THE portfolio committee on education from the provincial legislature visited the Cacadu (Lady Frere) district department of education to check on the state of readiness in schools from grade R to 12 on Friday.
The visit was aimed at checking if learner support materials had been delivered and to ascertain the condition of school buildings.
The team was led by former South African Democratic Teachers’ Union Mxolisi Dimaza and included EFF MPL Siyabulela Peter and the ANC’s Nonkosi Mvana.
Dimaza said the team was not there to judge but needed to know where the district went wrong in obtaining a 49.5% matric pass rate.
He said there was a need to look at challenges and to find lasting solutions adding that difficult questions would however be asked.
Dimaza said it was important to address vacancies in schools, raising the question of how long such vacancies had existed and what had been done to fill these.
He said as a rural district, the team wanted to know the state of scholar transport in the area.
Acting district director Chulekazi Bula said the district failed its mandate over the past two academic years.
There were three schools without principals.
There were seven schools with one teacher, 17 with two, 26 with three and 31 with four teachers.
Small schools affected the district performance negatively due to the major teacher shortages and the pressure on teachers leading to them resign. Schools had received their stationery but textbooks had not been received, Bula said.
“The problem with stationery packages is that in some schools the glue is sniffed as a drug. Scissors are used as weapons to stab each other. We have since recommended that these be kept by teachers in the class cupboards and taken out when they will be used,” Bula said.
There was a scholar transport shortage since 2011 in the district.
There were 2 000 pupils currently being transported, leaving over 1 150 pupils without transport while their schools were about 30 kilometers from home.
“We are looking at closing small schools and to merge these with others, but we are crippled by the scholar transport. All quintile one to three schools have the school nutrition programme with some even serving breakfast,” Bula said.
The district came 19th of 23 districts in the province.
One school, Nonkululeko Senior School, received a 5% pass rate with principal Mlamli Hashe blaming a shortage of teachers and a lack of discipline by pupils.
He said the parents were also not committed to helping the school with pupils breaking into the school.
Teachers taught up to six subjects with Hashe teaching three.
The school had received a 78% pass rate in 2012 while it fell in the Cofimvaba district.
“Mfanta High School closed and pupils were taken to Nonkululeko but there was no scholar transport approved for those pupils. We do not have maths, science, life science and technology, life orientation and agricultural science teachers.”
Mvana said the visits should not be in vain adding she was still as disappointed as she was last year during the same visit.
The merger of small schools with viable schools needed to be sped up.
“We appreciate the 2% improvement but it is not to our satisfaction. We keep taking the curriculum from other countries that do not suit us,” Mvana said.
Peter said the department needed to do quality assurance of the stationery before it was delivered to schools.
“The department should have known better than giving glue to pupils in impoverished areas. We are a country with a high rate of drug abuse and we know glue is the first drug to be used,” he said.
He also wanted to know what would happen to the infrastructure of the schools that would be closed.
Chief director in the provincial office Phila Ngqumba said the use of glue as a drug and scissors as weapons needed a joint effort from sister departments such as social development as it was a social challenge.
The provincial political leadership needed to address the scholar transport problem as it was a budget issue. Ngqumba said there was a need for twinning arrangements of performing and non-performing schools.