Motshekga slammed for sugar-coating education progress

Angie Motshekga told Parliament that government has made fantastic progress in the education sector in the past 10 years. (Madelene Cronje)

Angie Motshekga told Parliament that government has made fantastic progress in the education sector in the past 10 years. (Madelene Cronje)

The budget vote debate on basic education got heated on Wednesday in Parliament with opposition parties taking minister Angie Motshekga to task on many pressing issues crippling schools.

Motshekga spoke gloriously about the “progress” the government is making in delivering education. “Our schools are now more well-resourced, more diverse, and much more understanding of what is expected of them,” Motshekga said.

“Our focus in the first decade of freedom was on improving equity in resourcing and in funding, as well as in eradicating backlogs in the basic education system.” 

Another noteworthy statement by Motshekga was that “we have achieved a level of curriculum stability in our system”.

Motshekga first implemented the new Caps curriculum in 2012, the year controversially remembered for her department’s failure to deliver textbooks to Limpopo schools.

All is in order now as far as the curriculum is concerned, according to Motshekga. “We now have the means to diagnose weaknesses in learners’ competences in different areas of our curriculum, so as to improve, adjust and enhance the effectiveness of teaching in our schools.”

But Annette Lovemore, the spokesperson on basic education for main opposition the Democratic Alliance, threw the first salvo at Motshekga.
Lovemore told Motshekga her “announcements today lack credibility”.

“You have not shown any sense of urgency about the most basic skill – reading. Children have to learn to read before they can read to learn.

“You refer to the International Pirls [Progress in International Reading Literacy Study] report. That report is dated 2011. And then you announce with pride that you hosted a reading round table. That round table took place in March 2015. Four years’ delay equates to approximately two-million grade one learners – half of the total – who were allowed to fall behind their counterparts while you dallied.

“You do not include any of what you have announced today in your official plans. Why not? We want numbers minister. We want clear, precise targets that show commitment and courage.

“Your plans simply do not address every child’s constitutional right to a basic education. You have one single target in your plans that directly reflect learner outcomes. And that is the matric pass rate.”

Reneilwe Mashabela, a parliamentarian of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), was next to take on Motshekga. She told Motshekga her department was “in crisis with [its] fixation on the matric pass rate”.

Mashabela said the department gave the public an impression that matric results were the most important outcome of basic education, but yet just about half of those who started school wrote the last matric examination.

“In 2014 over 600 000 sat for matric. This means only 55% of the learners who started school in 2003 made it to grade 12, the rest were lost along the way,” she said. “The EFF rejects this budget.”

School inequality
Mandlenkosi Mabika of the National Freedom Party had a barrage of questions for Motshekga. “Why are schools treated unequal, some have cleaners and clerks and some don’t?

“Why are grade R teachers not paid like all other teachers?” He said this was while these teachers do so much work “even accompany children to toilet”.

“Why some schools still have no water and electricity? Why is the [national] department quiet about the KwaZulu-Natal [education] department collapsing?”

Mabika told Parliament new school construction projects went five years without completion in KwaZulu-Natal, where he is from. “In KZN nutrition suppliers are not paid on time. Some schools are not given stationery.”

The African Independent Congress’s Lulama Ntshayisa said the model the department uses to supply teachers to schools was unjust. The M&G has previously reported that this controversial model forced over 300 schools last year to drop mathematics and physical science.

The “post-provisioning model” dictates that the fewer the number of pupils, the fewer teachers a school gets – regardless of the number of grades and subjects it offers.

“Teachers have long been crying about [this model]. We should get rid of it now. It’s high time,” said Ntshayisa.

“Where my wife is teaching in Matatiele [Eastern Cape] she’s teaching more than 100 learners in a classroom, so it’s not very much fair. Teaching itself cannot be effective [in such an environment].”

Cynthia Nocollege Majeke, a member of the United Democratic Movement, decried that while it was known that over half of pupils who start school do not reach matric “there are no subsequent reports about their whereabouts”.

She called on Motshekga’s department to work with the higher education and training department “to find a concrete solution” for school dropouts.

These two departments should also find a solution in response to the 2013 findings of the Council on Higher Education (CHE) that matrics battle at varsity because they leave school underprepared, Majeke said.

The CHE has since recommended that universities extend by a year their curriculum to address the underpreparation, but higher education and training minister Blade Nzimande was yet to announce whether he would adopt this.

Facts talk
Motshekga’s deputy, Enver Surty, lambasted the opposition parliamentarians, accusing them of criticising without facts. “If you listen you will learn,” he told them.

The department has done well to reduce the number of mud schools, Surty insisted. It has delivered 108 state-of-the-art schools through its Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative. He said 41 of those were built and handed over in the poor Libode district in the Eastern Cape.

Surty said the number of pupils in grade R has jumped from about 84 000 in 2002 to over 130 000 “today”. He said now “more than 92% [of] grade one [pupils] have done at least one year of grade R”.

While wages of grade R teachers used to be R500, the teachers now get paid R5 000, Surty said. “These are changes that are occurring incrementally.”

Bongani Nkosi

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