Budget Debate on Education – Vote 5

May 11, 2022 | Speeches

Hon. Speaker, Hon. Members and Distinguished Guests

Let me begin by extending my heartfelt gratitude to my wonderful home, the IFP, and to the beautiful people of KwaZulu-Natal, for affording me this precious opportunity to serve in this Committee on their behalf.

It is with deep sadness that our Province has been devastated by the widespread catastrophic flooding over the last few weeks.

On behalf of the IFP, I would like to express my earnest sympathies to the families of the more than 435 people who have lost their lives in this tragedy and those that are still missing.

We particularly express our deepest condolences to the families and schools of the 57 learners, a teacher and food handler who lost their lives, not forgetting the 320 000 pupils that have been affected by the floods in one way or another. Our thoughts and prayers are with the staff, learners, parents and their community at large.

We applaud the Department of Education for the swift response of sending 98 mobile classrooms to the region, to ensure that teaching and learning continues. And providing teachers and learners with the much-needed counselling, as we all know that this disaster has had a huge negative impact psychologically, socially and educationally.

However, as the IFP, we remain concerned with the 101 schools that remain inaccessible, 124 schools that have suffered extensive damage and the 630 schools that were also affected by these floods. We urge national government to urgently intervene on this matter.

We extend our appreciation to various departments at national and provincial level, political parties, municipalities, non-governmental organisations, businesses and ordinary citizens, who all came together and extended a helping hand in one way or another through the distribution of basic relief materials such as food, funding, blankets, mattresses, clothing, chronic medication, toiletries and many other invaluable items to the affected households and citizens.

It is worrying that the preliminary figure on infrastructure damages currently stands at R442 million, when we are aware that KZN’s schools have a long road to recovery. In this regard we welcome the R470.5 million allocated for the repairs of school infrastructure damage caused by storms in this province.

Longstanding Infrastructure Backlogs

Not only have the recent floods had a devastating impact, there is also the existing massive infrastructure backlog from previous storms, floods, unrest and arson attacks.

While we acknowledge that strain on progress in repairs, maintenance and upgrades has been worsened by budget cuts last year, we are aware that there is also a backlog of projects that were delayed due to the ineptitude and incompetence of the Department.

  • This includes pit latrines, incomplete building of schools, asbestos roofs, and many other issues that have plagued the education system in the province for many years.
  • How does the Department explain the incomplete Qantayi Secondary School in Port Dunford, which was announced as a new state-of-the-art school back in 2013, when Mrs Peggy Nkonyeni was still the MEC of Education?
  • How does this Department explain to the citizens of KwaZulu-Natal the ferry boats that were bought in 2018 by the provincial Education Department to ferry pupils who cross rivers and dams to get to school, which are decaying on the premises of the Sharks Board? These boats have been dumped there for more than four years now. This is complete fruitless and wasteful expenditure, Honourable MEC.

Procurement Corruption

Knowing what we know about this Department and its commitment to corruption as per the recent-released proof from the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) that nailed all top bosses, we can boldly say that these boats were just a way of milking taxpayers’ for money by individuals who are politically connected.

The latest results of the SIU investigation on Covid-19 spending fully support the IFP-established view that KZN Education is deeply entrenched in corruption and fraud, as well as a failure by management to prevent wasteful and fruitless expenditure.

Hon. MEC, last year you stood right in front of the masses and defended criminals with pride, insulting our intelligence while at it when we told you that your Department had committed a heist using PPE procurement.

It is time to admit that your Department is a breeding ground for criminals and it faces a gigantic management crisis, as its entire top management, including the late Head of Department, the current acting Head of Department and its Chief Financial Officer, have all been implicated in personal protective equipment (PPE) corruption and fraud by the SIU.

In fact, we agree with the other opposition parties that it is time the Hon. Premier, Sihle Zikalala, puts this Department under administration.

Over and above that, we demand to see proof that all these suppliers listed in the SIU Report have been blacklisted and funds recovered from them.

We further call upon the Hon. Premier to investigate the National Prosecuting Agency (NPA) for its failure to fulfil its mandated duties of instituting charges against officials who have been found implicated in corruption and fraud by the SIU.

Many criminal referrals that have been submitted to the NPA have not been executed and in some instances, it brazenly completely declines to prosecute criminals. We demand to know why.

2022/23 Education Budget

The IFP notes the additional R1.8 billion to the Department, and urges the Department to utilise it effectively, to fill the more than 6 000 vacant posts, which make it difficult for the Department to efficiently perform its core mandate and objectives.

We also note the additional R1.4 billion towards employment of education assistants, however the IFP wishes to know in detail the government’s long-term plans regarding this item.

A sustainable plan to absorb these young people is urgently needed, especially those who are fully qualified to be teachers.

The IFP warmly welcomes the R205 million funds from the Eastern Cape Education Infrastructure Grant to KwaZulu-Natal, as it will go a long way in the rebuilding of schools affected by flood damages.

Learner Transport

The IFP also welcomes the R204.9 million allocated towards the existing issue of the learner transport shortfall. We hope that the total qualifying 117 000 learners that require learner transport in the province can now be provided for, alongside the 62 070 that are already provided for.

Early Childhood Development Migration

The IFP believes that investment in quality ECD programmes for young children has a significant effect on reducing poverty and inequality. We need a government that is proactive in making education a top priority, by ensuring that it invests in building a competent, accessible, and quality education system for children.

We therefore welcome the allocation funds for the migration progress of Early Childhood Development (ECD) from the Department of Social Development (DSD) to Department of Basic Education (DBE).

We applaud this prompt implementation of the migration, as we believe children stand to benefit from increased access to high-quality early childhood education.

The IFP have been at the forefront of fighting for the improvement of salaries and benefits for ECD practitioners because ECD is an important pillar in our education system as it equips children to enter primary school prepared to learn. However, it is an undisputed fact that the ECD sector is grossly underfunded and under-supported by the government.

We urge the KwaZulu-Natal government to fully convert and absorb professionally qualified Grade-R practitioners into mainstream posts so that they can form part of the Post Provisioning Norms (PPN).

In conclusion, we call upon this Department to refrain from misusing these limited funds on wasteful and fruitless expenditure, fraud and corruption. Every cent should go where it is supposed to go, so that lives of our learners can be changed.

The IFP supports this Budget Vote. I thank you

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