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EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
25 May 2004
DEPARTMENT STRATEGIC PLAN AND BUDGET: BRIEFING
Documents handed out:
Strategic Plans and Budget 2004/05 presentation
Strategic Plan - Tirisano (offsite link)
Department of Education Budget Vote 15
The Director General briefed the Committee on the Department of Education's Strategic Plan for 2004/5 in preparation for the forthcoming Budget Vote. Much of the discussion afterwards centred around the ideal of free public education and the difficulty of determining whether the national education budget was sufficient without access to the provincial education budgets.
Mr S Mayatula reminded the Committee that public hearings on the Education Budget were scheduled for 1 and 2 June and that the Committee would again examine the budget on 8 June. The debate on the budget would take place on 18 June. The Committee also diarised a meeting with a delegation from the Ukraine at the end of June.
Mr Thami Mseleku (Director General) presented the Department of Education's (DoE) strategic plan for 2004/5 (see Powerpoint presentation).
Mr I Vadi (ANC) asked whether the provincial budgets could be made available. He said that before the first democratic election, ANC policy had been for free public education. In 1994, the party had discovered that this was not possible in the light of economic reality. Researcher Luis Crouch had advised that school governing bodies would have to supplement the schools' budgets and this system had been in operation for ten years. In some cases, this had resulted in state school fees being R15 000 per annum. He asked whether the Department was systematically moving towards free public education, and if so, how quickly could it be reached.
Mr Mayatula (ANC) agreed that the provincial education budgets should be available as the national budget did not apparently provide for the eradication of "schooling under trees" and early childhood development (ECD) which the President had referred to in his parliamentary opening address.
Mr R van den Heever (ANC) asked whether significant changes to the plans could be expected since they were drawn up before the President's address. He noted that the funding for the history project had dwindled and asked whether the project would continue.
Mr Mseleku said that it would be difficult to make the provincial budgets available for 8 June as they had not yet been passed in the provinces.
Over the next five years, the percentage of learners who would be exempt from school fees would increase to 40%. It was difficult to say what quality of education would be provided without "quality" being defined beforehand. Personally, he felt that the debate about "capping" should be revisited.
On classes under trees, Mr Mseleku said that Limpopo had had 150 such classes and now had none but Gauteng had had no such classrooms, but now had a shortage of classrooms because of migration of learners into that province. The problem would not go away. Provincial budgets would prioritise classroom provision but the provision might be inadequate. He asked the Committee to engage with the provinces on the matter as conditional grant funds had been transferred to them.
The current plan and budget would not change much and it had to a large extent covered the priorities of the President. Further Education and Training (FET) recapitalisation had not been covered - a further R2bn was needed and the DoE would meet with the Treasury to discuss an increase in its budget.
The history project was donor-funded and the funding was now at an end. The R306 000 in the budget was for a sub-project within it. The products of the history project were integrated into the curriculum but the funders would be approached for sponsorship of materials development and other items.
Mr Vadi asked whether the quality of education to be provided would be reasonable.
Mr Mseleku replied that it would cost the state R450 to R650 per learner, which was a reasonable amount in terms of outcomes.
In answer to a question, Mr Mseleku said that the DoE did not rely on donor funding for key challenges. As donor funding diminished, the DoE covered that expenditure from its own funding. He felt some concern, however, that education would be "crowded out" of provincial budgets by social grants. As an average of 92% of provincial budgets went on personnel, the remaining 8% was encroached upon.
He offered to make a presentation on the history project to the Committee.
The Chair reminded the Committee that the Minister would give a media briefing on Friday 28 May.
The meeting was adjourned.
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