Speech delivered by WC MEC Debbie Schäfer at the Debate on the Premier’s SOPA
On Friday, the Premier showed us how, when the voting public is prepared to “swim upstream”, and vote differently to the rest of the country, they reap substantial rewards.
She also showed what is possible when you have a capable state, and an accountable and responsive government. Imagine if we had had that for the last 25 years where we could be now.
We do indeed have a good story to tell in the Western Cape. The ANC couldn’t even organise their own protest properly, and notwithstanding the Weekend Argus’ report that Wale Street was “a sea of yellow, black and green”, we SAW the reality. A protest that was supposed to start at 09h30 commenced at about 11h30. And it was clear that the few hundred people – outnumbered by police – were not particularly interested in what Mr “Brown Envelope” Rasool and the permanently acting Chairperson, Khaya Magaxa, had to say. We really can’t blame them.
Madam Speaker, in her speech, the Premier addressed many issues in education, and I want to thank her for the full account she gave of the challenges we face. She also highlighted our numerous achievements.
So today I want to focus on just a few issues of particular importance, to highlight just how well we have actually done, in the face of extreme difficulties inflicted largely by the ANC’s corruption and mismanagement of our country.
The first topic I wish to address is the Matric Results.
The Premier spoke about our improvement from 75.7% in 2009 to 81.5% in 2018. And yes, we dropped over the last two years. But there are important reasons why.
The Premier mentioned the first reason, which is our retention rate from Grade 10-12, which remains by far the highest in the country.
There is also the impact of increasing class sizes and decreasing budgets, which we have been warning for years now will have an impact on our results.
But the other significant factor is the impact of the MEO (or multiple exam opportunity), on the pass rate.
The DBE recently held a lekgotla, where one of the senior officials was at pains to try and convince everyone that there is no “smoke and mirrors” in the release of the Matric results.
But even as he did so, he STILL failed to reveal the statistics of the number of learners per province, and the percentage of the matric cohort that they comprise, over the last three years, who have written the MEO.
And this is where the smoke and mirrors comes in.
It does not take a mathematical genius to figure out that if you reduce the numbers writing the final exam, by removing the weak ones from the system, you will get a higher pass rate.
I am very confident when I say that there is a strong correlation between the results in each province and the percentage increase over the last three years of learners writing the MEO. To put it simply, the higher the increase in Matric pass rate, the higher the percentage of the cohort in that province writing the MEO. I am also confident that the Western Cape has the lowest percentage increase in those writing MEO’s. And unlike in other provinces, we do not force our weak students not to write the full final exam.
The question needs to be asked, given that I have publicly challenged the DBE and each province to make these statistics public, why they have still not done so?
In addition, Min Motshekga has, for the last two years, been reporting internally on what she has called “An Inclusive Basket of Criteria” for the NSC, which takes into account important indicators such as the percentage of physical science and mathematics passes, the throughput rate, distinctions and bachelor passes. Minister Motshekga indicated in a Parliamentary reply that the new "Inclusive Basket of Criteria" is a "more integrated approach to reporting that reflects the key indicators of learner performance". We agree (although now I think the percentage writing the MEO should also be included),
So again I have to ask, why has this still not been used publicly?
Is it perhaps because for the two previous years the Western Cape has been number one, and may well be again this year?
So people must not tell me that there is no “smoke and mirrors”.
Considering the huge increase in numbers in our system over the last five years in particular, and the above factors, I am proud of the fact that we have been able to increase at all, and certainly that we have been able to maintain a pass rate over 80%.
And I am proud that we have focussed, and I hope the next government will continue to focus, on keeping as many children in school as possible, and ensuring as many as possible obtain their NSC, as that gives them far better opportunities in life. That is what a DA government works for.
ICT and response to Ramaphosa
Madam Speaker, I turn now to ICT and the fourth industrial revolution, about which the President spoke at SONA.
The Premier also spoke about what we have achieved in this realm, especially over the last five years, and it is a lot.
A focus on the fourth industrial revolution is very important, but the President’s response is fascinating - hand out a tablet to every child over the next three years!
Firstly, there needs to be internet connectivity at every school, which there is not (except for the majority of schools in the Western Cape). Secondly, the criminal justice system is so dysfunctional that they will be stolen soon after they are handed out, with NO consequences. Thirdly, where is the money coming from? And fourthly, I sure hope they are solar powered, because the national government has no political will or expertise to fix the energy crisis that we are in as a result of Eskom’s mismanagement and corruption, so we could quite feasibly be sitting with a whole lot of tablets and nothing to charge them with. The ANC cannot even agree within itself what they are going to do about it, and they are allowing themselves to be held hostage by the unions, which means that nothing will be done anytime soon to fix it.
