Note to editors: The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by the DA’s Shadow Deputy Minister of Basic Education, Nomsa Marchesi MP, during the State of the Nation (SONA) Debate in the National Assembly this afternoon.
As a country we have reached a defining moment, where the quality of leadership is most crucial in determining the future of our young children and our youth.
As it stands, there is an entire generation of young people who have been lost because of the poor quality of basic education they have received.
Allow me to tell you the story of uThandiwe: a matric school girl from the Eastern Cape and the challenges she faced over the course of her education.
She loves learning, but has had to overcome major obstacles to succeed.
She attended one of the 19 500 dysfunctional schools in our country, getting up at 3:30 in the morning to walk to school, just like the pupils from Chief Ngonyama Technical School in Illembe district in KZN. We welcome the removal of the provincial education department’s director in the district where three schools achieved a zero percent pass rate in last year’s Matric examinations.
Thandi’s school still does not have basic services. The situation is not unusual: the Department of Basic Education identified 571 schools without electricity, 81 without water and 66 with no basic sanitation at all in 2016.
She struggles with Maths and Science: she was taught by a teacher who does not have a teaching qualification, just like the Maths teacher at Isifisosethu Secondary in KZN, which has a maths pass rate of 14%. This explains why South Africa has come last or second last in every single TIMSS round since 1995.
But she knows that she comes from one of the provinces where the teachers are protected by SADTU, and they sometimes protest or go to endless workshops and meetings during school hours, denying our children an opportunity to learn.
Fortunately, she is not among the 500 000 Grade 10s who dropped out in 2014 that did not go on to write Matric in 2016.
She has managed against all odds to achieve the marks to attend UCT or Wits, but can’t go because NSFAS “full funding” doesn’t cover the cost of studies there.
Instead, she applies for funding for a TVET college in her province.
It is not ideal:
• The accommodation is shocking;
• There are massive delays in the issuing of certificates; and
• The administration of the college lets students down.
How do we help young people get the necessary skills to get a job and step out of poverty and into our economy?
But maybe when she has an initial post-Matric qualification and has worked for a while, she can save money to go to her university of choice.
Only the stark reality under the ANC government is:
• There are no jobs: unemployment is at 35.6%;
• Our country’s growth is abysmal;
• There is no plan from the President in SONA 2017 to grow our economy; and
• And there is absolutely no commitment to stop stealing public money for cadres and political loyalists.
However, Honourable Members, Thandi’s cousin in the Western Cape has had it a little easier.
Under the DA Western Cape government:
• No Western Cape schools were identified as being without water, electricity or sanitation in 2016;
• The province is consistently in the top 3 for matric pass rate, and no schools have had a below 40% pass rate for 5 years. None with 0% pass rates in 2016;
• Has the highest percentage of Bachelor passes; of candidates getting 40% or above for Maths; and of candidates getting 40% or above for Physical Science;
• The Western Cape has the best performance record out of all provinces in delivering textbooks in time for the start of the school year;
• The Western Cape department of education has built 98 schools since 2009; and deployed 119 mobile classrooms this year to assist with the rapid influx of pupils who want to join a better education system, where we ensure that teachers and principals are supported but also held accountable for the performance of their learners.
Mr President, during your SONA speech you used the word “radical” several times, in a desperate attempt to excite the nation after their 23 years in power. But we will not fall for it.
South Africans know that you have failed to radically deal with:
• SADTU interference with the education of our children;
• The failure to deliver school Infrastructure and textbooks desperately needed by our children; and
• The poor quality of teaching, especially in the subjects of Maths and Science.
You have only succeeded in radically flouting the constitution.
You (the ANC) have let uThandi down, and thousands of children like her. You should be ashamed of yourselves – you have created a Lost Generation.