Education Budget Speech delivered at Provincial Parliament, Cape Town Western Cape Government Education Budget Vote Minister of Education, Debbie Schäfer 20 March 2016 | Western Cape Education Department

Education Budget Speech delivered at Provincial Parliament, Cape Town Western Cape Government Education Budget Vote Minister of Education, Debbie Schäfer 20 March 2016

Madam Speaker
Honourable Premier
Fellow Members of the Provincial Cabinet
Honourable Members of the Provincial Legislature
The Superintendent General of Education and all senior officials of the Western Cape Education Department
Chairman of the Education Council Mr Bruce Probyn and members
Representatives of the School Governing Body Associations and Unions
Invited guests
And my most special invited guests, my husband, Mark, and daughters Alyssa and Caitlin, without whom I could not do what I do and who enrich my life immeasurably


Madam Speaker, I present today the 2016/2017 Budget for the Western Cape Education Department.

It is my privilege to welcome a number of special guests today, whom I will introduce at the appropriate point in my speech.


Madam Speaker,

The last year has certainly been a most memorable year in education for a variety of reasons.

Some of them were very positive and others not so much.

On the positive side, as a result of strong internal financial controls, the WCED achieved a clean audit for the 2014/2015 financial year, becoming the first department of education in South Africa since democracy to do so.

Then, my personal highlight was the release of the 2015 National Senior Certificate results.

The Western Cape was the only Province to have improved on its 2014 NSC results, achieving the highest pass rate and bachelor pass rate in the country.

We were also very proud when the National Minister announced that two of the top three matriculants in the country came from the Western Cape. Andrew Tucker from SACS came in first place and William Mey from Tygerberg High School taking third place.

As a lawyer, I would also like to congratulate Claire Rankin and Clara-Marie Macheke who have joined us here today from the Springfield Convent, for taking the top spot at the International Schools Moot Court Competition at The Hague after toppling Team USA.

With the release of the results of the 2015 Language and Mathematics systemic tests we saw pleasing improvements especially in the area of mathematics - indicating that our many interventions in these areas are working.

Further evidence of this was when Sweet Valley Primary claimed the number 1 spot in the national AMESA Maths Competition. For those who don't know, AMESA Maths is the really difficult one. Very well done to principal Ian Ryan and Deputy Principal and Maths teacher Mark Rushby. Unfortunately they could not be here today.

In the past year we also saw the launch of some new strategies and pilots which I will elaborate on later.

While we have had much to celebrate, it has also been a challenging year for a number of reasons, one of which directly impacts the budget I am presenting today.

It is common knowledge that our country finds itself in a very difficult financial position. Despite our province's frugal financial management, as well as that we are experiencing a higher economic growth rate than the country as a whole, the Western Cape is unfortunately still greatly affected by this.

As a result of these difficulties, which are beyond our control, the Western Cape Government has had to make some very tough decisions - decisions that affect various areas of expenditure within the education budget. They are decisions that we would prefer to have avoided making.

One of the main reasons for our financial difficulties, as we have referred to on numerous occasions, is the recent nationally negotiated wage increases. It is somewhat ironically termed "Improvement in Conditions of Service". Given the dire implications for our budget, I do have to ask if it is really going to improve the conditions of teachers.

It is inescapable that our class sizes will increase. We have no choice. I have seen a comment by a union asking what plans the Department is going to put in place to deal with the increasing learner numbers. The reality we sit with is that the only plans we can make are plans that involve doing more with less. It is time that the realisation spread across South Africa that there is not a bottomless a pit of money to satisfy everyone's increasing demands.

The effects of the wage increases alone on our Department's budget over the MTEF will be approximately R1.3 billion based on this year's inflation figures. This pressure is likely to increase.

The shortfall that needs to be funded, over and above the provisions we had budgeted for, is approximately R450 million for the 2016/17 financial year. The WCED has had to look long and hard at our budget to determine how we can fund the shortfall.

This is an extremely complex issue that involves trying to maintain stability in the system, retain as many of our pro-poor initiatives as possible, and still try to ensure that we move forward in achieving our strategic goals and equipping our learners for life in the 21st century.

75% of our budget is allocated for the compensation of employees. The remaining 25% is needed to fund all other programmes contained in this budget, including Norms and Standards funding, furniture, textbooks, infrastructure, examinations, learner transport, school nutrition, school safety and gamechangers.

So here I stand today, presenting a budget that, over the past few months, has brought us many challenges.

However, despite these challenges, I believe it is a budget that reflects positively on the strategic outcomes we have set to achieve.

