Vote 5: Education budget debate 2021/22

Speech by Hon t. P Madlopha-mthethwa, MPL
KZN Legislature, virtual sitting

20 May 2021

 

Honourable Chairperson,

The IFP is of the opinion that South Africa faces one of the greatest challenges ever posed to a country, and of which will be won only if all South Africans join hands to free all South Africans from the slavery of poverty.

The IFP believes in negotiations and clarity seeking so that they can assist the most disadvantaged people on the ground. I wish to acknowledge the MEC of Education Hon. Kwazi Mshengu for making time to meet with us and for always listening and acting on our complaints about urgent issues arising in various schools across the Province.

2021/22 FINANCIAL YEAR DISCUSSION

Hon Chairperson, the IFP notes the R53 billion budget allocated to the Department of Education in KwaZulu-Natal for the 2021/2022 financial year. It is completely disheartening, that the total money allocated to provinces is decreasing every year for the next three years.

This allocated budget highlights extremely difficult times ahead for learners, teachers, guardians and schools disadvantaged schools in rural areas will feel the aftermath of this underfunding.

The current pressures on education funding affect almost every critical part of basic education therefore it is saddening to witness a budget that betrays and compromises the progress that has been done by the Department so far.

-Learner Transport

Budget cuts hinders progress of black children in disadvantaged schools, the majority who qualify for scholar transport but will still have to walk long distances to school this year due to a budget shortfall amounting to R634m for learner transport.

We call for the urgent release of the final learner transport policy so that it can provide clarity on the division of responsibilities for both the departments of Education and Transport.

We also want it to outline options to apply for safe reliable and subsidized government transport because the current draft doesn’t make provisions for this option. The final policy should provide clear time frames and make an attempt to provide a long-term plan to get the necessary funding.

-Infrastructure

The IFP notes the increase of the education infrastructure grant of R75 million in 2021/22 to R2.1 billion. We hope it will help rid the 908 schools with asbestos roofs in KZN. Some learners and teachers are still using mobile classrooms due to the Department not having funds to attend to this issue.

Schools like uMvuzomuhle Secondary school in Mhlabuyalingana and Nethezeka Primary in Jozini are using dilapidated mobile classrooms which are more than 10 years old.

When is the department going to make permanent structures for these schools? The Kwashukela primary school in Jozini was promised paving and mobile kitchen as an immediate solution during the school functionality by the HOD Dr Nzama in the presence of the Premier.

Have these promises been fulfilled?

The Department should also use this grant to deal with the issue of pit latrines in KZN schools as the Department of Education committed itself to completely eradicate pit latrines by 2022. We welcome the news that there are 454 pit latrines that have been eradicated already.

The IFP will closely monitor the progress of the projects that are under construction in other schools. Many schools around the province do not have access to water. Water tankers that deliver water to schools have inexcusable delays.

Hon MEC is aware that about 3 000 schools are not connected to municipal water lines and has promised 1158 borehole drilling projects. We urge that this project be expedited to solve the water issue and boreholes should be functioning by the end of this current financial year.

-Learners with Profound Learning Disabilities

We applaud the introduction of the profound learning disabilities grant of R1.4 billion to assist learners with profound disabilities. We urge the MEC to put pressure to the National Department to fully implement the principles of Education white paper 6 which outlines special needs education.

He should also speed up the renovation of Nongoma special school and the building of Zamimpilo special school in KwaCeza which was promised 20 years back.

-Teacher Shortages and Online Recruitment Process

Less than a month ago, many unemployed qualified teachers marched to the offices of the Department of Education over the online process used in recruiting teachers, the KZN Qualified Educators App, calling for it to be scrapped as it has been problematic for users. The App must be fixed, we should see it helping to absorb unemployed educators because many schools in KwaZulu-Natal are still without enough teachers.

The re-allocation of surplus teachers should be expedited with urgency. We applaud the Presidential economic stimulus that employed education assistants for 5 months. But we also want to know what plans does the department has to employ unemployed teachers?

As the IFP we are not happy with the department’s slow spending in Math, Science and Technology. Critical posts in the Maths and science should be urgently addressed. Delays in filling up critical vacant posts is a concern.

We call upon the MEC to continue putting pressure on National Treasury to provide more funding for filling critical vacant posts. They should understand that the budget cuts have made it impossible for the Department to reprioritize other important programmes.

PREVIOUS YEAR SPENDING FINDINGS

We note that the Department received unqualified audit with findings which has been the case in the last 3 years.
The department needs to pull up the socks to achieve a clean audit without findings by ensuring compliance with regulations, addressing long time it takes to fill vacancies at SMS level, dealing with staff debt and overdraft, as per recommendations from the AG’s audit report.
The Irregular Expenditure of R1.58 billion a big concern as the overall balance is now R6.5 billion. Similarly with the 2019/20 Fruitless and wasteful expenditure amounting to R7 million.
Hon MEC, we want to see officials who continue to disregard accounting rules, regulations, guidelines and even ignore previous years Auditor-General audit recommendations held accountable for their failures and transgressions.
We call for the Department to act on the 43 outstanding forensic investigations, some that have been dragging for so long. Monies involved should be recovered to help with budget pressures of the Department.
In conclusion, we urge the Hon MEC Mshengu to see to it that his department spend wisely and responsibly because every cent has to go a long way in ensuring a better, progressive and quality education for all our children across the Province.

I thank you