MEC orders opening up of schools

Sne Masuku

Sne Masuku

The KwaZulu-Natal education department has warned that it will take action against any principal who turns away pupils who owe school fees.

Public schools in the province officially open today and more than two million pupils will have to be accommodated. More than 18000 Grade R - school readiness - pupils will start school. An additional 600 classes have been built for these young pupils.

Private schools in the province opened for registration yesterday.

Education MEC Ina Cronje said no child should be denied access to school because their parents could not afford school fees.

"There should not be a single child who does not go to school. The law is clear about it and as in the past, we will take action against principals who deny learners education or victimise them as a result of non-payment," said Cronje.

She also warned principals of the "no fee-schools" who continue to charge parents. The MEC said the department was inundated with calls from parents that some principals at these schools are still charging fees.

Cronje said her department was ready for learning and teaching to kick off today. She said they have achieved almost 100percent delivery of textbooks at non-section 21 schools - schools that do not pay school fees and which the department subsidises.

She said 32 principals had deliberately ignored the department's calls for all schools to order stationery and textbooks before the stipulated deadline.

"District managers are currently investigating why these principals did not order any textbooks despite several reminders. These principals could face disciplinary action," she said.

Cronje said that this year would see an increase in the budget allocated for textbooks and stationery. Some of the major changes that would help boost the quality of learning and teaching during the new financial year is the appointment of 3000 more teachers, 600 assistant teachers and 3000 security guards.

Cronje expressed concern that while the department would like to see learning begin when the first school bell rings today, there are always a few parents who will only register their children today.

She said: "While teachers are expected to start teaching from today, they can only do so if parents register their children at the schools in the previous year."

Sadtu in the province confirmed that according to the rounds they conducted at schools, stationery was delivered at most of the schools. Union spokesman Sipho Nkosi said Sadtu was very disappointed that principals at 32 schools had not heeded the deadline.

"These schools will not have textbooks when schools open today and that would mean that learning will be delayed.

"Hill Groove Secondary in Newlands West is one of them and this is very disturbing because the money for textbooks is in the bank accounts of these schools," Nkosi said.

He said the good news is that the teachers are all prepared for their work.