OPINION

Victory! President Cyril Ramaphosa responds to our call – EE

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga’s performance contract will be publicly released

Equal Education media statement: Victory! President Cyril Ramaphosa responds to our call to publicly release Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga’s performance contract

10 December 2020

South Africa has taken a step forward to greater transparency and accountability from our government, with the release of the performance contracts of all cabinet Ministers to the public -  which Equal Education (EE) has been calling for since May 2019.  For too long we have watched public servants fail to do their jobs, without consequences. 

On 29 May 2019, President Cyril Ramaphosa said, when announcing his new Cabinet, that the performance of Ministers, “individually and collectively – will be closely monitored against specific outcomes” and that performance agreements would be signed.  Immediately, we called on the President to make public the contracts of Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and all other Ministers. We then said we couldn’t afford another five years of weak political will, desperately bad planning, incompetence, poor accountability, and constant blame-shifting. We said that making the performance contracts publicly available, would allow school communities to measure Minister Motshekga’s performance against the outcomes outlined in her performance contract.

As learners, post-school youths, parents and teachers, we have kept making this call for the last 18 months. We held our own swearing in ceremony for Minister Motshekga and drafted a People’s Performance Contract for her, in June 2019. Late last year, we held a People’s Performance Appraisal, where we reviewed Minister Motshekga’s performance in the first six months of her third term in office.  

After examining the performance agreement between President Ramaphosa and Minister Motshekga, we see that we have secured important victories. Of the key performance areas (KPAs) that we called for in our People’s Performance Contract, the following has been included:

Complying with the Norms and Standards for Public School Infrastructure: Delivering infrastrastructure is a key part of Minister Motshekga’s contract with President Ramaphosa. She must speed up delivery, completely get rid of dangerous plain pit latrines and grow the DBE’s ability to build schools. The contract says she must upgrade the National Education Infrastructure Management System (NEIMS), which is the most up to date government database on infrastructure backlogs; and must make sure that all provinces use the Education Facilities Management System (EFMS), which has key information on infrastructure projects. This is important progress, but it is unacceptable that President Ramaphosa has made up his own deadlines for when Minister Motshekga  must deliver infrastructure, when there are legally binding deadlines in the Norms and Standards that must be complied with. We also want the EFMS to be publicly available so every school community can access information about who is working on fixing their school.

Radical improvement in early grade reading: Minister Motshekga will have to ensure that more children in the foundation phase (grades R to 3) can read (for meaning) and count by 2024, through the roll out of interventions that are shown to improve teaching and learning, from the Early Grade Reading Study (EGRS). She also has to make sure provincial and national reading plans are developed. This part of her performance agreement with President Ramaphosa is the result of hard work from various education stakeholders to emphasise the importance of learning in primary school and the fulfillment of a longstanding EE demand

School safety: Minister Motshega’s performance agreement says she must ensure the effective implementation of the National School Safety Framework (NSSF), which will require the Minister to work with provinces to monitor, support and provide interventions for school districts, as well as strengthen partnerships with key stakeholders such as the South African Police Services (SAPS) and Department of Social Development (DSD). We welcome the fact that school safety is a national priority and that the need to work with other departments is acknowledged, but we want to see more concrete plans on preventing school violence and making sure the NSSF is a practical tool that schools can use. 

Proper engagement with civil society: Another key performance area for Minister Motshekga is developing and implementing a plan and strategy that makes public participation and engagement with education stakeholders possible. It is crucial that Minister Motshekga is intentional about building better relationships with civil society and learner formations such as Equal Education.

Other longstanding calls made by EE have also been included in Minister Motshekga’s performance contract, such as getting rid of wasteful, fruitless and irregular expenditure, paying building contractors within 30 days and encouraging community participation in school governance. We are happy to see that timelines have been included for the meeting of the objectives listed in Minister Motshekga’s performance contract. We will be monitoring these deadlines closely. 

Even though Minister Motshekga’s performance contract has some weaknesses, including the absence of a performance area related to scholar transport, the publication of this document is a positive step forward.

The true value of Minister Motshekga’s performance contract being made public, needs ordinary South Africans to use it to measure her performance and hold her accountable. We will be leading from the front on this!

Issued by Leanne Jansen-Thomas, Head of Communications, Equal Education, 10 December 2020