The Department of Basic Education has recently released the report on the School Monitoring Survey of 2011 which surveyed 2000 public ordinary schools with the aim of monitoring progress towards the goals set out in the Action Plan to 2014. Let me warn you that it makes for depressing reading – even for those familiar with how bad things really are. Really. While the results are truly atrocious/shocking/abysmal (we are running out of adjectives to accurately describe the South African schooling system) there is one ray of hope that comes from all of this. It’s not so much the contents of the report – the only thing hopeful in the report are the school feeding stats! – but rather the fact that the report itself was commissioned (surprise #1) and then that it was actually released (massive surprise #2). If we try and walk in the DBE’s moccasins for three days, as the Native American saying on empathy goes, we would realize that this takes commitment, resolve and leadership. To commission a survey that will certainly reveal damning information, but information that is necessary for improvement, is the first step. But to realize that public discussion, transparency and accountability are all integral parts of democracy and progress is something else altogether. That is truly and honestly something to celebrate and a big break with the denialism of previous Ministers of Education. Kudos to those involved! But before you crack out the champagne read the bulleted summary of the report below. Actually, mid-day drinking is probably the most rational response to findings like these…
- Only 69% of schools had all allocated teaching posts filled (highest in the Northern Cape: 78%, lowest in the North West: 58%).
- Of the 60 hours of annual professional development that teachers should have done by the time of the survey, the South African average was only 38 hours (Western Cape: 60 hours, Limpopo: 30 hours).
- Percentage of educators absent from school on an average day was 6% nationally, 8% in KwaZulu-Natal and 3% in the Western Cape.
- Of Grade 6 learners nationally, only 7% had done at least 4 exercises per week (the minimum standard) for language and 31% for Maths. Of Grade 9 learners nationally, only 1% met this requirement for language and 6% for Maths.
- Of Grade 6 learners nationally 83% had access to a Maths textbook and 78% had access to a Language textbook. For Grade 9 the figures were 83% for a Maths textbook and 68% for a Language textbook.
- Only 57% of students in South Africa were in a school that had either a central school library, a mobile library or a classroom library (Western Cape: 89%, Limpopo: 30%)
- Only 48% of schools had a School Governing Body that met the minimum criteria for effectiveness.
- Schools receive different per-learner subsidies from the State depending on if they are from the poorest 20% (Quintile 1), the second Poorest 20% (Quintile 2) etc. Quintile 1 learners get allocated R905 while Quintile 5 (richest 20%) get R156. Nationally 47% of students were in schools that were funded according to the minimum level (Western Cape: 95%; Mpumalanga: 10%).
- Only 55% of schools have minimum infrastructure needs (Gauteng: 90%; Eastern Cape 33%). Minimum infrastructure needs are defined as having running water, working electricity, fenced school premises, separate toilets for boys and girls, and separate toilets for teachers.
- 86% of south Africa learners received a free school meal every day (Western Cape & KZN: 81%; Limpopo: 94%). In Quintile 1, 2 and 3 schools, 96, 95 and 91% respectively were found to have a National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP).
- 87% of schools were visited at least twice a year by a district official for monitoring or support purposes during the year (Western Cape: 99%; Eastern Cape: 74%).
- Only 34% of principals rated 50% of more of the district support services as satisfactory (Gauteng/Western cape: 63%; Eastern Cape: 24%).
When we think of what these kind of findings mean for things like social mobility, chronic poverty and the personal dignity of the poor and marginalized it would seem the only reactions are anger and despair. God help us.