Minister Schäfer calls on COSATU and partners to denounce defunding of education
I note COSATU’s announcement that they will be holding a press conference regarding the challenges facing the WCED. I am pleased that COSATU and its associated organisations understand that there are challenges facing us. The most profound of these challenges – and indeed the one that underpins almost all others – is the continuous defunding of education in the Western Cape by the national government.
Once again, severe budget cuts threaten to wipe out many of our projects and programmes. A third of our infrastructure budget this year has been wiped out as a result of cuts to the Education Infrastructure Grant and expenditure on Covid-19 compliance measures, for which we have received no compensation from National Treasury. The cuts being demanded by the National Treasury for the next three years are nothing short of devastating.
The simple fact that must be understood is this: without a proper budget, we are unable to pay for all the things we need to deliver quality education to learners in this province.
Budget cuts mean we cannot build enough schools for the additional 18 000 learners added to our province’s schools each year, so there will be a major struggle to find school places every single year.
Budget cuts mean it is harder and harder to undertake speedy repairs and maintenance of schools, especially when they are shamefully damaged deliberately by vandals.
Budget cuts mean we cannot put high-security fencing around all the schools that need it, so schools will continue to fall victim to the malicious criminals in our communities.
Budget cuts mean we cannot provide learner transport to every learner who needs it, so we still have small children walking up to 5 kilometres to get to school.
Budget cuts mean that we cannot hire more teachers, so class sizes – and the pressure on our teachers – will continue to rise.
We cannot continue to provide a quality education to every learner in this province without the money to pay for it. It is a financial impossibility. While the Western Cape prioritises education during our budgeting process, every department will suffer when the national government demands massive cuts to the provincial share – no matter how important the services they deliver are.
We are in a dire situation.
If these organisations are genuinely serious about solving the challenges we face, they will join us in demanding that national government prioritise the education of our children over the continued looting of State Owned Enterprises.
I really hope these organisations will publicly state tomorrow that they do NOT support the continued diversion of funding from education and other crucial services to collapsing SOEs, and to demand that the national government reverse the budget cuts made this year and increase its allocation of funding for education in our province.
Anything short of this will make it clear that they are only interested in political point-scoring, and not in the welfare of our children. We will be watching closely tomorrow to see where their real priorities lie.