NCOP Visits Orland and Morris Isaacson High Schools

Permanent delegates to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) are in Gauteng for preliminary visits of the Taking Parliament to the People programme that will take place in November. One delegation of NCOP members started with visits to Morris Isaacson and Orlando high schools, both of which played a pivotal role in 16 June Soweto youth uprising that had such a significant impact on South Africa's liberation struggle.

We are here today to pay tribute to the youth and the role that these schools played in the liberation struggle of this country. We recognise them as heritage sites of our democracy and freedom, said the leader of this delegation, Ms Lungelwa Zwane.

The NCOP delegation voiced its' disappointment that despite the historical role these schools played, they have not been properly profiled by the Gauteng Education Department as heritage sites. When we leave Gauteng, we want a commitment from the department that they will ensure these schools are properly profiled. We will follow up on that and it will part of our report, she added.

These schools should have close ties with the National Heritage Council to ensure that they are profiled properly as heritage sites, advised a member of the NCOP delegation, Ms Zukiswa Ncita,

The Gauteng Department of Education said that both schools are underperforming. Every school that has a passing rate that is below 65%, pointed out the Johannesburg West Director of Education, Mr Dennis Macuacua, is regarded as underperforming school by the department. These schools fall under this category for they have a passing rate that is below 65%.

The contributing factors for the underperformance at Morris Isaacson are complex. One of these is the difficult relationship between the school governing body (SGB) and the principal, which began when a new principal, Mr Steven Khanyile, was appointed, said the Chief Director. There are also tensions between the principal and the school's management team, but the provincial education department has intervened and things have improved.

Upon hearing of the SGB's direct involvement in the running of the school, the members asked if the SGB is aware of its mandate to play an oversight role on governance. The acting Chief Director of Education, Mr Dennis Macuacua, assured the members of the delegation that the SGB has attended training workshops and that SGB members now are fully informed about their roles and responsibilities.

Both schools lamented the lack of security and their exposure to crime and vandalism. In Morris Isaacson, parents monitor the school premises every morning to ensure pupils are safe. The school cannot afford professional security guards due to budgetary constraints, the principal of Orlando High, Ms Thozama Mrwetyana, told the delegation.

She mentioned that the school buildings are old, as it was built in 1939. Some of the buildings are dilapidated and lack electricity, while the sanitation system is also inadequate.

The provincial education department admitted to these changes and the effect they may have on the performance of these schools. But the Johannesburg North District Director, Mr Sipho Mkhulise, assured the NCOP delegation that academically they have applied a holistic diagnostic analysis of these schools to determine which subjects, which teachers are at risk of not meeting set targets for the current matric exams. And what interventions are needed to mitigate these scenarios. One intervention involves extra tuition in the form of study camps.

The NCOP delegation also heard that a small number of foreign nationals and pupils from other provinces are enrolled in both schools, but as they are few in number their impact is not significant. The delegation was not pleased with the under-resourced library at Orlando High School and officials from the department committed to ensure that it well-resourced to meet the education demands of its pupils.

The NCOP delegation then moved to the University of Johannesburg to determine the impact of migration on its planning and infrastructure capacity. According to the presentation of the Internationalisation of Academic Services, Doctor Hlulani Mabaso, migration has no negative impact on the university. When pressed on to explain why, when there are a number of foreign nationals on the staff and in the student body, he replied that the university aspires to have a national and international profile. Those internationals that are part of our academic staff are lecturers or researchers who are experts in their fields and contribute to the international profile of the university.

Mr Mabaso raised the deficiencies the university experiences with the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and urged members to intervene where possible.

The delegation then moved on to the Johannesburg Correctional Services. According to the acting Area Commissioner, Mr Lucky Mathiba, migration has a negative impact on its infrastructure and human capacity. There is 21% of foreign nationals in its Medium A Centre, 17% in its Medium B Centre, 21% in its female section and overall they constitute 19% of this prison's population and contribute to overcrowding.

This has a negative impact on the deportation administration of these inmates, rehabilitation, and has increased the bed space, the burden of health care services and nutrition, which all prove to be costly, he explained.

The correctional services Commissioner, Ms Grace Molatedi, pleaded for more prisons to be built to deal with overcrowding and to curb the spread of communicable diseases. Ms Zwane responded that the increase in criminality will not be solved by the building of more prisoners, but rather by addressing social issues. We don't need to deal with symptoms of overcrowding of prisons, but the root cause of that. The building of more prisons won't contribute to the ideal society we all are aspire to be. [We need a] change of behaviour, which has to do with how we raise our kids at home. This will have a lasting impact on overcrowding in prisons.

In conclusion, she emphasised that the issue of migration will compel members of the NCOP to look inwardly and have a realistic assessment of the consequences of migration in Gauteng and in the country as a whole.

There are policy gaps, she admitted, that need to be attended to in this regard and policy shifts that need to be implemented by government. We, as a legislature, must see to it that the legislation we pass addresses some of these policy gaps and considers the present circumstances of migration. The ball is now in our court.

Source: Parliament of the Republic of South Africa