Unions ask Godongwana to prioritise education

Education sector unions and activists are hopeful that Finance Minister Enoch Gondongwana will prioritise education in his maiden Budget speech on Wednesday afternoon.

The SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) again asked for a stimulus package to ensure that education is equitable and accessible to all and to provide long-overdue school infrastructure.

In a statement, Sadtu said the education system was severely affected by the Covid-19 and that the pandemic served to expose the inequalities that still existed in the sector.

“Teachers have gone back to teaching in overcrowded classrooms as fewer classes have been built. Instead, in the first year of Covid-19, the government cut from the school infrastructure grant that was meant to build schools and used the money to cover Covid-19 costs,” reads the statement.

“Safety and security in our schools should be prioritised. Vandalism in schools and violence against teachers concerns us. Our schools are not properly secured. We need a budget to address security in schools.”

According to Sadtu, the number of educators employed is not enough to cope with the learners who have gone back to class. Vacancies needed to be filled and posts established, it added, saying educators were battling to cope with the workload.

“Investing in education will have a positive effect on the country’s economy in the long run as it will enable many to acquire the skills that will contribute to the economy.

“Educators and all public servants have had to endure the pandemic with increases in their salaries far below expectations as government reneged from honouring the last leg of Collective Agreement 1 of 2018. We hope that the Budget will commit to ensuring that collective bargaining is respected.”

Equal Education (EE) said as learners returned to class full time, it was crucial that the schooling system was given enough resources to ensure this can happen safely.

“Too many learners are returning to schools that still do not have enough water, safe and dignified toilets, electricity, classrooms, or teachers. This cannot continue,” said EE.

It added that the organisation welcomed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement of a new infrastructure delivery mechanism for education in his State of the Nation Address a week ago, but still called on the National Treasury to take its oversight role seriously and ensure that the education departments were accountable for how they spent the money.

It said it hoped Godongwana and the Treasury would reverse the cuts to the education sector made in the past two years and ensure that funding for education kept up with inflation.

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