During the opening ceremony of the Back-to-School programme in Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) in the Eastern Cape, the mayor of Makana Local Municipality, Ms Yandiswa Vara, and the Speaker of Sarah Baartman District Municipality, Ms Nomhle Gaga, welcomed National Assembly Speaker Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, describing her as a true revolutionary and humble leader of the people.

The opening ceremony for the two-day outreach programme took place in Ms Mapisa-Nqakula’s Makhanda Constituency Office yesterday. Addressing the audience, which included grade 10, 11 and 12 learners from a special school in the area, Ms Vara said: “Ms Mapisa-Nqakula is a symbol of real and genuine representatives of the people, who are always driven by their love for the people.”

The mayor and provincial speaker also welcomed the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Lechesa Tsenoli, who participated virtually in the opening part of the programme, and acknowledged the presence of NA Members participating in the programme, including the House Chairperson responsible for committees, Mr Cedric Frolic.

The Secretary to the NA, Mr Masibulele Xaso, explained the role and significance of Parliamentary Constituency Offices (PCOs), saying they are a strategic interface between the people and Parliament. He encouraged the school pupils to share their views with the PCOs on anything falling under Parliament’s constitutional mandate. He also encouraged his listeners to familiarise themselves with how Parliament works, explaining that it comprises two houses with different constitutional mandates.

According to the Makhanda PCO field worker, Mr Siyanda Jam, Sara Baartman’s 2021 matric class performed well, despite its challenges, some of which arose due to shortened learning time during the Covid-19 pandemic. Mr Jam said the office aims to promote a spirit of commitment among the Grade 12 learners of 2022 to achieve their best.

Mr Jam said the Back-to-School programme creates a platform for learners to express their challenges and state their needs. Two representatives from each of the 11 schools participating in the programme highlighted the problems their schools are experiencing. They told Ms Mapisa-Nqakula that they often arrive at school in the morning hungry and the food provided by government through the scholar feeding scheme does not reach them.  

Other participants in the Back-to-School programme include the Department of Basic Education, the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the National Students Financial Scheme and the Department of Social Development.

Mava Lukani
12 April 2022