Budget Debate on Vote no.5: Education

Speech by: Hon. T.P. MTHETHWA, MPL
KwaZulu-Natal Legislature, Pietermaritzburg
04 June 2020

Hon. Chairperson

The IFP supports the 2020/21 Budget.

We thank God that we are still alive and have an opportunity to participate in this year’s Budget Debate.

As the IFP, we are committed in eradicating the injustices of the past, even during this period of COVID-19.

We believe that it is the duty of this government to uplift society by paying special attention to the under-privileged and the victims of apartheid, while removing all social and economic hindrances preventing individuals from developing their abilities and potential.

The IFP notes the R57 244 billion budget allocation for 2020/2021, up from R54 021 billion in 2019/2020, an increase of 5.97%, is not in line with the inflationary adjustment.  This Budget does not cater for all the needs of this Department – even more so the needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

We welcome the announcement that the Department will not be subjected to budget cuts to accommodate the National Treasury’s COVID-19 demands. However, we urge the National Government to respond to the additional funding request of R1 billion, to meet the COVID-19 PPE requirements to ensure the safety of educators and learners in schools.  As things stand, Hon. MEC, it is safe to conclude that schools are not ready to reopen. Let’s work together in finding a solution.

The IFP is concerned about the Department’s failure to address the following issues: 

1.   Grade R Educators

We are concerned about Grade R educators, who are continuously undermined by the education system. Some were not paid their salaries during the month of April 2020, until the IFP intervened, and voiced its frustration with this matter.  When seeking answers, the Department failed to provide suitable reasons for this impasse. This is totally unacceptable.  Every educator and employee should be paid their salaries on time.  We further urge the Department to standardise the salaries of all Grade R educators.

2.   Lack of Water and Sanitation in our Schools

Failure to address water and sanitation challenges in schools is a failure to protect each learner’s entitlement to learn under conditions that respect, protect and promote the inherent human dignity of each child.  Access to clean water and sanitation is a fundamental human right.  The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed that this Department has failed to provide many schools with water and sanitation. The MEC, in his maiden speech last year, claimed that water provision was at 100% – I hope that he now knows the truth.

We acknowledge that the Department has procured water tanks as a temporary measure in most schools, but how are those water tanks going to be filled? We all know that District Municipalities are currently failing to even provide water in their respective communities.

We are also concerned that the Department is losing R190 980 million allocated for the School Infrastructure Grant. This is an indication that the Department continues to fail to fully spend this Grant, while there are schools that are still using pit latrines in KZN.  Also, the project of removing asbestos in all schools does not seem to have been adequately executed.

3.   Storm-damaged and Vandalised Schools

Over 400 schools have been vandalised since the beginning of the lockdown.  These are in addition to the storm-damaged schools that need to be repaired by the Department. The IFP is against these barbaric acts of vandalism and pleads with all communities to be the eyes and ears of the Department in order to safeguard our schools.

We urge every member of the community to fight against the criminals that are targeting and vandalising schools. We will support all efforts aimed at assisting in this regard.

4.   Learner Transport and oMalume

Learner transport is a huge problem, mostly in rural schools. Many needy schools are without learner transport and those with transport are overburdened. It is clear that learner transport is still problematic, particularly as there are 117 246 learners who are supposed to be benefiting from this programme, yet they are still without transport.

In many places learners leave their homes and seek accommodation closer to schools to avoid the danger of walking long distances.

5.   On Revitalisation of Agricultural Schools

We applaud the Department for partnering with Department of Agriculture to revitalise Agricultural High Schools in the Province. However, we as the IFP feel that this is not enough.  We have been urging the KZN Government to consider the importance of Agriculture in all schools. We need skills that will address the shortages in the Agricultural Sector in our country.

6.  Spending R569 million on LTSM

It is concerning that the Department spends hundreds of millions to replace LTSM every financial year. This is a clear indication that the system is weak and fails to take care of the existing books and other materials in each school. The Department should be spending less money on LTSM, and only topping-up the already existing materials. The Department needs to implement a better system to enforce accountability in schools, and teachers should be equipped to better manage school materials.

7.   Learners with Disabilities

As the IFP we are deeply concerned by the small increase of R307 thousand allocated for Learners with Profound Intellectual difficulties.  These schools face many problems, which the Department has been ignoring for years. The needs of learners with disabilities must also be urgently prioritised.

8.   Probe on Ferry Boat Irregularities

Boats worth more than R2 million were bought by the provincial Education Department in 2017, after it found that pupils from more than 181 schools cross rivers and dams to get to class. However, these boats have now been parked in the Sharks Board parking lot for almost two years. Who has been held accountable for this wasteful expenditure?

9.   Rural Allowances

Schools in poverty-stricken areas were previously given rural allowances. The Department then said that due to financial constraints, only quintile 1 schools would benefit from this programme. Last year, this was not the case, as 59 quintile 1 schools did not get their incentives. I personally spoke to the HOD about this and I was promised that this matter would receive attention – but nothing has happened. The IFP urges the Hon MEC to investigate this matter.

I thank you.