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ActionSA calls for basic and higher education depts to be merged, Sadtu disagrees

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ActionSA parliamentary caucus leader Athol Trollip said that the president must professionalise his Cabinet and downsize it, by eliminating deputy minister posts and consolidating the higher and basic education departments.

ActionSA parliamentary caucus leader Athol Trollip says Ramaphosa must establish a single education department in the new Cabinet to oversee and address all issues in education. Picture: Jacques Naude/Independent Newspapers

TALKS are still under way between parties in the government of national unity (GNU) as the country awaits President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement of the national executive council for the seventh administration, which was expected to have happened on Sunday.

As internal indifferences among the GNU pact members continue to delay Ramaphosa’s announcement, ActionSA parliamentary caucus leader Athol Trollip told “Newzroom Afrika” that the president must professionalise his Cabinet and downsize it, by eliminating deputy minister posts and consolidating the higher and basic education departments.

“If Cyril Ramaphosa is to elect a Cabinet, we do not need deputy ministers. A classic example would be the basic and higher education departments. They both failed miserably for the past 15 years in South Africa; their ministers are entrenched in those positions. They have had two deputy ministers,” said Trollip.

Trollip said one minister must head both departments, removing both basic and higher education ministers. The incoming minister would control and improve the education system.

“We believe education should be one department, with no deputy ministers. That minister must take over the department and amalgamate the two departments. The minister must run the department from Grade R or early childhood development right through tertiary. It would be seamless.

“Those are the kind of decisions we expect Ramaphosa should take – pragmatic decisions that are sustainable, where they hold officials accountable and are qualified to do the job. We have seen the standards of education plummeting right in front of us,” said Trollip.

The South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) disagreed. Spokesperson Nomusa Cembi said Trollip’s suggestions were not viable as both departments were big offices, each with their own issues that needed to be addressed.

“We believe keeping basic and higher education as separate entities should continue, because they both have different challenges and keeping them separate would allow for greater focus on the challenges faced in both sectors,” Cembi said.

She said basic education was entrenched in an inadequate system, where learners were subjected to poor education infrastructure and poor security measures. Overcrowded classrooms were becoming too prevalent, yet there were more than 30,000 unemployed teachers nationally.

Cembi said the previous government had failed to ensure access to sporting facilities and sanitation for learners and teachers, thus pit latrines continued to exist in rural and township schools.

Therefore, she said, one education department was unfeasible.

“We do not believe the issues mentioned above would receive adequate attention if both departments were combined,” said Cembi.

These past weeks, social media users have debated over the basic education minister post, with Build One South Africa Mmusi Maimane, who is vocal about increasing the matric pass rate to 50%, and IFP leader Velenkosini Hlabisa, who was a high school principal, the top candidates.

Cembi said the new minister would need to be passionate and qualified in order to transform the ministerial office and deal with the projects the previous government had failed to fix.

“The minister must understand education, have a passion to ensure that every learner receives quality public education and is prepared to respect and uphold the Constitution of South Africa.

“A minister who will advance mother tongue teaching and learning as a basis for acquisition of knowledge, skills and attitude and improve the science, technology, engineering and mathematics areas. The mother tongue is fundamental to transformation of epistemological biases which still regards Western culture and knowledge as the only acceptable means to achieve quality,” said Cembi.

Additionally, she denounced Maimane’s proposal on the matric pass rate.

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