Big guns take over East Cape schools

Zandile Mbabela

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga confirmed at a meeting in East London yesterday that Cabinet had ordered that the provincial department be placed under national administration.
She said a team of top officials from the department would be dispatched to the Eastern Cape. The composition of the team – which will work together with the provincial leadership – would be announced soon.

However, it was established last night that it would be led by the national department‘s director-general, Bobby Soobrayan.

“The minister will be checking our progress every two weeks – it will be an ongoing engagement with the team I‘m leading,” Soobrayan said last night. “I‘ll be visiting the province often – as frequently as possible and as is necessary.”

Motshekga said the decision to intervene was taken after discussions with Premier Noxolo Kiviet, Education MEC Mandla Makupula and the ANC, who had agreed the national department should intervene and “remediate the situation faced by the (provincial education) department”.
Motshekga said Cabinet had ordered that Section 100 of the Constitution be used to provide the constitutional and legal authority for the intervention.

Makapula and superintendent-general Modidima Mannya would retain their authority. “The province remains the key pillar of service provision and the intervention is not intended to displace the sphere of government,” she said.

Motshekga said the intervention was intended to fast-track progress on the turnaround plan submitted by the provincial department to address the province‘s educational needs.

“We will be working together (with the MEC and SG) within the frame of co- operative governance where we are also consulting with the premier (Kiviet) and committing to a long-term relationship of constant interaction to quickly deal with the problems.”

Motshekga said the issue of school nutrition had been resolved and, according to Makapula, the programme resumed on Tuesday.

The department was still looking into the reinstatement of temporary teachers whose contracts were terminated, she said. The matter is currently before the Bhisho High Court, with the department appealing a decision to have all 6000 axed teachers reinstated, saying it would not be possible to take all of them back.

According to Motshekga, some of the teachers were not qualified and should therefore not be reinstated.

“Our target is to ensure there is a teacher in front of every class, but we are first going to check on our existing pool of teachers. Some of those teachers were maybe students who could not find work and have degrees but no formal teacher training or qualification.”

Last night, lawyer Mike Randell, who is arguing the case for the 6000 substitute teachers to be reinstated, said the latest move was irrelevant. “I can‘t see that a decision by national government to substitute itself for the department would impact on an existing court order.”

The department has applied for leave to appeal against the initial order by Judge Jannie Eksteen to reinstate the teachers. The Bhisho High Court will hear the department‘s case, and Randell‘s counter-application to have the order implemented, today.

DA MPL Edmund van Vuuren said the Cabinet‘s decision to intervene was the right move.
Makapula said: “Financial resources have always been a problem in terms of the manner in which they are managed, so we definitely welcome the direction offered from above.”

Motshekga said there was no specified time frame for the intervention and that they would be in the province “as long as it takes”.

Additional reporting by Sapa

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