Equal Education applauds the Department of Basic Education’s decision
Equal Education (EE) welcomes the decision by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to invoke section 100(1)(b) of the Constitution and intervene in the management and operations of the Eastern Cape Department of Education (ECDoE), thereby fulfilling the DBE’s statutory obligations and Constitutional responsibilities to learners in the Eastern Cape. We applaud the DBE’s drafting of an agreement (to be signed by the national department and the ECDoE) that will, according to the DBE, focus on “the creation of long-term capacity in the department and a sustainable turnaround of education service delivery in the province”. This move, which is unprecedented in the history of our democracy, demonstrates the DBE’s commitment to working with the ECDoE to develop the provincial department’s capacity to facilitate sustainable delivery of basic education services to learners.
Need for structural change
The current crisis in the ECDoE is the culmination of years of poor human resources and financial management: in the 2007/8 and 2008/9 financial year, the Auditor General_s (AG) gave the ECDoE an adverse opinion report, meaning that financial statements were materially misstated and did not conform with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). In 2009/2010, the AG issued a disclaimer, which means that he could not form an opinion on the financial statements of the ECDoE. According to the AG, the consecutive negative audit outcomes indicate internal control deficiencies in the three fundamental areas of internal control, that is, leadership, financial and performance management, and governance. In particular, the disclaimer issued in 2009/2010 indicates a lack of internal control over financial record keeping and management; in such an environment fraud and abuse of public resources can occur. The ECDoE has, in the last few years, seen several Heads of Department come and go, and for many years, it was led by Acting Heads. In 2005, the then Superintendent-General said that “the province needs 600 education development officers – also known as subject advisors – to roll out outcomes-based education. There are only 34” (Mkokeli, Eastern Cape education in a mess, bosses admit, The Herald, 27 April 2005). The problems in the ECDoE did not start this year, and the successful, sustainable resolution of these issues, and their disastrous repercussions on the futures of Eastern Cape learners, requires the careful systemic restructuring of the ECDoE’s management structures.
Whilst EE is cautiously optimistic about the DBE’s decision, we hope that the spirit of co-operation in which the agreement between the national and provincial departments has been reached will not impede the process of effecting the radical structural changes that must take place in the ECDoE. EE hopes that where such changes are needed, the agreement between the DBE and the ECDoE will allow the national department to take the necessary steps to make those changes.
Make the agreement public
In the interests of transparency, accountability and of building a participatory democracy, EE urges the DBE and the ECDoE to release the agreement they have signed to the public. A lack of transparency has contributed to the current crisis in the ECDoE, and in the interest of addressing the problems in that department, EE compels the DBE to keep the public informed about the steps they are taking to resolve the crisis.
EE looks forward to continuing to engage with the national and provincial departments as we work to ensure that all learners in South Africa receive equal and quality education.
For further comment, please contact
Rumbi Goredema 021 387 0022; firstname.lastname@example.org OR
Dmitri Holtzman 021 387 0022; 082 733 5000