WC education department laments huge budget cuts

Aron Hyman Reporter
Education MEC Debbie Schäfer speaks to pupils at a school.
Education MEC Debbie Schäfer speaks to pupils at a school.
Image: ADRIAN DE KOCK

Western Cape education MEC Debbie Schäfer has accused the national government of cutting provincial budgets — funnelling money to SA’s failing state-owned enterprises at the expense of education.

This was in response to an announcement that trade union federation Cosatu and its partners would be holding a press conference on Monday “about the challenges that are confronting the Western Cape education department”.

Its partners who will join the press conference will include the ANC, the SACP, Sanco, Sadtu, Cosas, and Sasco.

Schäfer called on the organisations to “denounce defunding of education by the national government”.

“I am pleased that Cosatu and its associated organisations understand that there are challenges facing us. The most profound of these challenges — and indeed the one that underpins almost all others — is the continuous defunding of education in the Western Cape by the national government,” she said in a press statement on Sunday.

She said “severe” budget cuts to the Education Infrastructure Grant and expenditure on Covid-19 compliance measures have resulted in a third of 2020’s infrastructure budget being wiped out.

She said the cuts are being demanded by the National Treasury for the next three years.

“The simple fact that must be understood is this: without a proper budget, we are unable to pay for all the things we need to deliver quality education to learners in this province,” said Schäfer.

“Budget cuts mean we cannot build enough schools for the additional 18,000 learners added to our province’s schools each year, so there will be a major struggle to find school places every single year,” she said.

She said schools which were vandalised also needed to be repaired, also chipping away at the budget. But the cuts meant that the provincial government also needed to cut back on security spending, meaning schools continue to fall victim to vandalism.

According to Schäfer, the budget cuts also mean they can't hire more teachers, meaning pressure on teachers will rise as class sizes increase.

“We cannot continue to provide a quality education to every learner in this province without the money to pay for it. It is a financial impossibility,” she said.

“While the Western Cape prioritises education during our budgeting process, every department will suffer when the national government demands huge cuts to the provincial share — no matter how important the services they deliver are,” said Schäfer.

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