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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Lesufi says school infrastructure provision remains the biggest challenge in his department

NALEDI SHOTA|

The Gauteng MEC for education, Panyaza Lesufi, has said that his department has increased compensation to school fee exemptions that are granted to parents. 

Lesufi said this while delivering his budget speech on Thursday. He said the department acknowledged that during the times of Covid-19 some parents in middle and low-income bands might find it difficult to keep up with the costs related to their children’s education. 

“We will use this budget to also compensate for the shock to education financing that comes from families’ own spending on education and fees. This will not only impact fee-charging schools but we, also, know from past crises that income shocks are likely to lead to many children dropping out of school or not returning when schools reopen.

“We welcome the emergency funding provided by the national government to schools to assist them with paying their SGB-appointed staff in the 2020/21 financial year. But this was a short-term stop-gap measure. Our schools are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet. We have increased our provision for compensating schools for fee exemptions granted,” said Lesufi. 

READ: SIU freezes accounts of decontamination companies contracted by GDE

He said his department has seen a budget cut of R135 million from R53,5 billion in 2020/21 to R53,4 billion in 2021/22. 

The department continues to spend the largest chunk of its budget on salaries which account for 75% (R39 billion) of the total budget. 

  • The rest of the spend is as follows:
    • An amount of R6,1-billion is for transfers and subsidies to schools 
    • Public ordinary schools will receive R38.8-billion 
    • Public special schools will get R4.5-billion 
    • Infrastructure development has been allocated R1.61-billion 
    • Examination and education-related services will get R 1.7-billion
    • Independent schools will receive R980-million
    • Early childhood development has been allocated R1.2-billion 

In his speech, Lesufi said the department’s “single biggest pressure” is the lack and the state of school infrastructure. 

“Over the last seven or more years we have maximised the utilisation of schools to the optimum and beyond reasonable accommodation in mainly township schools. Township schools have had to accommodate learners above their capacity, including the use of specialist rooms, due to their proximity to informal and new settlements.

“Suburban schools have also reached their capacity as a result of the growth of black middle class in existing and new middle-income housing areas. The number of schools built per year is not meeting demand and annually there is a growing backlog of new infrastructure,” he said. 

READ: Lesufi must fix burnt down classrooms at Joburg school

 He said the department is working with the Gauteng Infrastructure Financing Agency to find alternate funding to deliver additional schools to meet demand.  

Lesufi also mentioned that this year alone the province has had to close 20 schools due to Covid-19 cases, and also that 1077 teachers had tested positive for the virus as well as 1977 learners. 

He said the virus has impacted on teaching and learning and that there has been a rise to learning losses. 

“Outside the classroom, learning losses may translate into even greater long-term challenges… In the absence of any intervention, the learning losses arising from the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to have a long-term compounding negative effect on many children’s future well-being. These learning losses could translate into less access to higher education, lower labour market participation, and lower future earnings,”he said. 

The MEC said the department has also had to refocus its budget and adjust it to respond to the pandemic by, amongst others, supplying running water and sanitation facilities to schools, provide more furniture in order to adhere to social distancing in class and also provide personal protective equipment to schools. 

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