Influx of pupils strains Gauteng’s budget

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Johannesburg - Gauteng is battling to deal with the influx of pupils from other provinces – to such an extent that new solutions are needed to avoid eroding the quality of education in its public schools.

The province’s legislature has recommended that “National Treasury in collaboration with provincial treasuries should plan, budget and cater for the yearly influx of learners”.

Sakhiwe Khumalo, chairperson of the legislature’s committee on finance, told The Sunday Independent they made the recommendation because the trend threw the budget of the provincial government into disarray later in its financial year.

Pupils tended to arrive after the budget had been set, making it complex for the Gauteng Education Department to manage its finances, said Khumalo.

“In relation to planning the budget, the influx makes it difficult.”

Since pupils left their allocations in their respective provinces when they migrated, Khumalo said some adjustments could be done.

“It’s very important that they come with the budget to a province in which there’s a challenge,” Khumalo added.

“There’s no way we can say no to learners when they come.”

Just this year an estimated 40 000 additional pupils who were not anticipated enrolled at schools in the province.

This meant the provincial government had to buy 40 000 more tablets for pupils, which it had not budgeted for, Khumalo said.

The provincial education department is rolling out tablets to pupils as part of its e-learning project. The devices contain textbooks and workbooks.

But the influx also means more classrooms and teachers were required at short notice. Additional learning and teaching material needed to be distributed too.

At Thembelihle, an informal settlement south of Joburg, the trend has meant scores of children find themselves without schools at the beginning of each year.

Siphiwe Mbatha, a leader in the Thembelihle Crisis Committee, said the problem had existed since 2000.

This year the last batch of pupils who were still without schools were placed during the first week of March, Mbatha said.

“They stayed home for two months without schools.

“There should be better planning for incoming children. Space should be reserved at schools for this eventuality.”

Khumalo said the Thembelihle matter was one of the “worries” the committee had.

Scores of the province’s schools now have prefabricated mobile classrooms on their grounds, a trend Khumalo said was an indication of the magnitude of the influx.

“We need more classrooms in more schools to deal with the challenges that we have in the province,” he added.

Khumalo urged incoming members of the legislature to ensure this resolution was implemented. “Given the coming elections, new members must ensure that this recommendation is realised.

“This should not just be something that was said by the current committee and after that there’s no follow-up. There can’t be a vacuum.” - The Sunday Independent

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