Education ‘first priority’ in budget

2011-02-23 12:36

Education and skills development are “the first priority” in government spending over the next three years, according to Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s Budget Speech today.

Gordhan said education would, as usual, take the largest share of government spending – 21% of non-interest allocations.

This would include an extra R8.3 billion over the next three years for schools infrastructure, and R9.5 billion for expanding further education and training (FET) colleges and skills development.

An additional amount of just under R1 billion had been allocated for Funza Lushaka teacher bursaries, and bursaries for postgraduate students in natural sciences.

“Including adjustments for the remuneration of teachers, a total of R24.3 billion will be added to education and skills pending over the next three years, which rises from R190 billion next year, to R215 billion in 2013/14,” he said.

In its Budget Review tabled with Gordhan’s speech, National Treasury said: “Education and skills development are the first priority in government expenditure allocations.”

It said spending on those areas had increased by 16% a year over the period from 2007/08 to the current year.

It would grow from the current R172.7 billion to R215.1 billion in 2013/14, an average annual rate of 7.6%.

Gordhan told a media briefing today that he was able to increase the higher education budget substantially because of an unprecedented agreement within government that all departments would accept a 0.3% off their budgets.

“For the first time government in a collective way decided that we are cutting 0.3% from everybody’s budget. That amounted to about R6 million, and that R6 million was allocated to the minister of higher education for FET colleges and for the student financial fund.”

Provincial education spending was expected to grow by 6.5% over the medium term, to R171.2 billion in 2013/14, mainly due to growth in compensation of employees.

The R8.3 billion schools infrastructure allocation would allow 3 627 informal and unsafe schools structures to be replaced, and contribute to provision of water, sanitation and electricity at all schools.

The additional cash for teacher bursaries would increase the number of prospective teachers getting bursaries – in subject areas such as maths, science and the foundation phase – from 10 150 last year, to 15 217 by 2013.

The money earmarked for further education and training (FET) would increase FET enrolment from about 198,000 last year, to 315 000 this year.

It said the state bursary scheme for FET college students would increase to R5 billion over the next three years, including an additional R3.9 billion to enable an additional 120 600 poor learners to access college opportunities.

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