KZN Education MEC Mthandeni Dlungwane has revealed how he is constantly worried over violent crimes in the province's schools, saying learners, principals and teachers no longer feel safe in schools.
He said this while tabling the department's R47bn budget to a full sitting of the KZN legislature.
In recent weeks and months a number of incidents have been reported at schools where teachers and pupils were attacked. In one incident in Pietermaritzburg this year a principal was gunned down in front of her pupils while conducting Saturday classes. Her killers have still not been found.
"The issues of school safety is currently our major concern. Principals of schools, teachers and support staff must feel safe in their workplaces in order to effect discipline measures which will create a suitable environment for all school communities to coexist," Dlungwane said to Members of the Provincial Legislature (MPLs) on Thursday afternoon.
He told the sitting that schools should be centres of development of young minds that should contribute to the future of the country.
"We condemn in the strongest possible terms, the violent conduct of a hardened cold-blooded criminal who stabbed two learners at Ekhandleleni Secondary School, one of whom succumbed to his stab wounds and passed-on on the spot; and also the violent killing of a learner at Vuyiswa Mtolo Secondary School in KwaMashu, who was stabbed by another learner inside school premises," Dlungwane said.
He stressed that the province could not afford to lose learners, saying the death of a single learner is one too many. Dlungwane said the commitment shown by community members to bring order in schools was a welcomed intervention.
"We wish to acknowledge and applaud the sterling work done by all those who continue to put their lives and safety at risk to protect learners, teachers and schools in their communities; and we sincerely encourage them to continue making education a societal issue. We can assure these communities that their efforts will guarantee a brighter future for our children."
Aside from incidents of violence, the MEC singled out substance abuse and high rates of pregnancy at schools. Dlungwane said handling 5949 public schools where 2.8 million learners were taught by 96 335 teachers was a huge task.
Highlights of the budget included:
- R56m allocation for the Learner Pregnancy and Keeping Girls in Schools programme.
- R1.3bn for the provision of 2018 Learner Teaching Support Materials for Grades R to 12.
- R62m on ICT and IT infrastructure upgrades
- R10m to fund the purchase of ferry boats for learners that have to cross rivers in order to get to school.
- R1,4bn for the School Nutrition Programme
Opposition parties including the IFP, NFP and MF supported the budget while the Democratic Alliance expressed reservations over the budget. They also agreed that the allocation was not enough to meet the province's needs citing the more than 2000 vacant posts as an illustration of a funding shortfall.