Evidence of excellence in some schools in the Free State indicate that these schools could advise other provinces, the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education noted. However, serious challenges still remain requiring attention. The committee has been on an oversight visit since Monday in North-West and is now in the Free State.

Yesterday, it split into two groups and visited six schools in Welkom. Committee Chairperson Ms Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba raised the matter of staff diversity at some schools. “We visited Orion Special School. The staff compliment was all white. The majority of the learners are black and the school-governing body is white. There clearly has been no transformation at the school.” She further questioned the response from education authorities in the district which stated that appointments are made on the basis of the applications received. The authorities claimed that black teacher are not interested in teaching at special schools, as they withdrew their applications.

She also expressed concern regarding the high number of unplaced learners, especially in the Bloemfontein area. Currently the province has 1 333 unplaced learners, with 494 unplaced grade 8 learners in the Bloemfontein area. She pleaded for urgent intervention to place these learners as soon as possible. The drop-out rate across the province and the eradication of pit latrines were other concerns.

Committee member Baxolile Nodada also highlighted the “high” drop-out rate and said it means the province cannot be proud of the first place in matric results it achieved in 2021 if its learners disappear along the way. Another committee Member, Ms Marie Sukers, elaborated and said the cause of drop-outs should be investigated and intervention programmes for such learners introduced. She further raised concerns regarding learner transport. Committee member Ms Nombuyiselo Adoons echoed these sentiments, saying the committee had been informed that the lack of learner transport had led to learners experiencing serious incidence of violence.

Committee Member Mr Bafuze Yabo reminded the Free State Education Department and other stakeholders that money does not solve problems, leaders do. “Let’s infuse the culture of accountability and responsibility. There is not a lot of money to go around. Take collective responsibility. We have seen discipline and order in poor township school that make it look like a former Model C school because of good leadership,” said Mr Yabo.

The oversight visit continues today in the Free State.

Rajaa Azzakani
20 January 2022