Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, delivered her department’s Budget Vote Speech to parliament on 9 May. The overall budget allocation for 2018/19 contracted by 3% to just under R23 billion compared to last year’s R23.4 billion allocation.
Motshekga said the decrease will impact negatively on the Department of Basic Education (DBE)’s two major flagship infrastructure build programmes, namely the Education Infrastructure Grant (EIG) and the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI). The projects were set up to provide basic infrastructure to ensure schools are safe learning spaces.
EIG has been allocated R9.8 billion – 1.3% less compared to R10.05 billion in 2016/17 budget allocation while ASIDI receives R1.5 billion – a reduction of 43.3% from last year’s allocation of R2.6 billion.
By February this year, 82 inappropriate and unsafe schools needed to be replaced, 325 needed water while 286 lacked sanitation nationally.
The school infrastructure development programme has gained currency following the recent deaths of two learners who drowned in their school’s dilapidated pit latrines.
DBE was ordered to do an audit of schools whose infrastructure needed upgrading and provide him with a plan to refurbish them by June this year. Reports indicate the audit has already been completed and officials are fine-tuning a plan to tackle schools that need to be fixed.
Motshekga told parliament the two pit latrines fatalities could have been averted had they mobilised the necessary resources and expertise. She called for the private sector particularly the build industry to step in and help address deficiencies in infrastructure planning, co-ordination and delivery. “We will require innovative funding strategies, including generous contributions from the private sector and South Africans,” said Motshekga.
Fortunately, there are existing joint partnerships that the DBE has forged with some private sector organisations and this could be expanded to include more private sector players based on their areas of expertise.
One such successful collaboration is with Kagiso Shanduka Trust (KST), which designed ‘Whole School Development Programme” model to address infrastructure development, curriculum support, social welfare and leadership in schools.
Currently being rolled out in the Motheo and Fezile Dabi districts in partnership with the Free State Department of Education, the initiatives aims to improve learner academic performance as well as provide infrastructure such as classrooms, administration and ablution blocks, libraries, Grade R facilities, kitchen and eating area.
KST also rewards learners who attain or exceeded 90% pass rate benchmark by building computer and science laboratories, administration block, library centres and other related facilities at their schools.
There is a similar thriving partnership between the DBE and the local mobile telephone industry. They have availed their networks to schools to leverage latest ICT technologies such as Wi-Fi’s and other internet related services free of charge as well as training teachers on how to integrate and harness the power of technology as an innovative teaching tool.
Despite the budget cuts, the DBE still remains the biggest beneficiary of the country’s national budget allocations because government identified education as its apex priority.
But experts question the billions that are spent annually on the system that gives taxpayers very little returns on their investment. They cite the country’s poor performance in internationally benchmarked literacy and numeracy tests, compared to other developing countries, as an indication of a failing system.
They attribute the overall failure of the system to deliver on its key policy imperatives to poor capacity within the provincial education departments. Most provinces lack financial planning and management skills to drive and implement major school projects.
This raises fears the department may miss the National Development Plan (NDP)’s Vision 2030 target of ensuring, among others, access to education and training of the highest quality and preparing learners to take part in the 4th Industrial Revolution.
There is also an argument that more funding should rather be channelled towards overhauling the system’s weak learning foundations. This entails strengthening the Grade R sector by training more teachers and also working towards full integration of the Early Childhood Development into the education system’s value chain.
This way, they argue, the system would produce learners with rudimentary literacy and numeracy skills to succeed in the higher grades and thus justify the billions spend on education.
Following is a close examination of the breakdown of the overall 2018/19 MTEF budget allocation for the DBE:
- Administration has increased by 8.2% from last year’s allocation to R450 million.
- Curriculum Policy Support and Monitoring receives the same allocation as in 2017/18 just less than R2 billion.
- Teacher Education Human Resource and Institutional Development receive R1.3 billion – an increase by 5.7%.
- The allocation for Planning Information and Assessment decreased by 9.1% to R12 billion compared to the 2017/18 allocation.
- Educational Enrichment Services allocation increased by 5.9% from last year’s allocation to R7.1 billion.
The overall allocation for Conditional Grants is R17.5 billion – an increase of 2.1% from that of 2017/18. The following are the programmes that receive Conditional Grants:
- The Mathematics, Science and Technology Grant, is allocated R370.5 million, a 1.5% increase from last year’s allocation.
- HIV and AIDS Prevention Strategy has been allocated R243.2 million, a decrease of just less than 1% from last year’s allocation.
- The National School Nutrition Programme has been allocated R6.8 billion, an increase of 5.8% from the 2017/18 allocation.
- The Learners with Severe to Profound Intellectual Disabilities Grant receives R185.5 million, almost three times the R72 million activation allocation of 2017/18.
- Rural Education Assistants Project is allocated R29.2 million.
Allocations and transfer payments were also made to public entities that complement the work of the DBE and these include:
- The Funza Lushaka Bursary Programme allocation has increased by 5.5% from last year’s allocation to R1.2 billion.
- Umalusi’s allocation has increased by 5.6% from last year’s R135.7 million.
- The National Senior Certificate Learner Retention Programme is allocated R65.7 million, an increase of 46% from last year’s allocation.
- The allocation for the National Education Collaboration Trust has increased by 5.6% to R117.2 million.
- Workbooks, including Braille workbooks for visually impaired learners, have been allocated R1.1 billion, an increase of 5.7% from last year’s allocation.
- The South African Council of Educators is allocated a subsidy of R16 million for the 2018/19 financial year.
- For the 2018/19, Early Grade Reading Assessment has been allocated R11 million and this will increase by R28 million over the two years of the 2018 MTEF period.
- Information Communications Technologies receive R16 million, which will increase by just under R36 million also over the two years of the 2018 MTEF period.