Minister updates MPs on progress in fixing flood-damaged schools

07 September 2022 - 21:35
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Minister of basic education Angie Motshekga.
Minister of basic education Angie Motshekga.
Image: Ntswe Mokoena.

Basic education took centre stage during a social services cluster question and answer sitting in parliament on Wednesday.

Minister Angie Motshekga briefed MPs on a wide range of issues, including school dropouts, poor sanitation and infrastructure, school governing bodies and teenage pregnancies.  

The minister took time to update parliamentarians on the progress in the repairing of schools which were damaged by the deadly April floods.

In KwaZulu-Natal, she said, there were 41 schools which had minor damage and to date 33 have completed the tender process with two already at construction level.

Six schools are practically completed, she said.

“There were 117 other schools which had medium damage, 32 of them are at a design level, 72 have completed the tender processes and are already at construction level.”

There were 202 schools seriously damaged, and 163 of them are at a planning phase, 27 are at a tender design and four are at construction stage.

In the Eastern Cape, Motshekga said 51 schools were affected.

“When we visited the schools we found that 37 of them had leaking roofs and 27 of them were damaged by the floods. We are working with the province on plans to repair them,” she said, adding that not much work had been done in finalising the costs for the repairs.

In North West, Motshekga said, no schools were damaged by the storm, however: “There were schools which were damaged by other natural disasters.”

The main focus is in KZN and Eastern Cape, she said. 

On the lessons learnt with dealing with and responding to national disasters, Motshekga said: “We are very lucky as a sector because we have a very big footprint. Even in areas where children were displaced, we were able to find them spaces.”

She said the department was able to quickly mobilise uniforms and make sure that schooling continues.

“There are a number of lessons we have learnt in terms of the quality of infrastructure and where schools are located, so it is also to make sure that when schools are build your environmental studies are done thoroughly so that people build schools in the right place and protect infrastructure.”

In terms of sanitation in schools, Motshekga said there were more than 3,280 schools that had been identified that needed to have pit latrines.

“We had done more than 2,800 and we are left with 1,000.”

The department is aiming to complete the project before the end of the current financial year.

“Infrastructure has become an albatross to the sector and different means and measures are being looked at by government.” 

On the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill (the draft bill), Motshekga said it was out for public say.

“In terms of the school governing bodies specifically, one of the areas we have had to change was around the language policy. In the Ermelo case we had to change the language policy so that it is not the governing body which determines that this is strictly a Zulu-speaking school.

“It should be the government policies which say a language policy of a different area will be determined by the number of learners in that school, not the governing body deciding that this is going to be a specific language policy.”

She said this will discriminate against other children who have a right to be in that particular school.

“We did feel that in line with the constitution, that had to be amended.”

The minister said admission policies should not be the determination of the school governing body alone.

“The admission policy should be determined by government laws on who goes into a school.”

Shifting to the code of conduct, Motshekga said it sometimes infringes on the rights of children.

“It infringes on their religion and their cultural practices. So it cannot be the governing body which says you cannot wear isphandla at school when we all know what isphandla means. It can’t be the governing body which decides that it does not want children to cover their heads when everybody understands what it means.”

The amendment was not aimed at making life difficult for school governing bodies, she said, adding that she was not taking powers away from the SGBs.

“What do I do with those powers as a politician? The changes to the Bela Bill were informed by what had to come between 1996 and now.”

She said the department was aware of instances where the governing bodies made the lives of schools and principals difficult.

“To be honest we have very good school governing bodies that we work very close with. Even when we were doing the Bela Bill, there was never a time when I took a step without involving the governing bodies.”

The department had closed 1,503 schools since 2021.

“Sometimes you find that a school is not viable and it makes no educational sense to keep it open and so we will support those pupils to make sure that they find spaces nearby. It’s cruel to keep an unviable school open, especially when it does not make educational sense.”

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