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Eastern Cape schoolBekisizwe School near Coffee Bay in the Eastern Cape lacks classrooms, so classes are held outside. Part of the Department of Basic Education's intervention in the Eastern Cape has been to set up a R130-million fund for allowances to encourage teachers to take up work in rural areas. (Image: Joe McKay, Focal Point Aid)12 April 2013 – The national Department of Basic Education’s radical intervention in the administration of provincial education in the Eastern Cape has yielded fruit, and will soon be “normalised” by downgrading from direct management to a focus on finance and appointments.

This was announced by Basic Education minister Angie Motshekga on Tuesday, in a report-back to the media on her department’s recent work in the Eastern Cape.

“You will by now know that our focus on the Eastern Cape came as a result of Section 100 1(b) of the Constitution,” Motshekga said. “It remains a unique situation for the department, one that we plan to normalise soon.”

According to the Constitution, a national government department may directly intervene in the management of provincial departments “when a province cannot or does not fulfil an executive obligation”. This intervention can be via directive, according to Section 100 1(a), or, in terms of Section 100 1(b), can entail placing the provincial department under direct administration. The downgrade from Section 1(b) to Section 1(a) will only take place once Cabinet has given its approval.

Part of the improvement Motshekga reported was the opening of two new schools, one under the department’s infrastructure programme, and the other a result of a partnership with AngloGold Ashanti.

“Sonata Junior Primary School in Libode, Eastern Cape, was built as a result of a private-public partnership between the departments of Basic Education, Mineral Resources as well as Anglo Gold Ashanti,” she said.

“The project saw the various stakeholders come together to replace an inappropriate mud structure and moved the 120 learners into a newly built school with six classrooms, an administration block, ablution facilities and a fence for the school grounds.

“I also handed over Welese Primary School in Ngqeleni. It is a school with a modern design and comprises 14 classrooms, two Grade R centres, a nutrition centre, ablution blocks and a multimedia centre which includes science labs and a library. The school will house learners who previously learned in a mud structure.”

Welese Primary was built as part of the the department’s Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative, which aims to aims to replace 510 shoddily built schools with facilities that meet the national department’s standards of basic functionality. The programme is set to provide sanitation to 939 schools and basic water supplies to 1 145 schools for the first time.

“Most importantly, we have committed to the eradication of mud schools by the end of 2014/15,” Motshekga said. She added that the infrastructure initiative had already delivered another 13 schools in the Eastern Cape alone.

“We have pledged to deliver 49 schools to the region by the end of March. We currently stand at 17. The outstanding schools are at 85% completion on average.”

In the new financial year, the department plans to build 200 additional schools, and provide electricity to 369.

Motshekga said the national department’s future involvement in the management of the Eastern Cape Education Department will focus on finance and the appointment of educators. A company has been appointed to audit leave taken by teachers, while Statistics South Africa will do a headcount of educators.

“We have since assisted the provincial department in stabilising the 2012/13 budget and dealing with accruals. We have also developed and started to implement an Audit Rectification Plan to deal with all matters raised by the auditor-general in his annual report on the Eastern Cape Education Department.”

The provincial education department has also been able to fill key posts that have been vacant for some time, including the head of department and chief financial officer. More than 2 300 part-time teachers have now been fully employed, and more teachers are to be recruited. A R130-million fund has also been set up to pay allowances to encourage teachers to work in the rural areas of the Eastern Cape.

“These measures have ensured a turnaround in a province that was previously in debt and struggling,” Motshekga said. “A lot still needs to be done to improve the quality of teaching and learning within the system. We remain committed to ensure that these plans become a reality.”