The Committee heard and interacted with the Greenstone Petition from the residents of Greenstone. Mr M Waters (DA) was the petitioner on behalf of the residents of Greenstone. The Member of the Executive Council was in attendance.
The Department responded to the Petition and answered questions. The areas of concern raised by the petition was the lack of schools to accommodate the learners in the area; parents were forced to take their children to schools in Edenvale which were ‘bursting at the brims’; learners had to travel long distances to schools and parents having to pay more school feels for additional teachers all in the name of accessible education.
In answer to the petition, the Minister had posed the question which the Department had to answer: “Has her Department undertaken studies to determine the total number of children that lived in the Greenstone residential area in Johannesburg, which borders Edenvale in the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality; and, if not (a) why not and (b) what informed the Department not to build schools in the specified area and what were the details of the study?” The Minister said that the parents of learners residing in the Greenstone area were ‘apparently” not interested in these public schools.
The petitioner said there had been a knee jerk reaction to this and there had been no forward planning by the Department. Deep concern about the lack of schools in the area was expressed. The Member of the Executive Council argued very strongly that on the basis of its asset portfolio as government there were enough classrooms to accommodate all the children.
A Member asked for clarity about the way forward in Gauteng regarding upgrading the infrastructure; what Honourable Waters was proposing in the petition, as in her opinion schools in the Greenstone area were able to cater to the educational needs of the area; Members asked if the ‘Rules of Engagement’ had been adhered to; and the adherence to norms and standards in the practice of education.
The petitioner asked whether the Department was involved when planning happened, because they would have to ensure that schools were included in infrastructural development; with regard to capacity of schools, the under capacity of 76% was questioned; the presence of eight empty classrooms and if School Governing Body posts were considered if, as was said, about 24% of schools were under-resourced. This question was asked especially because the Minister of Basic Education had said in Parliament last year that School Governing Bodies could not be considered when one looked at a teacher pupil ratio of 40 to 1.
Members felt that the Department had dealt with the matter adequately and encouraged the Department to adhere to norms and standards of education practice.
The Chairperson acknowledged receipt of the petition from Mr M Waters (DA) and said the Committee was obliged to listen to him. The Committee had invited the National Department of Basic Education together with the Provincial Department of Basic Education in Gauteng because they would have to respond to questions and assist in taking participation forward. The Committee, when it received such a petition, first had to look at issues of accessibility like whether learners had access to quality education, before it could proceed further. Mr Waters was invited to make the presentation on the petition.
Mr Waters’s presentation was based on a submission made to him by the residents of Greenstone. A Greenstone area had sprung up over the past five years, and not one public school had been built in the area to accommodate the children. Parents were then forced to take their children to schools in Edenvale. The three primary schools there were bursting at the brims already and the figures the Department would show would attest to this. Learners were not accommodated in Greenstone, had to travel long distances to get to school and were not getting quality education. There were too many children in the classroom; bad teaching, and as far as he could see, no planning on the part of the Department. The reason why Birchacres primary school was built was because the community had burnt tyres because a school was promised. He did not know whether the residents in Greenstone would first have to burn tyres before a school was built in their area. These were the conditions on the ground which he had seen as he had been to all the primary schools and the principals had told him that they could not accept any more children.
Additional classrooms had been built and parents were paying additional school fees to get additional teachers but then the MEC insisted that extra teachers would cost the parents more and there would still be too many children per classroom. He felt that the Department was reneging on its responsibility to have quality education. Over and above that accessible education was needed where children would not have to travel long distances as they did now, at huge costs to their parents to get to school. This was the position in a nutshell and he would obviously like to ask questions once the Department had presented. Lastly he read a reply from the Minister of Basic Education in response to the question: “Has her Department untaken studies to determine the total number of children that lived in the Greenstone residential area in Johannesburg, which borders Edenvale in the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality; and, if not (a) why not and – in the reply that did not say how many children were living there – (b) what informed the Department not to build schools in the specified area and what were the details of the study?”. The Minister said that the parents of learners residing in the Greenstone area were ‘apparently” not interested in these public schools. Mr Waters asked where the study that proved this was. On what basis was the Minister making this up?
In his opinion there had been a knee jerk reaction to this and there has been no forward planning by the Department. He was deeply concerned about the lack of schools in the area.
The Chairperson said that one had to look at the issue of enrolment in those schools and accessibility. One even had to look at the issue of learners from Thembisa flooding in to Greenstone and the kilometres travelled in this endeavour which would translate to the quality of education received in those schools. Mr Waters had raised the fact that this was a developing area so the Department would have to state what it’s future plans were.
