After successful visits to all the provinces, parliament’s portfolio committee on Basic Education has raised concerns around schools in the Eastern Cape.
The committee said that the province is not fully ready to start the 2021 academic year and it has urged the Department of Education to redouble its efforts to ensure that everything is in place for the start of the year.
Most of the concerns revolve around the non-delivery of learner teacher support materials (LTSM) to schools.
“The availability of LTSM is critical in any teaching and learning environment. Hence our call for the department, through its service providers, to expedite the delivery of LTSM to schools, especially because they have a week until schools reopen,” said Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba, the chairperson of the committee.
The committee was informed that the department had only delivered stationary to 3,440 schools as of 27 January 2021, which is a 68% delivery rate. It said it was also concerned that the department had only delivered textbooks to 20.7% of schools
“Similarly, the department had not concluded delivery of workbooks, with 82% of volume 1 workbooks and 45.8% of volume 2 workbooks delivered. While the department assured the committee that delivery would be concluded by 15 February 2021, this was not reassuring, considering that schools where originally scheduled to start more than two weeks ago.”
The number of vacant teacher and school management team (SMT) positions is also concerning, said Mbinqo-Gigaba.
“It is a concern that the Eastern Cape system has a net vacancy of 1,595 teacher and SMT positions. This is worse in Alfred Nzo West district, with 135 vacancies, and Joe Gqabi with a 4% vacancy rate.
“The committee has called on the department to fill the vacant positions to ensure efficiencies within the system and so that learners have teachers to teach them.”
Basic education minister Angie Motshekga has indicated that the return of students will be staggered, with private school pupils allowed to return to school two weeks earlier than their public school counterparts.
As a result, private sector schools were allowed to return from Monday (1 February), while public sector schools are only set to reopen on 15 February.