Calls Intensify To Increase Education Budget And Reverse Cuts


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Advocacy groups have expressed their concerns over how budget cuts are affecting the delivery of education. This comes after the finance minister revised the basic education sector's budgetary allocation. 


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Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana unveiled a budgetary allocation of R324.5 billion for the Basic Education sector in the 2024/2025 financial year, with additional funds allocated for increases in teacher salaries.

Equal Education (EE) and the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) have expressed concern over budget cuts imposed on the sector. These cuts were part of an overall reduction of R2.8 billion approved by the cabinet over the medium term, affecting various programs, including the school infrastructure budget.

The Education Infrastructure Grant (EIG), serving as the primary funding source for school infrastructure initiatives across provinces, received an allocation of R13.68 billion. This allocation is intended to cover the maintenance of existing infrastructure and the construction of new schools.

While this marks a slight increase of R1.4 billion compared to previous figures, effectively reversing cuts made in November 2023, the practical allocation for the EIG in 2024 remains unchanged and is even slightly lower than the R13.8 billion allocated in February 2023.

Although the basic education budget for 2024 is R324.5 billion and is projected to grow over the next three years, when inflation (the price of goods and services) is considered, today’s tabled (2024/25) budget does little to relieve the crisis in the schooling sector. 

EE and EELC argue that such measures deliver a significant blow to millions of poor and low-income households reliant on government services to realise their socio-economic rights, particularly the right to basic education. They assert that this education budget falls short of the government's obligations to uphold human rights.

The National Treasury’s continued austerity budgeting, characterised by aggressive cuts to social spending, poses a significant blow to millions of poor and low-income households reliant on government services to realise their socio-economic rights, including the right to basic education....Treasury’s push in this direction will severely disrupt the provision of vital public services like basic education, and is a warning sign that human rights are increasingly just not a priority

These budget cuts were introduced as part of the National Treasury's strategy to tackle South Africa's debt, which accounted for 74% of the country's Nominal GDP in September 2023. EE contends that the National Treasury’s strategy, relying heavily on budget cuts and reprioritisation to repay government debt, is expected to disrupt the provision of crucial public services including basic education.

Therefore, EE and EELC strongly oppose this renewed austerity agenda, urging Parliament to review its decision allowing for education funding cuts and calling for an immediate reversal of all reductions. They demand that education budgets be adjusted to account for inflation and increase learner enrollment, at a minimum.

Additionally, they call for enhancing the Early Childhood Development (ECD) subsidy to reach at least R46 billion by 2029, along with adequate funding for pre-registration support and infrastructure improvements. Furthermore, they advocate for the gradual introduction of nutrition support for children in all ECD programs, whether registered or unregistered.

EE and EELC emphasise the necessity for rigorous monitoring, oversight, and accountability mechanisms to ensure efficient and effective utilisation of resources by education departments to deliver quality services to school communities.

Lastly, they emphasise the need for a revision of the approach to debt management and fiscal consolidation, with explicit prioritisation and protection of socio-economic rights.

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