Equal Education

PRESS STATEMENT: EQUAL EDUCATION TO PICKET OUTSIDE PARLIAMENT DURING THE TABLING OF THE BUDGET ON WEDNESDAY 24 FEBRUARY IN ANTICIPATION OF DECREASED FUNDING FOR SCHOOL INFRASTRUCTURE

Sunday, 21 February 2016
PRESS STATEMENT: EQUAL EDUCATION TO PICKET OUTSIDE PARLIAMENT DURING THE TABLING OF THE BUDGET ON WEDNESDAY 24 FEBRUARY IN ANTICIPATION OF DECREASED FUNDING FOR SCHOOL INFRASTRUCTURE

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s 2016/17 budget speech, to be tabled in Cape Town later this week, is strongly anticipated by Equal Education.

 

Former Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene last year made specific reference to the funding of the Minimum Uniform Norms and Standards for Public School Infrastructure.

While EE welcomed the school infrastructure funding allocations breakdown provided by Nene, we are gravely concerned that actual implementation has not kept pace – an unacceptably high number of schools still need access to water, sanitation and electricity.

 

EE is well  aware of the challenging economic climate that South Africa faces, and may face over the coming medium term – exacerbated by the negligence demonstrated by President Jacob Zuma in removing Nene from office in December of last year. EE will not make unreasonable demands of government, but we do demand more direct involvement from Treasury to hold provincial departments accountable, to ensure that quality infrastructure plans are put forward by provinces in order to receive additional Education Infrastructure Grant (EIG) funding, furthermore that these plans are actually implemented. 

 

We would also like to see Treasury put pressure on provincial governments to contribute more of their equitable share (from the national fiscus) toward school infrastructure. The EIG is only meant to supplement an already existing provincial infrastructure budget.  Bizarrely, Limpopo did not put any of its equitable share toward school infrastructure in 2015/2016. The Eastern Cape, the province with the largest infrastructure backlogs, projected that the equitable share portion of its 2016 provincial infrastructure budget will be allocated R90 million less.[1]

 

Norms and Standards

 

In November 2013, the regulations relating to Minimum Uniform Norms and Standards for Public School Infrastructure (Norms and Standards) were published. The regulations prescribe the minimum criteria in the design and construction of new schools as well as for additions, alterations and improvements to schools and sets out timeframes for their provision. The Norms and Standards state that by 29 November this year  all schools without any access to water, electricity and sanitation must be provided with these basic services, and all schools built from inadequate materials like mud, wood, metal and asbestos (i.e. “inappropriate schools”), must be eradicated.[2]

In his tabling of the 2015/16 budget, Nene stated: "the school infrastructure backlogs programme is allocated R7.4 billion for the replacement of over 500 unsafe or poorly constructed schools, as well as to address water, sanitation and electricity needs”.[3]

 

As encouraging as this was, the 29 November deadline is fast approaching and we fear that the provincial departments will not meet the targets set by Norms and Standards.

 

Funding

 

The two main sources of funding for school infrastructure – the Education Infrastructure Grant (EIG) and the School Infrastructure Backlogs Grant (SIBG) also referred to as the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Development Initiative (ASIDI) – have seen budget decreases over the past few years. This is a distressing indication that the same may be on the cards for the 2016/17 financial year. 

 

In the 2015/2016 budget, EIG was allocated R29.6 billion over the medium term[4], an average of R9.8 billion being allocated for each year (from 2015/16 to 2017/18).

With the first Norms and Standards deadline on 29 November, EE expects an increase in this year’s allocation, which will be in-line with the new demands on delivery, and make it possible to meet the existing targets of provincial education departments. Provincial education departments’ inability to successfully spend allocated funds has serious ramifications as Treasury opts to decrease allocations to departments that underspend –the Eastern Cape spent only 77% of their EIG 2014/2015 allocation.

To date, the overall EIG has suffered budget baseline reductions of R742.5 million (R213.9 million in 2015/2016, R319.3 million in 2016/2017 and R209.3 million in 2017/2018)[5] due to provincial departments inability to spend their individual allocations.