The 2016/17 budget

Madam Speaker, earlier this month the Provincial Minister of Finance announced that within the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), the Western Cape Education Department would receive over a third of the provincial budget - an investment in education of R61 billion.

The Department will receive R19, 2 billion for the 2016/17 financial year.

While this does represent an increase from the previous year this increase does not cover the cost of the increases pertaining to the ICS.

The bulk of the Department's funding is for Programme 2, Public ordinary school education, with an allocation of 73.2 % of the budget. This is followed by Programme 6 Infrastructure Development, with an allocation of R1,4 billion.

In the Western Cape, 6.1% of the budget is allocated to Special Needs, 7.5% to Administration and 3.4% will be allocated to Early Childhood Development in Grade R.

In each of these programmes we have committed ourselves to spending on projects, resources and people that will fulfil our objective to provide quality education to all the learners in this province as outlined in our Strategic Plan for 2015-2019 and the Provincial Strategic Plan.

These objectives seek to:

  1. Improve the level of language and mathematics in all schools
  2. Increase the number and quality of passes in the National Senior Certificate, and
  3. Increase in the quality of education provision in poorer communities

Madam Speaker,

Given the extreme financial constraints we face, we have as a Government, prioritised our front line services, for which I am grateful to my Cabinet colleagues and Provincial Treasury. In education, we have done our utmost to preserve the funding allocated to pro-poor initiatives.

These initiatives include the compensation for fee exemption of poorer learners, learner transport and other forms of funding to schools.

In fact, many of our strategies aim to ensure that our poorer schools are prioritised in terms of service delivery and roll-out, which I will highlight throughout my speech.

Our Government has gone beyond National Norms in supporting our poorer schools.

For example, in 2014 the WCED offered 216 public schools serving poorer communities the option to apply for No-Fee Status. This was done to assist our poorest schools in quintiles 4 and 5 in alleviating some of the funding challenges they face.

In the 2016/17 financial year, we will continue to support the 216 schools that have been declared no-fee schools through our own funding mechanisms.

We will also continue to compensate schools that serve poor communities by the provision of fee compensation. In 2016/2017, the WCED has allocated just over R46.3 million to assist parents who simply cannot afford to pay their children's school fees.

In total, Madam Speaker, it is important to note that 98.5% of our schools are either no fee schools or have benefitted from fee compensation. This not only highlights the WCED's commitment to assisting our poorer schools, but also our commitment to assisting our fee paying schools to accommodate poorer learners.

Our Norms and Standards Funding to schools will also increase this next financial year, contrary to the first erroneous circular that was sent to schools last week. In 2016/2017, no-fee schools in Quintiles 1 - 3 will receive an increased amount of R1 144 per learner. Quintile 4 schools will receive R590 and Quintile 5 R204 per learner.

One of the WCED's biggest cost drivers is learner transport. With increased growth in our Province, this has led to an increased demand for this service. Four years ago, in 2012/2013, we budgeted R203 million on learner transport. This financial year we will be allocating R311.956 million. This is R34.871 million more than last year.

Despite the budgetary constraints, I am pleased that our Department has found a way to ensure that this service has not been cut. I would very much have liked to expand it, but this is unfortunately not possible.

As an alternative to learner transport, the WCED also provides subsidised hostel accommodation, where available. One of the main driving factors behind the hostels is to provide a safe environment where learners are able to participate in a variety of sports activities, receive extra academic support from staff, as well as receive 3 meals a day. To meet this growing need, we are therefore allocating an increased amount of over R52.3 million to increase access to our hostel facilities.

In education, we deal with the effects of poverty every day with thousands of children from poor communities attending our province's schools, many of whom arrive at school hungry. The Western Cape Government is committed to ensuring that 465 000 of our poorest learners receive not just one, but two nutritious meals at 1023 schools every day.

The amount allocated to the feeding programme for the 2016/2017 financial year is just over R315.3 million.

We have also taken over the MOD centre feeding programme from the Department of Social Development, to which is allocated R45.5 million

However, I have a serious concern about the increasing cost of certain food items such as maize as a result of the drought we are experiencing across South Africa. This has already led to unexpected increases in costs for feeding scheme food items.

Just this month, we received an additional bill of R6 million from our service provider to cover these increases and it does not seem likely that these pressures will ease over the next year. We are therefore investigating innovative ways in which to ensure the nutritional value and quantity of our meals remains the same, despite these increases. I also raised the issue with the National Minister last week.

Madam Speaker, as is evident from what I have already said, we are trying to do more with less and any assistance that falls in line with our APP and strategic plan from the private sector and other non-profit organisations is welcomed.

