Panyaza Lesufi is the Gauteng MEC for education.
Every day I imagine communities and a Rainbow Nation that is widely viewed as a model of what works; able to attract the best and the brightest from across our country and the world. I imagine a South Africa that is able to provide an opportunity for all, particularly our youth as our future leaders.

When I ask myself how all of the above can be achieved, I conclude that an effective strategy should concentrate on three key but diverse areas: infrastructure, innovation and education. That is why in Gauteng we are investing enormously in education to help end the cycle of poverty for children, families and communities.

At a time when high-quality education is most needed for professional success, the province’s priority is to create learning opportunities, graduate more learners and develop better-prepared leaders of the future. The provincial government has identified education as a priority and a societal matter, as articulated in the National Development Plan (NDP).

The NDP states: “The single most important investment any country can make is in its people. Education has an intrinsic and instrumental value in creating societies that are better able to respond to the challenges of the 21st century.” As a Member of Executive Council (MEC) for Education in Gauteng who is working hard with my colleagues to implement this strategy, I am appalled and galled by burglaries, break-ins and vandalism at some provincial schools.

A theft ring is preying on schools, stealing computers and other electronics. The thieves are not just stealing property, they are stealing our children’s education. And the people who buy stolen goods are supporting thievery and its criminal profits. While we are working hard with schools, the police and security experts try to reduce burglaries, but we are cognisant that schools are places of learning, not fortresses. 

Thieves have stolen hundreds of computers and other electronics worth thousands of rand during the past year. These days, these thieves are not only breaking into school properties to steal computer equipment, portable devices, etcetera, but also canned food and other products, which are meant for the school’s feeding scheme.

I was shattered, angry and emotionally devastated by the arrest of four women in Mamelodi in Pretoria, who were allegedly caught selling canned food and other products, which were meant for the school’s feeding scheme. What irked me more was the alleged acts were committed by people the department had employed to look after school pupils.

So why do I say the break-ins and thievery is frustrating our strategy of infrastructure, innovation and education?

The NDP wants 11 million more jobs to be created by 2030, the labour-intensive manufacturing and export sectors need to be expanded, money has to be allocated to key infrastructure projects as an enabler for job creation, and the quality of education and skills development is crucial, and ownership of production should be less concentrated and more diverse.

Just as our former president Nelson Mandela said, “Rhetoric is not important. Actions are.” Investing in roads, buildings and all kinds of infrastructure is central our nation’s development.

That is why I have dreamt of a province and a country where every kid has a laptop, an educational iPad and teaching is electronically based. I know it costs money, but if we’re saying information communication technology is going to be a central part of everyday life, we need to make sure our children are properly equipped to carry on learning and interacting in a productive way.

I subscribe to early childhood education, to ensure every child has access to opportunity - beginning with the foundation of early childhood education - and broadband, to guarantee universal, affordable, high-speed internet access for all.

Please keep an eye on your local school and, if you see anything suspicious, please call the police. The Gauteng Department of Education and police are committed to reducing school crime and ensuring that children don’t suffer because of the reckless, damaging acts of a few vandals or thieves.

* Panyaza Lesufi is Gauteng MEC for Education

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

The Star