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Fri Aug 29 01:17:42 SAST 2014

Primary education in crisis

RETHA GROBBELAAR | 28 July, 2011 00:29
Pupils play soccer in a classroom at a school in Soweto.

A shocking report on the state of the country's primary schools blames poor teacher training frequent teacher absenteeism, and a critical lack of textbooks and libraries for the country's poor quality of education.

The report, compiled by Transparency International, also revealed that one in four children said schools were unsafe and that rape and violence were major problems.

The report surveyed more than 1500 district and provincial officials, principals, teachers, parents and members of governing bodies in 45 primary schools in Gauteng, Mpumalanga and North West between May and August last year.

Letshego Mokeki, who is the local head of Transparency International's Delivery in Africa programme, said the most worrying aspect of the report was the "shocking" flouting of rules regarding the payment of school fees and the responsibilities of governing bodies.

"You can have great policies, but if you don't have a culture of keeping to the rules, you will have system failure," he said.

The report revealed that:

  • Almost half (48%) of pupils said they did not have a desk and chair to use;
  • 40% said they didn't have all the textbooks they needed;
  • 76% of principals said they didn't have the facilities they needed, including infrastructure and equipment such as copying machines;
  • Almost half (48%) of principals said they didn't have enough teachers and 27% said teachers were absent "very often"; and
  • 34% of pupils said schools were poorly maintained - about 15% had no electricity and 10% had no water supply.

Almost a third (31.1%) of principals, one in five teachers and a quarter of district officials said the "highest risk of corruption" in primary education was "the embezzlement of funds at provincial level".

Provincial officials also told researchers that schools don't get their money from the department on time, which means a "scramble" for money at the beginning of the year.

Basic Education spokesman Panyaza Lesufi said the ministry will provide a detailed response after studying the report.

But Gauteng education spokesman Charles Phahlane said the report's findings were too general and "may distort the true picture".

The education departments of Mpumalanga and the North West didn't respond to requests for comment.

EDUCATION SCORECARD

The report from Transparency International, called Mapping Transparency, Accountability and Integrity in Primary Education in South Africa, found that:

  • Some district officials said teacher unions have a lot of influence in the appointment of teachers at schools;
  • Only 29% of principals reported that schools funds arrive from the department in time;
  • Only 48.8% of principals said they were "fully skilled" to handle the financial management of their schools;
  • A third (35%) of governing body members said there was a risk that the correct procedures would not be followed if teachers were absent a lot of the time, and 29% said there was a risk that reports of sexual harassment of pupils would not be correctly handled;
  •  One in five governing body members said they didn't have the skills they needed to do what they were supposed to; and
  • Some teachers lack knowledge about department rules pertaining to school fees and fee exemptions, leading to a "direct impact" on pupils.

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Fri Aug 29 01:17:42 SAST 2014 ::