Durban - Principals of schools that recorded matric pass rates of 35 percent or below last year have been warned that they face being removed from their positions.

The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education would be monitoring those schools, department head Nkosinathi Sishi said on Wednesday as schools opened for the new academic year.

Education officials, members of the provincial legislature and the cabinet visited schools across KZN on Wednesday.

Sishi, who visited KwaGxaba Secondary School in Mtubatuba, said the school was one of those his department would be keeping a close eye on.

“They received a 16 percent pass rate for matric, so we will make sure there is a turnaround,” he said.

Sishi said the quintile one school, which has 250 pupils and 11 teachers, did not have a good track record, because it obtained only a 12 percent pass rate in 2008.

“A new principal was appointed last year, so the department has intervened. A team of district officials has been tasked with producing a report on the way forward,” he said.

“If the principal is found to be incapable at the end of the year after departmental support, the HOD can implement the incapacity code declaring the principal incapable of executing his or her responsibilities. The principal is then removed from the school and taken for training or simply removed (permanently) from the school.”

Sishi said this would be the case for all principals whose schools obtained a pass rate of 35 percent or below last year.

Another school, in Hluhluwe, had received inconsistent pass rates ranging from between 69 percent in 2002 to 32 percent last year. This was almost a 50 percent drop from the 2012 pass rate of 61 percent.

“The principal said the teachers lived far away and had to travel, so there was limited contact with the children,” Sishi said.

He said the department was also intervening at a primary school in Inanda where facilities and the school structure had become dilapidated through use by community members.

“We will be moving the children to another school nearby and discontinuing the school,” he said.

IFP MPL Les Govender, who visited a school in Mayville, said several concerns had been raised.

“The principal did not know how many pupils were in his school. He said pupils arrive on the first day and then don’t come back just so they can access grants,” Govender said.

He said he would request this be investigated because the school, by not giving correct numbers, was defrauding the department by receiving a higher allocated amount per pupil, and pupils were defrauding the State by claiming social grants when they were not attending school.

Other issues raised were non-functional toilets for the more than 1 000 pupils, the high teen pregnancy, and a non-functional school governing body.

Tom Stokes, the DA’s spokesman for education, said initial impressions on school readiness were that the departmental programmes were effectively in place, that books and stationery had been distributed but there were still some concerns.

Schools had been instructed to spend their Learner Teacher Support Material funds on books and stationery rather than furniture, leaving several pupils without chairs and desks, he said.

“KZN needs R400 million to fix the shortage of furniture, but the Department of Basic Education has only allocated R90m.”

He also said that feeding schemes were not all functional on the first day of school and that a number of management programmes at school levels needed to be assessed.

Stokes said members of the legislature would continue to visit schools throughout the year, revisiting those where problems were raised to ensure they were being attended to.

Premier Senzo Mchunu said he was pleased to see that all schools he had visited in the Eshowe area were functioning on the first day, and that glitches were minimal.

“This government has placed education at the top of our key priorities, with the aim of providing quality public education for all learners,” said Mchunu.

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