 

Furthermore, the new manner in which EIG funding is allocated to provinces pits education departments against one another in a bidding war, as they are required to produce infrastructure plans which then determine how much additional money they receive over and above the base funding. The National Treasury 2015 Budget Review explains that the new incentive based approach requires provinces to undertake a two-year planning process to be eligible for additional funding in 2015/16[6]. The planning processes for the 2015/16 allocations therefore started in 2013/14.

 

EE is concerned that the current mechanism for scoring the “performance” of the provincial education departments fails to take into account actual implementation. We therefore call for a more thorough approach to assessing performance. This current method although aimed at getting provinces to improve infrastructure planning, could create further inequities in school infrastructure by benefiting only well-resourced provinces such as the Western Cape and Gauteng, while poorer provinces – provinces with significant needs – fail to qualify.

 

ASIDI

 

As former minister Nene indicated in his 2015/2016 budget speech, the ASIDI fund will be slashed by R413.6 million over the MTEF period  in order “to align it more closely with the department’s capacity to spend.”[7] EE is concerned that despite the extension of the ASIDI deadline (to 2017/18), the ASIDI targets will still not be reached due to the Basic Education Department’s (DBE’s) history of under-spending, as well as the reduction in the overall budget allocation for ASIDI.

ASIDI was initiated in 2011 as a short-term programme with a set fund to address inappropriate schools. However, due to the DBE’s exceedingly slow pace of delivery, the fund has seen significant cuts and the programme has subsequently increased to six years. 

 

The targets set for Asidi were to:

 

-              build 510 schools to replace all unsafe structures

-              provide electricity to 916 schools

-              provide water to 1 120 schools

-              provide sanitation to 741 schools

 

Table one below shows the ASIDI targets that were supposed to be reached by 2014/15. 

Table 1: ASIDI baseline targets and progress

 

 

Baseline targets (2012/13)

Progress since inception (2014/15)

%

Inappropriate schools

510

92

18%

Water

1120

342

31%

Sanitation

741

351

47%

Electrification

914

288

32%

Source:  Department of Basic Education 2015. Progress and Status of the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Development Initiative (ASIDI) presentation to portfolio committee to Basic Education 24 February 2015

 

These targets have clearly not been met and South African children, the majority of them black, continue to suffer the consequences. Currently, the number of schools to be replaced under ASIDI has increased to 527.[8] This is indicative of the national department’s slow delivery and continued under spending.

 

When one considers both the overall ASIDI and EIG 2015 budget projections tabled in 2013 and 2014, the actual 2015/2016 budgets shows that no additional allocations were made in order to accommodate Norms and Standards. Equal Education demands an increase in funding for current schools infrastructure backlogs, and a budget allocation that makes fulfilling the Norms and Standards targets for 2016 possible.

Conclusion                                                              

The budget speech must pay close and specific attention to education. The implementation of norms and standards should be top on the priority list, with less than 10 months left to address the issue of schools without any access to water, electricity and sanitation, and all schools made entirely of mud, wood, metal and asbestos.

Equal Education wants to know;

 

  • ·         How will the Norms and Standards be funded as the demands on the programme grow?
  • ·         How will the first Norms and Standards deadline be met?
  • ·         And how will the ASIDI schools be completed within the 2017/18 timeframe if no additional funding is                   allocated?

 

These are the questions we would like Minister Gordhan to address during his budget speech come Wednesday.

 

It is for these reasons that Equal Education plans to picket outside Parliament during the tabling of the budget. This government must put its money where its mouth is.

 

For further information contact:

 

Tshepo Motsepe (General Secretary, Equal Education)

071 886 5637

 

Andile Cele (Parliamentary Officer, Equal Education)

083 719 3677

 

Leanne Jansen-Thomas (Head of Policy and Training, Equal Education)

079 494 9411

 

[1] DoRB 2015, Eastern Cape Estimates of Provincial Revenue & Expenditure 2014,2015

[2] South African Schools Act 84 of 1996, Regulations relating to Minimum Uniform Norms and Standards for Public School Infrastructure. 

[3] 2015/2016 Budget Speech

[4] 2015/2016 Budget Speech

[5] Annual Performance Plan, DBE, 2015/2016

[6] Budget Review 2015/16,p.78 

[7] DoRB 2013 & 2014

[8] DBE ASIDI Presentation to Select Committee on Appropriations, 2 June 2015

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