Oversights reveal not so smooth return of learners – DA KZN

Visits exposed major disparities even when it comes to schools located practically next door to each other

Covid-19: KZN Education oversights reveal not so smooth return of learners

2 September 2020

Oversight inspections of schools in the Abaqulusi and Zululand districts, by the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Legislature Education portfolio committee, have revealed a mixed bag of results, with some schools ready to resume teaching and learning across all grades and other being hopelessly unprepared.

The visits, which took place yesterday and today, have exposed major disparities even when it comes to schools located practically next door to each other. At one school, the delegation found teaching and learning ready to commence with teachers in class, sufficient textbooks and proper infrastructure. Yet, at another facility - just 10km away - we found that everything that could possibly go wrong had, in fact, gone wrong.

Of particular concern to the DA is the fact that four schools within the two districts cannot accommodate all Grades at the same time due to space issues - a situation aggravated by the non-delivery of 100 mobile classrooms in the Zululand district, despite promises by the DoE. This after the district’s earlier request of 289 in order to cater for the return of all Grades was refused.

This matter must be treated as an absolute priority by KZN Education MEC, KwaziMshengu. The DA also expects him to tell us what he and his Department are going to do about the shortage of millions of text books in the province, with all of the secondary schools visited admitting to a lack of supply and also to the sharing of text books, placing the health and safety of learners at risk.

The DA has consistently warned MEC Mshengu and his DoE that they will need to work hard to ensure that all schools are ready for the phasing in of all Grades. This has been done through letters to the MEC, debates and raising the issue in portfolio committees. Yet it appears that our calls and suggestions have fallen on deaf ears.

The oversight findings have again exposed the DoE’s inability to properly prepare for anything – let alone the safe return of learners during a global health pandemic. The fact that the phasing in of all Grades came long after the initial gazetted date only makes matters worse. Other serious issues identified as a result of the oversights include;

- A lack of proper physical distancing in general. At one school, the DA found 26 learners in one classroom despite Covid-19 regulations stipulating no more than 20
- An acute and ongoing shortage of desks and chairs for learners
- Poor ablution facilities at 612 schools in the Zululand district alone, along with the non-delivery of chemical toilets at some schools despite an assurance by the MEC that they would be provided
- DoE-procured chemical toilets being delivered in poor condition
- The late delivery of masks for educators and learners at some schools and;
- The need for more thermometers at bigger schools.

During this years’ KZN Education budget debate, the DA opposed the DoE’s infrastructure budget on the basis of insufficient funding. At the time we were slated, to the point where we were labelled as ‘racist’. The findings as a result of these oversight inspections have merely highlighted our point.

That MEC Mshengu continues to claim that all is well at KZN’s schools is simply shocking, when the reality on the ground is that little has changed. The delivery of a few portable toilets and makeshift kitchens does not qualify as being proactive in the face of a health crisis. The MEC must put his money where his mouth. Our children must come first.

Issued by Imran Keeka,DA KZN Spokesperson on Education, 2 September 2020