South Africa will spend more than R23-billion on beefing up school infrastructure and increasing the number of no-fee schools this year, with education once more receiving the biggest slice - R232.5-billion - of the country's R1.06-trillion 2013 National Budget.
Delivering his Budget speech in Parliament in Cape Town on Wednesday, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said that over the medium term, the Basic Education Department would be expected to use some of its budget to improve numeracy and literacy, expand enrolment in Grade R and reduce the school infrastructure backlog.
R1-billion will go to the country's nine provinces to increase the number of teachers, while about R700-million will be channelled towards the technical secondary schools recapitalisation grant.
"This will finance construction and refurbishment of 259 workshops and training of over 1 500 technology teachers," Gordhan said.
The education infrastructure grant is critical to government's plans of eradicating unsafe and poor quality school structures, as it supplements the infrastructure programme in provinces to accelerate the construction, maintenance and upgrading of new and existing schools.
Up to R8-billion has been allocated to the school infrastructure backlog grant, which was established in 2011. The grant aims to ensure that schools have basic services such as water, sanitation and electricity.
R24.6-billion for universities, colleges
The allocation to higher education institutions will increase from just over R20-billion in the previous financial year to R24.6-billion over the next three years, Gordhan said.
He confirmed that construction of two new universities, in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape, would finally commence this year, with the authorities expecting an increase in student enrolment at South Africa's higher education institutions from 910 000 to 990 000 by 2015.
In recent years, government has also increased funding to help students from poor backgrounds obtain tertiary education and vocational training.
The Student Financial Aid Scheme will provide loans and bursaries to 288 188 students from poor backgrounds in 2013/14, up from just over 118 000 in 2008/9.
To increase access to basic education, the Budget notes the expansion of no-fee schools in South Africa to 20 688 by the end of 2012.