville Whittle, told the Mail & Guardian that the department had intervened to assist provinces on many occasions, but this was the first time Section 100 had been invoked.

The takeover “implies constructive failure in the department”, said Martin Prew, director of the Centre for Education Policy Development. “While the big issues are teacher supply and demand, serious overspending and the cancellation of the school nutrition programme, the biggest is the very strong proof [this move provides] that the department can’t fulfil the mandate of educating Eastern Cape children.”

Since the start of the year the Eastern Cape education department has been plagued by such rampant dysfunctionality that in his State of the Nation address President Jacob Zuma warned that it would face central government intervention if it did not get its house in order.

Among the problems schoolchild­ren in the province faced when they returned to school in ­January were:

  • Huge class sizes after the province lost 4 000 teachers whose contracts the department did not renew because it could not pay their salaries;
  • Suspension of the school nutrition and scholar transport programmes, also because of lack of funds; and
  • Difficulties in finding places in schools well into the second month of the school year.

Last week the Bisho High Court ruled that the 4 000 teachers should be allowed to return to their posts, but the department has filed an application for leave to appeal. The department has overspent its annual budget by more than R1,8-billion, BuaNews reported on Thursday.

Last year the department reached an out-of-court agreement with several schools in the Libode district which took the government to court for failing to provide them with access to basic resources such as desks, chairs, water and safe classrooms.

Panyaza Lesufi of the national basic education department told the M&G the department would do all it could to ensure a speedy resolution of the issues in the province, but no timeline could be provided at this stage.

“We will be working closely with education officials and officials from other departments in the province to assist in the recovery. We won’t be sending any people in physically, but will be closely overseeing the intervention,” he said.

“The parameters of the intervention still have to be determined, but our presence will be felt as soon as possible. The interests of learners cannot be postponed.”

Prew said that previous education ministers had sometimes threatened provinces with Section 100 — as Kader Asmal did in 2001, also in the Eastern Cape — but had not resorted to implementing it.

Keep the powerful accountable

Subscribe for R30/mth for the first three months. Cancel anytime.

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.

Amanda Strydom
Amanda Strydom is the Mail & Guardian online's night editor. With a background in science and journalism, she has a black belt third dan in ballet and, according to a statistical analysis of the past three years, reads 2.73 books every week. She never finishes her tea, although she won't say no to a cupcake. But only just this once.

Related stories


Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Latest stories

International Day of Education: Countries set realistic goals for 2030

The original sustainable development goal for education treated all countries as equal; however, global targets have now been localised, providing a more realistic framework

Chieftaincy dispute hits Richards Bay Minerals production

The KZN department of co-operative governance has undertaken to resolve the dispute it created by dethroning the sitting inkosi in 2010

World Economic Forum: ‘2022 will be like navigating an obstacle...

Central banks massively underestimated inflation risks as economies bounced back from the pandemic-induced slump

Montana backs Prasa-fraud accused Mthimkhulu as court hears how he...

Montana testified that ‘unqualified’ Mthimkhulu was the right engineer for the state rail agency, despite his acquisition of allegedly faulty locomotives

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…