South Africa: Equal Education to Hold Budget Speech Picket Today

press release

Cape Town — EQUAL EDUCATION TO HOLD BUDGET SPEECH PICKET TODAY

The Department of Basic Education must explain why it has only replaced 10 out of 496 mud schools

Today at 15h00 Equal Education (EE) will hold a picket outside Parliament. The picket will occur the day before Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan delivers his budget speech on Wednesday. The picket will highlight the Department of Basic Education's (DBE) under-expenditure on the Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative, also known as the ASIDI grant, and its failure to eradicate 49 mud schools in the 2011/2012 financial year. We call on Minister Gordhan to provide oversight to the national Department of Education and the Eastern Cape department in order to improve spending.

The DBE was given the Schools Infrastructure Backlogs Grant by National Treasury to eradicate 496 inappropriate structures (including mud schools), provide 1257 schools with water, 878 schools with electricity and 868 schools with sanitation in various provinces. The initiative has been allocated R8.204 billion over a three year period from 2011.

The DBE earmarked 49 mud schools, located in the Eastern Cape, to eradicate and replace with appropriate structures in the 2011/2012 financial year.

The DBE committed itself to completing 12 schools in the Eastern Cape by 20 August 2012, but this date lapsed without a single school being completed. The DBE cited various conditions that had caused delays in the completion of the 12 schools, including poor accessibility of sites due to improper roads, difficult terrain, bad weather and difficulty in obtaining material supplies.

In its 2011/2012 annual report the DBE stated that it had spent approximately R76 million of the R700 million it had available to eradicate mud schools and provide basic services. This was an under-expenditure of around R624 million.

During a presentation to Parliament, the DBE told committee members that four of the completed schools would be officially opened by President Zuma on 2 October 2012. However, in October 2012 only two schools were handed over by the President: Mphathiswa Senior Primary in Libode and Dakhile Junior Secondary School in Lusikisiki.

During the Mid-Term Budget Policy Statement on 25 October 2012, Treasury said that due to the DBE's under-expenditure it would re-allocate R7.2 billion from the ASIDI grant to other departments, including the Department of Higher Education and the Department of Arts and Culture.

In a recent report the DBE stated that out of the 49 schools originally identified for completion in 2011/2012, 45 were still under construction and 10 schools had just reached 'practical completion' [www.equaleducation.org.za/content/2013/02/25/ASIDI%202013%20Progress %20Report.pd ].

It is unclear whether the 10 schools have been handed over to communities, and are being utilised, or if they have only been handed over to the DBE by the implementing agent.

Basic Education Deputy Minister Enver Surty admitted to portfolio committee members that there will be under-expenditure from the R 2.3 billion allocated for the current financial year. The DBE stated that expenditure at the end of the third quarter was R476 million. This is an under-expenditure of R1.8 billion.

In August 2011 the Auditor-General compiled a Report on Infrastructure Delivery in the Provincial Departments of Education (www.agsa.co.za/Reports%20Documents/performance%20audit%20of%20the%20 infrastructure%20delivery%20process.pdf ).

The report found that "the needs determination, planning and prioritising for infrastructure projects were not completed on time" due to lack of staff capacity and mismanagement. The report recommended that "national norms and standards for [school] infrastructure should be compiled and adherence to it should be promoted".

In President Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation Address on 14 February 2013 he said: "With regard to social infrastructure, a total of 98 new schools will have been built by the end of March, of which more than 40 are in the Eastern Cape that are replacing mud schools." It is clear that the DBE will be unable to reach this target given their track record. If they have only been able to replace 10 mud schools in two years it is unlikely that they will be able to complete 98 schools by the end of next month.

At the picket EE will make the following demands:

Minister Gordhan must remedy this situation. We call on him to reconsider the reallocation of funds away from the ASIDI grant. While it is important to penalise under-expenditure it is imperative that this is not done at the expense of the learners the grant was intended to help.

If the original 496 mud schools are not replaced with appropriate structures then thousands of learners will remain in unacceptable conditions.

The Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga must also be held accountable for the under-expenditure of the ASIDI grant. She must resolve the lack of capacity and mismanagement in her department that was identified in the Auditor-General's report.

The DBE must release the names of the 98 schools that are intended to be completed by the end of March.

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