Gauteng schools are almost ready for the new school year, says parliament

01 February 2021 - 18:57 By naledi shange
The portfolio committee on basic education says it is satisfied that Gauteng public schools are almost ready for the start of the new academic year.
The portfolio committee on basic education says it is satisfied that Gauteng public schools are almost ready for the start of the new academic year.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi

Despite nearly 3,383 pupils still waiting to be placed in schools, parliament's portfolio committee on basic education on Monday said it was confident that Gauteng schools were on track for reopening later this month.

In a statement, the committee said it had received information regarding text book delivery, PPE provision and feeding scheme plans ahead of the reopening of public schools on February 15.

Committee chair Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba said they understood that PPE would be delivered to schools from February 3 and would be complete before teaching and learning commences.

The province’s education ministry was recently rocked by a scandal in which it was revealed that more than R431m had been spent last year on sanitising and disinfecting schools.  An investigation has since been launched to determine whether companies that rendered these services delivered on services and whether there was no inflation of costs.

Mbinqo-Gigaba said the committee would await the conclusion of the investigation before expressing its views.

“Despite this, the principle of transparency, good governance and prudent spending of taxpayers’ resources should remain an integral pillar of government,” said Mbinqo-Gigaba.  

On school placements, the committee said it appreciated that Gauteng faced an in-migration of pupils, placing unprecedented pressure on its systems and resources. It has, however, requested that the department expedite processes to place these pupils.  

On textbooks: “The committee welcomes the information that delivery of learner and teacher support material is almost complete, with 99.8% of textbooks delivered to schools that participate on the central procurement system. The remaining schools have requested the department to deliver when schools open, because of a fear of burglaries.”

The committee expressed concern over school vandalism and break-ins, saying this ate into funds meant to improve school structures.

“We have to urgently address the vandalism of schools, as it robs our children of the opportunity to improve their lives through education. Society in general must take ownership of the schools, as they are critical in the development of their communities,” Mbinqo-Gigaba said.

With several weeks of the school year already lost to Covid-19, catch-up plans were being hatched.

It also called on the education ministry to ensure it had enough teacher replacements for incidents where teachers were unavailable because of increased risk caused by co-morbidities. The committee also emphasised the need to strengthen psychosocial support to teachers and pupils.

The committee plans to also conduct oversight visits to schools in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape to assess school readiness for the 2021 academic year.