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We are getting poor value for billions spent on education

Parkside’s John Bisseker Secondary School halted teaching and learning after the provincial education department failed to fill several teaching posts.
Parkside’s John Bisseker Secondary School halted teaching and learning after the provincial education department failed to fill several teaching posts.
Image: Theo Jeptha

SA spends more of its national budget on education than most other countries in the world, including the wealthier and more developed countries.

Our national basic education budget is expected to exceed R300bn  by 2025.

According to finance minister Enoch Godongwana, the government is expected to spend at least R1.4-trillion over the next three years on higher and basic education and the sports, arts and culture function.

With so much of our national budget being chewed up by education, how is it that children continue to get such a raw deal in this country’s classrooms.

We reported this week that the school governing body of East London’s John Bisseker Secondary School decided to send the children home as it is eight teachers short, meaning too many children were free to do as they pleased — putting the children and the school at risk.

John Bisseker is not unique when it comes to staff shortages.

Education portfolio committee chair and ANC MPL Mpumelelo Saziwa this week said he was not aware of John Bisseker’s issues and did not believe there were any teacher shortages in the province. 

This goes contrary to the situation just six short months ago where he led the charge in condemning the department for failing to budget properly for filling vacant posts.

At the time, Eastern Cape government schools were short almost 2,000 teachers, including more than 350 principals.

Principals have told this publication that it can take up to two years to fill a single vacant post and many raise money and pay teachers via their SGBs.

Our constitution says — and our courts have confirmed — that a basic education is an immediately realisable right as opposed to so many other socioeconomic rights which the courts have ruled are progressively realisable within state resources.

And an essential part of education is having suitably qualified subject teachers in classrooms.

If this is not happening it means the education department is in violation of its constitutional mandate.

It has no rights under the constitution to underfund filling teacher vacancies or to fail to do so by stealthy means.

Numerous schools in the province have repeatedly had to resort to court to force the department to advertise their declared vacant posts and to fill them.

In one class action — which cost the department more than R80m — the department had to acquiesce to not only filling vacant posts at 80 schools but also to reimburse these schools which had, in desperation, funded teacher posts out of their own scarce resources.

Nobody wants to head back down that long and tedious legal route.

The department is well aware of its obligations and needs to meet them without being coerced to by our courts.

It’s time this country got some educational bang from its R300bn  bucks.




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