Free education for 8 million pupils - minister
Cape Town - Progress is being made in education despite problems, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said on Wednesday.
"The system is more equitable and pro-poor than it was before 1994," she told the National Assembly during debate on President Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation address.
A relatively stable schooling system had been built that had extended the right to basic education to over 12 million pupils in about 24 365 public schools and 1 486 private schools.
Currently, 365 447 teachers were employed.
"Three years ahead of the 2015 target, we're set to fulfil the millennium development goals on expanding access to education," she said.
Grade R enrolments had more than doubled from 300 000 in 2003 to 705 000 in 2011 and more young South Africans were completing Grade 9- from 80% in 2003 to 88% in 2010 - and more were now completing Grade 12.
The percentage of Grade 12 pupils who qualified for Bachelor's studies had now increased to 24.3%, placing the department in good stead to meet the target of 175 000 set for 2014.
It was 23.5% in 2010, 19.9% in 2009, and 20.1% in 2008.
"Free schooling and school meals are central to our pro-poor policies, to maximise access and roll back poverty," Motshekga said.
No fees for 8 million pupils
Currently, over eight million pupils in over 80% of public schools benefited from the no-fee school policy.
Among other things, processes were being finalised to evaluate principals and deputy principals.
This would augur in a new era of performance agreements, accountability, sound school management and the accruing benefits of quality teaching and proper use of time.
The national workbook programme had been extended from Grades 1 to 6 to Grades 7, 8 and 9 this year.
About 54 million books were being distributed to pupils free of charge.
"Behind the compromise of the right of children to learn in a favourable atmosphere, with adequate classrooms, libraries, laboratories, fencing, electricity, water and sanitation, lies the mammoth task of building the necessary infrastructure and resolving the backlog we have inherited."
About 1 700 schools were still without water supply and about 700 had no toilets.
"We have an estimated shortfall of 63 000 classrooms and 15 000 schools are without libraries. Moreover, we still have schools built entirely of mud."
Motshekga said contractors had been appointed for the construction of 49 schools in the Lusikisiki, Libode and Mthatha regions.
They had seven months to complete all 49 schools.
Contractors had also been appointed for the provision of water and sanitation to 88 schools in the Eastern Cape and 78 in Limpopo.
KwaZulu-Natal had started implementing 88 projects of which 48 were in construction stage. Other provinces were also engaged in school infrastructure projects, including Gauteng and the Free State, she said.