It is on that note that I would like to share with you an update on the pilot we commenced with earlier this year - the Collaboration Schools initiative.

A Collaboration School is a public no-fee school partnered with a non-profit school support organisation committed to increasing the quality of teaching and learning in that school in order to substantially improve the school's educational outcomes.

The pilot is currently operating well in 3 schools. Each of these schools caters for learners from poor communities.

These public schools will receive extra training and development opportunities for their principals and teachers, additional resources for goods and services such as educational aids, scholastic materials, extra books, extra-curricular activities and funding for additional staff such as teaching assistants and a social worker in some cases. The accountability mechanisms will also be enhanced.

In other words, these schools will be provided with a range of additional resources, which they otherwise would not necessarily receive and which we cannot afford - all to the benefit of the learner and improving the quality of education at the school.

Another exciting initiative that we have launched this year, which speaks directly to improving our language and mathematics levels of learners at 105 of our poorer primary schools, is the Grade R-3 "living lab" project.

The project therefore aims to improve teaching methods and delivery at these schools through targeted interventions, monitoring implementation, and measuring impact. It also seeks to improve the involvement of parents in the education of their children. Competency Based Assessment tests for the Foundation Phase HODs at the respective schools have been completed. The results of these tests will then inform where development of each HOD is needed and targeted training and development provided.

Three NGOs have come on board to assist us with reading and mentorship programmes.

The WCED is also fast -tracking the provision of education technology at the schools, as part of the Western Cape Government's eLearning game changer programme.

On that note - some good progress has been made in two of the game changers that directly involve our schools.

The eLearning game changer is designed to make a major contribution towards improving the quality of teaching and learning in the province and entrenching the skills people need to participate in our technology-driven economy.

We have refined the game changer to align it with all three of our departmental strategic goals.

The WCED has invested R307.4million towards e-learning in the 2016/2017 financial year and over R1.2 billion over a five year period.

The WCED is working to ensure that every school in the Province begins to feel the benefits and transformative nature of this exciting project.

Within the last year or so, we have:

  • Installed 4267 technology enabled smart classrooms across 309 schools.
  • Connected 676 schools with the Wide Area Network.
  • Installed 30 NEW Wireless LANS covering all instruction rooms at such schools (as at 15 March 2016)
  • Refurbished 125 general Computer labs, and 180 CAT/IT/EGD subject-specific labs.

Within the next financial year we hope to see:

  • Another 100 schools within quintiles 1, 2, 3, 4, as well as Special Needs Schools, receive LANs, and;
  • 400 additional smart classrooms across 37 quintile 1-4 and SNE schools.

While this rollout is taking place, we have also embarked on a pilot which will involve 16 schools. These schools will be connected to WAN and LAN infrastructure, each classroom will be a Smart Classroom and every learner will be allocated a device.

These schools will develop examples of best practice on how to best integrate eLearning into the classroom.

I was delighted when I recently attended the National Teachers Awards, to witness our very own Gafieza Ismail from Spine Road High win the National Teaching Award for Excellence in Technology-Enhanced Teaching and Learning. It is clear that some of our teachers have already grabbed the opportunities that ICT brings, and I hope that they will be able to share their knowledge with others.

Another one of our ICT champions is Warren Sparrow, Head of Information and Communication Technology of Rondebosch Boys' Preparatory School. He has recently been nominated for Global Teacher of the year Award and was ranked in the top 50 in the world. Congratulations Mr Sparrow, we are very proud to have you as one of our very own in the Western Cape.

Madam Speaker, the After-school Game-changer, which is predominantly in our schools, has made progress over the last year. The provision of afterschool programmes is a necessity in some areas - not only to keep our children safe and occupied after school, but also to engage with them on extra-mural mathematics and language programmes, tutoring, sporting activities and cultural and behavioural programmes. Minister Marais will give more details of this programme.

The WCED has budgeted R106m for the after-school programme which includes allocations for tutoring, equipment, maintenance, feeding and sportsfields.

Madam Speaker, we believe that the programmes I have outlined so far will contribute to improved learner outcomes in this province. However, it is important that they run parallel to other strategies that aim to improve teacher development and capacity in the classroom with the aim of improving the levels of mathematics and language in our schools.

It is imperative that our teacher development plans incorporate the e-learning game-changer as well as the new Language and Maths strategies.

Ongoing training and development of our educators, with a particular focus on Language and Mathematics strategies and e-learning/ICT integration will be prioritised. The WCED will be investing R146 million on training and development of both teachers and staff.

