Learners protest as EC Premier makes education a priority

12:12 (GMT+2) Fri, 17 Feb 2017

Eastern Cape Premier, Phumulo Masualle, said the province lost around 3000 educators last year saying that the attrition rate in education and health was a major concern.

Masualle was speaking to the media on Friday ahead of his 2017 State of the Province address in the Bhisho Legislature.

Masualle said that of the three thousand teachers who left in 2016, half were resignations.

He said some of the educators had “cashed out their pensions” because of economic conditions and then want to return to the profession.

Meanwhile, Masualle once again made education a priority for his government for the news financial year.

He said that the province introduced a three year education transformation plan in 2016.

Masualle said the plan “focuses on among other things, on increasing the number of functional schools, the rationalisation and realignment of small and unviable schools.”

“We believe then and still do now that if we continue fixing these fundamental points over the three year period, the quality of teaching and learning will improve in our province,” he said in his prepared speech.

The Eastern Cape however had the lowest matric pass rate in the country, with five of the worst performing districts in the province.

“Despite the package of interventions we have made to date, our education system still needs a lot of attention.  The fact that that the five under-performing districts in the country are all based in the Eastern Cape, clearly demonstrates that as much as there may be light ahead, we are still not out of the woods,” Masualle said.

Masualle also condemned the destruction of property when there are differences of opinion,

“We call upon all stakeholders in the education sector to find amicable ways of resolving challenges.”

While the Premier was busy delivering his speech, learners from Siyazama Senior Secondary School at Peelton near King Williams Town held a picket protest nearby the Legislature.

The learners, who were in uniform and accompanied by some teachers, prepared a memorandum in which they listed six shortcoming they said violated their “right to education”.

These include being without a school principal since 2015, not having an HOD from 2016, no allocation of funds for 2016 by the Education Department “because of a so-called investigation”

Other grievances included the fact that “many subjects have no teachers”.

Masaulle, in his main speech, said the second focus area for his administration is on improving the health profile of the province

“The improvement of the health status of the province depends on us addressing the critical social determinants of health, which include income and social status, social support networks, employment and working conditions and healthy child development”

He also pointed to the reduction in infant and maternal mortality rates, reducing the prevalence of HIV and ongoing management of TB in the province.

The Premier also said that another priority area is to “intensify the fight against crime and corruption.

“To this end, we have developed a range of policies and strategies aimed at strengthening our policing machinery, which includes the White Papers for Safety and Security as well as Policing, the Provincial Safety Strategy and Anti-Gang Strategy.”

In a wide-ranging speech, Masualle said the Bhisho government had adopted a Medium Term Strategic Framework priority regarding the “transformation of the economy to create jobs and sustainable livelihoods.”

He said the “current growth is less than 1.2% pa and does not meet the 5% target set in the National Development Plan.  “In response to this, a Provincial Economic Development Plan has been developed based on six sectors.

These are agriculture, oceans economy, tourism, renewable energy, light manufacturing and the automotive industry.

Masualle said since 2014 the Eastern Cape government had been implementing seven broad strategic priorities.

He said these were better access to quality education, promoting better healthcare for the people, stimulating rural development, land reform and food security, transformation of the economy to create jobs and sustainable livelihoods, strengthening the developmental state and good governance, intensifying the fight against crime as well as integrated human settlements and building of cohesive communities and nation building.

“As I stand here today, I’m happy to report that on the whole, the state of our province is sound,” Masualle said.