Department of Education’s Response
Mr Edward Mosuwe, HOD: Gauteng Department of Education thanked Mr Waters for the presentation and said that a comprehensive response – in the form of a presentation - had been developed to give a sense of where it was located in this matter. He referred to page 2 of the presentation which dealt with the Size and Shape of the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) and said that the landscape of the Department dealt with 2207 public ordinary schools, 218 Independent schools subsidised by the state, and 640 Independent schools that were not subsidised. This showed that about 72% out of total of 3065 schools were public but those that were subsidised were up to about 79% of the total number of schools. This provided a sense of the level of access that was provided.
There was a total of 55 678 state-paid educators, 8649 SGB educators (School Governing Body); 5030 subsidised school educators; 12 191 non-subsidised educators with a total of 81 548 educators in total. He said these numbers were important because it provided a glimpse of how big the system was that was being dealt with. It showed that Gauteng was the second largest education system in the country, KwaZulu-Natal being the largest.
The numbers of Learners in 2017 were as follows:
- Public Schools – 2,120,892
- Independent Subsidised Schools – 112,509
- Independent Non-Subsidised Schools – 177,850
- Total 2,411,251
This translated to 88.4% of learners in public schools.
To illustrate accessibility the fee and no fee-paying school situation was as follows:
- 33% was fee paying and
- 67% was no fee paying.
Mr Mosuwe said that In-Migration was an important element in the situation that had to be communicated to the Committee. Below are the numbers of Learners entering Ordinary schools from Outside Gauteng by province:
- Northern Cape 881;
- Western Cape 2,540;
- Free State 4,680;
- Mpumalanga 8,541;
- KwaZulu-Natal 101,176;
- Eastern Cape 10,268;
- Limpopo 17,725;
- Foreign Countries 22,942;
- North West 23,832
With regard to Infrastructure planning, data collection was one of the most important steps in the process. Needs analysis, project identification, prioritisation of identified needs and budgeting were also part of this process.
The conclusion of the Department’s response was as follows:
- The study showed that Greenstone and Greater Edenvale areas did not warrant new school infrastructure, as the existing schools were not fully occupied to capacity;
- It was clear that the parents within these areas preferred having their children attending schools outside of the area;
- Gauteng had 100 000 new learners entering the schooling system annually;
- Considering the existing residential densities within the areas in question, the existing schools were adequate to service these needs; and
- The availability of sites in general let alone adequately sized sites, contributed to the inability to construct new schools.
The Chairperson welcomed the MEC of the Gauteng Provincial Government Mr Panyaza Lesufi to the meeting.
Mr Ramasedi Mafoko, Head of Planning: DBE said that planning was located in provinces, who would submit these plans to the National Department to allow them to assist provinces in their attempt to adequately address all the priorities. It was emphasised that planning happened at a local level.
Mr Nkhensani Baloyi, Chief Director: Gauteng Department of Education said that he wanted to add that yes, Greenstone was a developing area driven by the recent creation of the Greenstone Mall and the development of neighbouring residential units in the form of town houses and cluster houses. Infrastructure planning also involved the equitable distribution of resources.
The Chairperson highlighted the fact that the Department had said that the schools in the Greenstone area were not showing full or even half attendance.
Mr Waters said he was pleased that the MEC was in attendance, firstly because in all his attendance of such meetings this was the very first time that an MEC attended.
He asked, with regard to when development happened, what planning took place because one always had to consider that children needed to go to school. So, when planning happened was the Department involved because they would have to ensure that schools were included in infrastructure development.
On the capacity of schools, it was strange and amazing that schools were not full to the brim in Edenvale and Thembisa especially in a situation where 100 000 learners arrived in the province annually, and there was an under capacity of 76%? An under capacity of nearly a quarter was amazing. How was this achieved? He asked for more information about eight classrooms being empty. It begged the question about teachers and if there were any teachers. He asked if SGB posts were being considered as well if as was said there was about 24% of schools under-resourced. He asked this question because the Minister of Basic Education had said in Parliament last year that SGBs could not be considered when one looked at a teacher pupil ratio of 40 to 1.
Mr Mosuwe replied that just to give a sense on the new approach that the Department adopted on human settlements, one would know that when there was going to be human settlement in an area, social infrastructure would also be at play. So, for example clinics and schools would be involved in the planning process.
On capacity, and why the MEC was still saying fighting for space; if one had people in Ivory Park residing in Greenstone that school would be full very soon. The Ivory Park community and Johannesburg Central Corridor were where one found the greatest pressure. In Migration the majority of people requiring schooling was not in Greenstone but in other specific areas. The distances presented the greatest challenges in those areas. For capacity the Department looked into available classroom space and norms to decide whether a school had reached capacity or not.
Mr Mpoku Tau, Chief Director Districts: GDE said the situation was 1033 students and 38 classrooms.
The Chairperson interjected to allow Mr Waters to register a point of order.
