More money for school infrastructure

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Cape Town – Government is set to prioritise education infrastructure in the next three years, with Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan on Wednesday announcing an allocation of more than R23 billion towards beefing up school infrastructure and increasing the number of no-fee schools.

As in previous years, education received the biggest slice of the country’s national budget of over R1 trillion with R232.5 billion allocated to the sector.

In his budget Speech in the National Assembly on Wednesday, the Finance Minister said over the medium term, the Basic Education Department will 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 provinces to increase the number of teachers.

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 school structures, as it supplements the infrastructure programme in provinces to accelerate construction, maintenance and upgrading of new and existing school infrastructure.

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.

The transfer 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 confirmed that construction of the much-awaited two new universities in Mpumalanga and Northern Cape will finally commence this year as authorities expect an increase in student enrolment in higher education institutions from 910 000 to 990 000 by 2015.

Government projects that expenditure trends will focus on infrastructure funding in the form of transfers to provinces through the education infrastructure grant. These grants account for the bulk of spending increases over the medium term.

As a result of the increased spending on grants, the Department of Basic Education's spending rose by 25.6 percent last year, as part of the department's commitment to ensure that teaching takes place in secure and safe buildings.

In recent years, government 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, up from just over 118 000 in 2008/9 financial year.

To increase access to basic education, the budget further notes the expansion of no fee schools to 20 688 by the end 2012.  –