SADTU KwaZulu Natal statement on the appointment of Comrade Kwazikwenkosi Mshengu as the new MEC for Education

30 May 2019

SADTU in KwaZulu Natal (KZN) has noted the appointment of Comrade Kwazikwenkosi Mshengu by Premier, Cde Sihle Zikalala. We congratulate MEC Mshengu in his new yet overly challenging posting.

We also wish to thank the outgoing MEC, Comrade Mthandeni Dlungwane, under whose leadership the Department improved matric results not without attendant challenges in other areas. Comrade Dlungwane successfully fought for the advertisement of some office based posts which had been outstanding for years and had caused undue pressure to the capacity of the system to deliver quality education; for this SADTU salutes him greatly.

We as SADTU, commanding over 62 000 of the workforce in the Department in the Province, want to welcome MEC Mshengu to the biggest department of education in the country. KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education has had more than ten MECs from two political parties in the 25 years since the dawn of democracy. It is interesting to note that none of them has had two terms in the office to properly ground and focus the department on an uninterrupted delivery trajectory. MEC Mshengu comes to the department which has steadily improved matric results and is set at a growth path envied countrywide but this is at the backdrop of worker exploitation amid attendant challenges both systemic and administrative. The department has shown lack of focus on continued teacher development strategy to aid the commitment of this department to make KZN a Mathematics and Science province and being frustrated by reformist solutions.

MEC Mshengu has inherited a department that is saddled with a challenge of notorious migration of learners to affluent schools in search of better resourced schools and this continues to under develop our communities in many ways. There are also hundreds of unfilled posts for office based educators, managers and administration personnel in the offices and in schools. This has led to undue jobs expansions thus overburdening the workers in all sections of the offices of the department which has an aging workforce with no clear recruitment and talent retention strategy in place.

The Department has for years silently retrenched school clerks, school security and school cleaners. This has been done through the department not replacing employees leaving for various reasons including attrition. This has burdened teachers with more administrative work on top of their workload.

There is chronic failure of the department to support schools and to provide schools with due financial allocations on time which severely crippled service delivery in many fronts rendering schools susceptible to litigations by the suppliers of goods and services.

The nutrition programme, intended to provide a healthy meal to keep learners focused and fight fatigue is at risk with reports of delivery of goods with the lowest of quality of supplies like vegetables. As we write this statement there are schools that have not fed their learners for some time. We are told that fruits are part of what learners should have at least once a month but in some districts, this has never happened.

The MEC must help in reminding everyone that education is a societal matter, it is not about advancing the programme of commercialization and privatization in and of education or activities of edu-preneurs who at all costs want to make profit at the expense of our learners.

The MEC comes at the crucial time when there is an extraordinary rise of violence in schools that negatively compromise delivery of education and disarms educators' professional capacity to manage discipline and curriculum delivery. The MEC must work hard to fight a hostile propaganda that continues to distort the image of educators in some communities thus causing school directed protests which compromise learning environment conducive to teaching and learning.

The non-payment of educators on time and deliberate failure to pay rural incentives on time year in year out continue to define the administrative incompetency levels of the department characterized by acute ambiguities in policy implementation. The rural incentive is the only retention strategy for educators in far flung areas but is under threat of relegation as its budget does not cover all the qualifying beneficiaries and continues to sheds recipients yearly.

The entire nation witnessed glaring failure of your predecessor to adjust stipends for Grade R practitioners in 2017 thus committing so horrendous an economic crime against the most vulnerable of the education workers. This epitomized cruelty and callousness remains a challenge that MEC Mshengu must confront within 100 days in his office. Remember, these employees are not paid even for the qualifications they have acquired unlike in all other provinces. It had never happened in this province before, except in 2017 when we had an MEC who decided to not honour this justified expectation. As MEC Mshengu steps into this seat, over 180 Grade R practitioners have had their services unilaterally terminated and others were not paid their stipends for the month of March 2019.

The MEC must know that the Department is tasked, through provision of quality education, with the responsibility of transforming the society and this demands the MEC to lead the changing of the character of apparatus of the department to free it from narrow sphere of policies that have hamstrung seamless delivery of education.

Notwithstanding all these disappointments and setbacks, SADTU vows to work with MEC Mshengu to assist him to advance the delivery of quality public education in KZN.

We hope to develop a working relationship that shall ensure that under his political stewardship education remains the apex priority in KZN not by mere pronouncements but through superior efforts to undo the incompetence of the past.

We believe his superior academic background and proven commitment to lifelong learning will place him in a more advantageous
position to quickly grasp the intricacies of this demanding position. We long for an MEC who shall unwaveringly be committed to the true cause of change that shall translate into better lives for learners and who shall appreciate the role of education workers in our province. More particularly an MEC who shall provide a clear strategic direction and give hope to the distressed workforce of the department without unduly descending into the arena of administration.

We are waiting the call from the MEC as we believe that it is in his best interest to work with stakeholders and meeting unions will assist a big deal.

We wish our new MEC all the best during his tenure.

Issued by the Provincial Secretariat