Mbombela - Mpumalanga's Education Department plans to spend more money on fewer school infrastructure projects this year.
Last year, the department spent R620 million on 255 projects. This year, R692 million will be spent on 178 projects, including construction, upgrading and maintenance.
"These are the number of projects we will deal with this year due to the budget we have... but we are willing to ensure all our schools are in a good state for the enhancement of teaching and learning," said provincial education MEC Reginah Mhaule.
She was addressing a media briefing in Mbombela where she outlined the department's infrastructure plans.
Mhaule said the province needed billions of Rands to eradicate the full backlog in infrastructure and ensure all 1 868 schools in the province were up to standard.
Her department has instructed service provider Aurecon to do an audit of the state of school infrastructure in the province. The MEC said she expected the report to be tabled with the department before the end of May.
She said based on the report, the department would review the needs versus the cost and draw up a plan to mend Mpumalanga's ailing schools over the next five years.
She further promised to complete construction at 10 of the province's worst schools before former President Nelson Mandela's birthday on 18 July 2012.
This construction will consist of building new classrooms, nutrition blocks, admin blocks, erecting fencing and building more than 200 new toilets to replace the current pit toilets in use, among other infrastructure upgrades.
The ten worst-off schools include one school in the Gert Sibande region and nine in the Bohlabela, Ehlanzeni and Nkangala regions.
Mhaule said her department was working hard to improve infrastructure across the province.
Last year the department built eight new schools and in 2010 the province started to fix 254 mud and unsafe schools.
"This project is at a completion stage with only 20 schools that are still in progress," she said.
The province's infrastructure budget for 2012/13 has increased by 11.6% from last year's original infrastructure budget of R620 million. If the inflation rate of January 2012 is considered, the budget increased in real terms by only 5.5%.
Compared with the adjusted schools infrastructure budget of R690 million from last year and this year's R692 million, there has been a 5.8% decrease if inflation is taken into account.