2022 Western Cape Education Budget Speech
Members of the Provincial Cabinet,
For the last number of years, I have been in the unfortunate position of having to begin my budget speech by outlining the harsh reality the WCED faces in terms of delivering quality education to an ever-increasing number of learners, with a decreasing amount of money in real terms. This House is well aware of the many challenges we face, and some have become rather disenchanted with my constant refrain about lack of money. So for them, they can relax, because I am very happy to be able to report that this year, we have been allocated additional funding that is significant enough to make a real difference, to help us come up for a bit of air, whilst we deal with the extreme pressures our department faces, and that enables us to cautiously breathe a very small, although probably temporary, sigh of relief.
Our total budget for the 2022/23 financial year is R28.03 billion, a pleasing R2.2bn more than that we received last year. Considering the backlogs we face, and the increasing demands, it is clear why it is needed. And whilst we are very pleased with it, we must not expect that this will solve all the issues we face. A system with 1.1 million learners, nearly 42 000 staff members and a lot of infrastructure needs a lot of money to keep things running. And we have been cutting into the bone for some time now – the bone needs to recover before it can start growing again.
Our finance team has been working closely with the Provincial Treasury over the last few months, and I would like to thank both teams for the work they have done, to get us to the point where an additional R7.91billion has been allocated to our department over the MTEF, with R2.65 billion of this funding added in the 2022/23 financial year.
Increased infrastructure spending
The budget tabled here today allocates R2.55 billion to infrastructure in the 2022/23 financial year, which is a significant increase on the previous R1.72 billion target spend for 2021/22. Over the MTEF, spending on this priority will amount to R7.04 billion. This will allow us to put projects that had to be suspended by budget cuts back on the table, like the establishment of a high school in Darling.
It is going to take some doing to spend R2.55 billion, but as Mr Salie Abrahams, our DDG: Education Planning says – it is a nice problem to have! Planning has already started to ensure that we maximise this opportunity, but crucial to our ability to do this will be the scrapping of PTI 16b, which compels us to use DTPW as our sole implementing agent. We must have more control over smaller infrastructure works for schools, to avoid scenarios where we have a 46-week lead time for a mobile classroom that is urgently needed, for example.
Minister Maynier mentioned this in his budget speech, and I would urge that this happen now with some speed, or there is VERY likely to be underspending at the end of this financial year, no matter how many reports are sent to Standing Committees.
Min Mitchell mentioned yesterday the issues that he has highlighted as risks of this move. I thank him for that and we look forward to taking up the challenge. We are not saying that we can or want to take over all infrastructure, but more flexibility is essential and long overdue.
Appointing more staff members
Crucial to our operations are people. Whilst much is said about reducing the cost of CoE in government, with which we agree in principle, this department is not one which can, or should, contribute to that reduction. Without people – and no, computers cannot replace teachers! - we cannot deliver education.
So I am very pleased that some of our additional funding will enable us, firstly, to add an extra 329 public service posts, to reduce the administrative burdens that our schools face.
We are all very aware of the overcrowding we are facing in many of our classrooms. The additional budget will also allow us to make some progress in reducing the teacher: learner ratio, by the appointment of additional teachers. Whilst the actual number is subject to the consultation process with the unions later this year, we are very hopeful that we will be able to add over 1000 extra posts to the basket.
We will also focus on the phasing in of the appointment of fully qualified Grade R teachers, with increasing pressure on schools to provide for this grade. Full universalisation should have been achieved by 2019, and we expect the eventual inclusion of this grade in compulsory schooling after the passing of the BELA Bill.
Additional support for our schools will be the implementation of the third phase of the Basic Education Employment Initiative (BEEI), which will be implemented from 1 April to 30 September this year. R533.91 million will be spent in the 2022/23 financial year to fund the employment of assistants at our schools in support of our school staff, to deliver quality education. These assistants have been well-received in our schools, so the stop-start nature of the project as the result of delays in confirmation of funding from National Treasury is frustrating, to say the least.
No-fee school status for more schools
Speaker, the current state of the economy has hit our schools hard, including our fee-charging schools where parents have lost jobs and income, and are struggling to pay fees. As announced during the mid-term budget debate last year, we made allocations to assist our schools with expenses such as Covid-19 prevention materials, municipal bills, and ICT infrastructure.
