The Free State Department of Education has been taken to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) in the province by the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (Fedsas) for its repeated failure to make annual payments to public schools.
The federation has also revealed that it will approach the office of the provincial Public Officer to try and get answers as to why the provincial department repeatedly fails to pay the money from the National Treasury to schools before the deadline.
“Every year, without exception, schools in the Free State start the new school year without money for expenses such as water, electricity and stationery. Provincial education departments are responsible to pay over this money from the National Treasurer twice a year, but this does not happen,” said Dr Jaco Deacon, Deputy CEO of Fedsas.
Deacon said the future of schools referred to as “no-fee schools” is directly linked to this money, which often it does not pay over in time. “All schools suffer due to the non-payment, but your special schools like Martie du Plessis and no-fee schools are the worst affected,” he added.
In addition to this, Deacon said Fedsas has also asked the department to account on why it is “dragging its feet” with regards to the appointment of a number of school principals and level 1 teachers in the province.
He revealed that at the moment there are more than 60 spots at Fedsas member schools for teachers in the level 1 post. “We have received word of many principals that were appointed this week only. There are at least 10 schools that started this year without principals in Bloemfontein,” Deacon said. The Deputy CEO also added that several attempts have been made by Fedsas to engage with the provincial department on this matter, with no success.
“All our efforts have come to nothing. Schools often have to use the little money they do have to pay legal fees in order to force the department to make the payments,” he said.
Ideally, Fedsas said, it would like for the department to appoint the principals and educators, reimburse the schools for the expenses, make the transfer payments and sort out its internal issues without affecting schools and education.
In the meantime, Deacon has called on all members of the public, particularly school communities which are unhappy with the department but do not play an active role in resolving school and learner issues, especially as the election of school governing bodies is approaching. “In March this year, the three-yearly election of members of school governing bodies takes place. Given the barely concealed efforts to infringe upon parents’ right to make decisions about their children’s education through the proposed Basic Education Law Amendments and maladministration at a provincial level, it is clear that school communities have to become more involved in the governance of schools if we want to avoid the possibility of state schools. It is time for parents and other roleplayers to make their voices heard,” Deacon said.
Meanwhile, the SAHRC’s provincial manager, Thabang Kheswa, confirmed that they are working on this matter. “It is still under assessment, a decision is yet to be made whether to place it under investigation or whether there is any other institution which is better placed to handle it,” Kheswa said in response to Courant’s questions. The department was given until Wednesday afternoon to respond to Fedsas’ demands.
The spokesperson at the provincial department, Howard Ndaba, had not yet responded to questions on the matter when this article was printed, nor could Deacon provide information on whether the department had responded to their demands.