The Free State Department of Education has been criticized for its poor performance in delivering quality education to learners in the province. During the Budget Vote Debate on 14 April 2023, MPL Mariette Pittaway of the Democratic Alliance (DA) highlighted several issues plaguing the education system in the Free State.
Pittaway criticized the department for achieving only 48% of its planned targets and failing to achieve 52% of planned targets for the 2021/22 financial year. She also pointed out the lack of scholar transport, which has contributed to the high dropout rate among learners in rural areas. “The lack of resources and qualified teachers, as well as the increase in violence in schools, are major issues that need to be addressed urgently,” said Pittaway.
According to the Auditor General’s Report, the department had outstanding accruals of R25,335,000, payables of R152,414,000, and capital commitments of R820,562,000 as at 31 March 2022. The department also incurred an irregular expenditure of R236,131,000 and an unauthorised expenditure of R328,232,000. Pittaway highlighted the success of the Rapid School Build programme in the Western Cape, which aims to deliver 842 additional classrooms with at least 26,000 places for learners in the province.
Pittway urged the ANC to include the number of schools built during the past year in the Free State in their reply to the Budget Speech. “More ANC denials will not deliver the education that our children deserve,” she said. “We must face these challenges with integrity and honesty, by doing so, we can inspire and influence others to do the same, creating a positive ripple effect in our communities and society as a whole.”
The Department of Education in the Free State has yet to respond to these criticisms. However, the Public Protector is currently investigating an allegation of irregularities relating to the construction of the Vogelfontein Primary School, which was allocated R60 million and abandoned after about a third was consumed by the contractor. It is clear that urgent action is needed to address the issues facing the education system in the Free State.