Vuwani school destruction: update by Department of Basic Education

Basic Education

24 May 2016
Chairperson: Ms N Gina (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department briefed the Committee on the current situation in Vuwani after 30 schools had been burnt down or vandalised in protest action against plans for Vuwani to be included in a new municipality. It gave estimated costs for infrastructure recovery, what partnerships it had entered into, what stakeholder engagements it had been involved in, the educational interventions it proposed doing and what progress there had been in the delivery of mobile classrooms. 52 827 learners from 102 primary and secondary schools were affected as they were intimidated and stopped from going to school.

The Limpopo Department of Basic Education said an application by the Masia Traditional Council to set aside the Municipal Demarcation Board’s (MDB) decision on the establishment of a new municipality in the Vhembe District was dismissed by the Limpopo High Court on the 29 April 2016 and a wave of violent unrest exploded in area, including damaging and burning of government property, mainly schools and motor vehicles. Ministers and MECs resolved to hold further engagements with community structures and mandated the provincial Technical Team led by the Acting Director General to develop a stabilisation plan. A disaster assessment team was established and a process to secure emergency funding was underway.

A preliminary assessment of the infrastructure damages caused to schools in the Vuwani has been done based on information received from the District but this needed to be verified by a professional assessment on the ground. The estimated cost was a desktop analysis and was based on the number of classrooms required for temporary relief came to a grand total of R175m for 24 primary and high schools. 76 new mobile classrooms would cost R27.2m. The provision of security at 27 schools for 3 months amounted to R3.1m. The Department had looked at possible partnerships and Vodacom had provided 55 tablets and mobile libraries to 11 schools.

The Department had met with district civil society structures and traditional leaders. The Tshikonelo Traditional Area had indicated they would appeal the court judgement but were committed to guarding their schools 24 hours. In the Davhana Traditional Area, education stakeholders were committed to the resumption of teaching and learning. In the Mulenzhe Traditional Area, the community structures indicated that they would be appealing the decision and would interdict the government not to continue with the establishment of the new municipality until the appeal was heard. In the Nesengani Traditional area, they were adamant that learners would not go back to school until the MDB’s decision was reversed.

All missed preparatory exam papers would be written, all other forms of assessment for the remaining grades would be dealt with in the same way. Exams would proceed even during school holidays. An accelerated programme would be implemented to catch up as well as a five day enrichment camp for Vuwani’s top Grade 12 learners.

The disaster assessment team would make an assessment on the extent of the damage at schools. School furniture would be delivered to schools once the service provider has finalised the assembling of mobile classrooms. The Department would make an assessment on the provision of textbooks, learning and teaching material and furniture once learners returned to school. A list of where mobile classrooms were distributed was provided.

The Department emphasised the need to strengthen communication amongst community structures and the creation of an education forum composed of eminent persons in the community was necessary at all levels to ensure minimum disruption to schooling. The forum should adopt programmes aimed at strengthening community cohesion at all levels and look at future planning in respect of a possible reoccurrence of such incidents.

Members said there was a need to see that perpetrators were being charged and that there were consequences for what the perpetrators were doing. Members needed a clearer picture of the schooling situation in the Vuwani area. Had there been investigations into allegations that teachers were involved? Were all schools to be fixed or would some schools be amalgamated?

How prepared had the government been? How much money would be required for schools to be safe? Members asked how the Department could guarantee that these types of actions would not happen again. How were the costs for mobile classrooms arrived at? Only 27 schools out of 102 affected schools would be receiving security, how would the other schools be supported? Was there a time frame for the establishment of the education forum? Were communities able to assist SAPS? When was school vandalism taking place, during the day or at night? Did the Department know how the vandalism of schools had started as there had to be an instigator. How was law enforcement being used to counter intimidation?

Members were concerned about perceptions that vandalism was being rewarded. Was the Second Chance programme already implemented in that area? Members asked if the Department had a contingency fund to draw from? If not, how was the special Vuwani programme being funded? Were special schools affected in Vuwani or was it only normal schools? Were the catch up plans for schools fixed or were they flexible? What was the extent of damage to supplementary services at schools, like water pumps etc? Members proposed that the communications strategy of the Limpopo Department of Basic Education be strengthened to reach other areas through the use of community radio stations. Members asked what the timeline was on the provisioning of books to schools as one could not rely just on tablet computers. Members asked what availability of textbook stocks. Was there an emergency minimum level of textbook stocks? Members asked from where municipal services like water sanitation and electricity would be coming. Members said they could call on farmers to assist with the provision of food for the nutrition programmes. A Member suggested the administration of the province had to be handed back to the National Department from the Limpopo Department of Basic Education. Members made a plea that those attending school should be taught no matter how small in number so as to encourage others to attend. Members said compulsory schooling needed to be enforced. Members requested regular updates on the Vuwani issue.

