Cape Town. 130227. Pravin Gordon delivers his Budget Speech for 2013. Picture COURTNEY AFRICA

Cape Town -

Improved literacy and maths skills, more children in Grade R and reduced school infrastructure backlogs.

That’s the aim of the education budget, which was increased by 5.3 percent to R232.5 billion this fiscal year.

It will increase to R264.9bn in 2015/16.

Higher Education and Training will aim to increase enrolments and graduations, and increase the number of bursaries and loans to poor students.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has allocated the lion’s share of the Budget to education. The education budget was divided as follows:

- Basic education, R164bn

- Tertiary education, R28.7bn

- Vocational and continuing education training, R20.1bn

- Administration, R10.6bn

- Recreation and culture, R9.1bn.

The Budget aims to improve education through improving and upgrading infrastructure by:

- Replacing inappropriate infrastructure in 496 schools, 395 of which are mud schools;

- Providing electricity to 878 schools;

- Providing water to 1 257 schools; and

- Providing sanitation to 868 schools.

The Budget revealed that “due to implementation delays” the school infrastructure backlogs programme would now be completed over five years, instead of over the originally planned three years.

Gordhan told a media briefing the delay was due in part to simple logistical issues, such as deciding to build a school at a certain site without realising a road first had to be built to get to it.

Another reason was the non-performance of contractors who hadn’t completed projects and who had since been “told to take a walk”.

Of the R7.2bn reprioritised from the backlogs grant, R1.65bn had been allocated for building two universities - in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape; R1.1bn to the community library services grant; and R4.47bn to the education infrastructure grant, which financed the building of new schools, libraries and laboratories, providing basic services, and maintenance of new and existing schools.

The Budget detailed strides made in education to combat inequality such as the growth of no-fee schools and feeding schemes.

No-fee schools had increased from assisting 42 percent of pupils in 2007 to 70 percent last year.

School feeding schemes had grown from assisting six million pupils in 2006/07 to 8.85 million in 2011/12.

The Budget Review states the focus would shift to getting better value for money and cutting administrative costs.

The Higher Education and Training budget would be increased over the next three years to accommodate higher university enrolment, renewed infrastructure and improved teaching. In the same period, the number of students enrolled was expected to increase by nearly 80 000 and the number of graduates by 32 000.

The number of loans and bursaries given to students from poor backgrounds was expected to more than double in three years. - Cape Times