But there’s an underlying concern that we have consistently been highlighting: the quintile system, which influences the funding of schools based on an outdated policy that is supposed to reflect the poverty of the learners, but bears no resemblance to the reality on the ground.
Speaker, I am pleased that the members of this House agree that we need to relook at this system, because it is prejudicing our poor schools.
I am therefore pleased to announce that, because of our additional allocation, we shall be offering to 160 fee-paying schools catering for learners from disadvantaged communities, the opportunity to become no-fee schools from 1 January 2023, in recognition of their true socio-economic context. This shows the commitment of the Western Cape Government and WCED to our poorer communities.
Foundation Phase priority
Speaker, as I have recently publicised, we were all disappointed, but not surprised, to discover the full extent of the learning losses that the children of our province have experienced owing to the pandemic. The 2021 systemic tests revealed a substantial reversal of the gains we have made over many years.
These losses were most evident in the Foundation Phase, where daily attendance is critical to ensure that concepts learned are reinforced over time. Redressing the learning losses is a crucial part of the Western Cape Recovery Plan, and it is vitally important that we ensure that the losses in these crucial years are addressed as urgently as possible.
We will thus be allocating an additional R68.72 million to this priority in the 2022/23 financial year, out of an additional R131.94 million over the MTEF. We will be able to track the impact of this investment through our ongoing annual systemic tests in the coming years, and remain the only province to measure our progress in an independent and internationally-benchmarked manner.
Another factor that we sincerely believe will assist in the longer-term improvement of Foundation Phase outcomes is one that is happening this Friday, namely the transfer of responsibility for Early Childhood Development (ECD) from the provincial Department of Social Development to the WCED.
As I outlined at the very successful ECD Summit in October last year, we are all aware of the positive effects of children attending quality ECDs, in terms of intellectual development, nutrition, safety, social development, and general wellbeing of young children. It is for this reason that our government has worked so hard to support ECD provision to date, and the rationale for the shift is to drive further improvement and better alignment with education.
Further developing the sector will, however, take time and, of course, additional funding, which we trust will be forthcoming from National Treasury in honour of the national government’s stated commitment to improving this important sector. For the first two years, the operational aspects and service delivery model for ECDs will not change. The WCED will be taking responsibility for registration, funding and programme implementation, and we will be working with NGOs, ECD fora and other entities to reach all registered and unregistered ECD sites, and to better understand the sector.
The DSD staff identified for the function shift will be transferring to the WCED with the same functions and portfolios they currently hold, and will fall under the same directorate as Grade R. The National Curriculum Framework: Birth-Four years will remain the national curriculum supported by the DBE and curriculum officials in the WCED.
Equitable Share funding of R289.9 million, and ECD Conditional Grant funding of R95.87 million, has been added to the WCED’s baseline in support of this function for the 2022/23 financial year.
A lot of work has gone into the process of transferring this function, and I would like to thank Minister Fernandez, HOD Macdonald and the social development team, as well as the team from WCED, especially Karen Dudley and Ruth Leukes, for all their efforts in ensuring what I believe will be a smooth transition. Kudos also to DSD for developing the current model of funding, which is now being adopted nationally.
Expanding offering for skills
Speaker, the primary role of education is to teach people the skills they will need when they leave school, in order to live a dignified life and contribute to our economy.
Aside from the vital Foundation Phase Skills of reading, writing and calculating, we also need to ensure that, as our learners progress through school, they learn 21st century skills and practical skills that are so desperately needed.
Our commitment to this goal preceded the pandemic, with an expanded focus on STEAMAC. It focuses on the specific skills our provincial and national economy needs now, and will need in the future. And we are committed to expanding learning opportunities in these fields. It is crucial for young people to participate meaningfully in the economy as young adults by getting and creating jobs. This is another important part of the Western Cape Recovery Plan: without this investment in skills development, we cannot expect our economy to prosper.
We have, unfortunately, been limited in achieving this vision due to the immediate pressures of placement. Notwithstanding this, I want to commend my Department on the progress that HAS been made, and their genuine commitment to providing quality education for every child in every classroom in every school in this province.
