No public schools and only nine further education and training (FET) colleges are currently benefiting from the school e-rate, the 50% discount they are supposed to receive for their Internet connectivity, the Ministry of Education says. This information has come to light in a reply to a Parliamentary question posed by Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Paul Swart to education minister Naledi Pandor earlier this year. The DA received the reply last week. Swart's question was in two parts, and asked how many schools and FET colleges, as defined in the relevant laws, were benefiting from the e-rate in 2006, 2007 and this year.
In the reply, the answer was that currently no schools are benefiting from the e-rate, and that eight FET colleges in KwaZulu-Natal, namely: Coastal, Esayidi, Mnambithi Mthashana, Majuba, Thekwini, Umgungundhlovu, Elangeni, and Richtek, are receiving the discount. The Port Elizabeth FET College is the only institution in the Eastern Cape receiving the e-rate discount. The Universal Services and Access Agency of SA told Parliament earlier this year that a major problem of implementing the e-rate was what it actually meant. The agency said it was not clear if the e-rate referred to the actual modems, or other equipment needed to connect a school to the Internet, or the actual monthly cost, or all of it. In May last year, Telkom said it is providing the 50% discount rate to 1 300 public schools and all FET colleges, as defined by their relevant laws, which have applied to the company for the e-rate discount. DA communications spokesperson Dene Smuts describes the education minister's answer as 'another show of the Department of Communications' (DOC) pathetic attempts at formulating ICT policy.'