SABC News.com - We welcome education allocation but what about infrastructure: EE:Thursday 23 February 2012

We welcome education allocation but what about infrastructure: EE

Thursday 23 February 2012 13:59

COMMENT: Zenande Booi and Yoliswa Dwane, Equal Education

The Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan allocated R236 billion to the education sector.

The Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan allocated R236 billion to the education sector. (SABC)

Equal Education welcomes the Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan’s speech. We commend the Minister’s clear recognition of education being an indispensable contribution to Africa’s position as the second fastest growing region.

 This appreciation of the importance of education is reinforced by education remaining one of the largest categories of expenditure over the MTEF period ahead. We commend the increase in spending on education from R165bn to R207bn in 2012/13 and an expected further increase to R236bn in 2014/15.

When dealing with spending on education the Minister highlighted the growth in support to the tune of R18.8bn for its programmes aimed at improving the hardships experienced by poor and working class schools. In particular the equalization of learner subsidies for no-fee schools and expanding access to grade R. These positive steps taken by the Minister are truly commendable.

However, it is disappointing that the Minister found it appropriate to highlight matters such as national assessments while more pertinent issues like infrastructure specifically in education were only mentioned in passing. Whilst we applaud the continuous investment on assessments, we believe that more needs to be done in improving the quality of teaching and learning.

What is needed is a concrete plan to deal with low performance outcomes of learners. Central to this is adequate teacher training; it is very disturbing that no mention was made of building teacher capacity during the Minister’s speech.

The Minster spent a considerable amount of time of the challenges facing public infrastructure delivery. The weaknesses identified by the Minister regarding problems such as a lack of capacity and technical skills to ensure effective infrastructure delivery are not new phenomenon.

The Minister in accepting these challenges failed to place emphasis on the alarming statistics regarding irregularities in the expenditure and procurement processes of the provinces. While the measures enumerated by the Minister are welcome they are lacking in many respects and remain long overdue. 

School infrastructure, in particular, and the significant challenges it faces were not given as much cognizance as required. This was very disappointing considering the concerns that were voiced by Equal Education in a memorandum handed to a representative of the Minister on the 21st February 2011 during a picket to highlight the need for the Minister to properly supervise and ensure accountability in infrastructure delivery.

The fact that the measures enumerated by the Minister are overdue is illustrated in the Auditor-General’s report on the progress of infrastructure delivery in the Department of Education and Health.

Over the years the Auditor-General has highlighted the very issues that are only now being given some consideration by the government. The most glaring challenge regarding infrastructure delivery, as stressed by the A-G is the lack of capacity to ensure effective delivery in government departments. The Minister did not give this issue its due consideration.

 

 

School infrastructure, in particular, and the significant challenges it faces were not given as much cognizance as required.

The Minister and his department need to play a more active role and allocate more resources towards building the capacity of the various departments in the government as a whole. Such measures are indispensible for ensuring that the problems do not persist, it is treating the cause rather than the symptoms of ineffective service delivery.

They work hand in hand with the harsher measures of the withholding of funds that the Minister placed emphasis on. We hope that the assertions the Minister has made are a prelude to an era of tougher measures of accountability by the Department of Treasury and that these measures are properly implemented.

The measures of withholding allocations from provinces that under-spend or mis-spend their allocated funds and holding officials who commit misdemeanors should not be viewed as innovative ones. These powers have been bestowed by the Constitution to prevent problems that are today prevalent in the delivery of infrastructure in education.

 These powers are there to be used especially in dire circumstances which exist in many of the provinces. A province that exemplifies the problems faced by the Department of Education particularly regarding the delivery of infrastructure is the Eastern Cape. At the end of the second quarter the Eastern Cape spent only 18% of their transferred infrastructure fund, this is way below the expected outcome of 50%.

 


 

Yet the Eastern Cape received their third quarter transfer, the Department of Basic Education expressed concern at the province’s under-spending. Considering the context in which the Eastern Cape was operating it would be expected that the Minister would exercise its constitutional powers of intervention or withholding funds.

 Finally, as was highlighted in our memorandum to the Minister we call for a larger allocation of funds to ensure greater access to physical resources such as toilets, sanitation, water, electricity, libraries and laboratories. This will improve the working and learning of the majority of children in this country.

This piece is written by the Equal Education's Zenande Booi and Yoliswa Dwane. Equal Education is a movement of learners, parents, teachers and community members working for quality and equality in South African education, through analysis and activism.

Share this page: Printer friendly version