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Johannesburg - The Department of Basic Education (DBE) said it wanted to correct the wrong impression created by media reports that its director-general seemed 'uncaring' and unprepared when he appeared before the gender equality commission on Tuesday.

"It would have been better if media reports focused on what the commission sought to achieve as opposed to focusing on peripheral matters," said DBE spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga on Wednesday.  

"We further reject the notion that the director-general Mathanzima Mweli appeared before the commission without any report or presentation. The director-general prepared for the commission in accordance with the letter and notice to appear received from the commission," said Mhlanga. 

"The impression created could not be further from the truth, as the commission was provided with more than what they had expected. DBE supplied additional information, reports and documents on the spot upon request by commissioners".

Mhlanga said the entire morning focused on the misunderstanding of current powers of what the DBE was responsible for regarding provinces, as covered in schedule 4 and section 40(1) of the constitution, and sections 8, 3 and 4 of the national education policy act. 

The letter from the commission and the notice had specific cases affecting Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, North West and Northern Cape, and nothing on the DBE. 

In fact, said Mhlanga, the letter indicated that the commission wasn’t getting cooperation from these provinces and the DBE ensured that they all attended and prepared for the hearing. 

He said Mweli prepared a report for an overview about how the department had been monitoring trends of school violence, bullying as well as misconduct and submitted 10 documents to the Commission on October 1. 

The commission sought to obtain greater insight regarding schools.

Mweli was leading a delegation of education department heads from four provinces who were all appearing before the commission to provide information on specific cases involving violence on learners, and measures taken to address the situation. 

"The initial misunderstanding regarding areas of responsibility and expectations at the hearing between the DG and HODs was cleared. However, it appears that media reports seek to project the DG as an uncaring official who does not take issues of violence seriously, which is untrue."

"The director-general spends more time on the ground visiting schools than in the office, which demonstrates his commitment and concern about the plight and wellbeing of learners in our schools. Mr Mweli visits provinces on a regular basis annually to monitor schools and interact with learners, teachers and officials," said Mhlanga.

Mhlanga said that the department rejected the notion that the director-general was taking the commission for granted. 

African News Agency (ANA)