The Crisis in Eastern Cape Schools

2011 started on a disastrous note in all Eastern Cape schools but, as always, our rural schools have far fewer resources to withstand the cancellation of services which are the backbone of education. The cancellation of the school feeding scheme rightly caused a national outcry and the cancellation of ‘temporary’ teachers’ posts resulted in a high court order to reinstate them within 5 days (although this has been contested). The cancellation of transport and of some stationery contracts further escalated the crisis which has been building for years. We therefore welcomed the intervention of the national ministry in February and endorse the Minister’s efforts to put things right but we remain very concerned that it will take years before schools such as those in our villages offer a truly acceptable level of education to thousands of children whose futures are at stake. Indeed, it is always the children who pay the price of corruption, ineptitude, poor teaching, lack of commitment and lack of accountability. As an organisation we will support every initiative to improve all children’s access to a decent education.

It was for this reason that Annette Champion and Phumzile Msaro represented the BI when we supported the Equal Education picket outside Parliament recently and handed over a memorandum to a representative of the Minister. Photographs of the dreadful conditions in our schools were displayed on the railings and at last the media began to tell the story. 

The situation at this stage is that some of the ‘temporary’ teachers’ posts have been reinstated. A small rural school in a neighbouring village lost 3 of its 6 teachers i n January, effectively closing down any real teaching and learning – 2 teachers have now returned. The school feeding programme began to function again in mid-March and some stationery has finally been delivered. The much-publicised Workbooks for Grades 1-6 also arrived, albeit 6 weeks late, and will, if properly used, make a real difference to the quality of literacy and numeracy being taught.

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