ECape Premier addresses calls for him to sack Education MEC over poor 2015 results

JANUARY 13, 2016

While inspecting school readiness in Gelvandale, in Port Elizabeth's troubled Northern Areas on Wednesday, Eastern Cape Premier, Phumulo Masualle, said that he has heard calls from some quarters that he sack Eastern Cape MEC for Education, Mandla Makupula, following a dismal pass rate by the Class of 2015. The Eastern Cape recorded the lowest Matric pass rate of  56.8% - down from 65.4% in 2014. 

One call for Makupula's head came from his party's youth body, the ANC Youth League.

"Certainly those calls have been made and I have heard quite a few - possibly out of anger and frustration because of the performance the Department has been showing," the Premier said on the SABC's Morning Live breakfast show.

"Certainly we will consider those but the history of this Department, I must say, is one - perhaps comparatively speaking from across the country, one of those departments in which we have constantly changed MECs and HODs. The turnover is almost 9 to 10 over this period of time.

"It does not lead to any stability and focus but certainly where there are glaring weaknesses, we have got to attend to this."

Premier Masualle went on to say that what is needed is to "get all the ideas together" on "how to we can get the whole system to work".

"It takes more than just the MEC or HOD of the department - it takes a whole chain that we must make effective including at the school itself.

"So yes, we will consider those calls and where there is a need for changes such changes will be done and i think there are a number of areas in the value chain of deliverying education," the Premier said.

He added that the province was doing all it can to ensure that all is in place for a better year in 2016.

"Stemming from the class of 2015, we have been extremely disappointed with the turn of events and it has actually sprung us into quite an intense interogation of what were the causes of the calamity - as I would put it.

"We have since then undertaken a few things to do and said we have to go back to the basics, which means it all has to start in the classroom," the Premier said.

"We have got to secure on-time teaching on the part of learners, we have to secure the school environment so that it is conjucive to learning and teaching, ensuring that there educators in front of leaners, ensuring that the school's management is firm and is up to the business of ensuring that the school is managed effectively and efficiently.

"Of course, we also need to look at support functions by ensuring that the Department of Education provides tools to ensure effective schooling, EDOs as well as ensuring that all the other ancilliary things that support schooling are in place.

"Leadership, leadership leadership all the time! We have got to ensure that the Department shapes up for the task at hand."

He said that the Eastern Cape has kept and sustained for too long far too many small schools that leads to unviability.

"We have got to create centres of learning with adequate learners and adequate teachers that are supplied with all the materials that they need.

"Part of the reason why we are here is to ensure that the schools have recieved all their LTS and they have got enough teachers in class so that they can go ahead with the business without any interference," the Premier said.

"Of course again, its a matter that is going to require community mobilisation because right here, in Gelvandale, there are other external factors that do impact on learning for local learners - violence and crime in the area calls for everybody to be involved in making sure that we secure time and quality for learners to be taught and for teachers to be able to do that."

Last year in July, violent protests over the lack of teachers resulted in the closure of around 32 schools in Port Elizabeth's Northern Area by parents for almost two weeks.

In August, they also vowed to prevent their children from writing the 2015 Matric exams if their concerns were not met.

The province's 2014 Matric result was also tainted when it emerged that several centres in the province had been implicated in the group cheating scandal. 

In September, Makupula, while announcing the province's readiness for the 2015 Matric exams said that they were hoping to increase the pass rate to 70%.

"We think that it is reachable to take it to 70%. Less strikes took place and there was less noise about teacher shortages - yes, they were there, but they were not as in the previous years. This means that more time was spent in the classroom.

"I am confident to say as a department, we have done our best to reach that target," he said.

Meanwhile, Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Executive Mayor, Danny Jordaan, told the same show that the municipality's focus for this year is to maintain school infrastructure.

"Last year's school results in the Eastern Cape were not good, so we have to address issues of teachers, maintaining the schools infrastructure and the issues of non-teaching staff," Jordaan said.

Between Wednesday and the 22nd of January, the Portfolio Committee on Education of the Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature (ECPL) will conduct school visits to the Nelson Mandela Bay and Buffalo City Metros as well as the Sarah Baartman, Aliwal North, Chris Hani, OR Tambo and Amathole districts.