An Open Letter To The Department Of Basic Education


With the South African school year in full swing, the spotlight is on the National Department of Basic Education with the Founder and Coordinator of Parents for Equal Education South Africa (PEESA), Vanessa Le Roux, writing an open letter urging for more to be done to ensure equal access to quality education.

We as SAFMH are rather concerned that while the Department of Basic Education hosts ongoing departmental meetings, there needs to be an evaluation of of the implementation of policy directives at provincial and local level. There must also be space for beneficiaries, parents and civil society to raise concerns and let government know whether the programmes implemented are reaching the beneficiaries. This letter raises important concerns that government must listen to and take action so that equality in education for persons with disabilities is achieved.

Find the full letter below.

Hon Members of Portfolio Committee for Education

All Stakeholders

Chairperson, I trust this communication finds you well.

I am Vanessa Le Roux, Founder of the organisation, Parents for Equal Education South Africa.

Chair, on numerous occasions I have written to this committee, and not once have this committee shown enough respect to the most important stakeholder in this country, which is the Parents of learners in this country, learners over which the department makes decisions over.

Chair, today I want to be frank and honest, and critical, because while you spend your time in these meetings, thousands of learners is roaming the streets, not because they don’t want to attend school, because of Provincial Education Departments failure to provide them with something as basic as a classroom, desk, and handbooks, how do you then present future plans, when just in the Mitchells Plain district, in the Western Cape, over 2000 learners are not in a classroom yet, this is not a new problem, the department knows about these children, and continues problem each and every year, where the numbers just grow, without any concern for thousands that are being left behind, because it is easier to label them as drop-outs, then to grant them their basic right to education.

Chair, I must be honest, once and a while I log into these meetings and is equally shocked that this committee is in the same space of patting themselves on the back , when as activists we are dealing with the crisis. Chair I know these meetings don’t make space for civil society organisations to raise the issues on the platform it is presented, because this committee have taken a deliberate stance, that they won’t listen to the people of South Africa, each and every member of this committee have conveniently forgot who the Parliament really is.

Education is in such a crisis, that when we listen to this feedback, it is easier to think that you are referring to another country, on the ground we are furious, and please call me emotional, when we see how comfortably you leave thousands of children behind, and plan ahead as if they don’t exist, children from poor communities, who can not afford to roam the streets. Chair this is some of our issues.

Grade R/ ECD

Chair, we will have to agree, the handover of this sector was sloppy to say the least, and the take-over is nothing sort of confusion. The DBE have taken over this sector without proper planning, or consultation. This was bound to be a crisis, when we knew Provincial departments, and schools don’t have the infrastructure to accommodate this sector, and as activists we are left to deal with desperate Parents, who at all cost want to have their children placed in grade R classes at school, in order to secure a placement for their children for grade 1.

Grade R is compulsory, yet we see from the start we leave these teachers despondent, when we pay them according to their qualifications, these people do the same work as those qualified, the department dont expect less admin from them, less deadlines, or less results, yet we exploit these teachers due to their qualifications, and not their years of experience, they are expected to do the same work as those qualified a year ago, even when some of them are in the sector for over 30 years, they must work for less money, and no benefits, and equally we lack to provide a plan to certify them.

Reading panel observation

It all starts with the ECD sector, the very same sector we treat as less important, should be the sector that address this problem, the reading panel treated this research extremely unfairly, if we look back, those children who they are doing their research on, is the same children who was at home during a deadly pandemic, when it was expected of them to learn the alphabet, they are now being punished for a natural disaster, they had no control over, and we feed into the narrative that they don’t have the ability, when they was never taught to do it.

With your permission Chair, I want to address the observation of Hon Ndoda that the Western Cape is the front runner for reading champions. Mr Ndoda, we should not play politics with the future of the poor and vulnerable. I am based in the Western Cape, we read in the headlines about 111 million rand that was allocated to an NGO, to roll out this programme, and I am working in each and every region in this province, we are yet to see what you are talking about. When I approached very senior district officials to enquire about this programme, they have no knowledge of it, schools don’t have any knowledge about it, so please enlighten us about these dishonesty that you are spreading, because it can not be further from the reality.

As an activist, on the ground that this committee refuse to listen, there is a huge issue with these colourful presentations that departments constantly present to this committee, we are yet to see where it materialise, currently we stand witness to classes so overcrowded, that one person, have to teach up to 74 learners per class in the Kannaland district of the Western Cape, how is this not a gross violation of the right to quality basic education?

I represent 109 600 Parents on one platform, where daily discussions happens, and we are definitely not on one page, we have not even start to address the inequalities, infact the government of the day is complicit in turning the right to basic education into a business, where only those who are able to afford it, will be having the opportunity to have it, we are planning the future of poor children, based on wealthy presentations, and abilities.

The Special Needs Sector

The special needs sector becomes a total waste of resources, if we don’t have any intention of recognising these programmes in the work-place, or on an NQF level, failure to do that, is a mere waste of resources, if our outcome is that these learners will be dependant on the state, by means of a grant for the rest of their lives, and not equip them with the necessary tools to contribute to the economy. There is a blanket approach in this sector, for example the autism spectrum, we fail to acknowledge that the sector have two components, which is the high functioning autism learner, that can we brilliant, if given the necessary tools.

The United Nations have classified South Africa, and in particular The Western Cape, as the country and province with the highest number of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disease (FASD) learners in the world, these learners are not even recognised in the sector as a child with special needs, although the academic capabilities are as limited as foundation phase, these children are being hidden in mainstream schools, under the disguise of inclusive education.

Chair, members of this committee, officials. We are in crisis, our children commit suicide, bullying in our schools escalated to the point, where Parents fear for the lives of their children, not one educaton department have started engaging with the justice department, the NPA or SAPS, because these activities is nothing short of criminal, this committee dont look into the face of the Parents of the late Danisha Windvogel, a victim of bullying, who committed suicide as a result of bullying, they dont see the distraught Parents of this 14 year old girl, who they had so any dreams for, to the point where they dont know how to pick up the pieces, they dont see the tears and loss of her 14 year old best friend, who’s mother had to quit her job, in order to make sure her child make it through another day, as there is not a place on her body that she did’nt cut, you dont see the trauma that child is going through, and how her mother in tears tell me, that she cant wake her child up in the morning like a normal child, she needs to first check for traces of blood on the sheets, then put her fingers aginst her neck to check if she is still breathing.

The members of this committee ignore the fact that so many children in mainstream schools, are sitting with a learning disability, where they are being ignored, they don’t get tested, and are labelled as ill discipline, and teachers that are not trained to deal with these matters are left to fend for themselves, and many times placed in dangerous situations where they are on the receiving end of the frustration of these learners. You are elected by the people, and you have utter disregard for the trust we have placed in you. You even dismiss written communication, and display that you don’t have an obligation to account, listen, and work for us, who is holding you accountable?

The biggest injustice that can happen to us as a country, is that we have to wait for 5 years to respond to the utter disrespect, and dismissal shown to us, but I can assure you, as Parents, when it comes to our children, we have extremely long memories, a mother never forgets those who did an injustice to her child, a mother will never forget those who deprived her children. and I can assure you that we will remember the injustices that are being done to our children, while you are patting each others backs, we will definitely remember, that you were extremely reckless with with the only tool poor people have, to escape their circumstances.

Yours in Education

Vanessa Le Roux

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