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The Democratic Alliance today conducted oversight inspections at a number of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) schools ahead of the 2022 academic year.
While most institutions visited saw a smooth start, there are several areas which demand urgent attention by Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu and his Department of Education (DoE). The very first of these is the schools affected by recent flooding in Ladysmith.
Earlier today, the DA witnessed the destruction at Windsor Secondary School with some classrooms still filled with water, text books and equipment destroyed and flooring within the school now dangerously slippery.
We also witnessed a few dedicated staff members, including the principal and teachers doing their best to clean up and save what they could. (view here and here). Certainly the infrastructure is nowhere near ready to receive learners on Monday next week, which is what the principal was hoping for.
Disappointingly, the only Education official to visit the school to date is the District level representative from the DoE. Meanwhile, no proper assessment of the damages and needs has been conducted. How soon this school will be ready to receive it’s 1 059 learners requires an urgent response from Mshengu.
While teaching and learning at Joseph Shabalala Secondary School — also in the Uthekela District — has resumed, an entire block including science laboratories has been destroyed due to heavy winds and rain.
This school has an enrolment of 1 339 learners and will not be able to ensure all of its learners are in school at the same time. This means that until such time as that block is repaired, a rotational time table will have to stay in place, mobile classes will have to be provided and additional staff made available in order to cope.
The challenges in this District come amid others, including reports that some learners in the Pinetown District have not yet been placed while others have not yet received their report cards and transfer cards.
This is the case at Pinetown Junior Primary school where the principal has demanded that full school fees be paid up while also refusing any form of payment arrangement for parents. The principal has to know that the practice of withholding report cards is illegal. Yet he has blatantly continued with this course of action. (Contact details for aggrieved parents may be obtained from Dr Keeka).
Meanwhile, the DA has been inundated with requests for placements at schools. This while the exact number of unplaced learners is unknown, while it remains doubtful as to whether the DoE will be able to provide any accurate figures.
To top matters off, media reports have also recently emerged that there are 11 KZN schools which have not started with any kind of schooling today due to disputes between school principals and communities. While MEC Mshengu has committed to delaying the opening of these schools by one day only, it remains to be seen whether he can pull off such a miraculous feat.
As in previous years, school infrastructure in KZN remains shambolic at far too many of the province’s 6 200 schools. This while strain on progress in repairs, maintenance and upgrades has been worsened by budget cuts in this financial year and an expected further R9 billion budget cut in the 2022/2023 financial year.
Added to this are the estimated 189 storm damaged schools. In the past, it took the DoE more than four years to address the previous backlog. Now there are more to add to the existing list.
It is more than clear that MEC Mshengu and his Department have their hands full and that this will continue to be the case during the forthcoming year. It is also apparent that they will simultaneously have no idea of how to move forward without Treasury’s intervention at both a provincial and national level.
The DA will continue to assess damages and schools across the province over the next few days. We will report any and all issues we encounter to the MEC and his Department so that they can be rectified as a matter of urgency.
Issued by DA KZN Spokesperson on Education, Dr Imran Keeka, MPL