26 February 2014
Education continues to receive the lion’s share of South Africa’s national Budget, with Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announcing on Wednesday that 20 percent of government expenditure for 2014/15 will go to education, amounting to R254-billion.
Tabling his 2014 Budget in Parliament in Cape Town, Gordhan said the money would be used to increase access to schooling and improve infrastructure in the country’s schools, which serve nearly nine-million children.
Gordhan added that 433 new schools would be built over the next three years, while a large chunk of the total education budget would go to provincial education departments to pay teachers’ salaries.
Gordhan noted that access to free education in South Africa had increased sharply since the government introduced no-fee schools in 2007. Today, 60% of schools do not charge fees – up from 40% five years ago.
According to the Budget Review, five-million children had access to free education in 2007. This year, the number increased to 8.8-million. In recent years, there has also been a sharp increase in the number of children who attend Grade R, while the national school nutrition programme now feeds 8.7-million children.
The Department of Basic Education’s long-term plan to improve the quality of education focuses on literacy, numeracy as well as science and languages. The Funza Lushaka bursary scheme for students wanting to teach in public schools is intended to increase the number of qualified teachers. Last year, more than 3 000 graduates qualified for placement in schools in 2014.
Post-school education and training accounts for about 21% of total education spend for 2014/15, with R21-billion set aside for university subsidies and R19-billion for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), which provides students with bursaries and loans.
Gordhan said the allocation to the NSFAS would increase from R5.1-billion last year, to R6.6-billion by 2016. This would enable the body to increase the number of further education and training (FET) bursaries to 292 000, while helping more than 236 000 students to attend university over the next three years.