Concern as education share is cut

Angie Motshekga / Supplied
Angie Motshekga / Supplied

Basic education minister Angie Motshekga has expressed concern that her department will now operate on a tight budget as there was no money allocated for new challenges.

Motshekga said this during an interview with Sowetan in Cape Town yesterday after finance minister Tito Mboweni budget speech.

Mboweni said education infrastructure allocations were reduced by R5.2bn over the medium term. In the 2019/2020 budget, the department was allocated a R24.5bn.

Motshekga said the stagnant economy and a stressed fiscus were to blame for the budget allocation cut.

"Unfortunately, they have cut down on the budget for infrastructure which means projects will come to a halt and we won't be able to do new projects," Motshekga said.

She added: "However, the budget will not disrupt what is already planned, but we can't plan beyond what we have planned."

Last year, over R30bn was allocated to build new schools and maintain schooling infrastructure and an additional R2.8bn was added to the school infrastructure backlogs grant to replace pit latrines at over 2,400 schools.

Motshekga said even though their budget has been cut, but their plans wouldn't be derailed.

"For instance, they won't take away the R700m for sanitation, but it will be difficult to provide sanitation for new schools coming up. In the issue of pit latrines there have been hiccups as we have had disturbances in KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape.

"I think there were good times in government where teachers awards were R10m, but we had to come back and say there was no money and reduced them to R3m.

"However, in the constraint budget the minister of finance has been able to say even if there are difficulties, reading and early childhood has been prioritised," Motshekga said.

In his budget speech, minster Mboweni said education sector investment will go to new schools, replacing schools constructed with inappropriate materials and providing them with water, electricity and sanitation.

"In 2020/21 the maths, science and technology grant will introduce coding and robotics to learners in grades R to 3 as announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa. The department of higher education and training will reallocate existing funds to undertake a feasibility study for the establishment of a new university of science and innovation in Ekurhuleni," Mboweni said.

Ron McFarlane, a researcher at the South African CSO Equal Education, said the budget painted one of the bleakest pictures yet for education funding.

"Mboweni announced, for the first time in the past five years, a decrease in the total basic education budget, when inflation is taken into account. This means that the entire pot of money available for national and provincial education departments, is shrinking," said McFarlane.

"At the national level, the department of basic education's (DBE) budget has been shrinking since 2016, and this trend continues in the 2020/21 financial year, with a decrease of 0.7%, when inflation is taken into account.

"The consequences of this cut, is felt across various education priorities and includes cuts to school infrastructure grants, the nutrition programme and the DBE's Second Chance programme," she said. - Additional reporting by Mpho Sibanyoni

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