Molefe Seeletsa

By Molefe Seeletsa

Digital Journalist

DBE in talks with Treasury to resolve school infrastructure challenges

'There is a commitment from the minister of finance to assist us,' says Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga.

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) has been engaging with the National Treasury in a bid to resolve infrastructure challenges at public schools across the country.

This was confirmed by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga during a media briefing on Sunday morning, on the DBE’s readiness as schools prepare to allow pupils back on a full-time basis.

Earlier this week, Cabinet approved changes to alert level 1 Covid-19 regulations which will see primary, secondary and special needs schools return to daily attendance from Monday.

While rotational classes were scrapped, one-metre social distancing for pupils will also no longer be in place.

School infrastructure

Motshekga said various stakeholders had raised concerns during consultations over a number of matters including school infrastructure, the delivery of stationary and textbooks, and overcrowding amid the issue of school placements.

The minister indicated that these concerns were already a challenge for the department before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the shores of South Africa.

“We are presently in talks with the National Treasury to deal with these matters, taking in to consideration that these challenges came before Covid-19,” she said.

Expanding further on the matter, Motshekga said: “We can’t link the return to classes to our pre-Covid problems. What we agreed on is that yes, we are aware we have a problem [and] let’s fast track how we deal with it.

“In the meantime in any case, I know Gauteng has [carried out] a big programme on the running of the self-built schools where communities were given money to build blocks of classrooms in schools. Some provinces indicated to me that they have already ordered [mobile classrooms].”

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Motshekga further said Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana could allocate funds to the department in order to improve school infrastructure.

“I can’t say definitely the minister of Finance said ‘yes I have the money’. We have to prioritise and [identify] where do we start [and] we going to start with the existing infrastructure which has been destroyed [by the recent storms].

“Treasury is working with [the Department of] Public Works and other agencies in government to make sure that there can be support to us because as a sector we will not cope with all the challenges [we are facing].

“So there is a commitment from the minister of finance to assist us both financially [and] in terms of capacity. By the time he [delivers his budget speech], we should be able to have a full sense of how much the assistance is going to be,” the Minister continued.

The funds allocated to the department determines whether schools are built and maintained, and whether they have proper sanitation and electricity, among other things.

NEIMS report

According to the department’s national educational infrastructure management system (NEIMS) report, released in April 2021, more than 3,300 schools – out of 23,276 schools – do not have a reliable electricity supply across the country.

The report also stated that more than 5,000 schools did not have reliable access to water, and over 7,400 schools collected rainwater for use.

It also highlighted that 157 schools had no security measures such as electric fencing, gates and alarm systems.

READ MORE: Schools must ‘live side-by-side with Covid’, says Motshekga

Meanwhile, more than 2,100 schools had only pit toilets, while 201 schools only had mobile toilets, the report said.

In December last year, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) confirmed it would take legal action against several provincial education departments over pit toilets in schools.

According to the SAHRC, the provincial departments indicated that there were pit toilets at more than 3,000 schools.