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Panyaza Lesufi leaves office proud of advances in township education

Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi says the theft of high-tech equipment from schools is discouraging.
Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi says the theft of high-tech equipment from schools is discouraging.
Image: Simphiwe Nkwali

Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said on Friday that of all the things he had done during his tenure, he was most proud of having improved township education.

He was speaking on Power FM's breakfast show on his last day in office.

"To leave office knowing that almost 15% of township schools got 100% in matric ... which means they wrote the same exam as children in private schools but they scored 100% and some private schools scored 70%.

"It's something that I cherish to say, at least, we've demonstrated that given time, skills, talent and resources, we can change township education," he said.

Lesufi served as the MEC for five years.

Speaking about his other achievements in the office, he was excited to have secured a partnership with car maker BMW. The department last month launched an engineering school in the north of Pretoria with an automotive focus. Here, high school learners are trained on how to build the new BMW X3.

"But also partnerships with top companies like BMW, for us to go to Germany and persuade Germany to come and adopt a school on Soshanguve, in the middle of a township and convert that school to a school of BMW, it was unthinkable but we did that," he said.

BMW SA donated at least one of its X3 models to the new Soshanguve Engineering School of Specialisation (SoS) for educational purposes.

"The newest model of BMW is in the middle of a township, nowhere else across the globe, and children in Soshanguve are being taught how to build that car and not how to wash it," he said.

While Lesufi has been widely praised for his continued effort in public service, he admitted there were areas in which he could have done better.

"There was some misunderstanding between ourselves and the minority groups in the country, to be quite frank, especially people that are speaking Afrikaans, because the previous regime invested a lot of resources and energy in them," he said.

Lesufi said the Afrikaans and coloured communities often felt neglected and on the periphery, and that could have been handled better.

"Our coloured communities feel marginalised, not loved, feel they are on the periphery. So these two groups, I really feel like that it's one area that was not done well in persuading them …" he told the station.

During his tenure, several protests surfaced in mostly coloured and Afrikaans communities, from disgruntled community members, parents and schools.

He cited the vandalising of schools as a huge challenge.

"But also our investment in the ICT, it's massive. To see communities stealing things and destroying these things … was discouraging … I think we failed to make society to see that this investment is for your own children, don't destroy it," he said.

Asked about his next move, he did not comment on the possibility of getting a ministerial position.

"The president will announce his own new cabinet when he is elected, let's hope that it will be a cabinet that will represent all of us and serve South Africans better," he said.

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