Meeting report

Vuwani school destruction: update by Department of Basic Education
Mr Mathanzima Mweli, DBE Director General, said the briefing and update was more properly located at provincial level and handed over the presentation to the Acting HoD Limpopo Department of Basic Education.

Ms Beauty Mutheiwana, Acting HoD Limpopo Department of Basic Education, said the application by the Masia Traditional Council to set aside the Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) decision on the establishment of a new municipality in the Vhembe District was dismissed by the Limpopo High Court on the 29 April 2016 and a wave of violent unrest exploded in area, including damaging and burning of government property, mainly schools and motor vehicles. Ministers and MECs resolved to hold further engagements with community structures and mandated the provincial Technical Team led by the Acting Director General to develop a stabilisation plan. A disaster assessment team was established and a process to secure emergency funding was underway.

52 827 learners from 102 primary and secondary schools were affected whether learners were from schools that were vandalised or from those that were not vandalised/burned but were intimidated and stopped from going to school. A preliminary assessment of the infrastructure damages caused to schools in the Vuwani has been done based on information received from the District but this needed to be verified by a professional assessment.

She said the estimated cost was a desktop analysis and was based on the number of classrooms required for temporary relief. The grand total for reconstruction was R175m for 24 primary and high schools. 76 new mobile classrooms would cost R27.2m. The mobile classrooms had only been deployed since the previous week and schooling had resumed. The provision of security at 27 schools for 3 months amounted to R3.1m and the total for Learning and Teaching Support Material (LTSM) and tools of trade damages was R18.8m. The schools needed 805 dual desks, 314 single desks, 117 tables and 117 chairs. The Department had looked at possible partnerships and Vodacom had provided 55 tablets and mobile libraries to 11 schools.

On stakeholder engagement, she said the Department had met with district civil society structures and traditional leaders. The Tshikonelo Traditional Area had indicated they would appeal the court judgement but were committed to guarding their schools 24 hours. They appealed to government to address their service delivery challenges such as roads and housing allocation. In the Davhana Traditional Area, education stakeholders were committed to the resumption of teaching and learning. In the Mulenzhe Traditional Area, the community structures indicated that they would be appealing the decision and would interdict the government not to continue with the establishment of the new municipality until the appeal was heard. A prayer meeting had been held, albeit with poor attendance, ascribed by communities to intimidation. In the Nesengani Traditional area, they were adamant that learners would not go back to school until the MDB decision was reversed.

On educational interventions, she said all missed preparatory exam papers would be written, all other forms of assessment for the remaining grades would be dealt with in the same way. Exams would proceed even during school holidays. An accelerated programme would be implemented to catch up. There would be a five day enrichment camp for Vuwani’s top Grade 12 learners.

She then spoke to the monitoring of schools. School principals and teachers claimed to receive threatening messages. The disaster assessment team would make an assessment on the extent of the damage at various schools. At Edson Nesengani High there were 71 out of 900 learners and 26 out of 31educators present. There was no schooling at Tshimbupfe. School furniture would be delivered to schools once the service provider has finalised the assembling of mobile classrooms. The Department would make an assessment on the provision of textbooks and furniture once learners returned to school. She provided a list of where mobile classrooms were distributed.

She said there was a need to strengthen communication amongst community structures and the creation of an education forum composed of eminent persons in the community was necessary at all levels to ensure minimum disruption to schooling. The forum should adopt programmes aimed at strengthening community cohesion at all levels and look at future planning in respect of a possible reoccurrence of such incidents.

Discussion
The Chairperson said she knew that the protests emanated from service delivery challenges but that there was a need to see that perpetrators were being charged and that there were consequences for what the perpetrators were doing. She said the Committee needed a clearer picture of the situation regarding schooling in the Vuwani area.

