Education receives largest chunk of budget

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Parliament - Government's contribution to education remains its single largest investment, Finance Minister Trevor Manuel said, delivering his Budget Speech in Parliament, a short while ago.

"Education spending has grown by 14 percent a year for the past three years and accounts for R140.4 billion in the spending plans of provinces and national government for 2008/09," he announced.

Government's key priorities in education include extending the no-fee school policy to 60 percent of school from 40 percent at the present, expanding the school nutrition programme, reducing average class sizes in schools, serving lower income communities and increasing expenditure on school buildings.

There will also be a strengthening of training colleges and a recapitalisation of technical schools over the next three years, Mr Manuel said.

An additional R700 million will also be allocated for higher education subsidies and to accommodate anticipated growth in student enrolment from 783 900 in 2008, to 836 800 in 2011.

The minister further said an amount of R330 million will go towards to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, while funding is also available for the establishment of a new National Education Evaluation Unit.

This unit, he said, would evaluate a new salary dispensation for teachers linked to school and teacher performance.

President Kgalema Motlanthe in his State of the Nation Address on Friday said he was concerned at the trend that schools in rural and impoverished areas lack infrastructure and capacity.

"Ironically, precisely where education is most needed to help break the cycle of poverty is where infrastructure, administrative and teacher capacity are least impressive."

He further raised concerns on the drop-out rate particularly at secondary and tertiary levels and challenged the educational system to produce the requisite kind of skills needed by society.

"Trends in performance, both in terms of teaching and learning, show a worrying persistence of the social divisions of the past," he said.

In 2008 government achieved its target plan set out for Grade 12 learners passing Mathematics at the equivalent of Higher Grade in 2008 to double the number of matric maths passes to 50 000 by 2009.

During the 2008 examinations, 63 000 learners at over 50 percent passed maths, the Dinaledi Schools comprise only seven percent of all schools, contributed 24 percent of the 63 000 high level mathematics passes.