The Department of Basic Education together with Provincial Education Departments have made significant strides in addressing school infrastructure challenges but weather conditions and budget cuts pose a threat to the provision of much needed resources.
The Department today briefed the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education on the progress made towards delivering school infrastructure.
The Deputy Minister of Basic Education Enver Surty led the delegation that addressed Members of Parliament in Cape Town.
He told the Portfolio Committee that the bulk of the work was taking place in provinces and that Department of Basic Education largely had an oversight role except for the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative which it manages directly. The Deputy Minister said the situation was far from being fully addressed but that, based on the number of schools completed and those under construction, there was hope on the horizon. He said the department needed the co-operation of other organs of state and government departments to succeed in the provision of school infrastructure.
The Director-General of the Department of Basic Education Mathanzima Mweli told the Committee that the expenditure on school infrastructure indicated that by January 2018 KwaZulu-Natal had already spent 93% of their infrastructure budget from the equitable share. He said the province had 324 schools damaged by storms in 2017 and that placed a huge financial burden as mobile classrooms and other facilities had to be provided to ensure learners were not negatively affected.
The damage caused by storms in many parts of Limpopo and the burning down of schools in Vuwani had added to the financial strain the province was in.
He said Limpopo was in similar circumstances as Mpumalanga and Eastern Cape where the weather caused serious challenges every year and that the damage had a negative impact on the delivery of school infrastructure.
The head of school infrastructure at DBE, Ramasedi Mafoko told the Portfolio Committee that the Department was working with Treasury both at provincial and national levels to come up with measures that could assist to address the situation.
We have received an indication that the Limpopo Provincial Treasury will assist the Provincial Education Department with R120 million to be for infrastructure. The Department has not been able to pay contractors and the situation is quite serious. “It is because of the quantum of the work they are doing and the challenges they have to overcome to fix the damaged schools that has led to this current situation,” he said.
The Department of Basic Education had increased the baseline funding to Limpopo in the Education Infrastructure Grant (EIG) from the current R810million to R1.1 billion in the 2018/19 financial year and it would increase to R1,3 billion in the 2019/20 financial year. “We hope the steps taken will help mitigate against the challenges that they are facing,” he said.
Mafoko said there were many projects at construction phase but that some implementing agents were letting the department down resulting in cancellation of contracts and reallocation of work to other companies. “For example not a single project was closed out in Mpumalanga because of some implementing agents but we have now sent a team to camp in the province to make sure that all the projects are fully completed with all the compliance matters having been dealt with,” he said.
Mafoko said 5 225 maintenance projects were under way around the country and the Eastern Cape had already exhausted its maintenance budget.
“We introduced a 12% minimum budget for each province to be dedicated to maintenance. We took this step to compel provinces to set aside funding for maintenance because some provinces were not budgeting for it,” he said.
The Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) had delivered 189 schools replacing inappropriate structures, provided water to 666, sanitation to 453 and electricity to 372 sites around the country with the majority being in the Eastern Cape.
The Portfolio Committee heard that despite the progress made thus far more than R3,5 billion would be cut in the next 3 years on ASIDI which would create challenges when it comes to school infrastructure delivery. The cuts were part of a government-wide reprioritisation of funds.
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