Blended learning priority and coding and computational skills
As regards the “T” in STEAMAC, namely Technology, while the pandemic has had a negative impact on our system, it has also highlighted opportunities that we must make use of to increase our ability to respond to these kinds of shocks. One area in which this is most evident is digital learning, which many relied on during school closures and disruptions. We will be making an additional investment in the blended-learning priority of R170 million in the coming financial year.
In addition, 1 290 of our schools are now connected to broadband and 249 schools have subsidy alternatives to broadband. 752 schools have Local Area Networks (LAN) installed, with a further 553 schools with partial access installed. is really important, as if the enabling environment is there, multiple appropriate resources can be used to improve teaching and learning.
Part of our focus on this priority is the recognition of the various online schooling options that are becoming available to learners at a rapid rate. At present, there is no legislation that deals with the creation of online schools or their registration.
Complicating factors are how to deal with things like norms and standards for infrastructure not applying to these schools, and schools being registered in the Western Cape while enrolling learners living in other parts of the country or even the world. In the absence of national legislation, the WCED has begun development of a draft blended learning and online schooling policy, so we can have a clear position on roles and responsibilities in this innovative field.
In addition, we are about to publish regulations for public comment that will allow independent virtual schools to register with the Department. I look forward to inputs from interested parties so that we can move this forward and create extra opportunities for our learners.
Coding and robotics
Our Coding and robotics pilot project is proceeding well, with 32 schools participating in the Foundation Phase, with 96 teachers currently in training. The first leg of training delivered by Unisa took place at the end of 2021, and the second leg is currently underway. Teachers will receive a certificate upon successful completion of the course. Initially, the focus will be the integration of coding and robotics into existing subjects, building up to implementing a standalone subject.
The WCED is collaborating with various partners to run competitions, clubs, and other initiatives. For example, the Robotics e-Education and Coding Hubs (REACH) project, in collaboration with the Cape Town Science Centre, will see at least 24 robotics clubs established in 2022.
Agricultural and technical schools
Speaker, one of the “A’s” in STEAMAC is, of course, Agriculture, and we are also making pleasing progress in expanding our offering in this field (excuse the pun).
We know that Agriculture is a critical sector in our province. The number of schools offering agricultural subjects has expanded significantly from just 3 in 2015 to 30 in 2022.
We have also added infrastructure to support this priority, with workshops having been completed at Charlie Hofmeyr Secondary, Groendal Secondary, and Skurweberg Secondary. The construction of further workshops is underway at Hexvallei High and Kraaifontein High. In addition, we have completed RFID and aquaponics facilities at Boland Landbouskool, greenhouses at Kylemore Secondary, Roodezandt Secondary, Skurweberg Secondary, Overberg High, and Pelican Park High, and horticultural tunnels and shaded netting at Augsburg Landbougimnasium. Providing these facilities to schools allows them to expand their skills offering to learners, and represents a direct investment in our future provincial economy.
At the same time, the Department is partnering with various entities and organisations to offer learners’ specialised courses and certificates in this field, such as sheep shearing with the National Woolgrowers Association, irrigation with the South African Irrigation Institute, labour relations with the South African Labour Relations Council, and drone flying with the Department of Agriculture (Elsenberg) – amongst many others. These are practical skills that learners can readily apply.
In support of the Three Streams Model we also have 8 technical schools in our province, with planning underway in the MTEF for another five – in Hermanus, Nomzamo, Silversands, Saldanha, and Mfuleni.
Schools of skill and special needs schools
In addition to STEAMAC, we must expand opportunities for those learners who are not suited to the traditional academic subjects. Schools of Skills are an excellent mechanism to allow these learners to also participate in the economy ensuring they, too, can live a life of dignity. We currently have 22 such schools in our province, and the construction of a School of Skills in Manenberg is currently in the planning phase.
While we work to increase the number of Schools of Skills, we are also piloting the introduction of skills subjects in public ordinary schools. A pilot project offering Grade 8 and 9 skills subjects in 23 selected high schools was started in 2021.
We also recognise the value of collaboration schools in delivering skills education to our learners. Our miracle school, Jakes Gerwel Technical School, is a prime example of a community that saw a need for skills education in the area. Other communities have seen this success and wish to see the same offering available to their local children.
