Contribution by UDM Deputy President and Education Spokesperson - Debate: Budget Vote 14 -Education (23 March 2010)

Mr Speaker and honourable Members,

We welcome the large amount that has been budgeted for Education. The UDM remains convinced that Education is the key to our country’s long-term success and prosperity. We are deeply concerned, however, that this huge budget does not translate into proper education.

Allow me to highlight some of the UDM’s major concerns, which we believe are factors leading to overall poor education.

Firstly, there is the issue of “quiet corruption” as the World Bank’s Chief Economist calls it, namely a culture of absenteeism. This can only be addressed with the introduction of school inspectors.

Secondly, there is the issue of pupil and teacher transport. Those schools with poor results are often schools that pupils and teachers have to travel long distances to reach. The lack of proper and reliable transport plays a role in the overall results of such schools.

Thirdly, we are concerned about the lack of guidance counsellors to assist pupils with social or psychological problems. Coupled with this we need remedial teaching to ensure that we give these pupils help when they need it, and not after they have failed.

Fourth, there continues to be a lack of genuine classrooms and facilities. Many of the current school buildings are dilapidated or built from mud and inferior materials. Again this is a problem in marginalised areas, which means that it is children born in poverty whom we are failing to provide with an opportunity to improve their lot.

We welcome the introduction of additional tests at grade 3, 6, 9; it is a positive step, but only if implemented correctly.

In conclusion, allow me to express our concern about the gap between good matric results and the same students failing dismally at institutions of higher learning. This trend is an indication of an underlying weakness in the school system – we must ensure that our children leave matric with genuine skills and knowledge to enter the job market or continue their studies.

I thank you.