School oversight reveals cornerstones of education not in place - DA KZN

Imran Keeka says Covid-19 and protracted manner in which it is being dealt with by DoE has had a major impact on learners

KZN school functionality oversights reveal that cornerstones of Education are not in place

27 January 2022

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) this week conducted oversight inspections at schools in the province as part of the KZN Legislature Schools’ Functionality Programme.

The purpose of the visits was to assess the state of readiness of schools for the 2022 academic year. Amongst the most concerning elements found by DA MPL’s during the two-day oversights are the following;

- Lack of leadership. Many schools are simply being ignored by the KZN Department of Education (DoE) when they report challenges. Examples include numerous schools within the King Cetshwayo District, where the lack of provision of water is a long-standing issue. At Gobindlovu High School in Elandskop there are also major water challenges, with Msunduzi not meeting its commitment to tank water to the school

- Learner placements. The DA in KZN has been inundated by requests for help from parents who are struggling to enrol their children. This despite KZN Education MEC, Kwazi Mshengu's assurance that learners would be placed by 31 January. The DA will hold him to this

- Safety and security issues. Many of our learners remain extremely vulnerable as a result of poor infrastructure such as fencing and insufficient security staff at schools. Just this morning there was an incident in Dassenhoek, near Pinetown where four learners were stabbed by intruders who breached school security and confronted them, demanding cell phones and other valuables. Fortunately, there were no fatalities but this should never have happened.

- Infrastructure challenges - which the DoE is either unable or unwilling to address. At Ingwemabala Secondary School outside Port Shepstone there are flush toilets, however, due to lack of water for weeks the school has been forced to go back to using pit toilets. At Mabuthela High School in Ugu the DA also found horrific unsanitary conditions.(view herehere and here)

- Storm damaged schools. KZN has 189 storm damaged schools with no evidence of a plan to address this. At Windsor Secondary in Ladysmith, which was recently affected by flooding, there has been no DoE support to get learning and teaching going in earnest. There are also issues when it comes to repairing schools damaged during last years’ July unrest in the province including at Ndluyesilo School in King Cetshwayo (view here)

- Vandalism. This is an ongoing issue with no apparent plan by the DoE to curb this. At Lizwe Secondary School in King Cetshwayo the DA found high levels of vandalism with hazardous electrical cables which are placing learners in harm’s way

- LTSM. At the same school we found that found that subject textbooks for Grades 8 and 9 had not been delivered

- Quintile rankings. Many KZN schools are classified as Quintile 4 or 5 yet they serve incredibly poor communities and struggle with school fee collection. They appeal their quintile rankings but they are continuously denied any change and;

- ‘Grazing’ schools. The DA also found evidence of ‘grazing’ schools where livestock are left to roam freely within school environments by local iZinduna. Zithume High and Njabuleni Primary schools in the King Cetshwayo District are prime examples.

All of these issues fall within the three cornerstones that the DA believes must be present for schools to operate optimally and for our learners to thrive. These include;
- Proper leadership within schools including senior management and SGB’s, leadership by KZN’s Education Department and an accountable political leadership
- Proper infrastructure within schools and;
- Proper parental involvement within schools

What the DA witnessed at many KZN schools this week all points to a severe lack of the above. There can also be no doubt that Covid-19 and the protracted manner in which it is being dealt with by the DoE has had a major impact on our learners.

Currently, more than 80% of South African schools are still operating on a rotational basis due to the pandemic. This is depriving learners of their constitutional right to education and contributing to the dramatic drop-out rate and decline in pass rates.

The decline in pass rates has not only affected KZN matric results – which saw a real pass rate of 54.7% in 2021 - a similar decline is now also being identified in lower Grades. Then there is the high drop-out rate. While the DoE is not able to give an exact number, it is estimated that almost 67 000 KZN earners have left the system since 2019.

Yesterday, the DA took steps at a national level to end rotational schooling, filing papers in the Gauteng High Court. The DA in KZN sincerely hopes that this measure will prove successful.

In order for our learners to receive a quality education, they must go back to school full-time. They need classrooms that are not falling apart. They need qualified teachers who are supported by a leadership that has their best interests at heart. And they need to have the support and involvement of their parents and guardians.

The DA will further unpack the findings of the past two days of oversights, which we will highlight for the urgent attention of MEC Mshengu and his Department. We remain committed to ensuring a quality education for all learners and will use all legal channels to achieve this, including rigorous and ongoing oversight of KZN’s schools.

Issued by Imran Keeka, DA KZN Spokesperson on Education, 27 January 2022