The following speech was delivered by Desiree van der Walt MP, DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Basic education, during the Vuwani Debate of Urgent Public Importance called for by the DA.
The burning of our children’s schools is unacceptable by any standard. We have lost hundreds of millions of rands that could have been spent on improving education facilities for those who do not have any.
I know Vuwani very well. It is one of the most beautiful parts of my province, but also one of the poorest.
Many learners in the area get their daily meals at school. And so it was painful to learn that, out of desperation to save their schools, people resorted to using the milk of the school’s feeding scheme in an attempt to put out the fires.
When I visited Vuwani after the schools were torched, I spoke to a mother whose four children had no school left to go to.
She was in tears, as she asked what would happen to her children if they could not finish their education.
Every cent of her small income is already spent on giving her children the opportunities she never had. Where will she get the R1 200 per month it will cost to transport her children to other schools?
What happened in Vuwani is a tragedy, and it should not be used as a petty point scoring exercise.
On that note, I would like to thank the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, whose quick oversight and action in meeting with stakeholders and putting plans in action deserves applause.
At the same time, we need to be honest about what led to this tragedy so that it is never repeated.
In this regard, one cannot ignore the fact that Minister Motshekga’s counterparts, the Premier of Limpopo, the MEC, as well as the Limpopo Education Department once again let her down.
Let’s be honest, the Vuwani tragedy began with “Team empty promises”, led by the President and the Premier of Limpopo. Besides the promises, they are not serious about that important ingredient of good governance: public participation.
Does Premier Mathabatha really think the people of Vuwani are fools?
Does he think they believe him when he says they will get the best services in this new municipality?
Where will the delivery of services happen on 4 August – under the trees?
Where will the municipal services to the schools come from? Will they have water, electricity and refuse removal?
How is it possible that an ANC councilor alleged to be involved in torching of schools can ignore the Rights in our Constitution, which he has to protect, promote and abide by? How did he serve the people of Vuwani?
Does he understand that:
• Everyone has the right to a basic education;
• A child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child;
• Everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected?
Hon Speaker, let me also remind the ANC of the words of the Freedom Charter which says:
• “Education shall be universal and equal for all children…”
• “The law shall guarantee to all their right to educate their children”
• “Teachers shall have the rights of other citizens”.
Being taught in unsafe schools, without proper learning materials, without a desk and a chair, without libraries and science laboratories, without water and proper sanitation is not dignified and is not equal.
Speaker, education is a constitutional right, a basic human right, a strategic priority and the best possible vehicle to empower South Africans and to develop our country.
We must ensure that every child has an opportunity to learn in a safe, supportive environment that is conducive to learning.
This is not happening in Limpopo, where the matric pass rate dropped from 72.9% to 65.9% last year.
The Limpopo Department of Education needs to be put back under full administration of the National Department, as they are clearly incapable of managing themselves.
But, ultimately, the problem in Limpopo is a political one. ANC politicians – from the councillors to the MPLs to the MECs to the Premier – have let the people down.
Who would have thought that the text book crisis of three years would one day be seen as a small event, compared to the chaos of schools being burnt to the ground?
I thank you.