Last month the Mail & Guardian reported on how service delivery in education rests largely with the provinces, and not so much with the national department of basic education.
In recent weeks, premiers of South Africa’s provinces — except for the Western Cape — have delivered their state of the province addresses, offering a glimpse at the priorities of the sixth administration, and education MECs will in due course provide further details in their own budget speeches.
Some of the plans for the next five years are bold, some lukewarm and others simply rehashed.
Almost all provinces want to allocate resources towards improving matric pass rates, giving more attention to early childhood development and ensuring that they strengthen their efforts to introduce information and communications technology (ICT) in schools to prepare learners for the much-talked-about fourth industrial revolution (4IR).
None of the premiers spoke about plans for scholar transport, an issue that continues to affect millions of learners who have to walk long distances to school.
Violence in schools has been a big talking point, and North West looks set to fight this scourge with Premier Job Mokgoro announcing that it will set aside R1.2-million for a school safety programme. The province will deploy security guards at 200 schools identified as violent hot spots.
Mokgoro also announced that the province will review its school admission policy for overaged learners “without going against [the] law”. He said research suggests that older learners are “usually responsible for violent incidents in schools”.
Last year a 17-year-old learner stabbed a 24-year-old teacher to death at a North West school. The learner was convicted of the murder and is serving a 10-year prison sentence.
Mokgoro also noted that eradicating mud schools and pit latrines in the province was a priority. “We will ensure that by the end of the current financial year, pit latrines and mud schools are a thing of the past.”
A project support team has been hired to strengthen capacity in the provincial department of education’s infrastructure unit. Mokgoro bemoaned how in the last financial year more than R125-million of infrastructure grant money was taken from the province and given to the Eastern Cape, leading to a backlog in the North West.
In his maiden speech Premier Zamani Saul said next year the province will move towards an online school-admissions registration system to do away with the “unacceptable and inhumane” way in which parents have to sleep outside schools to ensure places for their children. Saul also said the province will look at building more special schools.
The province will also “work extremely hard” to improve the matric pass rate. He said it was unacceptable that a province that was once best performing in the matric results now sits in the bottom three nationally. The province achieved 75.2% last year, down from 77.6% in 2016.
“We, therefore, will have to address, head on, the challenges and weaknesses in our education system to ensure we give every learner the best possible chance to successfully complete Grade 12,” Saul said.
One of the province’s plans is that MECs will each adopt an underperforming school and provide it with “intense support”. The province will also look at building more technical and agriculture schools.
Premier Refilwe Mtshweni announced plans to build more schools in fast-growing municipalities. Two of these, in Mbombela and eMalahleni, will be completed by September. Mtshweni also noted that her administration plans to alleviate overcrowding in urban areas by adding more classrooms in schools.
The province already has the OR Tambo Maths, Science and Technology Academy, and Mtshweni has announced that this financial year 10 primary schools will be provided with mathematics laboratories with state-of-the-art equipment in an effort to promote maths and science in schools.
Mtshweni also announced the establishment of a commission that will develop, implement and monitor the integration of the 4IR and e-learning in the province.
As part of addressing early childhood learning, Mtshweni announced plans to build 157 early childhood development centres with e-learning facilities across the province.
The province plans to eradicate mud schools and pit latrines, with Premier Sisi Ntombela announcing that of the 30 schools that are built with mud, asbestos and zinc, 23 had already been replaced with proper structures. Seven more would be built and 83 pit latrines would be replaced with decent sanitation by the end of this financial year.
Ntombela voiced her dissatisfaction with schools that have missed their construction deadlines and said action would be taken against defaulting contractors.
Ntombela said the province will also continue with rolling out digital workbooks and textbooks on tablets to learners and that 1 500 teachers in the province had been trained in using ICT for teaching and learning.
Premier Oscar Mabuyane said his administration will work on a plan to fix schools. Although Mabuyane was vague on what his administration will prioritise in a province beset with challenges — dilapidated schools, overcrowding, and lack of teachers and scholar transport — he said it “will move with speed” in “prioritising the most dire situations”.
Mabuyane said the province plans to establish three special schools in the Nelson Mandela Metro, Buffalo City Metro and King Sabata Dalindyebo local municipality. The province will also roll out e-learning in schools, particularly in previously disadvantaged communities.
Premier David Makhura said that his government will pay more attention to the strengthening and improvement of primary education. Makhura announced that primary schools will undergo a “rigorous assessment”, with the results published publicly. Makhura also wants an improvement plan that will assist poorly performing primary schools.
“This ground-breaking initiative will promote accountability and transparency on performance across the entire system and will empower parents to make better decisions regarding the education of their children,” said Makhura.
He also announced that the province will continue building more special needs schools at a “higher rate that ever before”. Gauteng will also build more schools of specialisation, increasing the number from 17 to 35.
Limpopo has an ailing school infrastructure, including schools that have been damaged by storms and have not been fixed. Premier Stan Mathabatha announced that the province is planning on upgrading 67 schools at a cost of R1.24-billion and that 123 schools would be built at a cost of R1.62-billion. The province has also budgeted R900-million to build four special needs schools in the Sekhukhune, Vhembe and Mopani districts. Two of these will be built this financial year and the other two in the next financial year.
Sanitation came under the spotlight in 2014 when six-year-old Michael Komape drowned in a pit toilet at his school and died. Mathabatha announced that the province will spend R192-million to address the sanitation backlog in 100 schools across the province.
Premier Sihle Zikalala did not dwell much on education in his speech, although he boldly mentioned that the province wants to become the skills capital of the country and the continent. However, he did not say how the province will do this.
Zikalala announced that the province plans to establish an autism school, an agriculture school of excellence and a maritime school.
The province also intends to introduce coding and robotics in 50 primary schools.