SACP Buffalo City adds voice to demands for free, quality education

MARCH 27, 2017
SACP Buffalo City adds voice to demands for free, quality education

The South African Communist Party (SACP) in the Buffalo City Metro held an education summit at the East London City Hall, over the weekend where, among other resolutions, it added its voice to calls for free, quality education.

"While we must support the Minister and General Secretary of the Party in his responsibility as the Minister of Higher Education and Training, this must not be done at the expense of the party and its historic struggle to fundamentally transform the education system and society as a whole," said Ludwe Mnweba, SACP Buffalo City Region, District Spokesperson.  

He said that, as such, the summit resolved that the SACP must not mince its words when it comes to the struggle for free, compulsory and quality public education for the poor.

"The struggle must be underpinned by the call for a de-commodified education system, that does not serve the interests of the markets, but rather those of the people and the struggle for socialism.

"We cannot merely limit or reduce the need for free education to a question of affordability and access, but as a drive to fundamentally transform society."

Mnweba said that the purpose of the education summit was to engage various voices in taking stock of the democratic gains in the education sector and irradiate challenges confronting the sector and develop a common programme of intervention.

The summit was attended by the SACP leadership in the district and the province, along with its alliance partners and Mass Democratic Movements organising in the education sector such as the National Education, Health, and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU); South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU), South African Students Congress (SASCO), and the Congress of South African Students (COSAS).

"The Party in the district also invited the Department of Basic and Higher Education and Training to make presentations to the Summit," said Mnweba.

"The summit was opened with the understanding that education is ideologically orientated. Its ideological orientation reflects the class contradictions and rule in society. It plays a great role in shaping the future of societies and is instrumental in the struggle between classes in society. Our role as the Party is to fight for a people’s education for people’s power.

"The summit maintained the SACP’s position on the need to focus on education as a whole, starting from the early childhood phase.

"Moreover the summit agreed with the Party when it argued that we should be less preoccupied with the excitement of numerical competition on matric results, but rather concentrate on the qualitative progress of the Province. We should not limit performance outcomes on matric results, but the entire education system. These sentiments were reiterated and asserted by the education summit."

Mnweba added that the summit agreed that the African National Congress (ANC) must use its policy conference to review policies that continue to present challenges in the education system.

"Curriculum changes, post-provision and class size, realignment and closing of schools, and other related challenges must preoccupy the policy conference of the ANC to be able to bring lasting solutions to our problems. It is important to have a curriculum that is aligned to the developmental needs and aspirations of the country," he  said.

"Scholar transport is where we possibly have the most challenges, as there are quite a number of learners that are not being transported. We must however acknowledge that the most deserving learners are being transported. There is a major gap on scholar transport in relation to the function placed under the department of transport.

"An example is when the figures projected for enrolment do not reflect the actual figures on that year, and it normally takes time to process such gaps. Financial year also impacts on the planning for the provision, as the department is forced to plan from January to December, while the financial year begins in April, when students are already in class.

"It is in this context that the summit calls upon our government to strengthen the intergovernmental relations when it comes to the human settlements as that affects school children, as some families are relocated mid-year to newly built houses with no schools."

Mnweba said that the summit also affirmed the understanding that education is not neutral, and that its content is determined by the capitalist, or socialist ideals, depending on the class relations that translate into the curriculum of that education system.

"If our aim is to transform education in favour of our aspirations, we ought to intensify the struggle against capitalism, a struggle that all components present at the summit (and those not present) must join led by the Communist Party.  

"The summit also deliberated on the overabundance of consultants that are hired by the department of Basic education. Much of the funds that could be used to improve the working conditions of the workforce in the education sector is spent on these consultants whose impact and role is commonly not clear and understood. These consultants often perform work meant to maintain the need for their existence rather than ensuring that the problems are amicably resolved," he added.

"The political economy of the country, the province and the district cannot be ignored when dealing with the challenges of access and school provisions. The education system in a post democratic dispensation has been used to condemn the working class. Learners that don’t reach grade 12 and those that don’t enrol in institutions of Higher Learning come from families of the working class.

"The summit acknowledged the 2015 National Poverty Distribution Table reflected in the presentation by the PEC, that places in the Eastern Cape the poorest quintiles which is 1 and 2 at 27.3% and 24.7% respectively, while Western Cape has only 8.6% of its schools in quintile 1 and 13.3% in quintile 3."

He further said that the summit resolved on the need of an engagement on the reasons behind the increased improvement of learners, particularly from poor backgrounds when in the higher education institutions.

"The summit called for the on-going Joe Slovo Right to Learn campaign, as opposed to the periodic campaign only advanced in the January – February season when schools and institutions of Higher Learning and Training open.

"Challenges that prevent access and the right to learn persist throughout the academic year, and it is this understanding that must drive our campaign. It is in this context that all the SACP structures in the district will assess the functionality of public schools in their areas of operation," described Mnweba.

"Whatever we do as Party of the Working Class, must be preoccupied with the interest of that class, and its children. The socio-economic conditions should not have any form of influence towards a leaner’s prospects of success.

"However, the current material conditions illustrate the manner in which the working class children continue to be alienated from quality education. The government cannot continue to aid schools and institutions that serve the privileged, in all aspects particularly on the funding model.

"The Party must agitate for radical fundamental restructuring of society and education as part of building momentum and elements for a socialist South Africa."

Mnweba said that the summit also "resolved on actively campaigning for the public representatives and officials (policy makers) to take their children to public schools, in particular quintile 1 – 3 in the townships and the rural areas.

"This is part of building confidence in our public institutions including healthcare facilities, and to galvanise more focus on the functioning of schools in the townships and rural areas. It is in this context that all the SACP structures in the district will assess the functionality of public schools in their areas of operation. Our branches will lead a campaign on taking school furniture from taverns, households, etc back to schools, and we call upon people to join us in this important campaign.  

"The summit committed all organs of the mass democratic movement to work together in developing common programmes of interventions in identified challenges in the education sector."