As I mentioned earlier, I was pleased with the results of the 2015 Systemic testing which showed marked improvements in Mathematics and Language in the Western Cape over the last five years. The Systemic Tests provide the most objective picture possible of learner performance in language and Mathematics, giving us the opportunity to assess whether we are improving the quality of education in the province.

This year the WCED launched new language and mathematics strategies which seek to further improve the quality of teaching and learning in all grades to ensure better learner performance and greater retention of learners in the schooling system, in line with our strategic goals.

On this note I would like to congratulate two of my special guests for their writing and language skills.

We have our very own Spelling Bee champion with us today. Erin Sloan, a Grade 6 learner from Greenfield Girls Primary School, won the national trophy in the 2015 Spelling Bee competition held in Johannesburg in October last year.

We also very pleased to have with us Joel Greek, who flew back a few days ago from New York after receiving an award as winner of a global essay competition hosted by the Lions Clubs International and United Nations. Joel is partially blind, 12 years old and is a Grade 7 learner at the Athlone School for the Blind in Bellville South. His winning essay on "Shared Peace" was chosen from contestants from over 100 countries that form part of the Lions Clubs International network.

Congratulations to you both.

Madam Speaker, I cannot complete this speech without addressing the issue of accommodation in our schools.

The reality is that this year alone, over 24 000 learners from other provinces enrolled in the Western Cape. To accommodate all these learners requires 22 schools and 700 educators.

School infrastructure therefore remains a priority for this Government as we seek to keep up with the growing demand in this province, as well as replace buildings that were built with inappropriate materials.

In 2016/ 2017, the WCED will be investing R1.4 billion in infrastructure of which R768 million will be allocated for new and replacement schools.

I am pleased to announce that 15 WCED funded replacement schools are being built in the current MTEF as well as three ASIDI funded replacement schools and 5 ASIDI sports fields.

The 2016/17 financial year will see the completion of 4 new schools and 3 replacement schools. The WCED also plans to handover eight new schools, one of which is a special school for learners with disabilities and high support needs. The WCED will also commence building an additional seven schools in the current financial year. We are also building 172 additional classrooms at various schools to increase their capacity, and R15 million will be spent on building 108 Grade R classrooms.

Maintenance of our existing schools also remains a priority. R373 million will be allocated towards the maintenance of buildings.

It is unfortunate that we have to spend money on repair work at schools as a result of burglary and vandalism or other unforeseen circumstances such as storm damage. In 2016/ 2017, R10 million has been allocated to the Emergency Maintenance Fund which will assist in repairing schools that have fallen victim to such events.

Madam Speaker, I know safety of our learners and educators remains a great concern for every parent and the WCED.

It is a reality that in the Western Cape we are faced with the scourge of gangsterism and violence which is plaguing some of our communities. Intentionally or unintentionally, this often spills into our schools.

The WCED's Safe Schools Directorate has been designed to assist with this through Crime Prevention and behavioural programmes.

This year, we will invest R30 million into the Safe Schools programme. While this funding will not necessarily end violence in and around our schools it will be used to provide and reinforce targeted security infrastructure support to schools such as burglar alarms and bars, stoneguards, access gates and behavioural interventions.

Another priority of the Western Cape Government is to provide opportunities for all learners to access a quality education, including those children who experience barriers to learning. The Western Cape already leads the country in the provision of Special Needs Education.

R1.1 billion will be allocated to Special Needs Education - an increase of R30.4 million from last year.


Madam Speaker,

It is clear from the budget that I have outlined today, that despite facing budgetary constraints, we as a Government have quite rightly done everything possible to minimise the effect on our poor learners. An enormous amount of work has gone into this, and I must thank our Chief Financial Officer, Mr Ely, Chief Director, Ms Veldman, and their team for their dedication and innovation in this regard.

Through the strategies and interventions I have outlined today, it is my hope that education in the Western Cape will continue to grow from strength to strength and that we will continue to see an improvement in our priority areas, as well as hopefully maintaining the top position in the country.

I look forward to the year ahead and even some of the challenges it may bring. We are one innovative and very committed team in education and I am pleased with how we have managed the really hard knocks that have been dealt this past year.

As you have seen from the achievers we have here today, we also have very talented and committed learners and very dedicated teachers and parents who help them to achieve what they have done.

We will need to rely on all our inner strengths during this extremely difficult period, but I am confident that we will get through this stronger on the other side.

I cannot end without thanking the Superintendent-General, Penny Vinjevold, for her extremely hard work in difficult circumstances, all WCED officials, our District Directors, Circuit Managers, and staff, for their dedication and commitment to making education 'Better Together' in this province. Thank you.