School backlogs grant gets R7bn trim

2012-10-25 15:03 - Sapa

Parliament - Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has trimmed R7.2bn from the school infrastructure backlogs grant over the next three years.

According to the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS), tabled in Parliament on Thursday, this is the result of Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga's department's slow spending on the programme.

The funds will be taken out of Motshekga's coffers and moved to provinces as conditional grant, to be spent on infrastructure and libraries.

The cut comes amid a court challenge from Equal Education, an NGO that is trying to force Motshekga to put in place minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure.

The department has been accused of failing to eradicate so-called mud schools and other inappropriate infrastructure and building new schools, most notably in the Eastern Cape.

According to the MTBPS, a portion of the re-allocated money will now go towards the construction of new universities in the Northern Cape and Mpumalanga.

Despite the re-allocation, basic and higher education continue to receive the biggest slice of the budgetary pie.

Government spending in this area will rise to just under R269bn over the next three years.

This translates to an average annual increase in the education budget of 6.9%, from this year's R220bn allocation.

The growth in spending will be driven by rising pupil and student numbers, which will be accompanied by the appointment of more teachers, and funding for those opting for tertiary education.

Gordhan expects Motshekga and her MECs to focus their energies on improving numeracy and literacy among South African pupils, specifically at foundation phase.

This would include increasing the enrolment at Grade R level.

Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande would be expected to improve the quality of teaching at Further Education and Training colleges, and to boost throughput rates at universities.

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