The National Development Plan, which the ANC only ever speaks about and has failed to implement, expects us to ensure that between 80% and 90% of pupils complete 12 years of schooling and/or vocational education, with at least 80% successfully passing the exit exams.
The vast number of learners who drop out at the primary and secondary levels is a sign of a poor education system, and a major contributing factor to the country’s youth unemployment crisis.
Despite the state’s constitutional obligation to provide and fund education for the poor, the path from Grade 1 to matric is fast becoming a road less travelled. This means more unemployment and unskilled youth who are trapped in poverty. About 2.7 million young people in Gauteng have nothing to do. They can’t find or create jobs. They are described as being not in education, employment or training, simply put, a “lost generation” abandoned by an uncaring ANC government that has skewed priorities.
Education remains one of the most powerful weapons in the fight against poverty, unemployment and inequality. With that in mind, the question I pose to the Gauteng education MEC, Panyaza Lesufi, is whether the budget he tabled this week is designed to guarantee that a child of Gauteng is not only skilled and knowledgeable at the end of their 12-year journey, but is also able to contribute to the economy and build their community. I believe the answer is no.
Young people are not engaged in economic activity and are now joining social development queues, instead of economic development queues.
Since the Gauteng education department does not have a plan for the youth, it’s important that we reflect on the DA’s Rescue Plan for the Lost Generation. The plan seeks to ensure that young people not only complete their schooling and gain skills, but also seeks to ensure that there is an economy in which they are able to participate.
In short, the first part of the plan is about skills for jobs, and, among other things, has as an objective the creation of better education, training and internship programmes; it also emphasises the need to reintroduce teacher training colleges which the ANC government disbanded.
The second part of the plan highlights ensuring rapid growth that creates jobs for those who have completed their training or education.
It is time to ask difficult questions and take deliberate action.
Is our education system positioned to produce skills needed by an evolving modern economy? If so, why aren’t we getting the positive results? Why are these young people leaving schools and joining the poverty queue? Are leaders concerned about this trend? If they are, what are they doing to improve the learning and teaching environment?
The DA is of the strong view that the Gauteng education budget doesn’t promote high standards in public education to produce the greatest variety of technical skills, to fuel a skills-hungry knowledge economy.
It should deeply concern all residents of Gauteng that Lesufi doesn’t know how many maths and science teachers there are in our schools teaching these subjects, despite the fact that these are scarce skills subjects which should empower the youth.
There are more than 29 schools built using asbestos. These schools should have been rebuilt by the end of November 2016, yet here we are in the middle of 2017, and our learners are still subjected to the dangers of asbestos.
The question is: What are the ANC and MEC Lesufi doing to better the lives of the youth in Gauteng? The MEC is good at public relations but fails when it comes to the actual work of delivering a functional education system.
The biggest problem is not lack of money but lack of capacity to spend the budget. There is no doubt that investment in school infrastructure will grow the economy and improve learning and teaching conditions. But the ANC, in cahoots with the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union, has no interest in this. Last year, R3 billion was set aside for school infrastructure, but it wasn’t spent.
Poor planning, a lack of project management and political will are characteristics of poor service delivery. It is improper and unconstitutional to have schools without basic services such as water, electricity and sanitation.
Look at where these schools with no access are – in poor areas where government support is most needed.
If the parents of learners at Goza Primary School in Freedom Park had access to wealth, would they subject their children to inhumane and unhygienic conditions at the school? The answer is no, but they have no choice.
Ultimately, Lesufi is not doing as good a job as he portrays in the media. Learners of Gauteng are suffering. He is not the man to bring about change, and nor is the ANC the party that will prioritise the education of the province’s youth.
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