Education budget questioned as department implements moratorium on posts

James Masango MPL

Provincial Chief Whip of the Official Opposition

The DA in Mpumalanga is extremely concerned with the future of education in the province following the recent implementation of a moratorium on all posts – an issue which Education MEC Reginah Mhaule conveniently failed to point out during her budget speech three weeks ago.

According to the provincial Education Department the moratorium forms part of its austerity measures for the 2013/2014 financial year which are aimed at reducing operational costs.  Advertising, communication, accommodation and travel are some of the areas which have also been affected by these cost cutting measures.

With the department’s 2013/2014 budget tabled less than a month ago, this unexpected announcement begs the question whether MEC Mhaule was completely honest in her speech. It also raises suspicion on whether the tabled budget was indeed correct.

According to the department, the moratorium on all new, vacant and replacement posts was essential as the 2013/2014 budget allocation for salaries for head office and district level employees was based on the existing head count. Given that the number of teachers in the province dwindled from 44 641 to 32 640 (27%) between April 2012 and March 2013, how could the department not make financial provisions to acquire additional staff?

In view of this, the DA can only assume that learners will continue to be neglected of their right to quality education because without teachers, education in the province will continue to deteriorate. The moratorium will have a severe impact on all schools as over-crowding will escalate, with multi-grade rural schools expected to suffer the most.

The DA will write to the portfolio committee for education, through its chairperson, requesting it to summons the department and MEC Mhaule to explain why this was not discussed with the committee and no mention of it was made in the budget speech. We also want to know why it was only announced after the budget was approved. We will further ask for an inquisition into the department’s budget, to verify if indeed it was tabled correctly.

This is not the first moratorium placed on education posts and for too long the department has gotten away with this. The DA will continue to fight for more teachers at schools as the increasing number of vacancies has placed a huge strain on existing teachers who have to fill the gaps which in turn has led to learners being denied the opportunity to quality education – a basic human right.

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