Funding for school infrastructure could cost R98bn | Fin24
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Funding for school infrastructure could cost R98bn

Nov 14 2016 19:06
Lameez Omarjee

Pretoria - Funding required to uplift the infrastructure of schools is estimated to cost R98bn, according to Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga.

This estimate was made as far back as 2013, when the department published its Regulations Relating to Uniform Norms and Standards for Public Schools Infrastructure. Motshekga, who was speaking at a briefing on the progress made in delivering school infrastructure in Pretoria on Monday, explained that the amount could have risen at this stage.

“R98bn is the cost to put all schools on the right path to meet norms and standards,” said Motshekga. “But the fact of the matter is that it is unlikely we will have R98bn.”

According to the “norms and standards” which were set out in 2013, infrastructure targets include the provision of water, sanitation and electricity to schools.

This infrastructure is provided through provincial infrastructure programmes such as the Provincial Schools Build Programme and the Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative.

The Provincial Schools Build Programme sets out to provide schools with basic services, new schools, additions to existing schools and new and upgraded services and maintenance. This is funded through the Education Infrastructure Grant and a provincial contribution.

READ: SA universities are not pre-schools - Angie Motshekga

The Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative aims to address infrastructure backlogs that do not meet basic services. According to director general Mathanzima Mweli, government has invested over R10bn since 2011/2012 through the initiative. The amount spent to date is over R6bn. “This is about 65% of the total allocation.”

So far the department has made progress in the provision of basic services. In October 2014, 474 schools without a form of sanitation were identified. By September 2016, 408 schools had been provided with sanitation.

In October 2014, 604 schools were identified as having no water. By September 2016, 523 schools had been provided with water. In October 2014, 1 131 schools were identified as having no power supply. This has been difficult to address, explained Motshekga, as the provision of electricity is heavily reliant on work with Eskom. By September 2016, less than half (560) of the schools had been provided with power.

As for the 699 schools built with inappropriate materials such as mud, asbestos and wood, by September 2016 217 schools had been rebuilt.

Challenges to overcome

There have been challenges to meeting the norms and standards that were set, explained Motshekga. For instance, implementation in provinces such as Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo has proven difficult. The Department of Basic Education's role is to serve as an “outfeed” of monitoring and evaluation and advice, she explained.

“We are an outfit designed to monitor and evaluate, not implement… The truth of the matter is our posture and position is not for implementing.” She added: “These provinces need more support. We are making a bid to Treasury to set up a support capacity from national to intervene.”

Motshekga added that it is up to provinces to employ build specialists. “I can’t employ for them. They must employ for themselves.” However, another challenge is that build specialists are in high demand, given the country’s infrastructure problem. Build specialists often choose to leave because they can’t stay on provincial projects with the “minimal salaries” being paid to them, she said.

“We need to find a centralised mechanism approved by Treasury to do school infrastructure implementation. It is a matter under discussion and (one) we need to address.”

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