Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masualle has announced bold plans to deal with the education crisis in the province following a string of poor results in the past few years.
Speaking during the state of the province address in Bhisho today, Masualle said the executive council had adopted a transformation plan to improve the education system over the next three years.
Masualle admitted the province’s education was in trouble, but said that it remained a priority.
“Our analysis of the state of education in the province has revealed a number of challenges that require urgent intervention. These include the existence of a large number of schools that are dysfunctional,” he said.
Other challenges included small and unviable schools, district offices that were “poorly capacitated”, a “dire” shortage of qualified teachers in critical subjects and low levels in numeracy and literacy at primary school.
Masualle said the province’s plan to address the problems included:
- Increasing the number of functional schools by appointing principals at all schools by March 2016;
- Strengthening the administration and management of curriculum delivery in public schools focusing on quintiles one to three;
- The speedy appointment of qualified teachers. A team from the treasury and office of the premier had been deployed for a year in the department of education to resolve the human resources challenges;
- Small and unviable schools would be rationalised and realigned into functioning and productive schools;
- The number of district office, the highest in the country, will be reduced and capacitated; and
- The quality of primary schools would also be improved through intervention, including the training of educators and the use of information and communications technology.
Masualle said the results of the class of 2015 were “disheartening” but that there were shining examples and centres of excellence that were worth celebrating, including individual pupils that did well nationally.
The premier criticised developments in the northern areas of Port Elizabeth – where parents prevented children from attending school to protest against teacher shortages.
About 56 schools were shut down in the northern areas for four weeks while the department scrambled to find answers.
This did not sit down well with Masualle.
“The unjustifiable acts by some sections of our communities of keeping their children away from school as a way of expressing their displeasure with government services are unacceptable and cannot be condoned. We should at all material times protect the rights of learners to quality education,” he said.
Turning to healthcare, Masualle said tuberculosis and HIV remained the leading causes of mortality in the province, accounting for 9.8% and 5.4% of avoidable mortality.
However, treatment and access to antiretrovirals had increased from 320 062 at the end of March 2015 to 352 256 by the end of December 2015.
The province had been severely hit by drought especially in the districts of Joe Gqabi, Alfred Nzo, Chris Hani, OR Tambo and Amathole, which resulted to huge losses in livestock and crops.
The districts had been declared drought disaster areas and more than R129 million was made available for drought relief.
On the controversial N2 Wild Coast highway, which would link East London and Durban, the premier said construction was progressing well in the uncontested areas between Mthatha and Ndwalane in Port St Johns.
He said the design of the two mega bridges that form part of the project had been completed and construction was expected to start by November.
Masualle addressed the joint seating of Parliament on Tuesday on developments in the province and witnessed the disruption by the Economic Freedom Fighters last week. He applauded the East Cape Legislature for its decorum.
“The recent events where we have all witnessed the vulgar and unbecoming disruption of proceedings in our national Parliament is a matter that we must strongly condemn,” Masualle said.
Among the guests who attended this year’s state of the province address was a former premier, the reverend Makhenkesi Stofile, and National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete.
Celebrity guests included singer Zahara, SABC1’s Nyan’ Nyan show host Luyanda Potwana and Isidingo actor Jet Novuka.