Mr Waters said that if there were 38 classrooms, some of them would be filled by SGB posts. One could not just divide them up by the number of classrooms; one had to consider government posts divided by pupils… (interruption by Chairperson)
The Chairperson said she wanted clarification on this before moving forward. For now, one was talking about classes because one was not on the topic of teachers as yet. She said that 38 classes would translate into 1: 35, and then one could talk about teachers.
Ms J Basson (ANC) said that a round table discussion was needed at ‘home’ and said there was a plea for the Minister to investigate this matter. This had been done and the GDE had done its work as the Minister had said that the teacher pupil ratio should be 30:1.
Mr A Botes (ANC) said the Committee had to see if the ‘Rules of Engagement’ had been adhered to. One also had to look at how to encourage the citizens of Greenstone to ensure that their children went to Greenstone.
Mr Botes emphasised that the issue of integrated human settlements had to be considered. He also encouraged the Department to adhere to norms and standards in the practice of education.
Ms N Mokoto (ANC) agreed that the Department had addressed most of the issues. She asked what Mr Waters was proposing in the petition as in her opinion schools in the Greenstone area were able to cater to the educational needs of the area.
Ms Mokoto asked if racism was perhaps involved in the petition.
Ms Mokoto referred to the third bullet on slide 21 and said that this gave the impression that the Department was challenged.
The Chairperson noted that the Department had said that it did not have any future plans to build schools in the area.
Mr Waters reiterated what the Chairperson had said about the Department not having any future plans to build schools in the area. It should be a matter of course that the local authority involved the departments of education, health, and other services needed for any community when a development was about to happen particular the size of schools. He was glad to hear that the mega development in Greenstone including the Ekurhuleni one would have schools allocated. This was the main concern. About the schools not being full he still did not believe.
The Chairperson interjected and said those areas in the plans were raised…
Mr Waters interjected and said they were not raised as the Department had said there was no space for new schools in the planning. If one said tomorrow that Greenstone needed a primary school, where would this school go? One would not be able to build a school because there was no ground as a result of bad planning. However, he was glad to hear that going forward there was going to be interactions between local authorities and the Minister’s Office.
About the schools not being full, this he did not believe, and here he was not passing judgement, the document from the Department had stated on page 21 that occupation at Eastleigh Primary School was 76%. The figures that were read out earlier stated that there were 978 learners in 28 classrooms. In terms of norms and standards if one multiplied 28 by 40 that would be the maximum that could be had. This translated into 1120 learners. This would mean that the occupancy was actually 87% not 76%. This was an 11% difference. He asked why this figure was so far out. This assumed that all 28 classrooms were funded by government posts. When one reduced that number of government posts, it would be found that the school was probably over occupied. This was why he wanted to know how many posts were funded by the state. He appealed to the Chairperson to ask the Department for a list of how many posts were funded by the state. He believed that all the schools were over-capacitated.
MEC Mr Panyaza Lesufi appreciated the presentations by Mr Waters, the Department and the questions by Members. He wanted to argue very strongly that on the basis of its asset portfolio as government there were enough classrooms to accommodate all the children. The key area was quality education. If this was being provided there would be no reason for migration from one area to the next in search of quality education. He reassured Members that the Department was investing its time in providing quality education.
One of the key areas that needed to be addressed was whether to upgrade the current resource base or build new schools. Norms and standards had to be adhered to in providing quality education. The Department was embarrassed by the state of certain schools. For example, an economically viable province like Gauteng still had shacks and mobile schools. The Department had taken stock of the situation and made a bid to National Treasury to improve certain areas of infrastructure. In 2022 these areas would be addressed. In the spirit of improving the system the Department had introduced online registration. This would allow easier access to data or statistics in a host of areas in education.
An area of concern for him was the failure of municipalities to update their data and respond to requests. Approval of site development plans was one of major areas of concern because when municipalities delayed in this area the danger was that the Department might have to allocate the money in other areas. He expressed appreciation for the ideas expressed by Members and assured the Committee that the Department co-operated through including these ideas in their planning meetings.
The Chairperson expressed the appreciation of the Committee to Mr Waters for presenting the petition. The upshot of this was a firmer commitment by the Department to integrate issues like transport and In-Migration into their infrastructural planning process.
Ms Mokoto asked for clarity on the way forward in Gauteng regarding upgrading the infrastructure.
Mr Mosuwe replied that the Department responsible for the upgrading of schools had obtained approval from the City of Johannesburg to build on a site that had previously been declared agricultural. Both of the acquired parcels of land had to be consolidated into one address. There was a temporary delay in this area so the school built here could not be used at present.
The Chairperson thanked the Department for their good presentation. She was also pleased that Mr Waters was satisfied.
The meeting was adjourned.