Parliament, Friday, 5 February 2021 – The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education is concerned that the Eastern Cape is not fully ready to start the 2021 academic year. 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 our concerns revolve around the non-completion of delivery of learner teacher support materials (LTSM) to schools that procure their LTSM through the department’s system. 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 Ms 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. Furthermore, the committee was 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. “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,” Ms Mbinqo-Gigaba emphasised. 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.

Despite these concerns, the committee welcomed the department’s plans to offer psycho-social support to teachers and learners who have been affected greatly by Covid-19. The committee has repeatedly called for collaboration between the departments of Basic Education and of Social Development to ensure adequate support to traumatised teachers and learners during these challenging times.

The committee also welcomes the intention to collaborate with the Department of Communications, Telecommunications and Postal Services to resolve connectivity challenges in the province, as the department implements it e-teaching and learning strategy. The committee has urged the department to accelerate its interactions with this department to ensure that roll-out is expedited.

Regarding scholar transport, the committee welcomed the information that the Department of Transport has contracted service providers to transport 124 036 learners in 1 044 schools for three years. This will ensure that learners have transport on the first day of school. The committee has called on the department to ensure, through its verification process, that all learmers requiring transport are catered for. The committee also welcomes the assurance that personal protection equipment will be deliverd in all schools in the provice, which will add impetus to the fight against Covid-19.

Meanwhile, the committee welcomed information that the placement of learners in the Alfred Nzo West District has been concluded. This will ensure that teaching and learning can resume in earnest on 15 February 2021. The committee will tomorrow conclude its oversight visit in the provice, when it visits in the Mount Fletcher Education District.


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