The organisation said R2.1 billion was cut from the DBE’s budget last year which led to school infrastructure projects being delayed or totally cancelled. File picture: Henk Kruger/ANA/African News Agency
The organisation said R2.1 billion was cut from the DBE’s budget last year which led to school infrastructure projects being delayed or totally cancelled. File picture: Henk Kruger/ANA/African News Agency

Calls for more funding for Basic Education ahead of the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement

By Rafieka Williams Time of article published Nov 10, 2021

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Cape Town - Equal Education has expressed concerns about the Basic Education Department’s expenditure ahead of the medium-term budget policy statement (MTBPS) to be delivered on Thursday.

In a research paper released by the organisation, they urged the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to fight for funding in order to see basic education realised.

The organisation said that R2.1 billion was cut from the DBE’s budget last year, which led to school infrastructure projects being delayed or totally cancelled.

“Schools had to take money from their already overstretched budgets in order to cover Covid-19 costs. This has put a strain on schools being able to provide the minimum requirements for schools to function adequately.”

The paper highlighted lack of progressing funding, underspending, irregular expenditure and wasteful expenditure. It claims that the introduction of austerity measures means that basic education has been de-prioritised.

“The fact that spending per learner has decreased means that the quality of education will be negatively affected.

The paper revealed that expenditure for basic education has decreased over the years. The DBE received 14.8% of the budget for the 2017/18 financial year but only 14.3% for the year 2019/20, and only 13.4% in the year 2020/21.

“A lack of progressive funding for the basic education sector limits the ability of all levels of government to fulfil their constitutional obligation to realise the right to basic education for all learners.”

Being categorised as a donor sector, DBE has suffered under Covid 19 as funding has been re-allocated to social development, health and police. This has resulted in less funds for schools to maintain and upgrade dilapidated or dangerous infrastructure.

“As it stands only 70% of the funding allocated to the DBE is being used to effectively deliver their mandate. This level of underspending makes it difficult to acquire more funding if the money allocated isn’t already being spent,” said the report.

“R818 million was spent ‘irregularly’ or in a fraudulent manner for the 2019/2020 financial year. In addition, R84 million was lost on fruitless and wasteful expenditure in that same year.”

Equal Education researcher Jane Borman said: “As we are seeing over the years basic education de-prioritised in the budget, we’re starting to build and strengthen our budget advocacy because we are realising that there are growing issues in the way that basic education is funded and in the way funds are spent, that if continued, will undermine the development of basic education.”

“I think that one of the key things is that we want to use budget advocacy to hold government to account. That includes National Treasury in instances where we feel like National Treasury isn’t petitioned to prioritising basic education.

“But it’s also the department of basic education and the provincial education departments and making sure to the best of our ability that we can monitor the way they spend the funds,” said Borman.

“There's lots of schools that still have inappropriate structures, there’s a few schools that don’t have water, schools with issues of electricity. Already you have a situation where we should be in a higher level of funding to get all schools to the point in which they have adequate resources.

“Instead what we are seeing is that we are still trying to provide schools with the very basics and also to maintain the existing schools on a smaller and smaller budget,” said Borman.

She said that “we are going to see a crisis” as schools have less and less money available for basic resources that are already not being provided.

The paper was written by Equal Education, Budget Justice Coalition and the Public Service Accountability Monitor.

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Cape Argus

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