By Chamu Wilson
The Free State government has set out to improve education, roads network, public housing, health provision, among others.
Delivering her maiden State of the Province Address (SOPA) at the University of Free State South Campus on Tuesday (19 Feb), Free State Premier, Sefora Sisi Ntombela, detailed a number of programmes to improve the standard of life of the majority of residents in the province.
“We are proud of the achievements that we have made on the provision of education infrastructure over the last few years. This year we will officially open 11 schools while eight new schools will be built,” Ntombela said.
Schools will be officially opened in the following areas, Vrede, Warden, Hoopstad, Hertzogville, Bethlehem, Clocolan, Botshabelo, Zastron and three schools in Bloemfontein while the following areas will have new schools; Trompsburg, Viljoenskroon, Bethlehem, Sasolburg, Bothaville, Parys, Frankfort as well as Tweeling.
The Premier also set out plans to eradicate the issue of pit latrines in schools in the province.
“We have 156 schools with pit latrines, 51 of these schools are in Thabo Mofutsanyana followed by Fezile Dabi with 43 schools with pit latrines. The number of schools in Mangaung with pit latrines is 20 while Lejweleputswa has 39 and Xhariep has three.”
According to Ntombela, the provincial government will this year seek to fill up all the vacant teaching posts in schools while most of the temporary teachers will be absorbed into the system. Since February 2018, a total of 716 temporary teachers have been absorbed into the system.
The Premier took time to applaud the efforts of Education MEC, Tate Makgoe and his department for the achievements made in the sector that have resulted in the province consistently becoming the best performing province in the National School Certificate on two consecutive occasions, 2016 and 2017. She also praised Fezile Dabi district for being the top performing district nationally on two consecutive occasions.
Ntombela castigated violence in schools and warned learners that assault on teachers will not be tolerated in the province.
Turning to the health sector, the Premier noted that there is need to bolster the medical staff complement in the Free State.
“We now have 32 hospitals and 223 clinics. 884 doctors and 6 657 nurses manage these health facilities. Considering the high burden of disease, we need to recruit 457 more doctors and 1 710 more nurses. We will fill vacancies with doctors and nurses that are now in training in various institutions. If we have unemployed nurses that are qualified, we also encourage them to apply.”
Two hospitals that have been undergoing upgrades are set to be officially opened this year while major improvements to five other hospitals and 14 clinics throughout the province.
In this financial year, the provincial government has set itself a target of 600 Community Residential Units and 1 999 Social Housing units. Of the planned 12 834 service sites, 1 890 sites have been completed. A further 4 605 housing units are expected to be delivered.
On roads, Ntombela has set out to undertake seven projects in Cornelia, Thaba Nchu, Zastron, Jacobsdal, Memel and Qwaqwa while six roads are planned to be built this year.
The Premier also touched on efforts to revive the agriculture and mining sectors in the province while further boosting the impact of tourism which has arrivals increasing in the past financial year. She, however, bemoaned the service delivery challenges that have seen protests in most municipalities.