Media statement: Equal Education calls for Western Cape education MEC Debbie Schäfer to take a pledge to fight to increase her budget
11 March 2020
South Africa’s education MECs are perpetually blaming budget constraints for the violation of learners’ rights to education, safety and dignity.
The 2020 national budget, tabled by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni last month, revealed for the first time in recent years, a decrease in the total basic education budget (when inflation is taken into account). Such budget cuts reflect, among others, the very real cost of State capture and mismanagement of public funds. While funding for key priority areas such as education are being slashed, State-owned entities (SOEs) are receiving billions in bailouts. Nationally, fruitless and wasteful expenditure amounted to R849 million for the 2018/19 financial year alone.
Equal Education (EE) has persistently lobbied national government for bigger budget allocations toward necessities such as school infrastructure, scholar transport, school safety, and early grade literacy. Education MECs must however do their bit, and efficiently and effectively spend the money that they do have. The MECs must also become active participants in making the case for their departments to receive the funds required to deliver quality and equal education.
We’re calling on Western Cape MEC Debbie Schäfer to take the following pledge, and to articulate this in her budget vote speech this Friday 13 March.
MEC Schäfer, we’re asking you to pledge to:
- Demonstrate that within your existing budget, necessities such as school safety and school infrastructure, are being prioritised.
- Sit down with Equal Education to identify areas where additional funding from national government could be drawn from, and to outline your strategy and plans to lobby national government for a bigger budget. EE will extend the same offer to all the education MECs before their upcoming budget vote speeches. Ensuring basic education is adequately funded is a collective, societal responsibility. Let’s get to work!
- Demonstrate that your budget allocations reflect the Western Cape Education Department’s (WCED) commitment to prioritise school safety by making your department’s expenditure on school safety interventions (such as the Safe Schools Programme) publicly available.
We will continue to demand accountability and transparency from MEC Schäfer.
There is currently no detailed publicly available or easily accessible information on how the budget for the WCED Safe Schools Programme is allocated. Schools located in crime-ridden areas across the province continue to be vulnerable to vandalism, gang activity and robbery. Learner-on-learner violence, and violence between learners and teachers, is far too prevalent. Detailed budget information is vital for school communities to assess whether the WCED’s programmes and interventions are achieving what they set out to.
Realising safe schools across the Western Cape dictates a proactive rather than reactive approach from the WCED. It is incumbent on MEC Schäfer to prioritise these measures – ensuring that district offices have sufficient psychologists and social workers to reach learners who require psychosocial intervention.
After submitting a Promotion for Access to Information Act (PAIA) application recently, EE learnt that approximately R33 million was allocated to the Safe Schools Programme in 2019/20. On the other hand the WCED invested R239 million towards e-learning over the same period. MEC Schäfer needs to explain to the public the motivation behind this seemingly skewed investment.
Information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure is vital – such as equipping schools with internet connectivity – which is demanded by the 2020 deadline of the Minimum Uniform Norms and Standards for Public School Infrastructure. And while we are supportive of innovation, the provision of devices such as tablets and smart classrooms must be weighed against that learners and teachers suffer violence within their schools every day.
To arrange a media interview, contact:
Jay-Dee Cyster (Equal Education Communications Officer) Jay-Dee@equaleducation.org.za 083 777 6428