Parties election manifestos are largely empty promises

Eastern Cape premier and ANC provincial chair Oscar Mabuyane speaks at the launch of the party’s manifesto in Port Alfred.
STAYING STRONG: Eastern Cape premier and ANC provincial chair Oscar Mabuyane speaks at the launch of the party’s manifesto in Port Alfred.

Let’s pretend for a moment that the published election manifestos of the different political parties actually mean something.

They do not, of course.

These are largely empty promises full of hubris, ambition and arrogance unmoored from the fiscal realities that confront us.

But let’s pretend and focus on what each of the manifestos say about early childhood education or grade R given that only 60.2% of children attend ECD, quality apart.

Some parties say little to nothing at all, like the Patriotic Alliance, which runs on a platform of zero-tolerance for illegal migration, bringing back the death penalty  and putting God first.

I call that blasphemy.

The Freedom Front Plus says more about mother-tongue education and homeschooling (old white, conservative Afrikaans political obsessions) than the importance of early learning for all our children.

On paper, Rise Mzansi is sensible: “Provide for childcare and ECD facilities in every community.”

With what money, Rise Mzansi?

At least pretend you are serious about such an important commitment and give a hint of how you will ensure coverage of ECD provision to every single child in every community.

Come on, man. I was thinking of voting for you nationally and you serve up this cold porridge?

You can do better.

The EFF’s way of dealing with early learning is to subject it to the overall chain of learning “from grade R to grade 12” whether it is training or materials or workbooks.

We know from bitter experience that that simply means neglect because all the political and financial attention goes to pushing the minority who make it over the line in the national senior certificate examination.

Sorry early childhood education, you’re off the EFF’s map of promises.

Though I was struck by the utter hilarity of its most ridiculous education promise: “The EFF government will ensure that all schools will have musical and orchestral equipment by 2025.”

Imagine a school with orchestras and pit latrine toilets. Lord, help us.

BOSA too is high on rhetoric when it comes to education without any strategic hints at how it will shift the needle on this most valuable of national assets, our youngest children.

I admire its leader and I know him to be passionate about education.

But jirre Mmusi, announcing that “creches must be stimulating environments to encourage creativity and learning” is like saying “criminals must go to prison if the event they kill someone”.

Have you run out of ideas about how to fix things?

Why these senseless platitudes with no hint of a plan and a budget?

After 30 years, the less said about the ANC’s promises the better but you have to be without conscience to declare something as brazen as this: “The ANC (not the government) will ensure universal access to quality early childhood development by 2030.”

They say that one of the few advantages of being black is that you can’t blush.

Perhaps that is how they do it.

The ANC uses its education budgets to placate angry youth and that is why NSFAS now gets more money from the state than the total subsidy allocation to 26 public universities.

Let that sink in for a minute. That, dear friends, happened under this ANC-dominated government.

By 2030? Take your lies somewhere else.

Action SA is a picture of inaction except when it comes to spewing hateful anti-immigrant policies.

And: “Increase the budget for ECD and funding for ECD centres.”

There is only one way this can happen in a country that pays more than a billion rand per day to service the national debt: you take money from elsewhere.

That’s not going to happen, of course, but it is what the smallest parties can announce without consequence: just say things because few take you seriously anyway.

The ACDP, the only party with a Christian cross in their symbolism, I can only commit to prayer and fasting.

Buried low down in a long list of education promises is this single line, “Ensure grade R and early childhood facilities are available in all areas” whereas the opening promise is this: “Adopt a world-class education system such as the Cambridge system.”

The decolonisation debates must have passed right over their heads.

I wish Jesus would just come and take the ACDP away.

The shift of responsibility for ECD from Social Welfare to Basic Education was a good move.

The multisectoral initiative to bring in the private sector and philanthropies to work with the ECD component of the department of basic education is also a positive step forward that could impact 100,000 young learners in a short period of time.

But that is a drop in the ocean if the goal is to reach every preschooler with high-quality education from the bordered areas of the northern provinces to the most rural parts of the hilly Eastern Cape.

Sadly, none of the parties have in their manifestos ambitious and realistic commitments to build the education system from the bottom up starting with the youngest children.

The main reason, as always, is political. They go where the noise is, and that is higher education.


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