By Enver Surty
Deputy Minister of Basic Education
Former President Nelson Mandela once observed that “education is the most powerful weapon, which you can use to change the world”. He valued education and understood that through it people can transform their lives and change the country for the better. Our government has over the years worked hard to realise Madiba’s dream and have since made education an apex priority.
However, the actions by some of the residents of Malamulele in the Limpopo Province not only prevent Nelson Mandela’s dream from being realised, but deny our children an opportunity to gain knowledge and participate in the running, and development of the country.
It is alleged that residents have since the beginning of the year prevented their children from attending school and have damaged property demanding their own municipality that is separate from the Thulamela municipality. The wanton damage to property and disruption of schooling in the area is of grave concern.
These incidents and behaviour are unreasonable and amount to gross violations of human rights in terms of both the Constitution and the South African Schools Act.
Section 29 of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution states that “everyone has the right to a basic education including adult basic education” while the South African Schools Act says that “any other person who, without just cause, prevents a learner who is subject to compulsory attendance from attending a school, is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months”.
The closure of schools will have negative consequences for learners especially those who are preparing to write their Grade 12 supplementary examinations. As parents and communities it is imperative that we put the interest of our children first. This includes not compromising their right to education, or using learners to bargain for community issues or the improvement of service delivery.
When we have legitimate concerns we should make use of the range of platforms, such as izimbizo and community meetings to engage meaningfully with public official.
The Municipal Demarcation Board, in consultation with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs is currently considering the demands of the people of Malamulele and we should await the report into the implications of the proposed separation of Malamulele from Thulamela.
We should bear in mind that the Municipal Demarcation Board is an independent body responsible for the determination and re-determinations of municipal boundaries. As such it is empowered by legislation to declare the district management areas; to delimit wards for local elections; and to assess the capacity of municipalities to perform their functions.
Government is also addressing community concerns on the alleged imbalances in the provision of basic services between Malamulele and some surrounding areas. The Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Pravin Gordhan is studying the Thulamela municipality service delivery processes to ascertain how best he can rectify the alleged imbalances and ensure equitable share of services.
Government’s Back to Basics approach will also assist the municipality to fulfil its mandate of improving basic service delivery in the area. This plan was adopted in response to an assessment of the state of local government in the country and is a clarion call to ensure that citizens receive responsive service delivery, and that their experience of local government is a positive one.
While we understand that the Malamulele community has concerns and has the right to voice them, we call on them to end the violence, stop the destruction of property and refrain from any act that would infringe on the rights and freedom of fellow community members.
We appeal to residents to allow children to return to school until a final decision has been made on the demarcation issue. We all have the collective responsibility to honour the legacy of our founding father and ensure that every child is educated irrespective of background or circumstances.