Big education budget pressures

2010-04-22 00:00

THE KwaZulu-Natal Education Department has set its sights on achieving nothing less than a 65% pass rate for this year’s matriculants.

However, backlogs and natural disasters such as storms, which are unbudgeted for, are the biggest contributors to infrastructure problems, which affect the quality of education.

MEC Senzo Mchunu, presenting his budget before the legislature yesterday, said that just over R2 billion of the R29 billion total budget has been allocated for infrastructure.

But he added that infrastructure backlogs will cost R44 billion to deal with, according to research conducted in 2007. He said that with the depreciating rand and the progression of the problems, it is probable that this figure has increased.

Mchunu said there is also a need for the standardisation of school buildings to eliminate those built of mud brick or corrugated iron.

Schools in Pietermaritzburg, Durban and Richards Bay topped the list for infrastructural needs, but the MEC said rural areas are increasingly becoming pressure points.

“We usually get called in by a school needing repairs. But we find out when we get there that the school actually needs to be demolished and started afresh. Such are our construction challenges,” he said.

Mchunu said storms add to the budget pressures. He told journalists that 555 schools — many of them built by communities without subsidies — have been destroyed by storms since 2008.

Rebuilding is estimated to have cost R234 million, which he said often means stalling on the building of classrooms.

There is still a backlog of 7 550 classrooms, and the department needs to build 9 936 toilets and 3 435 administration blocks.

The R2,031 billion set aside for infrastructure, significantly more than last year’s R1,3 billion, is expected to go towards the building of 20 new schools, nine of which could not be built last year.

About 2 000 ordinary classrooms, 60 multi-purpose classrooms and laboratories as well as 3 200 toilets should also be built on this budget.

The department is planning to fence 100 schools and provide water and electricity to 200 schools.

Mchunu said other barriers to quality education include insufficient teacher development measures and a lack of equipment in classes.

He said the outcomes-based education system, and the improvements made to it, enhance the need for personnel development.

Mchunu said the assessment is that teachers who trained under the “old order” are still lagging behind.

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