Equal Education protests mar Budget speech
Cape Town - There was protest aplenty before Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s 2021 Budget speech on Wednesday.
Education activist group Equal Education was chased by the police while marching to the gates of Parliament, demanding that the government reverse “drastic” cuts to the education budget.
EE deputy head organiser Chwayita Wenana said the government was placing less importance on education when deciding how to spend its money, and last year Mboweni announced that the government would reduce education funding every year for the next three years.
Wenana said the consequence was that the right of learners to basic education was being compromised.
She said National Treasury was failing to prioritise basic education and had shown that through the supplementary budget tabled in June last year, by taking R2.1 billion from the overall Department of Basic Education budget.
“R1.7 billion was cut from the school infrastructure grants alone, and a further R4.4 billion has been reallocated within these grants to cover Covid-19 expenses. To add insult to injury, R276 million was taken from the basic education budget to fund South African Airways,” she said.
One of the organisers, Loyiso Pieterse said almost 22 000 school infrastructure projects had been stopped or delayed in the 2020/21 financial year.
Pieterse said that included new projects, maintenance and repairs, and upgrades.
“At a large number of schools in rural areas, learners and teachers are subjected to dangerous and undignified plain pit toilets and don’t have access to reliable water supply.”
He said in many urban schools, overcrowded classrooms made quality teaching and learning extremely difficult.
“According to the norms and standards for public school infrastructure, all schools should have been provided with enough classrooms, electricity, water and toilets, and with fences, telephones and internet by November 29 last year,” he said.
A Grade 11 learner from Manzomthombo secondary school, Asakhe Sitole said they were experiencing a shortage of textbooks, tables and chairs in her school and classes were overcrowded.
Asakhe called on Mboweni to ensure that basic education funding grew and kept in line with education inflation.