Tomorrow, the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, will table the Department of Basic Education (DBE) Budget Vote for the 2015/16 financial year in Parliament. The Minister will also report on the last financial year. EE anticipates that the Minister will claim, like she does every year, that our education system is going from strength to strength. While there have been some improvements in the education system we cannot ignore, we want to point out a number of serious concerns. This includes slow progress -, inadequate transparency -, and a lack of accountability with regard to school infrastructure delivery; a scholar transport crisis; and a broken education system that fails to prepare our youth to take advantage of higher education or to access the economy.
Access to adequate schools is highly unequal in South Africa. In rural areas many schools are built from inadequate materials and constitute hazards. In both urban and rural areas many poorer schools have no access to water, electricity, or proper ablution facilities. Although school infrastructure roll-out has been prioritized, budgeting, spending and implementation remain problems.
The funds being put aside by national government, to assist provinces to attend to the state of school infrastructure, are shrinking.
Both the School Infrastructure Backlogs Grant (SIBG) and the Education Infrastructure Grant (EIG) have seen significant reductions on initial projections.
This is the case despite the introduction of the Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure (N&S), which states that all inadequate schools (that were not already planned and budgeted for) must be attended to by 29 November 2016. Our analysis shows that no additional allocations have been made in the 2015/16 Budget to accommodate the N&S, and the allocations that were made before the N&S came into effect have been reduced. We want to know: How will the N&S be funded?; and how will the N&S’s first deadline be met?
Citizens cannot properly participate in the budgeting and monitoring process without access to the appropriate reports, plans, and budget documents. We want to see the budgets, the plans, and the reports so we can hold government accountable. The provincial implementation plans for the Norms & Standards have been delayed, and have still not been released.
Statistics South Africa published a National Household Travel Survey which shows that half of South Africa’s school-going population walk all the way to school (just under 9 million school-going learners). EE released a press statement on the scholar transport problem. In KwaZulu-Natal 69% of the school-going learners who qualify for scholar transport are not transported; 54% are not transported in North West; 48% are not transported in Limpopo; 40% are not transported in Eastern Cape. We have also noticed that most provinces are under spending the funds they have put aside for scholar transport, but also that the funds available will not be enough to meet the demand for scholar transport.
EE has called for the creation of a conditional grant for scholar transport, and for the urgent finalization of a national policy on scholar transport, which has not yet been finalized.
Quality of education
In South Africa there remains an extreme gap between well-off and poor public schools with regard to both learning conditions – i.e. school infrastructure and facilities, school resources, and socio-economic context – and learning outcomes – i.e. performance in standardised tests, proficiency, and post-schooling prospects. In poorer schools performance is markedly worse, drop-out rates are higher, and much fewer learners are able to take advantage of higher education and other post-schooling opportunities.
The National Senior Certificate examinations and the Annual National Assessments cannot tell us, reliably, how the education system is performing over time – these tests are not designed to do so, and have important limitations. 
The tests that can speak to performance over time – internationally benchmarked tests  – say the system is not doing well. Learners at poor schools face a number of challenges that directly impact on their school performance – challenges that are not faced by learners at richer schools. The difference between the top 25% of schools and the rest is so marked that one can effectively speak of two different education systems – one functional, serving a minority of South Africans, and one largely dysfunctional, serving the rest of South Africa.
In addition, evidence produced by the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (NEEDU) in 2012 and 2013 – though the 2013 NEEDU report was not disseminated by the DBE – show that South African primary schools are failing to equip learners with basic literacy and numeracy skills and that teaching and learning practices at primary schools across the country are not up to standard.
Another alarming fact is that approximately half a million students drop-out before even reaching Grade 12, on an annual basis, entering the economy with no formal qualifications.
EE wants to know:
– Why haven’t the provincial implementation plans for N&S been released? These were required to be submitted to the Minister on 29 November last year.
– Will the Minister support a conditional grant for public transport?
– Why was the NEEDU report suppressed and why is the DBE spokesperson misleading the public on this issue?
– What steps will the Minister take to address the literacy deficit facing primary school learners, as identified in the NEEDU reports?
For Further information contact:
Yoliswa Dwane (EE head of PCR) 076 706 2338
Wim Louw (EE researcher) 071 685 8919
Nombulelo Nyathela (EE spokesperson) 060 503 4933
 Although there has been progress since 2009, according to the reported numbers in the October 2014 National Education Infrastructure Management System (NEIMS) report, of 23,740 ordinary public schools, 604 schools had no water supply (3%), 1,131 had no electricity (5%), 474 (2%) had no ablution facilities, 18,301 (77%) were without libraries, 20,463 (86%) were without laboratories, and 16,146 (68%) were without computer labs.
 Taylor, S., and Spaull, N., (2015) Measuring access to learning over a period of increased access to schooling: The case of Southern and Eastern Africa since 2000. International Journal of Educational Development (accepted). Vol. 41 (March) pp. 47-59 (WP here); Spaull, N. and Kotze, J. (2015). Starting behind and staying behind in South Africa: The case of insurmountable learning deficits in mathematics. International Journal of Educational Development. Vol 41 (March) pp. 12-24 (WP here); Spaull, N. (2014) Educational outcomes in Gauteng 1995-2011: An overview of provincial performance in standardised assessments, in F. Maringe & M. Prew (eds), Twenty Years of Education Transformation in Gauteng 1994 to 2014: An Independent Review, African Minds, Somerset West., pp. 289-312; Van der Berg, S. et al. (2011), ‘Low Quality Education as a poverty trap’, see here
 REPORT ON THE ANNUAL NATIONAL ASSESSMENT OF 2014 GRADES 1 TO 6 & 9, pg 15: “[the General] ANA tests for each cycle are left exposed to schools and learners and new tests are developed for the next cycle. There is, therefore, no control over the comparability of the tests and, consequently, on the comparability of the results on a year to year basis.”; See EE’s reports on the 2014 matric results here and here.
 The Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality (SACMEQ), Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS).