27 August 2018
Media statement: Equal Education cautiously optimistic about meeting with implementing agents (IAs) and Eastern Cape Education Department, will continue to demand updated school infrastructure project lists
On Friday 24 August, Equal Education (EE), the Eastern Cape Department of Education (ECDoE) and a number of implementing agents (IAs) met to discuss progress on school infrastructure projects that are currently underway in the province, as well as some of the challenges faced in this regard. IAs are predominantly State-owned entities tasked with managerial and project implementation support to the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and ECDoE, to build and repair infrastructure in schools in South Africa.
EE appreciated that the ECDoE in particular highlighted that, as public servants, they are accountable to organisations that represent the people whom they serve.
It was acknowledged that the engagements between us are as a result of the pickets that EE members had undertaken in the last year.
ECDoE HOD Themba Kojana re-emphasised the need for discussions and collaboration between EE and the ECDoE. He acknowledged the importance of Equal Education’s work in the Eastern Cape, and of protecting the dignity of teachers and learners.
As this was EE’s second meeting this year with the ECDoE and IAs, we were encouraged that the ECDoE reported that there was some progress in addressing the infrastructure challenges at three schools that EE had specifically identified as being in desperate condition in our previous meeting. EE will be verifying and monitoring the said progress, which includes that building contractors have finally been allocated.
While the Department told the meeting that funding constraints would have an impact on the pace of service delivery, we maintain that learners and teachers cannot risk their lives merely for wanting to teach and wanting to learn. We reiterate our call for Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and Eastern Cape Education MEC Mandla Makupula to #StopTheAppeal.
As we have said before, it incomprehensible that basic education funding would be reduced months after South Africa learnt that another child- 5-year-old Lumka Mkhethwa- died in a school pit latrine. However, some of the cuts are a result of the inability of the DBE and the provincial education departments (PEDs) to efficiently and effectively spend their budgets.
IAs identified, as one of their major challenges, delayed payments from the ECDoE. This in turn affects their ability to pay contractors, which then results in contractors terminating their contracts and abandoning projects. The ECDoE acknowledged that this is indeed a bone of contention between themselves and the IAs. However the ECDoE, in the meeting, committed itself to strengthening its payment systems, in order to ensure that this issue does not become an obstacle to the timeous delivery of school infrastructure projects.
Equal Equal will continue to use its quarterly meetings with IAs and the ECDoE to bring specific cases of poor service delivery to their immediate attention, and to demand greater transparency and public accountability in the form of regularly updated school infrastructure project lists as was promised at our previous meeting on 11 May 2018.
Note: Equal Education mistakenly believed that Eastern Cape Education MEC Mandla Makupula would participate in the meeting on 24 August 2018. The MEC was not scheduled to attend.
For further media comment:
Luzuko Sidimba (Equal Education Eastern Cape Co-Head) firstname.lastname@example.org