Education optimistic Sona will inaugurate a new era

In the education sector, there are high hopes that President Cyril Ramaphosa will use the state of the nation address (Sona) to make major pronouncements that herald in a period of greater action and less rhetoric.

In the midst of massive power shortages that are damaging the economy, Ramaphosa, who was re-elected as ANC president in December, is due to deliver his Sona on Thursday.

Mugwene Maluleke, general secretary of the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu), stated that the country need an immediate action plan to combat loadshedding because it affects everyone and everything, including education.

“He must inform the nation that the time for commissions and meetings has passed and that the time for governing has arrived,” he said.

“We must take tangible efforts to combat crime and restore law and order because the amount of vandalism is intolerable and is a direct outcome of lawlessness and a government that wants to nurture and negotiate with criminals.

“The violence in education must be addressed immediately because it affects all of our workers and students, from elementary to higher education.”

Maluleke stated that the infrastructure budget must be centralized and the tender system eliminated, with the department of public works responsible with the construction of school infrastructure.

“Centralization will facilitate oversight and accountability,” Maluleke explained.

He stated, “We need recreational facilities to encourage learning and healthy relationships to combat discipline and bullying.”

Maluleke stated that additional teachers and assistant teachers were required to assist students in closing the learning gaps produced by Covid-19.

Lwazi Nkolonzi, the national spokesperson for the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union, stated that the union expected the Sona to make bold proclamations that the government would move away from its neoliberal policy orientation, which has resulted in a persistently stagnant allocation of subsidies and student funding in the post-schooling system.

This occurs in the context of expanding student enrollment, demand for student housing, infrastructure, and fee increases. This neoliberal policy orientation has harmed our transformational and development goals.

“Similarly, we anticipate that the Sona will outline that the government will allocate sufficient resources to the post-secondary education and training sector in order to provide students with quality learning and training,” said Nkolozi.

Prof. Eric Atmore, the director of the Centre for Early Childhood Development, expressed optimism that Ramaphosa will put “young children first” after mentioning the early childhood development sector in his speech at the basic education lekgotla held late last month.

“The early childhood development (ECD) industry would welcome a doubling of the ECD subsidy and the elimination of subsidy eligibility for all children,” he stated.

Atmore stated that the sector lacked a teacher training plan and that South Africa must make its implementation a top priority.

“The December 2015 cabinet-approved national integrated ECD policy must be fully implemented, with the presidency monitoring performance and holding ministers and public officials accountable,” he stated.

Daniel McLaren, a senior researcher and budget analyst at Section 27, stated that they seek Ramaphosa’s pledge to halt austerity measures that have been imposed to all government programs. He stated that budget cuts had occurred during the past decade, particularly in the education and health sectors.

According to McLaren, the cuts have resulted in personnel shortages in both sectors, larger class sizes, and lengthier wait times at healthcare institutions.

“Part of ending austerity is to commit to ensuring that every single public school is funded at minimum prescribed levels,” he added. “For the past decade, this has not been the case, particularly for quintile 1 to 3 schools, which are fee-free and wholly dependent on government funding.”

We would also like to see initiatives to improve the quality of spending, particularly infrastructure spending, which is susceptible to corruption.

“We would like to see the public procurement measure introduced in the legislature prior to the budget address.

“It would significantly improve the transparency and efficiency of government procurement,” said McLaren.


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