One such area is Struisbaai, where the need for skills education has led to a partnership with the Struisbaai Funding Trust to create a School of Skills. The school will be constructed on the grounds of Struisbaai Primary School, and include classrooms, workshops, training kitchens, a civil maintenance area, a hall, and administrative areas. The total cost of the project is R32.7 million, of which the WCED is funding 40%. It is using technology that is very different, and can be built offsite. This will allow us to create a technical occupational curriculum extension for Grades 8 and 9, so that learners who might have dropped out at the end of primary school can instead achieve a General Education Certificate (GEC), giving them access to Further Education and Training Phase options. The school is currently scheduled to open for the second term, and will initially cater for 30 learners, eventually increasing to 120 learners in total.
We can only undertake these innovative projects because the Western Cape Education Department recognised the potential for public-private partnerships to expand the available quality learning opportunities for the children of this province, and because we passed the relevant legislation required to make these partnerships a reality. Of course, it is being challenged in court, but this will not deter us.
Speaker, it is a travesty that Special Needs Schools are not included in the calculation of the Provincial Equitable Share, which only takes into account public ordinary schools. It goes without saying that special needs learners need more funding than those in public ordinary schools, as they need more attention and more equipment. In answer to a recent question in the National Assembly, Minister Motshekga confirmed this, the reason being “budget constraints”. This is quite simply unacceptable – national government can fund a bloated Cabinet, give multiple bailouts to failing SOE’s, watch as billions have been lost to corruption, but not allocate funding for our special needs learners! This just shows where the ANC government’s priorities lie.
We have 53 special needs schools in this province – I have not been able to calculate how much funding we have lost out on as a result of the above travesty, but it makes the excellent work we have done in this field even more impressive, and I must pay tribute to our team.
We are also providing support for learners with low to moderate special needs in ordinary schools, and have a new full service school in Sunningdale in planning at present. All teachers are to be trained in “Teaching for All”, starting this year with one school in every circuit which has been designated as a full-service/inclusive school. Teachers at these schools will be trained to increase their capacity to deal with learners with such support needs. An outreach team from a Special School Resource Centre will provide additional support.
There are also Learning Support teachers who provide support to learners with learning difficulties in ordinary primary schools. The number of Learning Support teachers has been increased this year to 624. Any parent of a learner with learning difficulties who has concerns should approach their school principal to request a meeting with the school-based support team or learning support teacher.
The last thing I want to mention regarding skills is Entrepreneurship. We are working very closely with the DBE to implement the E cubed programme this year, which refers to Employability and Entrepreneurship Education. This programme uses project-based learning to develop the kind of thinking and skills that our learners will need to succeed in the economy. We are starting with 12 schools in the first cohort this year, which will expand to approximately 300 schools by the third cohort in 2024.
This is very exciting and I want to thank Mr Haroon Mahomed and his team for all the work they are putting into this.
Closing and thanks
It is clear that we are using every cent we receive to empower our young people and create the best possible opportunities for them.
I regret not having more time to expound on the wonderful work that is happening every day in my Department, and want to commend HOD Brent Walters and Exco for their leadership, commitment and sheer hard work in their quest to achieve this. I also want to thank every member of my department for what they do, including, of course, our teachers and principals, who have to deal with challenging circumstances almost every day.
Thanks to CFO Mr Leon Ely, and Chief Director: Finance for all your efforts in regard to this budget process, engagements with PT and managing a budget the size of this one.
In closing, I would like to recognise the constructive engagements we have had with the Standing Committee for Education during this budget process. I welcome the new Chairperson of the Committee, Honourable Deidre Baartman, to this role and thank her for guiding the Committee during her first budget process in the education sphere. I also recognise the contribution of the former Chairperson, Honourable Lorraine Botha, for her leadership of the committee throughout the previous year, and her support for the education system in this province. We wish her well in her new Portfolio.
I am also encouraged by what appears to be an increasing realisation by members of the opposition that when we highlight funding challenges, we are not looking for excuses. We are simply stating the stark facts. Their recognition of the problems with the national government’s funding model, and their readiness to join our call for a relook at the quintile system, is refreshing and appreciated.
I also wish to thank my office, ably led by Lorika Elliott, who work so hard behind the scenes to deal with the myriad issues that come our way every day.
And I would like to thank the Premier for his leadership and support, as well as my Cabinet colleagues.
I accordingly take pleasure in tabling this Budget and ask for the support of this House.
Spokesperson to Minister Debbie Schäfer
Western Cape Ministry of Education