THE nine education MECs have come out strongly in defence of Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga's performance during the three years she has been in the Cabinet.
Their statement of support comes as Ms Motshekga's position in the Cabinet remains uncertain. The seven-month delay in the delivery of textbooks in Limpopo has caused a public furore, and multiple calls, including from within the African National Congress, have been made for her to step down or be fired.
At a media briefing in Pretoria yesterday, Basic Education Deputy Minister and Council of Education Ministers chairman Enver Surty said the council had "unequivocally affirmed the great achievements made in basic education" since Ms Motshekga took office.
Mr Surty said the council had resolved that the public scrutiny caused by the Limpopo textbook crisis did not accurately reflect the overall performance of the national department under the leadership of Ms Motshekga, and that "to drag the entire sector to the limitations and gaps of Limpopo was unfair".
A presidential task team established last month submitted a preliminary report on the causes of the delay to President Jacob Zuma on Monday, and is widely expected to lead to the axe falling on Limpopo officials, or Ms Motshekga, or both. Ms Motshekga, said to be a close ally of Mr Zuma, has strongly defended her tenure as minister and her role in Limpopo, saying while her department deserved a "smaller" part of the blame, other individuals bore ultimate responsibility.
Mr Surty said the council's "unequivocal and unanimous" support was in response to Ms Motshekga meeting most of the outcomes in the 2010 Delivery Agreement for Basic Education two years early.
Ms Motshekga's tenure had seen the target of a 70% pass rate being met two years before the target date of 2014, along with the successful implementation of pro-poor policies that had resulted in close to 100% participation in compulsory education, as well as agreements with public service and teachers' unions that have increased stability in the system, he said.
Prof Graeme Bloch, education analyst and senior researcher at the Mapungubwe Institute, said yesterday he "hoped" the sudden statement of support from the MECs did not represent an attempt to deflect the focus from their own performance in the system. The situation in Limpopo had, if anything, highlighted the importance of the provinces in implementing national policy, and ensuring education delivery, Prof Bloch said.
While progress, often ignored, had been registered in the basic education system under Ms Motshekga, the public focus on her and her department over Limpopo was not necessarily unfair, said Prof Bloch.
Until Ms Motshekga was willing to point fingers and name those culpable, answers over the quality of education delivery should be demanded from her, he said.
Mr Surty said yesterday it was unclear when Mr Zuma would make a pronouncement on the Limpopo textbook report, as it was a preliminary one and further interviews might be necessary.
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