9 June 2011
President Jacob Zuma’s visit to assess the state of education in the Eastern Cape had positive spin-offs for at least one school in the province.
Principal of Thobani Senior Secondary School in Peddie, Simphiwe Mzayidume, said construction work on a computer lab that was abandoned in May 2008 suddenly resumed, a week before Zuma’s visit to schools in the province on Wednesday.
“While I am happy construction has started again, I have to ask why it takes a visit by President Zuma to the province in order for local government to deliver services,” Mzayidume said.
Zuma, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and Deputy Minister Enver Surty, along with Eastern Cape Premier Noxolo Kiviet and Education MEC Mandla Makupula, visited Thobani Senior and two other schools in Mdantsane.
“The Office of the Presidency has been inundated with reports that education in the province is in a shambles, which is why we have decided to visit,” Zuma said.
The feedback the delegation received was the same at all three schools, with staff and pupils complaining about a number of issues, including a lack of resources, poor infrastructure and staff shortages.
Mzayidume said his school has had many challenges over the years, 2011 being no exception. The school didn’t have a maths teacher from the beginning of the year until March, when a temporary teacher was employed. The school has also been plagued by problems of insufficient reading and study material, no computer lab and no proper toilets.
“We’ve often had to pay for reading material out of our own pockets,” said Mzayidume. “We’ve also had to operate with one toilet for the girls and no toilet at all for the boys.”
He said that despite the challenges, the school still performed very well. In 2009, the school achieved a 100% matric pass rate, which he said dropped to 70% in 2010 due to the nationwide strike by teachers.
“This school is a shining example of what can be done in the face of adversity,” Zuma said. “I commend them for their dedication in ensuring education is administered despite the odds.”
Motshekga promised immediate action to remedy the problems at Thobani Senior and commended the community for their role in the school’s success.
“The way that everybody in the community has taken ownership of this school shows that people care about the importance of education in this area.”
Motshekga committed herself to finding a permanent maths teacher for the school, providing a science lab and making sure study materials were delivered.
Zuma also promised that the new computer lab would be equipped with 20 computers once it was completed.