Programme Director: Mr. Paul Sehlabelo
Gauteng MEC for Education & Youth Development: Mr. Panyaza Lesufi
Cllr Kate Mphahlele, Ward 95, Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality
Ms. Mosibudi Makhubela: Director, Independent Schools,
SGB Chairpersons and Members
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is my singular honour and privilege to say a few words on this very important Education Stakeholders’ Engagement. I am so excited to be here in Gauteng, my home province.
We hold this Education Stakeholders’ Engagement to ensure that there is a direct engagements between the Government and communities and stakeholders.
In the process, it gives us as elected public representatives an opportunity to account on the work we do in line with the dictates of our Constitution.
We intend to strengthen partnership engagements with stakeholders geared towards positive educational outcomes.
The overall mantra of this Education Stakeholders’ Engagement is: discussion, dialogue, joint problem-solving and above all feedback.
We want to have first-hand experience of the impact our policies have on the people we serve.
Our people cannot be active participants in the Government programmes unless they get an opportunity to have the Government policy and programmes clearly outlined and explained.
Programme Director, at the heart of it all: we want our people to be part and parcel of all Government programmes.
The governed must be seen and heard.
For us as Government, public participation in governance is therefore the linchpin that defines our democracy.
The Freedom Charter which turned 64 this year rightly says: ‘The People Shall Govern.’
Today’s focus is on the Independent schools. Many deliver valuable educational services and have loyal clienteles. Others deliver services of low quality and exploit the ignorance of parents.
Some pride themselves on conservative principles of governance and teaching. Others value innovation. Some have an inward focus.
Others have a deliberate mission of social concern and professional co-operation with public schools serving the poor.
However, in recent past we have heard hallowing stories of learners who were duped into registering and paying high fees for the privilege to learn in these ‘bogus’ schools.
I want to make it clear that our Constitution makes provision for any person, at his or her own cost, to establish and maintain an Independent school.
Similarly, the South African Schools Act (SASA) recognises this inalienable right of anybody to establish an Independent school at own cost to offer basic education at the same or higher quality to that offered at State schools.
At the heart of our basic education system, according to the the South African Schools Act, 1996 is that:
‘...this country requires a new national system for schools which will redress past injustices in educational provision, provide an education of progressively high quality for all learners and, in so doing lay a strong foundation for the development of all our people's talents and capabilities...'
Even the National Development Plan (NDP) recognises Independent schools. The NDP deems them to be an important partner in the provision of basic education in South Africa.
By their very nature Independent schools provide a necessary and vital element of diversity within the schooling system which, inter alia, assists with benchmarking of schools.
Our legislation and policies consequently do provide adequate space and support for individuals to exercise their constitutional right to establish and operate an independent school.
We are however still of the view that it remains the responsibility of the state to ensure that all learners have access to quality education and, that the state should provide this through a credible public education system.
Due to the nature of the architecture of our education system, it is the duty of the provincial education departments to recognise and register Independent schools.
Any Independent school may only be recognised and registered as an Independent school if the Provincial Education Department’s Head is satisfied with the following:
- The standards to be maintained by such school will not be inferior to the standards in comparable public schools;
- The admission policy of the school does not discriminate on the grounds stipulated Constitution; and
- The school complies with the grounds for registration as determined by the provincial MEC for Education by notice in the Provincial Gazette.
Therefore, any parent or learner who so wishes to register in an Independent school has a duty to satisfy himself or herself that it is indeed registered and operates within the framework of the law.
All potential learners must always check with their Education Districts or provincial education department, and/Basic Education if indeed the school is registered.
Some Independent schools may qualify for a subsidy in line with the National Norms and Standards for School Funding.
In fact any Independent school that is registered with the Provincial Education Department (PED) and fulfils the requirements stipulated in the National Norms and Standards for School Funding (NNSSF) is eligible for a state subsidy.
As Basic Education working with our counterparts in the provinces, we have the responsibility to monitor all registered Independent schools.
Thus all Independent schools are obliged by law to allow visits by officials of the Provincial Education Department or any organ of state designated to do so.
However as Government, we are allowed by law to withdraw both the operating licences and subsidies should any irregularities/illegalities occur at any Independent school.
Currently, we have 632 443 learners enrolled in registered Independent schools, the majority of whom 296 282 are here in Gauteng.
There are only 1 922 registered Independent schools in South Africa. Independent school enrolment amounts to just over two percent of total school enrolment nation-wide.
Our biggest challenge is the mushrooming of Independent schools that are not registered at any education authority.
These ‘bogus’ schools are therefore operating illegally, again majority of them are here in Gauteng.
Working jointly with our provincial counterparts, we are continuously seeking to identify these unregistered Independent schools, and impose the authority of the State on them.
We continuously investigate all allegations of schools operating without being registered with the relevant education departments.
In this mammoth task we need parents and learners to be our eyes and ears on the ground.
We have the right to order them to comply with the registration requirements, norms and standards amongst others.
If the illegality persists, we have no choice but to issue letters to cease operations, and also inform parents, learners and educators of the closure of the school and the reasons thereof.
In the bigger scheme of things, we all have an obligation to ensure that we strive for a credible basic education system.
Research and history have shown that parents are at the core of any properly functioning educational facility.
At the heart of our basic education architecture is that all public school governing bodies are obliged by the Act to support their schools financially as best they can.
The Act provides that a governing body must - ‘take all reasonable measures within its means to supplement the resources provided by the State in order to improve the quality of education provided by the school to all learners at the school.’
Thus, the business of educating the nation is a collective responsibility of all South Africans.
I thank you.