The Western Cape Education Department tabled its adjusted budget to the Standing Committee on Education in a virtual meeting. The Department expressed concern about the fact that large amounts of money have to be spent in a period of three months. The adjustment does not enhance the Department’s position in any way. The MEC was concerned on how the adjusted budget impacted on performance and the ability of the Department to comply with its mandate.
The Department said the budget for salary increases has been taken away. The Department had received funds from the President’s employment initiative, as well for infrastructure. The Department also explained how its rollover funding was allocated.
Members asked about the increase in relation to the building of security fences in schools, how is the increase going to assist and address the issue of crowded schools in poorer communities, if government looked at putting in some resources into an investigation of the root causes of racism in schools and if the Department will use the savings realised from learner transportation to transport the learners? They requested details around the funds which have been reserved for the acquisition of buildings for educational purposes and how many will be for the building of new schools. The Department was also asked about the Safer Schools project; will it be expanded and if the Department have a timeline with regards to the infrastructure programme.
The budget vote was adopted with the ANC registering a minority view to not support it.
Opening remarks by the MEC
Ms Debbie Schafer, MEC: Western Cape Education Department, said there is not much to say except that it seems ‘we are playing musical budgets’, where money gets taken away and some is given back for particular things.
She said the budget situation at the Department is dire. She said she is very concerned about the impact on performance and the ability to comply with Department’s mandate.
Mr Brian Schreuder, Head of Department: Western Cape Education Department, agreed with the Minister. He said the second adjustment budget did not change or enhance the Department’s position in any way. The amounts given are nearly as much as what was taken. The amount that was taken was in the budget for the possibility of salary adjustment.
Mr Leon Ely, Chief Financial Officer: Western Cape Education Department, said the Provincial Treasury has taken away R977 million, which was budgeted for salary increases.
He said the Department received R840 million from the President’s Employment Initiative. This will assist with employing teaching assistants at schools, savings of jobs for governing body posts, as well as assistance for independent schools.
The Department received R192 million for infrastructure. However, the money needs to be spent before the end of the financial year. The bulk of the R26.8 million received in rollover funding is for mass participation, opportunity, and growth centres, which the Department has been running for a while now.
He said an amount of R3.3 million was received for the National Schools Nutrition Programme. The Department also received R2.8 million for the Learner with Profound Intellectual Disability Grant. He said the Department would be happy to answer any questions from the Committee.
Mr Schreuder said it takes a lot of effort to spend the allocated monies.
Mr K Sayed (ANC) asked about the increase in relation to the building of security fences in schools. How is the increase going to assist and address the issue of crowded schools in poorer communities? Has government looked at putting in some resources into an investigation of the root causes of racism in schools? Will the Department use the savings realised from learner transportation to transport the learners? He requested details around the funds which have been reserved for the acquisition of buildings for educational purposes. How many will be for the building of new schools?
Mr R Allen (DA) asked about the Safer Schools project. Will it be expanded? He asked about the funds utilised to honour a court order that was imposed on the Department. Does the Department have a timeline with regards to the infrastructure programme?
Mr Ely said the Department embarked on an alternative education planning schedule, and this affected the transfer of learners due to lockdown regulations. The learners could not travel in a full cohort on particular days, and spacing on busses became an issue. This is how the savings were realised.
The Youth Focus programme is run in conjunction with TVET colleges. There is an agreement in place, where the TVET colleges will take a learner that has failed a grade more than twice. The Department will offer the learner an alternative practical route that they can follow at the colleges to enable them to acquire other skills but be able to still have a particular qualification that can ensure employment in that regard.
With regards to the Safe Schools project, he reminded the Committee that schools had requested extra time on school premises, during lockdown, at a time when there is no one around at the school. Funds were allocated to extra security measures at the schools.
He said the R30 million was an amount that was ordered by the court, after an applicant was successful in their litigation against the Department. He said the Department would not be able to discuss the matter due to confidentiality reasons.
Mr Salie Abrahams, Deputy Director-General: Education Planning, Western Cape Education Department, said there is an allocation for the acceleration of the fencing programme. The Department had committed, through the provincial programme, to deploy 30 a year. This is now going to be accelerated and a considerable amount has been put to fences. The other area of spend would be maintenance.
With regards to crowded schools, the Department had planned for temporary classrooms to go into schools prior to the start of 2021. Any additional funding will go to COVID hotspot areas.
The Department has a portfolio where some of public schools operate in a leased environment. Another issue that drives the acquisition is spatial planning, where there is high demand but low supply. It is not the Department’s strategic intent to acquire more property. The Department has a portfolio with a capital replacement value of R75 billion and it needs to maximise that footprint.
Mr Schreuder said the programme with the TVET colleges was a temporary project and is coming to an end. The Department has increased investment into technical and skills education. As this expands, the learners that would have dropped out in the past would have value in being redirected to skills education instead of being sent to TVET colleges prematurely. Effectively, they are being kept in the schooling system for longer.
The adjustment does not make any provision for support in crowded schools. The indicators point towards reduced funding, which will inevitably impact more negatively on crowded schools. It is not just a crowded schools issue. With increased numbers, more seats; teachers; and resources are needed.
He said the Department has been actively engaging with racism and bullying. The Department has engaged with programmes for schools. It is not school issue but a whole-society issue, and communities need to join hands with education in tackling the issue.
MEC Schafer said the issue of crowded schools has been a concern for the Department for a while now. She was concerned that the money allocated for teaching assistants is for three months only. She warned that there will be many unhappy schools, come the end of the three month period.
The Chairperson thanked the Department’s delegation and they were excused from the meeting.
The Committee requested a list of all the land acquisitions by the Department. The Department has said it will provide the list.
Adoption of Committee Report on Budget Vote
Mr R Allen (DA) proposed supporting the vote.
He was seconded by Mr G Bosman (DA).
Mr Sayed expressed the minority view not to support the vote.
The Committee report and budget vote was adopted.
The Chairperson thanked everyone and the meeting was adjourned.
No related documents
Download as PDF
You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.
See detailed instructions for your browser here.