Just R34 a year per learner for maintenance

Issued by Yusuf Cassim, MPL
Shadow MEC for Education

The Department of Education believes that just R34 a year, per learner, is sufficient for schools in the Eastern Cape to maintain their collapsing infrastructure.

This shocking figure was revealed during the budget debates in the Education Portfolio Committee.

In fact, the lower 1, 2 and 3 quintile schools, which make up 96% of all schools in the province, are only receiving R983 per learner for their school budgets.

From this, schools are expected to pay for maintenance, municipal services, consumables and learner and teacher support material (LTSM) like textbooks, stationery, and furniture.

The Democratic Alliance will fiercely oppose the Department’s budget, which is set to be debated and tabled in the Provincial Legislature this week.

The proposed budget of R38.56 billion represents the largest chunk of the provincial budget yet offers crumbs to schools.

It is a scandal that the LAIS programme – that goes to a consultant to duplicate the work of schools – pays more than double what is allocated for maintenance. R94 is subtracted from each learner’s allocation before it even gets to the school.

This leaves schools with just R889 a learner, well below the national norm of R1 536 per learner.

The impact of this budget, if adopted, will be disastrous for schools and learners alike.

The under-expenditure and mismanagement of the Department’s infrastructure grant has condemned learners to death traps, with schools being told to utilise their maintenance budgets where their infrastructure is crumbling.

What budget? How far can R34 a learner really stretch?

To put this in perspective, the DA governed Western Cape provides schools with R384 per learner for maintenance in a province that manages and spends its infrastructure budgets properly.

Most learners in the Eastern Cape remain without a textbook per subject. The LTSM budget of R465 per learner for the year will hardly solve this crisis given that this amount must also pay for furniture and stationery.

Worse, the Department does not allow schools to purchase their own LTSM, forcing them to order through the Department and procure through middleman companies.

The Western Cape provides R538 per learner and allows schools to purchase their own LTSM.

The DA cannot support a budget that provides crumbs for our schools.

The DA Western Cape government places the education budget closer to the people, which is why the Western Cape funds no-fee quintile 1 to 3 schools at R1 536 per learner and gives schools the power to procure their own goods.

A school with 700 learners in the Eastern Cape would essentially get a budget of R622 300 whilst the exact same school in the Western Cape would enjoy a budget of R1.1m.

This is why more and more residents of the Eastern Cape are voting with their feet and moving to the Western Cape for better educational and employment opportunities.