Ms D van der Walt (DA) said the Limpopo province continued to fail the Minister and her team. She said prayer services was not going to fix the issues. There was a need for greater awareness of the consequences of actions in these communities. Had there been investigations into allegations that teachers were involved? Were all schools to be fixed or would some schools be amalgamated? How prepared had the government been, as one could not just burn 27 schools in half an hour and the Vuwani fire station had been empty since it had been built. How much money would be required for schools to be safe?

Ms C Majeke (UDM) asked how the Department could guarantee that these types of actions would not happen again as Vuwani had experienced similar protests in September 2015 the previous year. There had to be a way to act swiftly.

Mr D Mnguni (ANC) asked how the costs for mobile classrooms were arrived at? He said he noted no provision for office stationery and teacher support materials in the figures provided. He said only 27 schools out of 102 affected schools would be receiving security. How would the other schools be supported?

Mr T Khoza (ANC) asked whether there was a time frame for the establishment of the education forum? Were communities able to assist SAPS? When was school vandalism taking place, during the day or at night?

Mr H Khosa (ANC) asked whether the Department was in a position to know how the vandalism of schools had started as there had to be an instigator. How was law enforcement being used to counter intimidation? He was concerned that a bad precedent was being set in addressing the Vuwani issues where vandalism might be perceived to be rewarded, noting the swift action and amount of monies to be spent there. Was the Department able to identify whether personal issues were involved?

Ms J Basson (ANC) seconded points raised by members, especially the perception of vandalism being rewarded. What were the parents' views and contributions? Was the Second Chance programme already implemented in that area?

Ms N Mokoto (ANC) asked if the Department had a contingency fund to draw from? If not, how was the special Vuwani programme being funded? How was the Department’s programmes being financially balanced? She said National Treasury had given the go ahead for preferential procurement in relation to the cost of mobile classrooms and that there should be a bias towards the use of local service providers. Were special schools affected in Vuwani or was it only normal schools? Were the catch up plans for schools fixed or were they flexible? What was the extent of damage to other supplementary services at schools, like water pumps etc? She proposed that the communications strategy of the Limpopo Department of Basic Education be strengthened to reach other areas through the use of community radio stations.

Mr Mathanzima Mweli, DBE Director General, said that looking at what had been developing over the years, and taking into account his experience as an HoD in the North West in previous years where vandalism had occurred in Khutsong, he was not convinced that there had been severe consequences for wrongdoing engendered by the state. This needed to be a strong message.

Mr Mweli said that the Department was busy with a review of the SA Schools Act that needed to express the consequences for vandalising schools. It had never happened that 30 schools could be damaged in one week. He appealed to the Committee as lawmakers that there be consequences and that the justice system be merciless. He added that communities and civil society had to play an active role in protecting schools.

In response to Ms van der Walt, he said communities needed to be made aware of the value of the property and communities and parents had to play a role in protecting schools.. He said that in Olifantshoek in Kuruman, students had suffered severe consequences and had to repeat their year of schooling while there had been no consequences for the adults involved in wrongdoing.

He said there was a plan to merge the schools but for now the Department was concentrating on repairing them.

In reply to Mr Khoza, he said the Department was prepared to deal with the educational challenges but were not trained to deal with disasters unrelated to education.

In reply to Ms Majeke, he said these developments undermined development in Vhembe.

In reply to Mr Mnguni, he said the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT) was operating in the area and working with civil society structures to rally support and contributions.

In reply to Mr Khosa, he said there was an education forum in the area as well as faith based structures and teachers unions who had done their bit to help normalise the situation. He said law enforcement agents had responded.

He said vandalisation would not be rewarded and the Department was very conscious of the messages being sent out.

On the question of personal issues, he said it was very difficult to pick up. There could be personal agendas and a colleague had suggested that social scientists might have to be deployed in the area so that the Department could learn from the event.

In reply to Ms Basson, he said most parents were trying and COSAS had been bold in confronting those that were destroying schools and COSAS was mobilising to send the message that education was a priority.

He said Vhembe was not part of the Second Chance programme.

In reply to Ms Mokoto, he said only Treasury was allowed to plan for contingencies.

He agreed on the need to balance the implementation of the existing and the new intervention programmes.

He said there were no local service providers for mobile classrooms in Limpopo or the North West and the Department had to rely on service providers in Gauteng. The Department was working with the Office of the Chief Procurement Officer.

