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President Zuma must address the challenges facing education in his State of the Nation Address today

Major advances have been made in education since 1994. These include the provision of meals to some learners through the nutrition programme and the provision of school transport to some learners. In recent years the renewed focus on text, the move away from OBE, and the introduction of the Annual National Assessment process — albeit problematic in a few areas — have been important steps.

Today in the State of the Nation Address (SONA) we hope President Jacob Zuma will address the issue of education in South Africa. The last year has seen education define the national discourse. The collapse of two provincial education departments, mud schools in the Eastern Cape, school disruptions in the Northern Cape and a national school infrastructure crisis has exposed the state of South Africa’s education system.

In his 2012 SONA, President Zuma neglected to address relevant issues pertaining to basic education in South Africa.  Matters such as school infrastructure and access to textbooks were left off the list; this despite the fact that inadequate school infrastructure is crippling education in rural and township areas.  To address the inequalities that exist within the education system and to ensure that learners receive quality education, President Zuma must ensure that the issues highlighted below are acknowledged and addressed during his speech.


It is a positive sign that the matric pass rate increased slightly last year; however, we are concerned about the poor quality of matric passes and the large drop- out rate of learners between grade 10 and grade 12.

Last year 54% of learners passed mathematics at between 30% and 39%. The 2012 matric class started grade 1 in 2001 as a group of 1,150,637 learners, dropped only slightly to 1,039,762 learners by grade 10, and then dramatically down to 551,837 learners in matric.

In 2009, President Zuma promised to “increase [government’s] efforts to encourage all pupils to complete their secondary education. The target is to increase enrolment rates in secondary schools to 95 per cent by 2014. We are also looking at innovative measures to bring back into the system pupils who dropped out of school and to provide support”.

This target has not been met. Today more than half of learners that started grade 1 in 2001 did not write matric examinations in 2012.

What measures did the Minister of Basic Education or President Zuma take to recruit learners that dropped out of school into the system since 2009? What measures will they take in the following year to keep learners in school?


Last year, a Presidential Task Team released a report on the non- delivery of textbooks in Limpopo that left over 1700 schools without vital learning materials. They found, among other things, that DBE Director-General Bobby Soobrayan had failed to act on a letter he received from publishers in December 2011. The letter reminded the DBE that learning support and teaching materials had not been procured for the Limpopo Department of Education. The task team recommended that the Public Service Commission investigate Director-General Soobrayan for contributing to the delays in the delivery of textbooks.

After several months, the results of this investigation have not been released and no steps against departmental officials have been taken. It is an indictment on the DBE that no action has been taken against the department officials responsible. We call on President Zuma to ensure that those responsible for the non-delivery of textbooks are held accountable.


As government approaches the 2014 elections, they will be asked what they have done to improve the quality of education and close the gap between former Model C schools and former black schools.

According to the government statistics, the National Education Infrastructure Management Systems (NEIMS) Report, published by the DBE in May 2011, of the 24 793 public ordinary schools:

  • 3 544 schools still do not have electricity, while a further 804 schools have an unreliable electricity source;
  • 2 402 schools have no water supply, while a further 2611 schools have an unreliable water supply;
  • 913 schools do not have any ablution facilities while 11 450 schools are still using pit latrine toilets;
  • 22 938 schools do not have stocked libraries, while 19 541 do not even have a space for a library;
  • 21 021 schools do not have any laboratory facilities, while only 1 231 schools have stocked laboratories;
  • 2 703 schools have no fencing facilities at all
  • In addition to this, there are over 495 inappropriate schools (mud schools) in the country.

Former President Thabo Mbeki and President Zuma both promised that mud schools will be eradicated.  Very little progress has been made, leaving learners to continue their education in inappropriate structures.

In 2011 the DBE identified 495 mud schools to be replaced with appropriate structures. They received a Backlogs Grant to rebuild the 495 schools by 2014. They earmarked 49 mud schools in the Eastern Cape to be rebuilt in the 2011/2012 financial year. By the end of that year they had not delivered any of the schools.

The following financial year (2012/2013), without having completed their previous goal of 49 schools, they identified 51 more schools for replacement. Towards the end of the 2012/2013 financial year they reported that two schools of the initial 49 had been handed over and 10 out of the 100 schools identified had been rebuilt.

The majority of the 10 schools were declared “practically completed”. This means that the building is substantially completed; however, the schools have not been handed over to the communities for occupation.

As a result of the under-expenditure of the Backlogs Grant, National Treasury has announced that it will reallocate R7.2 billion from the Backlogs Grant to the building of two new universities, a community library programme and an Education Infrastructure Grant.

Many challenges were cited by the DBE as causes of the slow delivery on this project. What is clear from these causes is that we have an incapable department and this has affected the delivery of basic services and infrastructure to schools.


For comment

Doron Isaacs (EE Deputy General-Secretary) on 082  850 2111

Hopolang Selebalo (EE Parliamentrary Officer) on 074 261 1672

Kate Wilkinson (EE Media Officer) at


Carla GoldsteinPresident Zuma must address the challenges facing education in his State of the Nation Address today