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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Western Cape Education Department Laments Huge Budget Cuts


WESTERN Cape education MEC Debbie Schäfer has accused the national government of cutting provincial budgets and channelling more money to South Africa’s failing state-owned enterprises at the expense of education.

Schäfer was speaking during her education budget vote speech last week. 

She said more decreases in budget with more increases in learners will result in more difficulties placing learners and more overcrowded classrooms. 

“A prudent national government would have had reserves to deal with such emergencies. Because they didn’t, the money to keep our teachers and learners safe had to come from our funds that are already inadequate as it is. But there is always money for the litany of failing SOE’s,” said Schafer.

“Before that, we had the drought, for which we had to re-allocate R300 million, also from infrastructure, as there was nowhere else for it to come from. And of course, the above-inflation salary increases for staff decided by national government and driven by their alliance partners, has created a budget shortfall of over R2.2 billion over the past 5 years in the Western Cape. So national government negotiates what we cannot afford, we have to pay, and they do not refund us. And then we are accused of “blaming” national government when we cannot deliver as we need to and as we had planned. Yes, we do blame national government, because they ARE in very large part, to blame and we should not have to keep on explaining why we do not have sufficient resources when just about everything national government touches is a disaster.”

According to Schäfer, the Western Cape Education department has 19 000 more learners compared to the year 2020, adding that the Western Cape has 100 000 more learners than five years ago.  

“Our ongoing emphasis on retention of learners in the system adds to the problem. Retention is not just ‘desirable’, as Member Dugmore recently put it, casually implying that it is a nice-to-have that is not essential,” said Schäfer.

Schäfer, however, welcomed the R24.5 billion budget allocated to her department for the 2021/22 financial year. 

“This is a big number, but with 1.1 million learners in our schools, we have big needs! Unfortunately, this budget represents a reduction of 7.5% in our baseline allocation for 2021/22, 8.4% for 2022/23, and 8.0% in 2023/24,” said Schäfer. 

Schäfer said education was a vital determinant of the learners’ future well-being, and completing basic schooling significantly improves their future prospects. 

Schäfer added that her department’s HOD has approved more teaching posts for this year following the annual SNAP Survey to indicate the exact areas of growth and demand.

“Our Head of Department has recently approved 342 additional teaching posts in areas where the demand for places is growing quickly. This is in addition to the 429 posts added in 2020,” said Schäfer. 

The MEC for Education said the province is expected to see seven new and replacement schools due to be completed by the end of the year. 

“We have now secured the necessary land, and will begin planning for two schools – one primary and one high – in the town. The first, a mobile primary school, is expected to be up and running by next year,” added Schäfer.

Schäfer said planning has also commenced to provide a permanent high school that is expected to come into operation in 2025. 

“The high school will incorporate clean energy, green technologies and alternative construction material,” said Schäfer. 

Schäfer has also thanked her department and all staff at schools for ensuring schooling continues even during the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Despite the very difficult environment we are working in, all credit must go to our staff, led by SG Brian Schreuder, who continue to seek innovative ways to deal with the issues we face, and stretch every rand we get as far as possible,” added Schäfer.

  • Inside Education
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