SPEECH BY GAVIN DAVIS
SHADOW MINISTER OF BASIC EDUCATION
SUBJECT FOR DISCUSSION: THE IMPACT OF PRO-POOR PROGRAMMES IN ENHANCING THE PERFORMANCE OF BASIC EDUCATION
TUESDAY 6 SEPTEMBER
“State capture is killing poor schools”
In these times of public scrutiny on the plight of children at former model C schools, let us take some time to focus on the struggle of children in our rural schools.
Let us talk about a grade 3 child in a rural district of KwaZulu-Natal.
This child dreams of becoming a doctor one day so that she can help the sick and elderly living in her community. And she knows that she needs to work hard at school so that she can qualify to study medicine at university.
Every day she wakes at 04:00 am in a mud hut that she shares with seven other children. There is nothing to eat for breakfast so, when she is ready, she begins her walk to school. The school is 15 km away from her village.
Some two hours later, she arrives at the school gates. Thanks to the government school nutrition scheme, she has her first meal of the day.
The school that she attends is a solid structure. The classrooms are constructed from brick and mortar, there are working toilets, and there is a computer laboratory.
At 8:00, when the bell rings, she and her classmates file into their classroom to wait for the teacher. They wait. And they wait.
Their teacher, a recent graduate, is never on time. Sometimes, the teacher arrives half way through the day. On some school days, the teacher doesn’t arrive at all because she has a SADTU meeting to attend.
When the teacher does arrive she battles to keep discipline in the class and is unable to deliver the curriculum in a meaningful way.
The teacher’s content knowledge is weak, especially in maths and science. She is not proficient in the language of learning and teaching.
And too little time in the classroom is spent on supervised individual reading and independent writing. When teaching does take place, learners are treated as passive recipients of facts and figures, instead of active participants in their own education.
The Principal of the school only has a few years teaching experience himself. But, because he is a SADTU Branch Secretary, and with the help of a R30 000 bribe to the School Governing Body, he was appointed to the post over other, more qualified, candidates.
The Circuit Manager responsible for the school hardly ever visits. When he does, he ignores the obvious failure of school leadership. You see, he was deployed to his position by SADTU. And he is afraid to rock the boat and risk losing his job.
Honourable Speaker, this is the story of our education system in rural areas across the country.
We can praise government all we like for increasing access to schooling, for rolling out school nutrition and for upgrading infrastructure.
But all this is meaningless if our schools continue to fail our most impoverished learners where it matters most -- in the classroom.
A glance at the most recent statistics show that, twenty-two years into our democracy, the gap between schools in affluent, urban areas and schools in poor, rural areas is growing.
In schools in the most affluent areas (‘quintile 5’ schools), the matric pass rate has remained steady at above 90% over the past three years. These schools are amongst the best in the world.
But in schools in the poorest areas, (‘quintile one’ schools), the matric pass rate has dropped from 70% to 61% in the last three years. There are children in war torn countries that get a better education than these learners.
Schools in poor areas are not failing because of lack of money. Indeed, the state spends six times more on learners in poor areas than learners in more affluent areas.
Our poorest schools are failing for the same reason our economy is failing, and that is state capture.
You see, Honourable Speaker, a powerful force, even more powerful than the Guptas, has captured our education system.
I am talking, of course, about the South African Democratic Teachers Union or SADTU.
The final ‘Jobs for Cash’ report has found that, in 6 out of 9 provinces, SADTU has captured our education system at every level through its own network of cadre deployment.
SADTU’s state capture has created the conditions for corruption to flourish, and for education in our poorer schools to perish. And yet the ANC remains silent on it.
The Jobs for Cash report contains a number of recommendations that will help take back our schools from SADTU control.
Banning principals and education officials from occupying leadership positions in Teacher unions;
Creating separate unions for teachers and education officials; and
Abolishing the practice of cadre deployment in our schools and in the education system more broadly.
Honourable Speaker, we can rescue schools in poor areas from SADTU’s state capture. But it will require the ANC to put its political affiliation with SADTU aside in the best interest of poor learners.
We re-iterate our call for Minister Motshekga to urgently table the ‘Jobs for Cash’ report in this House so that we can map the way forward, together.
Let us re-capture our schools from SADTU, before it is too late.
I thank you.
Issued by the DA, 6 September 2016