Sadtu determined to halt vital reforms, says Western Cape education MEC

27 March 2019 - 15:13 By DAVE CHAMBERS
Education MEC Debbie Schäfer speaks to pupils at a school.
Education MEC Debbie Schäfer speaks to pupils at a school.

The SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) is determined to undermine attempts to improve schools in the Western Cape, says education MEC Debbie Schäfer.

Delivering her final budget speech in the provincial legislature on Wednesday, Schäfer said Sadtu was opposing departmental plans to:

  • Publish assessments of schools;
  • Open more collaboration schools with private-sector partners; and
  • Establish a schools evaluation authority.

Schäfer said Sadtu had gone to court to challenge the bill that introduced school assessments and collaboration schools, and was also attempting to stop classroom observations by the new evaluation authority.

She said the arrival of 20,000 pupils this year from other provinces was putting her department under financial strain, because government funding did not follow the children to the Western Cape.

“Each learner that enters the province costs the department around R15,500 for a primary school learner and R18,700 for a high school learner, excluding infrastructure costs. The cost over the last five years is more than R1.84bn,” she said.

Schäfer said this year’s arrivals alone meant 20 new schools were needed, at a total cost of R1.5bn, but only 11 were being built.

The R1.3bn special-needs education budget was also taking strain, “as families are literally moving across the country to find a place for their children in our schools”.

Two-thirds of the country’s special-needs matric pupils came from the Western Cape, which had only 12% of the population, she said.

The MEC said there had been at least 17 school stabbings so far this year, many of them linked to gang violence.

On the positive side, she said education had shown several improvements since she took office in 2014.

Results of maths and language tests in grades 3, 6 and 9 had all improved and the matric pass rate had increased by six percentage points, with particularly sharp rises in maths and physics results.