Basic Education Minister, Mrs Angie Motshekga presented the Department of Basic Education’s (DBE’s) Budget Vote 16, for the 2023/24 Financial Year in the National Assembly, Parliament, Cape Town, on 18 May 2023. The overall 2023/24 MTEF budget allocation for the DBE is R31.8 billion, an increase of 7.0% from last year’s overall allocation.
The Minister highlighted that the heart of any development within the Basic Education Sector, must be what learners learn – learning outcomes, adding that these were severely impacted by COVID-19, exasperating teaching and learning losses and setting students back by one year of learning. “Prior to the pandemic, we had seen progress in the reading abilities of children. The Minister referred to the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS 2021) report that was shared with South Africans this week on 16 May 2023. PIRLS 2021 summarised the state of global learning poverty, as “the share of children who cannot read with meaning a simple text by the age of 10, as follows: “Firstly, in 2019, learning poverty was estimated at 57% in low and middle-income countries; secondly, post-COVID-19, a surge of up to 70% learning poverty in low and middle-income countries was noticeable; and thirdly, learning poverty was found to be as high as 86% for Sub-Saharan Africa”.
“During the 2018 State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Ramaphosa decreed that learners must be able to read for meaning by the age of 10 years. The DBE and the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT) responded with the National Reading Strategy (NRS) in 2019 with its 10 pillars. There is an emerging view that these must be changed to four key interdependent strands: an explicit reading literacy policy; skilled and agile teachers; age-appropriate and culturally relevant LTSMs; and involved parents and communities. An Integrated National Reading Literacy Strategy must be well resourced – we are engaging the National Treasury in this regard”.
“Since the Early Childhood Development (ECD) function shift from the Department of Social Development to the DBE, we have been crafting and implementing innovative strategies to strengthen the foundations of learning, looking at the continuum from birth to early Grades in the Foundation and Intermediate Phases. The Department subsequently conducted the National Census of Early Learning Programmes in 42,420 ECD programmes and the Thrive by Five Index Baseline Study revealed that only 45% of children, who are currently attending ECD programmes, are developmentally on track. It is therefore important that a new holistic and inclusive model includes all communities of trust in the ECD space”.
In respect of skills and competencies for a changing world, the Three-Stream Curriculum Model is a responsive curriculum to meet the demands of the 21st Century. The Minister cited the introduction of the vocational and the occupational streams as additional learning pathways towards the attainment of the National Senior Certificate (NSC) in the schooling system. “Other milestones include the finalisation of 35 Occupational and Vocational subjects for implementation in 74 Schools of Skill. In 2021, we began piloting the specialised subjects in Grades 8 and 9 in 104 Public Ordinary Schools and Focus Schools selected across all nine provinces. The General Education Certificate (GEC) was piloted for assessment in 277 schools in 2022. This year, we have decided to step-up the pilot in 1,000 schools, including 126 Schools of Skill”.
The Sanitation Appropriate for Education (SAFE) Initiative, launched in 2018, focused on providing appropriate sanitation to schools, which were dependent on basic pit toilets. In 2018, there were initially 3,898 schools on the SAFE initiative. Further assessments and rationalisation decreased this number to 3,395 schools. At the end of the 2022/23 financial year, the construction of age-appropriate sanitation projects were completed in 2,722 schools. The remaining 673 sanitation projects are scheduled for completion before the end of this year. The Department has crafted an Infrastructure Ten-Point Strategy to accelerate the roll-out of school infrastructure, adopted by the Council for Education Ministers (CEM).
In conclusion, Minister Motshekga expressed her appreciation to partners, singling SACE, Umalusi, NECT, unions, SGB associations, principals’ associations, national organisations responsible for learners with special needs and independent schools’ associations for their counsel and impeccable resilience. She also thanked national and provincial legislature, and MECs in the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) and their respective Heads of Departments (HoDs), the Deputy Minister, Dr Reginah Mhaule and the Director-General, in particular, for their ongoing support. “As we continue to confront our ongoing challenges in the Sector: learner performance; schools and district offices; infrastructure; resource constraints; school safety; learners and teachers’ well-being; and parental involvement, we must remember this quote from Dr Mokhubung Magubane: the future is embedded in the present, as the present bears imprints of the past.