Education needs 'more than billions'

2008-02-29 00:00

Education and Health got the lion's share (about 71%) of the MEC Dr Zweli Mkhize's budget for the 2008/2009 financial year.

Unveiling the budget at the Legislature yesterday, Mkhize said Education will be allocated about R21,4 billion for the year, which is about 41,8% of the total provincial budget of R51,1 billion. The figure shows an increment of about 15,1% (R2,8 billion) in allocation from last year's R18,5 billion.

This, Mkhize said, will go a long way towards improving the standard of education in the province.

'Improving education outcomes is the key to breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty - If our quest for freedom from poverty, ignorance and disease is to be achieved, education needs to be universal, accessible, affordable and mostly free,' Mkhize said.

It will, he warned, however, take more than just increased funding to improve the standard of education. Mkhize called on all the stakeholders to work towards the realisation of a better and improved education system in the province.

'Achieving the desired quality of teaching and learning is an issue of good leadership, and a positive attitude of departmental management and school principals, that cascades down to educators to inspire the learners to reach greater heights of knowledge acquisition. Change of attitude comes at no cost to the fiscus.'

Health was another winner also receiving a sizeable piece of the provincial pie. The department got an allocation of about R15 billion, an improvement of about R1,6 billion (12,2%) from last year's allocation.

A huge chunk of the allocation will go towards interventions on HIV/Aids. 'To reflect our serious concern with the raging pandemic in this province, allocations to the HIV and Aids programme will increase from R1,2 billion to R1,6 billion over the next three years - ,' he said.

Mkhize said that the government will consider allocating even more funds for the roll out of anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment, due to the success shown by the Heath Department in rolling out the treatment.

The department, according to Mkhize, exceeded its target of 66 000 for the ARV roll-out. Last month, the figure was reported to be at 130 000.

'The underlying philosophy of our health-care system indicates the need for our health efforts to shift increasingly to preventative measures and educating - our children - our efforts should achieve a reduction in teenage pregnancies and life-threatening diseases - '

Mkhize was also generous to the rest of the departments, with all receiving increments from last year's allocations. Transport got a fair amount of R3,8 billion, while the Agriculture Department received about R1,7 billion; Economic Development (R2,6 billion); Housing (R1,8 billion), while Royal Household gets R39,3 million.

Opposition parties responded positively to the budget although there were some objections. 'We essentially agree with the MEC - that the focus of Education spending should be on the quality of training to meet the ubiquitous skills shortages -,' said the IFP's Lionel Mtshali.

The DA said that the five percent earmarked for the maintenance of infrastructure is insufficient and proposed that at least 10% should be allocated for this.

bmbanjwa@witness.co.za

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