The KwaZulu Natal Education Alliance held a meeting on the 24th January 2018 at SADTU House to comprehensively assess the state of our education in the province ,as schools opened on the 17th January 2018 and the higher education are about to open in few weeks.
This Education Alliance is convened against the background of an announcement by the State President on Free Higher Education. Our assessments are informed by the school visit program ,which was initiated by the office of the Provincial Legislature and in which our union in the education sector, The South African Teachers Democratic Union (SADTU) participated fully. We are further informed by our actively participation in Right to Learn campaign as championed by the Progressive Youth Alliance led by SASCO.
Although our matric result showed a significant improvement despite challenges faced by students and teachers, however as the Education Alliance ,we feel a lot more needs to be done to put our education in the Province on the right-track.
It is crucial important to caution our officials on issue of school visits that these activities should not be made as ceremonial events or rituals for school reopening, but there must be undeterred commitment in addressing issues being raised by school principals and teachers. As it transpired that many of our schools are still without text books ,which is the cause of centralization of delivery of text books by the department of education.
After the SADTU Provincial march towards the end of last year, the little progress has been registered in terms of paying “norms & standards” to some schools, it is however a concern that, there continues to be confusion on who pays for LTSM as some schools opened without stationary and text books. This hinders the un-affording schools to render qualitative education to the needy children.
We further observed with shock the high level of shortage of staff particularly the support staff due to the austerity measures imposed by Treasury. This shortage has a direct impact in giving administration support to the teachers who are expected to deliver a qualitative learning and teaching. The Education Alliance observed such crises played out itself through directives by Treasury to cut cost by implementing moratorium in filling of vacant post in education which is the apex of the ruling party. These tendencies have direct impact in the achievement of Peoples Education for People’s Power.
Non-feeling of vacancies in offices including at senior management level i.e. DDG for Curriculum Delivery, CFO that remains suspended since 2016 etc. a number of subject advisory posts, circuit managers remain vacant and all this is an imminent threat to the Provincial Education system and our government must heed the call and act swiftly to fill these vacancies in advancing the course of our education.
Education Alliance held a view that the issue school nutrition must be given a priority, reports indicate that service providers are paid but children are not properly fed. Many service providers have also raised concerns on how the issues of school of nutrition are being handled by the department. The department is called to conduct an intensive investigation around the school nutrition program. The NSNP must also concern itself with local economic empowerment.
Learners in KZN continue to walk long distances to and from school yet there is a clear policy of Learner Transport. The government must ensure that effective and efficient transport is provided to all the needy learners.
Teachers in rural school continue to complain about the non-payment of rural allowance, and the department is called to respond positively to encourage talented teachers to dedicate themselves in course of development of the most disadvantaged.
We note with keen interest that 2018 is the year for the reelection of the School Governing Bodies and we wish to encourage all the parents to fully participate in this process, as the activists we will be also monitoring this process very closely to ensure the proper management of our schools.
As the Education Alliance, we learned with shock and disappointment the manner our communities are failing to look after their schools which are the foundation of the future for their generations given the vandalism of the infrastructure in form of schools. As the Education Alliance we called upon all communities to take responsibility and ensure that their schools are protected from the barbaric actions and they must demonstrate in action that education is a societal issue. This must include increased measures by the department to provide security in schools to protect children and teachers from criminality engulfing our schools.
Education Alliance we will be calling an urgent meeting with the Office of the Premier and the MEC of Education to address the issues raised by unions through memorandums ,particularly on feeding schemes, learner transports, feeling of vacancies and many other issues of concern. The said meeting should in the main also address our fear of what we view as an imminent collapse of the education system in the Province and our demand for thorough investigation of the many issues raised above.
We have further observed the instability in the institution of higher learning ,where in the number of Universities there are impasses between the employer and the employees on conditions of services ,which have a bearing to the finalization of the registration processes. The work done by our union, NEHAWU in raising the plight of workers in the institutions of high learning, in particular the DUT and UNISA is also appreciated. Hence, as the Education Alliance ,we want to call upon the management of Universities and the governance structures in a form of Councils to speedily resolve those impasses to avoid the delay in registration of students for this academic year.
We noted the announcement made by President of the Republic on Free Higher Education to qualifying students, however we are worried by circulars issued by the Department of Higher Education in respect of 63% threshold of the wage bill. This has created confusion in the Institutions of Higher learning, As Education Alliance ,we support the principle of Free Education and we demand that all deserving students and those who have proven their level of un-affordability that they must be allowed access.
We further demand that no children must be excluded based on financial un-affordability or historical debt.
We will be calling for the Education Indaba to conceptualize the Free Higher Education that will include all stakeholders in the education sector.
We will be monitoring the registration of students in Universities and TVET Colleges under the backdrop of the announcement of Free Higher Education.
We will be working with COSAS in the Basic Education and SASCO in the High Institutions of Learning to ensure that poor and deserving children are not unfairly excluded.
We further call upon the Government to scrap all historical debts for returning students, as this is a hindrance for them to register. The Government must cover all students coming from poor and working class families regardless of their year of study. We are concerned as the Education Alliance about the neglecting of post Graduate students who remain not funded by the Government even though they come from poor backgrounds and are former NSFAS Beneficiaries. We call upon the government to also assist in ensuring that Post Graduate studies are funded and are also as a country we invest in Research and innovation in order to tackle societal issues.
We also note that the accommodation crisis in institutions of higher learning is rife. With the high number of university intakes, this issue must be resolved soon. We call upon government to assist with their buildings that they are not utilising, in order to ensure that those buildings are turned into student accommodation.
Issued by COSATU KZN on behalf of the Education Alliance
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