SA’s poor ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion

Grocott's Mail - - MAKANA VOICES -

South Africa has some of the high­est rates of uni­ver­sal ac­cess to pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion in Africa, with Gross en­rol­ment rates in pri­mary schools hav­ing in­creased from 88,1% in 2002 to 94,2% in 2015 (Stat­sSA, 2016). How­ever, pupils and learn­ers from dis­ad­van­taged back­grounds per­form poorly be­cause their schools have ed­u­ca­tion in­ad­e­quate ma­te­ri­als and staff.

The ac­cess to qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion re­mains very poor mostly in the his­tor­i­cally de­prived ar­eas, with some schools even un­able to meet the ba­sic learn­ing in­fra­struc­ture re­quire­ments such as lab­o­ra­to­ries, li­braries or In­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity. This re­sults in learn­ing de­pri­va­tion, higher-grade rep­e­ti­tion and high dropout rates.

The 2017 Ad­justed Es­ti­mates re­port poor per­for­mance of the im­ple­ment­ing agents in the de­liv­ery of wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion fa­cil­i­ties, for ex­am­ple. Out of a tar­get of 344 schools, one has been pro­vided with wa­ter and, and only four schools pro­vided with san­i­ta­tion out of a tar­geted 257. In the East­ern Cape De­part­ment of Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion, the 2016/17 fi­nan- cial year started with de­lays in project de­liv­ery and sub­se­quent un­der­achieve­ment in planned tar­gets. The De­part­ment will need to ad­dress the prob­lems re­gard­ing the poor im­ple­men­ta­tion of projects by mon­i­tor­ing and eval­u­at­ing progress on ten­ders awarded.

There also needs to be clear re­port­ing on the progress made to meet tar­gets. An Au­gust 2017 re­port by the Cen­tre for En­ter­prise and De­vel­op­ment notes that South Africa’s school sys­tem is still char­ac­terised by poor in­fra­struc­ture, lack of ed­u­ca­tional ma­te­ri­als and low learn­ing out­comes. As such, im­proved ac­cess to ba­sic ser­vices at the schools would cer­tainly ad­dress the prob­lem of dis­par­i­ties in ac­cess­ing qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion.

While the prov­inces uses the Ed­u­ca­tion In­fra­struc­ture Grant (EIG) to con­struct, main­tain and re­fur­bish in­fra­struc­ture, the bud­get al­lo­ca­tion for this grant for the 2016/17 fi­nan­cial year was re­duced 12% from the 2015/16 fi­nan­cial year, mainly due to pre­vi­ous un­der spend­ing.

The over­all EIG un­der ex­pen­di­ture over the 2015/16 fi­nan­cial year to­talled R1.7 mil­lion (with just 82.5% of the fund utilised). In or­der to ad­dress this chal­lenge, the East­ern Cape Ed­u­ca­tion De­part­ment must be held ac­count­able.

A Fis­cal Mon­i­tor re­port re­leased in Oc­to­ber 2017 by the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund, Tack­ling In­equal­ity, notes that ad­dress­ing ed­u­ca­tion dis­par­i­ties will lead to im­prove­ment in eco­nomic ef­fi­ciency of the coun­tries. Nar­row­ing the dis­par­i­ties in qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion and learn­ing out­comes is nec­es­sary in or­der to im­prove en­rol­ment and qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion for all, ac­cord­ing to the re­port. Tar­get­ing dis­ad­van­taged learn­ers and schools “could po­ten­tially re­duce ed­u­ca­tion in­equal­ity and raise over­all ed­u­ca­tion out­comes, while keep­ing the to­tal pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion bud­get un­changed,” the re­port reads in part.

Ef­forts should be di­rected at ex­pand­ing ac­cess to qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion and re­source al­lo­ca­tion.

Prov­inces should en­sure bet­ter use of the bud­get allocated in or­der to im­prove ac­cess to qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion. While the Fi­nance Min­is­ter Malusi Gi­gaba, ex­plained in his Medium Term Bud­get Poli- cy State­ment (MTBPS) speech that R44 bil­lion would be spent on build­ing new schools and re­fur­bish­ing oth­ers, R415 mil­lion in-un­spent funds was de­clared within the School In­fra­struc­ture Back­logs Grant (SIBG) ac­cord­ing to the Ad­just­ment Es­ti­mates that ac­com­pa­nied the MTBPS.

The un­der spend­ing is ex­plained as be­ing due to de­lays in ap­point­ing con­trac­tors. It is high time the De­part­ment of Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion (as­sisted by Trea­sury) ad­dressed th­ese chal­lenges in school in­fra­struc­ture pro­vi­sion­ing.

• Siyab­ulela Fo­bosi is an Ed­u­ca­tion Re­searcher at PSAM, (the Pub­lic Ser­vice Ac­count­abil­ity Mon­i­tor), Rhodes Univer­sity.­

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