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Angie-Motshekga“If we continue to improve at the speed we have done in recent years, the lives of ordinary South Africans will be fundamentally transformed and we will face a brighter future," Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga told parliament during her budget speech. "We are resolved, with provinces, to step up monitoring and evaluation, to improve accountability, and enforce better planning for faster change.”9 May 2013 – Delivering her budget speech to parliament on Tuesday, Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga laid out plans to improve maths and science results, develop teacher skills, build better schools, and support children from poor households. “The building-blocks for a high-performing system are in place,” she said.

Motshekga said the national Department of Basic Education's budget had risen by 7.6% from the R16.3-billion allocated in 2012/3 to R17.6-billion in 2013/4, an increase of R1.3-billion. A total of R173.5-billion will go to provincial education departments this year, rising to R199.6-billion in 2015/6.

In 2012, the education system had 12 433 949 pupils in over 25 000 schools. “Census 2011 also gave us good news for education,” Motshekga said. Released by Statistics South Africa in late 2012, the census revealed that the percentage of South Africans without formal schooling dropped twofold from 17.9% in 2001 to 8.6% in 2011.

But problems persist. “We know the challenges,” she said. “We are therefore better placed to improve quality and efficiency.” The education sector plan – Action Plan to 2014: Towards the Realisation of Schooling 2025 – is an integrated, holistic strategy to increase performance throughout the schooling.

Progress in matric maths and science

Improvements in education were borne out by the 2012 matric pass rate, which rose to 73.9%. “This is a result of systemic interventions for strengthening and raising performance in all levels of the system,” Motshekga said. “Our targeted growth, at 75% by 2014, is well within reach.”

The minister singled out gains in maths and science results. The number of passes in matric maths rose 17.24%, from 104 033 in 2011 to 121 970 in 2012. Physical science passes grew from 96 441 in 2011 to 109 918 in 2012, an increase of almost 14%.

Nonetheless, a number of international surveys reveal that South Africa’s maths and science performance remains among the lowest in the world. Motshekga said her department had established a maths and science task team to investigate the quality of teaching in these subjects. And in the 2013/4 education budget, some R105-million is allocated to the maths- and science-focused Dinaledi Schools.

Another advance is in the school dropout rate. Motshekga said that, according to Statistics South Africa, there were 80 000 fewer children out of school in 2011 than in 2009. Nearly 100% of children aged seven to 15 are in school.

Investing in teachers

“Quality teaching is high on our list of priorities,” Motshekga said. In this year’s budget, R39.7-million goes to the Integrated Quality Management System, and the department is making progress in implementing its Integrated Strategic Planning Framework for Teacher Education and Development.

While the department and teacher trade unions are sometimes at loggerheads, they have also fruitfully cooperated to improve teaching skills. In 2012/3 over 58 000 teachers took part in professional development programmes organised by the Teacher Union Collaboration initiative, the minister said.

Over the past year, the department has audited the performance of 114 district-based teacher resource centres, and developed norms and standards for their operation. “We plan to make teacher centres vibrant hubs for teacher development activities at district level.”

More than this, the number of Funza Lushaka bursaries – designed to attract maths, science and language teachers to the profession – will be increased to 14 400 in 2013/14, at a cost of nearly R900-million. By the end of 2012, Motshekga said, the department had awarded around 11 500 Funza Lushaka bursaries.

Assessing performance

The department’s new Annual National Assessments aim to determine the quality of education throughout the schooling system by testing vast numbers of pupils in specific subjects. In 2012, the programme tested the literacy and maths skills of more than 7-million learners from 20 000 schools.

“The results show that while learner performance in literacy varies from ‘satisfactory’ to ‘good’, the same cannot be said about performance in numeracy,” Motshekga said.

The assessment programme will be boosted with a R75-million budget in 2012/3, rising to R160-million in 2014/5 and R167-million in 2015/6.

“The particularly low learner performance in mathematics at the intermediate and senior phases justifies the steps we have already taken to focus on teacher professional development and provision of learning and teaching support materials at the higher school grades.”

The department is also working to get more maths textbooks to students, she said. In 2007, only 45% of school children had literacy textbooks, and a dismal 36% had maths books. In 2011, this had risen to 78% for literacy and 83% for maths. “This is still unacceptable,” Motshekga said. “We want to have every learner with a book in every subject.”

School infrastructure

Improved budgets and a number of completed projects boosted the infrastructure of the schooling system in the past year, with a lot of work going into buildings, water, electricity, sanitation and new schools – particularly in the Eastern Cape.

“More schools received water, sanitation and electrification and many more continue to do so,” Motshekga said.

This work is set to continue in 2013/4, with nearly R2-billion going to the Schools Backlog Grant, and R6.6-billion to provincial departments through the Education Infrastructure Grant. Over the medium term, this will be increased to R10-billion.

Part of the budget will be spent on building 200 new schools to replace “inappropriate” old ones, Motshekga said. The bulk of these – 132 – will be in the Eastern Cape, with 30 new schools set to be built in the Free State, three each in in KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo, five in Mpumalanga, one in the Northern Cape, one in North West and 25 in the Western Cape. The schools will take a number of years to build, but Motshekga said her department aims to have 25% complete by the end of the financial year.

The department will also provide sanitation to 873 schools, water to 448 and electricity to 369.

Social support for children

In a country with high levels of poverty and hunger, an important part of the Department of Basic Education’s work is to minimise the impact an impoverished home life can have on a child’s education.

Here, free schooling is key. Over the past year, more than 8-million children, in 82% of public schools, received free education.

School feeding schemes are essential to improve the attention and learning abilities of hungry children. The National School Nutrition Programme will be boosted by R266.6-million in 2013/4, for a total of R5.2-billion. It will reach R5.7-billion in 2015/6.

The HIV and Aids Life Skills Education grant gets R213.5-million in 2013/4.

“Key among our successes is the Integrated School Health Programme that will offer, over time, a comprehensive and integrated package of health services to all learners,” Motshekga said.

In 2012/3 over 650 000 pupils received health services through the programme, exceeding the target of 500 000. In the next 12 months the department aims to extend health services to reach 750 000 learners.

“Through government’s anti-poverty strategy we’re progressively removing obstacles inhibiting access to equal, quality education for all children, across the race, gender and class divide,” Motshekga said.

“If we continue to improve at the speed we have done in recent years, the lives of ordinary South Africans will be fundamentally transformed and we will face a brighter future. We are resolved, with provinces, to step up monitoring and evaluation, to improve accountability, and enforce better planning for faster change.”

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