Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga said her department has been resilient and done its best to salvage what was left of the 2020 education calendar despite the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Motshekga said despite budget cuts, the department is determined to bring about a just, equitable and inclusive quality education.
The minister was speaking at the Department of Basic Education’s budget vote debate in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) this week.
Elleck Nchabeleng, Chairperson of the Select Committee on Education said the department has a critical mandate to bring to fruition the developmental state by ensuring that it provides quality education to learners.
Nchabeleng said the department is to this day battling the gap created by the two education systems between the privileged and unprivileged.
He said to address this gap, the department needs to reduce the teacher-learner ratio in schools.
“This has a direct impact on the quality of education, especially in overcrowded township schools,” he said.
Nchabeleng added that the country still has mud schools and schools that lack basic necessary water and sanitation.
“The department must address this as a matter of urgency,” he said.
Economic Freedom Fighters’ Seneanye Lehihi said the divided nature of South Africa’s education system is still cut across racial lines – the white and privileged versus black and under-resourced.
She said the under-resourced schools also suffer from poorly skilled teachers who lack skills in subjects such as maths and science, further disadvantaging black students.
Lehihi added that despite the national department’s efforts, many pupils do not complete their schooling.
“It is estimated that between 500 000 to 1 million school children who start grade R do not make it to matric and are unaccounted for by the department.
“Sadly, they will remain unskilled, unemployed and unemployable, and most of them are black,” she said.
The Democratic Alliance’s Delmaine Christians said children’s rights to safe, clean school facilities have been violated by the decrease in the DBE’s budget.
Christians said this has and will significantly continue to impact the department’s ability to build infrastructure and redress unequal resource allocation between wealthy and poor schools.
She said the budget cuts is inhumane.
“How can a R400 million budget cut on necessary school infrastructure be deemed humane?
“A budget that does not safe guard the lives of the children cannot be deemed humane,” she said.
Inkatha Freedom Party’s Xolani Ngwezi said he did not understand why schools are open when South Africa is fighting the third wave of Covid-19.
“I understand the need for children to get educated and regain the lost time during lock down, but we should not put education before lives,” he said.