Elections 2024: What the major political parties say about education

We sent questions to the ANC, DA, EFF, IFP, FF Plus, ActionSA, PA, MK Party and RISE Mzansi

By GroundUp Staff

12 April 2024

Graphic of school

South Africa’s education system is in a poor way. We asked political parties what they would do to fix it. Illustration: Lisa Nelson

Today’s questions to the major political parties deal with basic education.

We asked the ANC, DA, EFF, IFP, FF Plus, ActionSA, PA, MK Party, and RISE Mzansi on 13 March and sent follow-up queries to those who did not respond. Some have still not responded.

Answers are very lightly edited for grammar and typos.

What steps would your party take to ensure that a greater percentage of South African children can read, write and do arithmetic at an age-appropriate standard?

ANC: The ANC did not respond to our questions.

DA: The DA will improve the reading, writing and arithmetic abilities of our learners by:

EFF: The EFF intends to implement Early Childhood Learning from the age of three years old, free of charge to all South African children. This will include in-depth curriculae that encourage age-appropriate learning through play, as well as build on literacy from an early age.

IFP: Prioritise Early Childhood Development (ECD) programmes for a strong foundation in these areas of learning.

FF Plus: Mother tongue education is key to improving the literacy rate and the arithmetic standard. We will ensure that all official languages are developed so that children can complete schooling and go to university in their mother tongue. Community based education is also crucial.

ActionSA: To improve basic educational outcomes, ActionSA will establish a presidential task team of independent experts to implement the National Reading Plan.

We will allocate a sufficient budget for reading interventions and resources in Foundation Phase classrooms. We will ensure that Foundation Phase teachers receive training on teaching children how to read meaningfully at least once every quarter.

ActionSA will provide access to parental reading training initiatives to empower parents to help their children read for meaning and create a culture of reading by launching community reading programmes.

ActionSA will introduce training to improve the ability of existing Foundation Phase teachers to teach numeracy at age-appropriate levels, and we will implement evidence-based teaching methods for numerical skills development.

PA: Subjecting teachers to competency tests (something SADTU vehemently opposes) would be a very good start. We also believe that a school depends heavily on the leadership of its principal. School heads should be hired independently of the unions and held to the highest standards.

MK Party: The MK Party did not respond to our questions.

RISE Mzansi: RISE Mzansi believes our basic education system is broken and requires comprehensive reform. First, education requires a new Minister of Basic Education with the vision and fortitude to lead systemic reform.

Second, we need to improve how we train teachers, support them in the classroom and hold them accountable for student performance.

Third, we need to provide higher-quality, timeous data – including through better and more regular standardised testing – on student performance to education system leaders, principals and parents. Finally, we need to address the capture of education administration – and associated corruption and patronage – by political parties and teachers’ unions.

The implementation of the norms and standards policy for school infrastructure – including the provision of toilets, libraries and proper classrooms – is many years delayed. How would you speed up implementation?

ANC: The ANC did not respond to our questions.

DA: The DA will speed up the realisation of the norms and standards policy for school infrastructure by:

We will enhance accountability in school infrastructure projects by ensuring improved accountability mechanisms by the DBE. The DA will

EFF: The EFF recognises the crucial need for speedy implementation of the norms and standards policy for school infrastructure, as education is one of the areas we have consistently been vocal on. Here’s how we plan to accelerate this process:

1. Prioritisation and Phasing:

We will prioritise urgent needs like toilets, libraries, and proper classrooms.

A clear, phased approach will be implemented, focusing on the most critical areas first.

2. Resource Mobilisation:

We will explore innovative funding mechanisms like Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) and redirecting wasteful government spending towards education infrastructure. Local businesses and farmers will also be prioritised for school meal programmes and construction projects, boosting the local economy.

3. Streamlining Bureaucracy:

We will cut unnecessary red tape and establish a dedicated task force to fast-track approvals for infrastructure projects, while empowering local communities through participatory budgeting to ensure projects address their specific needs.

4. Utilising Existing Programs:

We will leverage existing initiatives like the Expanded Public Works Programme to create jobs and expedite construction. Furthermore, existing teacher training programs will be revamped to equip them with skills for technology integration and inclusive education.

5. Transparency and Accountability:

We will establish clear timelines and performance indicators for all infrastructure projects. Regular progress reports will be made public, fostering transparency and holding ourselves accountable.

6. Capacitate Teachers and Educational Resources:

Furthermore, we will increase teacher training through the creation of high-tech teacher training colleges to equip educators to utilise new technology in upgraded classrooms. Additional learning materials will be provided to enhance education in improved facilities, while we will build accessible school libraries which will create lifelong learners in surrounding communities.

IFP: We will address underfunding by restructuring the education budget to improve infrastructure and resources in schools.

FF Plus: Corruption and the inflation of prices related to school infrastructure projects have led to severe delays and shortages. Resources should be spent efficiently and the best value for money should be the only criterion used in the award of tenders for these projects.

PA: There is no real will from the government to do this. When Gayton McKenzie was the mayor of Central Karoo, he showed that it was possible to eradicate the bucket toilet system in the entire district without needing enormous amounts of money, and not needing more than a few months. We have an incapable state.

Contractors are hired using procurement processes that are prone to corruption. We should instead go back to creating government departments that can deliver and employ people to do the work. For the enormous amounts of money that get blown on hiring consultants, experts, contractors and every manner of professional firm, you could give so many qualified people jobs in the public sector to get these same jobs done. Instead, we are hiring more and more “managers” into the public sector who only farm the work out to private companies who may or may not get anything done. Often, they just steal the money, run away and start new companies to do it all over again.

ActionSA: Fixing South Africa’s education system, particularly with reference to the need to expand access, requires that we couple an increase in infrastructure investment with system-wide reforms, ranging from education administration and bureaucracy.

It is also critical that we implement strict performance and consequence management practices in supply chain and procurement processes that hold underperforming and non-performing service providers accountable, especially as it concerns infrastructure projects.

MK Party: The MK Party did not respond to our questions.

RISE Mzansi: Dilapidated, unsafe schools are unacceptable. It is vital that schools are safe spaces for children. RISE Mzansi would complete an audit of the schools with the greatest infrastructure challenges, calculate the funds required to achieve minimum standards of safety, and lobby to fully fund this through the Budget. RISE Mzansi would establish national and provincial delivery units to drive implementation, according to a clear timetable, with monthly progress updates reported to the public until completion.