WCED Head of Department, Brian Schreuder. Picture: Handout
WCED Head of Department, Brian Schreuder. Picture: Handout

Sayed and Schäfer clash over WCED Head of Education, Brian Schreuder

By Opinion Time of article published Sep 16, 2020

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In two piece’s recently published in the Cape Argus newspaper, ANC spokesperson on education in the legislature, Muhammad Khalid Sayed and Western Cape MEC for Education, Debbie Schäfer clash over the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) Head of Education, Brian Schreuder.

Schreuder’s legacy marred by arrogance of the DA

by Muhammad Khalid Sayed

Allow me to pay a personal tribute to the work of Brian Schreuder and what he has done in the Western Cape Education Department (WCED).

While one may not always have agreed with what he and his team have done, there is no doubt in my own conviction that Mr Schreuder has served education in our province to the best of his ability.

Like so many others, Schreuder exemplifies commitment to education despite very difficult and strenuous challenges.

Schreuder’s diligence, tenacity and leadership has certainly left an indelible mark on many educators and learners, and while politicians are often quick to claim the credit, we must, at times, stop to give credit where credit is due.

It is, therefore, deeply unfortunate that Schreuder’s legacy be tarnished by a political leadership that has displayed nothing but arrogance and acerbity.

The finding of the Public Service Commission that Schreuder’s retention for a further two years without a provincial legislature resolution (is irregular) is a further example of the deliberate undermining of stakeholders by the political leadership of education in the province.

As we saw throughout the Covid-19 crisis, and specifically how it affected the education sector, the Education MEC governed by decree and dismissed a consultative approach to tackling the questions and concerns of educators, parents, learners and other stakeholders.

Like with her letter on Schreuder’s position despite the PSC ruling, we have seen a political leadership in education during the Covid-19 crisis who cares little for the law and who makes enemies out of those who take a critical view.

When political leaders across the globe were displaying caution in the reopening of schools or ensuring that they strenuously work with stakeholders to ensure the safety of learners and their families, our WCED continued to display attitudes of arrogance. Educators were hauled before disciplinary hearings.

According to the MEC, the SA Human Rights Commission was wrong. Unions are seen as her foes, while parents are simply confused. Everyone else is wrong, but the MEC. Repeatedly, we questioned whether educators and learners were getting the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE). Indeed, we now see that while our educators and learners lacked PPE in some instances, the MEC and her department made sure that one company received R118 million to supply PPE.

Continuously, we wanted to know whether schools were ready to receive larger numbers of learners, and as these past few weeks have proven, the MEC was wrong about her perceived state of readiness. Social distancing continues to be a major concern, especially in poorer schools in our province. Our educators, already under pressure, have now the added responsibilities of guaranteeing that the safety and health measures regulated by the law are adhered to.

Given that classes were half in size, and assistant educators were to be appointed to double up the supervision and educator numbers, the MEC of Education provided little leadership. Now only, when matriculants are on the way to their final exams, the department started advertising as there is a critical shortage of matric educators.

* Khalid Sayed MPL is the deputy chief whip and ANC spokesperson on education in the legislature. He writes in his personal capacity. Picture: Leandri Niemand

All of this mismanagement and disregard for stakeholders has a direct impact on the quality of education in the province. As one of the constitutional competencies for provinces, the DA is already illustrating how they will run a department and sector over which they have a say.

The inability of the DA and the MEC for Education in particular to govern with communities and stakeholders as well as their complete disregard for the law, as shown in the further retention of Brian Shreuder, should spell for South Africans the kind of government we will see under DA rule.

Yet, we cannot allow for a provincial government to flout the law in the Western Cape. The further retention of Brian Schreuder was clearly irregular, as found by the Public Service Commission, and it would only be proper for the premier, if he respects the law, to make an application to the high court, as recommended by the PSC report, to declare the retention as irregular.

The ANC has called a debate on the matter and the report in the House and will certainly be raising the issue in the education committee as well when the premier and the MEC brief the committee next week.

