DBE: “Tell no lies. Claim no easy victories”

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Africa Check exposes DBE’s “One School per Week” Campaign

Today Africa Check released a report on the Department of Basic Education’s “One School per Week Campaign”.

The report, requested by Equal Education, found that:

1. Eleven of the 19 Eastern Cape schools – scheduled to be opened by November this year as part of the campaign – were in use months before they were “officially” opened. Two of the schools which have been “opened” are in fact incomplete – one of them does not have piped water.

2. Deputy Minister of Basic Education, Enver Surty, misled Parliament’s Standing Committee on Appropriations when he claimed in August this year that the DBE was delivering “a school per week”.  Mr Elliot Sogone, ANC MP and Chairperson of the Standing Committee, told Africa Check that he was unaware that some of the schools had already been open since last year.

3. The Campaign was “little more than public relations spin”, which said “more about the department’s ability to plan official openings than its ability to deliver new schools.”

So why is the DBE misleading the public, and using ministers, deputy ministers and MECs to reopen these schools?  Why was Thabata Senior Primary School reopened on Friday 4 October 2013, a full year after it was operational? We believe that it is because the national department, under pressure from the public and NGOs, is trying to create the false impression that it is delivering school infrastructure rapidly in the Eastern Cape (which has been under national administration since 2011) and thus deflect attention away from the serious problems with its Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI).

It is through ASIDI that the DBE was meant to eradicate 496 mud schools and inappropriate structures, mainly in the Eastern Cape, and provide 1 257 schools with water, 878 schools with electricity and 868 schools with sanitation in various provinces. The programme came about when, in 2010, seven mud schools in the Libode region of the Eastern Cape, represented by the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), initiated court action against the Eastern Cape Education Department and the DBE. The settlement of R8.2 billion lead to the creation of ASIDI.

Since then the DBE has consistently failed to meet its own targets under ASIDI, particularly with regard to the eradication of mud schools. Forty-nine of these schools were initially scheduled to be rebuilt by the end of March 2012, and a further 100 by the end of March 2013. No schools were rebuilt by the end of March 2011/2012. By March 2013, four schools were complete and 10 had reached “practical completion”. (For the parliamentary report, click here.)

In August of this year, the DBE told the Standing Committee on Appropriations that it had only completed 27 of the original 49 schools. Moreover, there is uncertainty as to whether this number is accurate. The ASIDI webpage puts the number of completed schools at 37, yet the same website’s “Completed Schools” Gallery shows photos of only 18 schools.

The Department of Basic Education declined to submit comment to Africa Check.
We urge the DBE to remember the words of Cde. Amilcar Cabral when, in 1965, he said, “Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim no easy victories.”

We demand an explanation. We want to know:

1. How many schools have been completed under ASIDI to date, and what are the names of these schools?
2. How many schools are currently being built under ASIDI, and what are the names of these schools? And at what stage of completion is each of these schools?
3. How much of its ASIDI budget for the current financial year has the DBE spent, and how much does it expect to spend by the end of the financial year?

For comment contact:
Yoliswa Dwane, EE Chairperson: 076 706 2338/021 3870022
Brad Brockman, EE General Secretary: 072 267 8489
Hopolang Selebalo, EE Parliamentary Officer, 074 261 1672