The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education had mixed reactions to what they found in the schools they visited on the third day of the oversight visit to education districts in KwaZulu-Natal.
First on the list for the day was Bizamali High School, in deep rural areas of the King Cetshwayo Education District. In 1997 and 1998, Grade 11 and Grade 12 were introduced in the school and since then the school has had a good academic record.
With no running water or electricity and situated four hours from Richards Bay with mostly gravel roads leading to it and accommodating over 2 000 learners, the school manage to obtain a pass rate above 90% in the 2016 matric examinations. This includes two learners with seven distinctions, two with six distinctions and several with five.
According to the principal of the school, Mr B Ntuli, the school has no recreational facilities and thus they have longer teaching hours with some breaks in between to keep learners positively stimulated. He said because about 80% of the learners are living without their parents, educators also become involved on that front to make sure learners are coping.
The school received a new building in 2015 and a technology block was completed last year. However, no furniture has been delivered and it therefore cannot use it. Access to this classroom would ease the overcrowding, with up to four learners squashed into desks meant for two.
Mr Ntuli said the school has also helped under-qualified or non-qualified teachers to acquire the necessary qualifications. "Very few people want to teach in such rural conditions and some leave after one month. With the help of the Department, we managed to ensure that teachers get qualifications."
The Committee praised Mr Ntuli and his staff for their sterling work. Committee Member Mr Timothy Khoza said the department must urgently see how they can assist with electricity, water and the furniture.
Committee Chairperson Ms Nomalungelo Gina said it seems the planning was poor and that before the Committee concludes its work in the province, they want a commitment on the matter. The issue of a hostel was also raised, as many learners come from other provinces and parts of the province to benefit from the quality education at the school.
At Mnyakanya High School, a stone's throw from President Jacob Zuma's Nkandla residence, the Committee found good infrastructure and good resources, but "weak" leadership. The school had a matric pass rate of 16.9% last year. Neither the principal nor his senior management team could provide the Committee with the correct data for enrolment figures for the school. Committee Members left the school disappointed, indicating that action was needed.