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New report indicates 80% of schools are dysfunctional

by Luqmaan Rawat
South Africa is dominated by dysfunctional schools Photo Pexels

Johannesburg – A report by the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) indicates that 80% of schools are dysfunctional. Although this figure was compiled by the Intergovernmental relations (IGR) in 2006, the EEL feels that not enough has been done to reduce that figure. 

The criteria that EELC follows to classify dysfunctional schools differs from what the Department of Education uses. For this reason, even if the department did do their own research, the EELC would not accept it. The criteria is too narrow and excludes schools that are in dire need of support, said Pila-Sande Mkuzo, EELC Junior Attorney. 

Schools that are most affected and the reasons 

The reality of the situation in South Africa is nothing is equal. There are two categories of schools. Those that provide education to the wealthy which would be your private schools and model C schools. Then there are those that provide education to the less fortunate. The 80% fall into this category, said Mkuzo.

“The reality is most dysfunctional underperforming schools are in rural areas, townships. They are schools serving the poor and middle class and predominantly black and coloured learners.” 

It is interesting to note that all these schools suffered from the same issues regardless of which province they are in. These are issues one does not see in private schools and model C schools.

“Things such as curriculum delivery, learner transport, the quality of teachers and teacher retention. Things such as learning material and the shortage of proper learning materials. Lastly proper management of the school and the safety around the school.”

One of the other main issues, explained Mkuzo, is that the department only looks at three things. They look at the “academic performance of the school, whether there’s a breakdown in management and governance of the school and threats of safety”. This is far too little to look at to determine if the school is dysfunctional or not.

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How the EELC plans to change this

What causes change is when enough people band together to call for change. That can only be done when they are well informed on a situation and actively want to change it. This is the reason for these reports and how the EELC will get change, explained Mkuzo.

“It’s quite hard to assert a right when you don’t know about the particular rights and that’s where advocacy becomes important. This is where reports like these become important to agitate and get people talking about these things. Most importantly giving the information out to the people who require the information to then assert their rights.” 

These reports are for parents so that they have the information they need to assert their rights. These reports give parents the ability to hold a governing body accountable and empowering them.

“Giving them this information is also about empowering them and capacitating them in asserting that particular item. Knowing what the law says in terms of how to go about getting what they need in terms of civil society.”


Politics will always be at play with dysfunctional schools

The governing party will always have a say and a way to change how schools run. It is the governing party that has decided to only focus on three things to classify a school as dysfunctional. They also have the power to change it and improve it. There are also resources available to do this but there lacks a proper accountability mechanism to make sure the money gets used wisely, said Mkuzo.

“The reality is resources are there. The systems are there but it becomes about implementation. That’s where the major blockage is. That’s one of the things we’ve also identified in the report. We noted that there are accountability mechanisms, but the implementation thereof is where the problem begins. It’s having people doing things timelessly and not trying to cut bureaucracy and unnecessarily halting the process as it were.”

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People are also the reason for dysfunctional schools

It is becoming more and more common for people to voice their anger at the government by destroying infrastructure. They have even resorted to vandalising schools and stealing from it. This all comes back to haunt the very same community whose children now have less resources for themselves. With a government that isn’t ready to provide for the people, the people need to understand that by doing this, they are only hampering their kids’ future, said Mkuzo.

“You are damaging the one school that you have in your community when the next one is about 50 kilometres away. You’re not only killing yourselves, but you’re killing the community as well. Having those open conversations and calling each other out. Accountability filters through that open conversation.”

For the rate of dysfunctional schools to drop, the criteria need to be broadened and the government needs to act. People and the government need to hold themselves accountable as well. For the sake of our future schools need to be operational to give every child a fighting chance to be the best they can be.

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