NEW PLAN TO BRING PUPILS BOOKS: THE HERALD

THE Department of Basic Education is adopting a more hands-on approach to dealing with the country’s education needs in an effort to work towards a “delivery-driven basic education system”.

Delivering her budget speech yesterday, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said the national department would take over the procurement of textbooks in a bid to save on unnecessary procurement processes.

Motshekga said a national management agency would be elected for this function – although provinces would still be responsible for distribution to schools – saving the department millions of rands.

“This will result in an efficient service through which we will eliminate the risks associated with expensive and inefficient procurement processes which have, up to now, made it difficult for us to provide every child with a book in every subject,” she said.

The department could not say how much was allocated for textbooks, but it has been given a budget of R13.8-billion – up by R6.3-billion from the last financial year.

It will work closely with the provinces to get the best textbooks in the most cost-effective way, with 2014 being the target for full coverage.

Motshekga said the Education Department was still plagued by poor planning and accountability. It is to set up a “high-level” planning and delivery oversight unit aimed at “igniting” the delivery process. Details of the unit would be released in the next eight weeks.

“We really need a mechanism to effectively unblock bottlenecks to make the current system work better and faster.”

She said mud schools and other unsafe structures would be eradicated. About R5.4-billion has been allocated for the education infrastructure conditional grant for the current financial year, which would increase to R6.2-billion in 2013.

About R700-million had been allocated to fight the infrastructure backlog and that was set to increase to R5.1-billion.

“Working with provinces, by 2014 we would have attended to 3 627 schools that need to be brought to basic functionality and safety levels,” she said.

For the current financial year, the department had prioritised 85 mud schools and 246 inappropriate structures nationally. Water would be provided to at least 807 schools, sanitation to 391 and electricity to 286 schools.

The DA’s spokesperson for education in the Eastern Cape, Edmund van Vuuren, said the bulk of the budget allocated for infrastructure was going to the province. “We would be very pleased if they could start with the seven mud schools that have long been prioritised.”