Equal Education welcomes the Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan’s budget speech. We commend the Minister for allocating R165bn to education, and in particular we commend the R 2.7bn allocated to the workbook programme, in order to improve literacy and numeracy in South African schools. This is in line with government’s plan to make education one of its key priorities and it remains the biggest item in South Africa’s budget.
However, the allocation of large resources will not yield results unless the deep inequalities in education are dealt with. Spending on teacher salaries, which constitutes the vast majority of the education budget, must be pro-poor, but at present it is not. In fact, because teachers in middle-class public schools are better qualified, government spends more on teaching for middle class kids than it does on the poor. This reinforces historic inequalities. Further, these inequalities are deepened because wealthy schools are able to supplement their government funding with their own funds and this means that they are able to spend more on education than poor schools.
We have seen in the past that the government has introduced programmes to alleviate the burden of poor and working class schools, for example the school nutrition programme and no fee-schools policy, which made it possible for many young poor children to access education. Although, these innovations are far from flawless, they make a difference in the lives of many young South Africans.
The key difficulty in education is the huge inequality gap between those schools that are rich and those that are poor. Currently our system is such that socio economic status is a key factor that determines the quality of education received. Being poor has become synonymous with an education that is delivered by teachers who are poorly trained and lack experience. It also means, that a child will struggle through other factors which include a lacks resources, infrastructure, laboratories, computers, textbooks and libraries.
Many teachers and learners in the rural provinces and townships operate in unfavourable conditions. In general, the Minister of Finance’s speech failed to deal with the issue of school infrastructure backlogs in black and former coloured schools in South Africa. He also did not articulate a national financial plan that will focus on improving the quality of education.
The Minister’s workbook programme although commendable deals with one small part of the problems plaguing our education system. His speech did not deal with factors such as re-training teachers (in the form of ongoing training), especially black teachers that were trained under Bantu Education, which is vital to ensuring that our teachers understand the content they’re responsible for teaching and adequate methods for delivering the curriculum.
The Minister's speech dealt with an allocation of salary increases for FET college educators, but failed to deal specifically with issue of implementation of OSD for teachers. Last year, the Minister of Basic Education was not able to fulfill this OSD agreement ostensively due to lack of funding. If the OSD agreement is not fulfilled it will demonstrate a continued neglect for teacher and perpetuate the low performance and the number of lost working days due to teacher strikes. It will have to be seen whether R15.1 bn will be sufficient to provide for the OSD for all 3 department of education.(education, health and correctional services)
It is the responsibility of the state to make sure the right to education, equality and human dignity of learners are protected and that every child in this country receives quality basic education, not on the basis of their class or race.
We call on government to improve the conditions of work and pay of our teachers; to increase the supply of teachers through universities and high-quality colleges; to invest in ongoing in-service training and support; as well as to invest in the proper implementation of OSD for teachers.
We call on government to:
– develop a national plan that will deal with school infrastructure backlogs and current infrastructural problems in schools;
– invest in school libraries, laboratories, textbooks and sanitation at schools by way of conditional grants;
– invest in teacher in-service training for teachers within the system;
– investigate investing in a national service programme for university graduates from all faculties to alleviate teacher shortages;
– and properly implement OSD for teachers.
For more information please contact Yoliswa at Yoliswa.Dwane@EqualEducation.org.za or call 021 387 0022.