Panyaza Lesufi, MEC for Education in Gauteng File picture: Oupa Mokoena/ANA
Johannesburg - When Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi came into office three years ago, he resolved to invest in ailing, neglected township schools.

It was now paying off, he said. “We're starting to see people bringing their children back to the township schools because of their improved academic performance and because we’re building more beautiful schools in our townships,” a “proud” Lesufi said on Friday, after announcing Gauteng’s matric results.

“We’ve built 40 new schools in our townships since 2014 and these are state-of-the-art schools. They are working really nicely and that’s influencing their matric performance as well.”

This included the introduction of schools of specialisation in townships, eradicating “chalk and talk” for smartboards, introducing ICT programmes and twinning well-resourced schools with their counterparts.

“We spend R130m a year on school camps, winter schools, Saturday schools and so we’ve really invested in township schools and that is a true return on our investment. It’s encouraging.

“We give them support such as previous question papers, study guides and having extra tutors available for Saturday schools and so we're starting to see people bringing back children to the townships.”

Township schools, he said, were “closing the gap” academically but poor academic results blighted independent schools.

His administration was now “turning off the taps” by withdrawing subsidies from poorly performing independent schools.

Some of these schools, said Lesufi, were “serial offenders” whose learners did not even pitch up to write for matric exams.

“But we spend millions and at the end of the year they can’t even have one student who writes for matric. That’s the reason we’re saying we have to close the tap. We’re not subsidising them anymore.

“We’ll encourage learners at those schools to go to other schools because they are causing unnecessary headaches for the department.

“Even the exam question papers, the printing and delivery of paper, the many things we give to them only to find they don’t use the resources. It’s a waste.”

Gauteng achieved a 85.1% pass rate - the second best score in the country - which was “heartwarming”.

“There’s been a lot of stress and anxiety waiting for the results. It took its toll on me during Christmas.

“There was a lot of tension but when the results started coming in this week, it was heart-warming to see the performance of some of our schools.

“You can’t exchange that for anything.”

Still, the province was beaten by the Free State. “We only missed the number one slot by less than 1%, so it’s not far-fetched for us to be in top spot.”

Saturday Star