9 November 2021
Media statement: Release of research paper on the basic education budget by the Budget Justice Coalition, ahead of this Thursday’s Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) #MTBPS2021
The Budget Justice Coalition (BJC) is today releasing a research paper on South Africa’s basic education budget. The paper, which is written by BJC members, Equal Education (EE) and the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM), highlights key issues to take note of when new Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana delivers the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) on Thursday 11 November.
Our position paper explores the challenges that the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and provincial education departments (PEDs) have with their budgets, including:
- Not getting enough money from National Treasury;
- Not properly spending the money that they do have (under expenditure); and
- Losing money by spending it in ways that are irregular, fruitless and wasteful.
Approximately 95% of learners in South Africa attend public schools – this means that the size of the basic education budget and how effectively it is spent affects most families in South Africa. The amount of money that the Treasury gives to the basic education sector, determines whether:
- Schools are built or repaired, schools have safe and decent toilets, and access to enough water and electricity;
- Children who need it have access to learner transport or a school meal, and
- A school has enough teachers.
Basic education is a constitutional right that must be immediately realised. This means that national government must ensure that enough money is given to the DBE and PEDs, so that all children are given the opportunity to receive an equal and quality basic education now.
While government has declared education as a main budget priority, it keeps making the choice to spend less and less money on education, despite the fact that the number of children enrolled in school has been increasing. The COVID-19 pandemic has made the budget problems in the basic education sector worse. Last year, R2.1 billion was cut from the DBE’s budget which led to school infrastructure projects being delayed or totally cancelled, and schools having to take money from their already overstretched budgets in order to cover COVID-19 costs – which is devastating for schools that are already struggling to cover costs for basics such as electricity or small repair jobs.
Our paper also gives recommendations on how civil society, schools, teachers, learners, and communities can fight to ensure that basic education gets the funding that it needs and that this money is better spent by the education departments. In particular, the paper makes the following recommendations:
- We call on National Treasury to ensure that public schools get enough money so that learners’ right to basic education is realised.
- We call on the DBE to fight for enough funding for education budgets during pre-budget negotiations with National Treasury.
EE and PSAM, as members of the BJC, along with other civil organisations, learners, parents and communities have fought very hard over the years for government to properly fund (and fix) public schools. Since October 2020, EE’s learners, post-school youth and parent members have intensified our protests to demand more money for the basic education sector. Since the emergence of COVID-19, the PSAM has sought to engage parliamentary committees on the importance of safeguarding public funds from corruption and improving expenditure management in the sector. This research paper supports these collective interventions – and while public budgets are complicated and their language inaccessible to the majority of South Africans, government’s decisions on how to fund basic education have a significant impact on learners and teachers. While we are encouraged by recent efforts to ensure that people’s inputs are considered prior to the finalisation of budgets, we urge the National Treasury to deepen opportunities for youth to participate in budget discussions.
The author of this statement is Equal Education Parliamentary Officer Jane Borman.
To arrange a media interview, contact:
Jay-Dee Cyster (Equal Education Communications Officer) firstname.lastname@example.org or 082 924 1352