Regarding communications, he said the feedback was better than the previous events and he accepted the point of increased use of the community radio stations.

Ms Beauty Mutheiwana, Acting HoD Limpopo DBE, said it was true that the province had had an infrastructure backlog and that this had set it back even further.

She said that perpetrators had been arrested. She said one teacher was behind bars while one principal had been wrongfully arrested and had been released.

On the functioning of Vuwani fire station, she said the digging up of roads had provided challenges to putting out fires and that municipalities could provide more detail.

She said that the Department was finding that schools were below the norm in, for example, the provision of security. The provision for security of the mobile classrooms were only for three months and that the Department did not have money to address all the schools.

The costs of the mobile classrooms were determined by the service provider not the Department but the help of the Office of the Chief Procurement Officer had been requested.

On the question of teachers’ stationery, she said the issue would be dealt with.

She said that some schools were burnt in the day and some at night.

She said parents had come forward and were willing to do cleaning up of schools but she could not respond to whether they provided information to the police.

Regarding the Second Chance programme, she said it was not in Vhembe, a pilot programme was being run in Sekhukhune.

She said there was an arrangement with Treasury that the Limpopo DBE could use its existing budget for mobile classrooms as an interim measure.

She said no special schools were directly affected.

She said the dates of the catch up programme were not fixed and would be reviewed.

There were schools where toilets had been damaged and electricity supply compromised and where boreholes were affected. The details would be supplied by the disaster team currently assessing the damages.

Regarding the education forum, Dr Nthambeleni Rambiyana, DBE District Director in Limpopo, said that while it was raised at the district level these were not replicated in the territorial councils. The message needed to filter down and get to the ground level which was a challenge currently.

On the involvement of teachers being arrested, he said the justice system would follow its processes and then the Department would deal with misconduct charges afterwards at its own internal proceedings.

Ms Palesa Tyobeka, DDG: Planning and Delivery Oversight Unit said the Minister had said that educational records would have been destroyed but fortunately Limpopo had entered aggressively into the implementation of SA-SAMS (South African School Administration and Management System) and had even recently entered academic record data quarterly. Data was thus available for 20 of the affected schools.

She said the Department had made R10 000 available for double combination desks.

She said the NECT was one arm of the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and apart from looking at how schools could improve, it was very focussed on getting communities on board. The education forums was something the NECT had led very strongly to ensure that credible leaders were brought on to assist. This should not just be at the level of the districts but should filter down to the communities.

On the educational summit, she said what stood out was how the people of Limpopo spoke with one voice on its disgust at what was happening in Vuwani. COSAS was clear that they would defend schools and the schools should be helped. Students felt adults and teachers were letting them down.

The Chairperson asked what the timeline was on the provisioning of books to schools as one could not rely just on tablet computers.

Ms van der Walt asked what textbooks were available in stock. Was there an emergency minimum level of textbook stocks? E-learning though, would not happen immediately as teachers had to be trained to use the tablets in a teaching situation. She asked from where municipal services like water sanitation and electricity would becoming. She said she could call on farmers to assist with the provision of food for the nutrition programmes. She said the administration of the province had to be handed back to the National Department from the Limpopo Department of Basic Education.

Mr Khosa (ANC) made a plea that those attending school should be taught no matter how small in number so as to encourage others to attend and to teach children that service delivery issues were for the parents to resolve and not the children. Learners had their own issues.

The Chairperson said compulsory schooling needed to be enforced.

Mr Mweli said South Africans should be restrained from interfering in the future of children who were being used to fight adults causes. He said he would discuss maintaining contingent stock levels with the Auditor-General.

He said e-learning was not a silver bullet, it was a platform to support teaching and learning.

Mr Mweli said the Department needed to be afforded full administration rights, as currently it was operating under section 18 of the PFMA which meant that section 100 had been suspended.

Ms Mutheiwana said the 30 schools included three independent schools. But the schools that would be targeted would only be the ordinary public schools. Three schools were only vandalised while 24 schools were in the critical category.

She said the Department would engage with the Committee members on food donations.

She said there was teaching taking place even with small numbers in attendance.

The Chairperson requested regular updates on Vuwani.

Ms van der Walt reminded the Department to forward the catch up plan to members as it had not been part of the documentation.

The Committee then adopted outstanding minutes.

The meeting was adjourned



 

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