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Statement by SECTION27 and the NASGB on the Limpopo Education Crisis

Statement by SECTION27
and the National Association of School Governing Bodies (NASGB) on the Limpopo
Education Crisis

June 15 2012

This week a task team made up of leaders of the National Association of School Governing Bodies and SECTION27 visited schools in three districts in Limpopo; Vhembe, Mopani and Capricorn. The purpose of the visit was to meet with members of SGBs, learners, teachers and school principals to report back on the May 17th judgment of the Pretoria High Court and to assess compliance with the Court’s Order.

In addition we made an effort to meet with the MEC for Basic Education, Mr Namane Masemola, and the Administrator of the Department, Mr Mzwandile Matthews. We were pleased that we were able to have a frank and constructive discussion with Mr Matthews.

The impressions that we formed from this visit are below:

  1. Schools in Limpopo are extremely fortunate to have many teachers and principals of a high calibre. The principals that we met with make great personal sacrifices to ensure that their schools not only function, but that they fulfil the meaning of the right to a basic education, a right that belongs to each of the learners in their care. Some schools start classes as early as 6.30 am, run routine Saturday classes and winter schools, paid for by the parents and teachers – with no support from the Limpopo Department of Education.
  2. The crisis of textbooks is unresolved. None of the schools that we visited had received books in terms of the court order, neither had they had any communication from the Limpopo Department of Education or the DBE as to when they would receive books. We return to this below.
  3. The consequences of not having books cannot be understated. Teachers and principals explained to us the difficulties that they have faced teaching, as well as the efforts they have gone to personally to make learning materials available to learners. The consequences and difficulties of not having books are as great for grade R, 1,2 & 3 as they are for grade 10. We continue to be perplexed by the statements and efforts of department officials to down play the importance of the new syllabi and new textbooks that the department itself has spent billions of rands on.
  4. There has not been thorough communication to the schools about the grade 10 catch up plan. All schools felt that such a plan is necessary and possible, but they are receiving neither advice nor assistance to put it in place. Without such a plan grade 10s will suffer poorer results than should be the case. We should also point out that primary school teachers lamented that the absence of textbooks for grades 1, 2, 3, will have an impact on the Annual National Assessments to be conducted for learners in grades 1, 3 and 5
    in September, for which they fear that the teachers will be blamed.
  5. Apart from the issue of textbooks, we made a special point of examining toilet and sanitation facilities of schools. Toilet facilities at schools are degrading, dangerous and inhuman. The conditions are intolerable and cannot be justified. Unless the DBE presents a clear plan and budget to remedy this situation urgently we regret that we will have no option but to go to court as this is definitely an issue that falls squarely within the meaning of the right to basic education as set out in section 29 of the Constitution, as well as the rights to health, dignity, privacy and equality.
  6. Intimidation of principals and interference with SGBs. It is regrettable that several principals informed us that they have received instructions from circuit managers on pain of dismissal not to talk to SECTION27. SGBs have also been misinformed in workshops organised by the DBE about their duties and responsibilities. We have reported this to the Public Protector and raised it with the Administrator. The Administrator sated clearly that intimidation is not supported by the Department and that the rights and responsibilities of SECTION27 and the NASGB to work in the province are fully accepted.

Meeting with the MEC and the Administrator:

We visited the office of the MEC, met with his appointments secretary and have left a formal written request for a meeting with the MEC.

We requested an impromptu meeting with the Administrator and were satisfied that he was willing to give time to meet with us. In this meeting we were informed in detail of the steps that have been taken by the DBE to purchase and distribute textbooks. The administrator informed us that three warehouses in the province are now full and that a distribution plan directly to the schools was underway. This plan aimed to have all books at all schools before the end of today, the deadline set by the Court.

We will closely monitor schools over the next few days to establish whether books are indeed received.

We have also stated to the Administrator our conviction that the catch up plan is not adequate or sufficient to meet the needs of learners, and that unless this is addressed it may be necessary to return to Court. We are awaiting instructions of our clients on this, as well as consulting education experts.

The Administrator has indicated a willingness to have further and urgent discussion on this.

Selowe Primary School:

SECTION27 and the NASGB visited Selowe Primary School in Silvermine, Capricorn District. This is the school, reported in the media, where classes are held in the open under trees. We met with the principal and teachers of the school and have agreed to act as their legal representatives.

 

For further information contact:

Matakanye Matakanye, GENERAL SECRETARY, NASGB: 072 283 4653

Nikki Stein, ATTORNEY, SECTION27: 082 528 7232