Mr President, we don’t need tablets, we need teachers, and we need schools, and we need the ecosystem first, that needs to be in place in order to effectively utilise technology in education. We also need increased technical support for schools and teacher development, to name but a few.
We have done remarkably well in integrating ICT, but there is still a lot to do, and the President’s apparent ignorance of what e-learning involves is astonishing – although I guess he was “shocked” to learn what we have all known about Eskom for a long time now, so anything is possible.
Numbers of learners not placed
The ANC has made much of the number of unplaced learners in the Western Cape, and they are correct. But have they spoken to their colleagues in other provinces about their unplaced learners? In some provinces the data is so bad I don’t think they would even be able to tell us what the numbers are. In others they offer places to learners and if they refuse them, they simply remove them from the list of those unplaced, so they can say that they are no longer unplaced, whether they are actually in school or not.
But, quite honestly, for the ANC to be posturing about unplaced learners and overcrowded classrooms, is like Lincoln’s definition of a hypocrite – “a man who kills both parents and then complains he is an orphan”!
The situation we find ourselves in is a DIRECT result of ANC corruption and mismanagement, and a direct result of the DA’s good governance, to which people are flocking in their numbers.
Since 2014, we have had an increase of 113 000 learners in our system. This year we are anticipating an additional 25 000, once figures are finalised.
The cost to the department, EXCLUDING infrastructure, for the 113 000, is R1.84bn.
Instead, what the ANC has delivered is an additional R1.9 billion over the next three years that we have to fund as a result of the nationally negotiated wage increases.
Plus they have CUT the infrastructure grant by R132, 503 million over the last 3 years. In addition, our infrastructure grant for growth was increased by around R298 million over the 2019 MTEF, but cut by an amount of around R250 m, resulting in a marginal increase of R48 million on the indicative allocation received in respect of the 2019 MTEF.
So what exactly are we supposed to do with the 25 000 extra learners per year for the last two years, when the money we need is simply not forthcoming?
In contrast, a Moneyweb article last year suggested that flawed tender processes and corruption could be costing South Africa R400bn a year!
That money could have ensured that we had no teacher shortage, no school shortage and schools with far better facilities than many of our older schools still enjoy.
But instead, the Guptas are planning another R100m wedding in Abu Dhabi! And we have to keep on telling our teachers to please hang in there.
And the ANC wants to take US to the Human Rights Commission!?
Be my guest – I will join you there and lay a counter-charge.
The numbers are frightening – and the only thing that will solve it is money, plain and simple.
Obviously, all these extra people require accommodation. The Premier mentioned our achievements in infrastructure – 132 schools and 2057 classrooms since 2009. That is just over 1 new school and 17 classrooms per month!
And yet this is still not enough to keep up with the persistent demand for schooling in the Western Cape. Our schools are literally bursting at the seams. And the response from the ANC? They have just cut the Education Infrastructure Grant for the two outer years of the MTEF! But I guess that’s ok, we will have tablets, right?
School Evaluations Authority
The Premier also mentioned our ground-breaking Bill that was passed in November last year, which will pave the way for the School Evaluation Authority.
We are currently busy finalising the Regulations, and this will be a revolution in education in South Africa.
Unsurprisingly, SADTU has been informing their members not to allow classroom observation, as the Premier has not yet proclaimed that the Act is in force.
This will be remedied soon, and the section allowing for classroom observation WILL be enacted and WILL be enforced.
We will not allow SADTU or any other union to stop us observing teaching and learning in the classroom. I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t want to, except if they are trying to protect people who are prejudicing the chances of our children. The intention is to improve teaching and learning in the classroom. What possible legitimate objection can there be to that?
It is my sincere hope that the new administration will drive this forward aggressively. I also look forward to seeing the Chief Evaluator appointed within the next few months, and the school evaluations published for communities to see how schools in their communities and our province as a whole, are performing.
There are many safety interventions we have been busy with, which I shall discuss in more detail in my budget speech. Unfortunately, once again, many of them are being necessitated by the ANC’s decimation of the independence and effectiveness of the criminal justice system (now we can see exactly why), which is affecting our people on the ground every day, including our schools.
Over the last week and a half, school grounds in Pacaltsdorp has been illegally occupied. We obtained an interdict and the police are only today “having a meeting” to discuss how to “deal with these issues”. After we have had to spend R3.5m of money we desperately need for education purposes to try and protect the school property.
The fact is, we cannot go on like this. If we have yet another five years of ANC government at a national level, there really will be nothing left. The Western Cape is a beacon of what the DA can do in government, and the only way we will be able to save our country is by voting in a DA government in May.