Personally, I would like to once again take the opportunity to thank Brian Schreuder for all his efforts as the province’s top administrative official and pay tribute to him as he prepares for well-deserved retirement.

Our province owes much to him and his colleagues.

Yet, the ANC will not allow the DA provincial government to continue to undermine the efforts of these officials, nor will we allow the DA-led Western Cape provincial government to flout the law.

* Khalid Sayed MPL is the deputy chief whip and ANC spokesperson on education in the legislature. He writes in his personal capacity.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Debunking slanderous and false claims

by Debbie Schäfer

Khalid Sayed has launched an unwarranted and dishonest attack on myself and the WCED, which I cannot allow to stand unchallenged.

We reject Sayed’s assertion that the extension of Mr Schreuder’s term of office was irregular and that the Western Cape government has acted outside the law.

Mr Schreuder’s term of office was extended by the premier in 2018, in accordance with advice from the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) in 2017. This advice was that the provisions of section 16(7) of the Public Service Act do not apply to heads of department, who are appointed on contract.

This means the approval of parliament is not required for the extension of the term of office of heads of department beyond the retirement age, as is the case with permanent employees.

The DPSA’s advice meant it was not necessary to obtain parliamentary approval for the extension of Mr Schreuder’s term of office, as contended by the Public Service Commission (PSC) in a draft report.

The premier, in his comprehensive response to the draft report, drew attention to the DPSA’s advice and asked the PSC to consult the DPSA as part of their investigation. They declined to do so, dismissed the DPSA’s advice as wrong and proceeded to dismiss, in its entirety, the premier’s response to their draft report and declare it final.

It is also important to understand that the Western Cape government is not obligated to accept the findings of the PSC when we do not agree with them. In such cases, the established practice is to inform the PSC of our disagreement and to set out the reasons why. This was done in detail.

We have not done anything outside the law, the extension of Mr Schreuders’ term of office was approved in accordance with the advice of the DPSA, and Sayed’s sanctimonious apparent praise for Mr Schreuder rings hollow.

Brian Schreuder, assisting a blind student, Sisipho Khubukeli at Leeuwenhof 2014 NSC Awards. Picture Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

This, for me, is the most important aspect that I need to address, given Mr Schreuder’s reputation and that of the Western Cape government, as we pride ourselves in upholding the rule of law.

But I also need to address several of the other claims by Sayed. He claims we are flouting the law, but cannot provide proof. He alleges the department’s procurement of protective materials for schools was irregular, but does not explain why. He claims I “made sure” one company received orders for these materials.

In the Western Cape government, politicians are not allowed to dominate supply chain processes to steal public funds. Here, political representatives do not get involved in these processes, and I did not.

I challenge Sayed to publicly provide evidence for this claim that I was involved, because it is slanderous and legally actionable.

Sayed’s opportunism is further illustrated by his constant criticism of the reopening of schools. He openly undermi ned and attacked the position of the national minister, by supporting disruptions at schools and questioning the recommendations of medical experts.

While I engaged with stakeholders like the KEF and Cosas to defuse tensions and co-operatively improve safety at schools, Sayed supported and participated in protests. And yet, when clear medical evidence emerged that individuals were not at greater risk of Covid-19 at schools than anywhere else, he was nowhere to be seen.

In statements during this pandemic, Sayed has attacked the work of our government, and every single time our department has been vindicated.

When we were the only province to feed pupils in the face of a growing hunger crisis, he attacked saying it would spread infection. It didn’t, and the court ruled that other provinces had failed in their constitutional duty to provide for children. Of course, he now claims he supported school feeding all along.

When we chose to stick to the national minister’s gazetted directions and open schools for our pupils, he attacked us again – despite the Human Rights Commission publicly admitting we were within our rights to do so.

He makes claims about “some schools” needing protective materials, or not following protocols now that all grades have returned – but doesn’t provide names so we can investigate.

Clearly Sayed is less interested in the safety and education of pupils than he is in political point-scoring.

We will not stop fighting for quality education for every pupil. We will not stop working to make sure all our pupils and staff are safe. And we will not be deterred by his false claims.

* Debbie Schäfer is Education MEC.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

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