Church leaders in Port Elizabeth took significant steps this week to position the Church in Nelson Mandela Bay to play a pivotal role in addressing an education crisis that threatens the future of children in the region.
On Monday evening (January 11, 2016) church leaders, who had been approached by the Northern Areas Education Forum (NAEF) to help get local education back on track in the wake of plummeting matric results and widespread teacher shortages due to departmental cutbacks, co-hosted a public meeting at Ebenezer Centre that drew a sizeable crowd of credible education and community leaders. NAEF Secretary Richard Draai, Pastor Neville Goldman of Ebenezer Centre, and Archdeacon Zweli Tom adressed the gathering which gave the go-ahead for them to pursue the formation of an umbrella educational forum that will not replace existing educational initiatives in the metro but will engage constructively and assertively with educational authorities.
On Wednesday a small, interim Church/education task team met informally to keep momentum moving forward and to prepare for a meeting that evening with Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masualle and Education MEC Mandla Makupula to discuss strategies to revive education in the area and to set up local, provincial and national communication channels. The interim task team will meet again next Wednesday to discuss priorities, the organisation of an educational summit in Nelson Mandela Bay (an idea proposed from the floor at Monday’s public meeting), and to finalise an effective task team.
This week’s developments follow months of discussions between Church leadership in PE and various education stakeholders who are desperate to see drastic action towards rescuing the future of children in the region. In 2014 the Church identified “education” as the country’s number one challenge at local, provincial and national level and the Church leaders in PE believe the Church enjoys the trust of different groups in the emotionally and politically charged educational arena and must rise to the challenge.
Yesterday (Wednesday, January 13, 2016) schools reopened in all areas of Nelson Mandela Bay despite voices in the NAEF that called for an indefinite shutdown of schools in the Northern Areas in protest of the Department of Education’s failure to heed its demands including provision of adequate teachers. Richard Draai distanced the NAEF from the shutdown calls. In August last year about 50 Northern Areas schools were closed by protesting parents for two weeks leading to public violence.