KZN Education: Norms and Standards Bill not a cure-all

Tom Stokes, MPP

DA KZN Spokesperson on Education

The DA in KZN welcomes recently gazetted updates to the Norms and Standards Bill, which aim to tighten up time-frames for provincial governments to address the inadequate state of so many schools.

The majority of KwaZulu-Natal schools, particularly those in rural areas, remain in a condition where sound education is, in many cases, compromised due to a lack of facilities.

The problem is the massive gap between the money needed to fix these problems and the money available to do so.  Just last week, the KwaZulu-Natal Education department’s report to Treasury included a request to move R500 million away from infrastructure in order to fund an increased salary bill for which no funds were provided.

This effectively means that 1 000 classrooms, so desperately needed to address massive overcrowding within schools with class sizes of over 60 learners, will have to be shelved for another year.

There can be no doubt that significant strides have been made in eliminating the worst schools and getting basic services to the majority of schools.  Yet it is unlikely, with the current thinking within the KwaZulu-Natal cabinet that the necessary R2 billion per annum need for the provincial education department to effectively deal with infrastructure backlogs will be reallocated from other departments.

Perhaps with the previous MEC in the Premier position there will be a change in thinking around budget allocation priorities and Education can look toward a time when funds match obligations.

Ultimately though, the knock-on effect of delays in addressing infrastructure needs within KZN schools will not only be in the hugely inflated costs down line but also the devastating effects felt by the citizens of this province as a consequence of inadequate schooling and consequently reduced opportunity in life.