OUR BUDGET has been cut by R4,5bn says minister of Higher Education Angie Motshekga.
She was addressing heads of education departments and MECs at the briefing held on Thursday, were she outlined the budget constraints and future plans, following the public outcry of a learner who fell and died in a toilet pit in the Eastern Cape.
The Department of Basic Education needs more than R10-billion to fix sanitation and other infrastructure problems at schools.
Limpopo alone needs R3-billion to fix toilets.
“We have to re-prioritise the infrastructure budget of R7-billion per annum in order to deal with sanitation problems. For instance, Limpopo province alone needs about R3-billion to deal with sanitation problems “. However, our infrastructure budget has been cut by R3.5-billion,” she said.
Motshekga said the meeting was not a reaction to the tragic death of Lumka but the tragedy had forced them to review their plans.
However, Equal Education’s Leanne Jansen-Thomas said pit toilets should have been eradicated by November 29 2016, which was the deadline stipulated by norms and standards set by Motshekga for all the MECs of education after they missed the initial 2013 deadline to have all pit toilets eradicated at schools.
“The commitment by the minister to prioritise pit toilets is two years late. It’s not the matter of where to find the funds but they should spend the available funds effectively,” Jansen-Thomas said.
“However, that is something they have been unable to do. They don’t just need proper costing but also need capacity and expertise to spend the money properly.”
Motshekga said the aim of the Council of Education Ministers’ meeting was to discuss how they would work together to provide a sector response to ensure that they provided safe and dignified ablution facilities at schools as a matter of urgency.
“The loss of an innocent young child is a truly painful experience. We share in the pain, suffering and trauma associated with the death of Mkhethwa.
“It has again drawn our attention to the challenges we face in the area of sanitation and ablution and the safety and wellbeing of our pupils in particular,” Motshekga said.
“We already have an existing plan in place that is intended to eradicate these unsafe and inadequate toilets.”
Motshekga said in rural provinces such as Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo, the installation of flushing toilets was not a viable option because of the lack of bulk water supply.
A comprehensive cost plan informed by the audit report of all the needs identified for sanitation and ablution facilities would be submitted to President Cyril Ramaphosa within three months.