Motshekga moots scrapping of quintile system

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Cape Town – The Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, plans to do away with the quintile system, which her department uses to allocate funds to schools, in favour of a two-category system.

Briefing the media in Parliament today, during an update on the work of government’s Human Development Cluster, Motshekga said the two-category system would classify a school as either a no-fee school or fee-paying school.

She argued that it had become difficult to categorise schools into the different quintiles, as this was based on many different criteria – from the type of sanitation a school had, to whether it had a library – and that in some areas, the question often came down to whether parents could afford to pay or not.

Motshekga said the implementation of the proposal was, however, dependent on the availability of funding.

Provinces will have to start to re-orientate their budgets to ensure that schools did not lose out on funds and that the difference in funding that some schools would be expected to get would be compensated by, for example, funding infrastructure through other means.

The minister said though the quintile system would no longer be used on funding decisions, it would be retained to help inform the department on aspects such as post provisioning, possible performance awards for schools and other programmes such as school nutrition and transport.

While the department earlier this month gazetted for public comment the Norms and Standards for Basic Infrastructure in Public Schools, Motshekga has also released guidelines on what schools are allowed to do in the course of collecting monies for schools events or to fund additional school infrastructure.

Many parents, she said, felt aggrieved when no-fee schools asked for a donation to fund for example a school field, reacting as if they were not being charged school fees.
However, the guidelines would merely be suggestions and wouldn’t oblige schools or parents to conduct themselves in a certain way when asking for or providing donations.

Motshekga lamented that some parents could afford to buy their children cellphones but were against making donations to their child’s no-fee school.

“If they can’t sometimes help the school with money, they can help their school with their time, with their hands,” she said.

She also appealed to parents to help their children to read more, adding that it was an indictment that 95% of South Africans do not read.

“They (parents) should already know that education is a priority. So if there is anything that is about education, you will do what it takes,” said Motshekga.

Supporting schools in smaller provinces

Motshekga has initiated a project to provide additional support to schools in outlying districts, and has started with those best-performing districts that have demonstrated good and stable leadership and have schools that had shown significant improvement despite challenges in infrastructure and teaching.

So far the department had profiled eight districts through its Race to the Top project, which covered criteria such as the quality of teachers and infrastructure.

The project is aimed at helping school districts in all of the country’s provinces outside of Gauteng and the Western Cape to put systems in place to ensure the stability.

Motshekga said her department would get various departments involved and is prepared to approach the Department of Correctional Services for permission to use inmates to help with renovation and work at these schools.

Since July, the department had been handing over one new school a week, under its Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (Asidi), which is one of government’s strategic infrastructure projects aimed at helping to eradicate mud brick and inadequate school structures.

Motshekga said after facing significant backlogs owing to underperforming contractors, her department had asked the National Treasury to move its allocation for Asidi in the 2013 budget of R7.5 billion for the three-year medium-term expenditure framework period to instead run over the next four financial years (till the end of the 2016/17).

However, she said there was a commitment from the National Treasury to provide additional funds if the performance of contractors improved.

The department has also taken onboard new service providers through the help of the Independent Development Trust, Coega Development Corporation and Mvula Trust.

A number of provinces were also carrying out the building of new schools as well, such as the Free State, which will build 30 new schools and the Western Cape, which will build 14 schools.

Meanwhile, Motshekga said preparations for this year’s matric examinations are underway, with all 258 question papers ready and 82% of these having been externally moderated and approved by Umalusi. –