File photo: David Ritchie / African News Agency (ANA)
Durban - Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu, in his budget vote speech, described his department as “disproportionately underfunded” despite it receiving the biggest slice of the provincial pie, with more than R54billion for the 2019/2020 financial year.

He said the department would need more money to realise its vision.

Mshengu said the department would need an additional funding of R948million to meet its threshold, and would fail to meet the national required threshold of per pupil allocation.

Schools in quintile one, two and three will receive R1.9bn because of the increase in the number of such schools from 4957 to 5072.

Mshengu began his speech at the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature yesterday by pointing out some of the challenges facing the provincial education system - the lack of infrastructure, schools that still did not have electricity, running water or proper sanitation, and lack of broadband connectivity in schools.

“We are among the three poorest provinces, which include Limpopo and the Eastern Cape. We state these facts to underscore our conviction that this department, as will be seen in the budget figures, remains disproportionately underfunded for it to realise its vision within a reasonable time,” said Mshengu.

In an effort to create a conducive environment for learning, the department would receive R1.6bn for the National Schools Nutrition Programme to provide meals to 2million pupils, in quintiles one, two and three primary and secondary schools; 14841 pupils identified in special schools; and 199663 needy pupils in targeted quintile four and five schools.

Mshengu said the number of pupils who would benefit from the Learner Transport Programme had increased from 55067 in 2018, to 58816 in 2019, because the province had the largest number of rural schools, another contributing factor, he said, that would cause the department to have another shortfall in the budget.

Mshengu said that in the previous financial year, the programme was allocated R206m and, to meet the demands, the programme received a further R125m from Treasury. This had increased the total budget to R331m for that financial year.

“These financial obligations only related to the 58816 pupils already benefiting from the programme. I did not include the 42000 audited and confirmed qualifying pupils across the province. The major concern is that the department has not received any commitment from Treasury for the outer areas, which means that the department will experience a shortfall of around R125m this financial year,” said Mshengu.

Although haunted by allegations and the controversy of spending way more than what was budgeted for in the previous financial year, the Sanitary Towels Dignity Programme has been allocated R27m for the production and supply of sanitary towels to enable about 956000 schoolgirls to be at school during their menstrual cycle.

In spite of a limited infrastructure budget, Mshengu said R2.5bn had been allocated.

“The department will find it very difficult to allocate any budget towards repairs, as a result of deliberate damage to school infrastructure. We call on all communities to value their schools and protect them from criminal elements,” said Mshengu.

Mshengu said the department was also working on processes of advertising for administration clerks and security guards

On school safety, Mshengu announced that, as part of the multi- pronged School Safety Strategy, the department would deploy community-based volunteers, who would be trained by the Department of Community Safety and Liaison, to all schools.

“These are volunteers who have been and will be trained in combating various forms of crime in our communities,” said Mshengu.

Reacting to the budget, Bheki Shandu, the deputy provincial secretary of the South African Democratic Teachers Union, welcomed it, but expressed concerns that the budget allocation per pupil in the province was still under the national required figures.

He said they were also disappointed that nothing was said about the rural allowance incentives, saying that as a rural province, a number of teachers in deep rural schools in KZN were still not benefiting.

“We are going to engage with the department on this issue,” said Shandu.

He said that while the announcement of the deployment of security guard volunteers was a good move, the department had not consulted properly with teacher unions about this.

Dr Imran Keeka, the DA spokesperson on education, said the DA acknowledged that the new MEC had inherited “a right royal mess”.

“Listening to him at the budget, one could be forgiven for thinking he had received this department from a post-war period. What he in fact is dealing with is a ‘=cauldron of corruption.”

Responding to Mshengu’s budget, Keeka said: “You can’t seek to be bold and then not bring these issues out into the open and deal with them, even if it means giving your own senior officials the boot.”

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