Parliament, Wednesday, 3 February 2021 – The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education has lauded progress by the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Provincial Department of Education in ensuring readiness of the basic education sector to welcome learners on the first day of the 2021 academic year at schools.

Notwithstanding that progress, however, the committee calls on the department to conclude its preparations and finalise the finer details in its checklist of areas to ensure the full readiness of the system. “The work done by the department is commendable and we are satisfied that teaching and learning will commence in earnest come 15 February. But there remains areas of concern that need urgent action to be resolved to make the system full proof ready for the first day,” said Ms Bongwiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba, the Chairperson of the committee.

Some of the areas of concern that need urgent attention include the provision of learner transport, provision of water, completion of placement of learners and filing of vacant positions within the system. The committee was informed about a preparatory meeting scheduled to take place today ( Wednesday 3 February) where an update will be presented on the areas of concern.

The committee is particularly concerned by the inability of the provincial department to provide all the qualifying learners with scholar transport. It was informed that due to budgetary constraints, the department can provide transport for only 62 070 of the qualifying 117 000 learners that require transport in the province.

In order to address this perennial challenge of transport in the province, the committee has urged the provincial department to engage National Treasury. “Permanent solutions must be found for this problem especially considering that 70% of schools in KZN are in rural areas and they consist of learners largely who come from poor family backgrounds,” Ms Mbinqo-Gigaba emphasised.

The committee expressed its concern over 1109 teacher vacancies that exist at various levels within the system. It said it is concerning in the context that there are only 12 days left before opening day and, according to it, there might be no teachers in some classrooms on the opening day. To mitigate the problem, the committee has urged the department to urgently complete the process of placement of the surplus teachers.

The committee has also highlighted its concern over the lack of placement of 1845 learners at schools. The Chairperson of the committee, Ms Mbinqo-Gigaba, said: “The sooner those leaners are placed the better as it will allay uncertainties facing the parents of those learners,”.
Also worrying, the committee said, is the challenge of the non-provision of water to schools in the province. It has welcomed the initiative taken by the Harry Gwala district of education to enter into service level agreements with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, the South African Local Government Association and municipalities in the area to ensure that there is sustainable provision of water to schools.

The committee has noted the move with appreciation and said these collaborative initiatives are essential to guarantee the provision of water to schools within the province. Also, the committee has welcomed the procurement of learner teacher support materials through the use of the central procurement system and the completion of the delivery of the materials to schools. It said the completion of the delivery of furniture will ensure that learners are able to start learning from the first day at school.

The committee has also welcomed the province’s readiness to rollout the National School Nutrition Programme especially to schools servicing poor families. Furthermore, it welcomed the information that 90% of the service providers for the nutrition programme is already paid for November and December 2020 invoices. It said that will, hopefully, ensure that there are no delays in rolling out this programme at the start of this academic year.

According to the briefing the committee received, the remaining 10% of the service providers who have not been paid consists of service providers who submitted their invoices late and those who had not submitted invoices for November and December. The committee said the manner in which service providers have been dealt with, is encouraging and boots confidence on the ability of the department to deliver the programme.

The committee also welcomed the information that the department started proving food parcels to learners from 27 January 2021 and the fact that, that was not affected by the delay of the start of the 2021 academic year.

Regarding the provision of the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to schools, the committee has been assured by the department that all the PPE material will be delivered by 5 February 2021 to schools. In welcoming that, the committee told the department that the delivery of the PPE to schools on time will certainly add a remarkable value in the broader scheme of efforts to fight the transmission of Covid-19. The committee has urged the department to ensure the availability of the PPE at schools.

The committee has expressed its pleasure to the department after it was assured about the completion of the payment of Basic Education Employment Initiative candidates. The committee will today continue with its visit to schools in the Harry Gwala District to assess the district’s preparedness for the start of the academic year.


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