Schools fume as their teaching budget is slashed to pay for ...

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Schools fume as their teaching budget is slashed to pay for cleaning

Limpopo education’s decree causes dismay among principals battling with already inadequate funding

Journalist
Naptosa has accused the department of 'robbing the schools and pretending you’re doing them a favour'.
'ROBBERY' Naptosa has accused the department of 'robbing the schools and pretending you’re doing them a favour'.
Image: Supplied

The Limpopo education department has been accused of “robbing” poor schools by asking them to use a large chunk of the funds for normal running costs to buy Covid-19 essentials.

The department’s superintendent-general, Onica Dederen, told schools in a circular she signed on May 12 that they must use 45% of their annual allocation “to contract cleaners and procure gloves and cleaning materials”.

The department’s allocation to schools, which is ring-fenced and specifies what the money may be used for, is meant to pay for materials required for learning and teaching, repairs and maintenance, transport and sport.

Known as the norms and standards allocation, the payment to a school is based on its number of pupils. 

For this year, pupils attending quintile one to three schools (the poorest schools) were each entitled to R1,468.

Dederen said they had determined that schools would be regularly cleaned and sanitised for the health and safety of teachers, pupils and the school community, “an undertaking which has additional financial implications not budgeted for”.

“The department has learnt that cleaning in no-fee schools is a challenge. The ring-fenced NSSF [norms and standards for public ordinary school funding] debars schools from temporarily contracting cleaners.”

The communication that was sent out by the education department.
The communication that was sent out by the education department.
Image: Supplied

She said fundraising by no-fee schools “cannot be guaranteed to offset monthly cleaning services expenditure incurred”.

Her department had taken a decision to temporarily relax certain provisions in the regulations relating to the NSSF.

She said from now on 50% of the allocation to schools for curriculum delivery would be reduced to 40%.

This means that if a school received an allocation of R100,000 from the department for the year, it could only spend R40,000 on curriculum delivery, not R50 000, which was the case. 

Other items that will now be affected by the “reallocation to Covid-19-related expenditure” include:

  •  An allocation of 14% to school development, minor repairs and maintenance;
  • 5% for transport;
  • 10% for sports; and
  • 5% for cleaning materials and maintenance of ablution facilities.

She said the “makeshift arrangement” is valid until the end of the year “and will be reviewed as and when circumstances dictate”.

However, the principal of a high school in the Mphahlele circuit in Capricorn district said they were furious with the department for slashing funds meant for the school’s running costs.

“The money they give us is so little; now they want to cut that even further. Under normal circumstances, the total allocation they give us runs out before the end of October.”

His school was earmarked to receive just under R400,000 for its 400 pupils.

The money they give us is so little; now they want to cut that even further. Under normal circumstances, the total allocation they give us runs out before the end of October.

He said most of the budget for curriculum was used to buy duplicating paper for the printing of worksheets and tests for pupils.

“We also use some of it to buy additional teaching material for teachers.”

The principal said the payment of cleaners and the buying of gloves and cleaning materials was the responsibility of the department.

“The money should not have come out of the school’s coffers.”

Basil Manuel, executive director of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA (Naptosa), said: “It’s actually robbing the schools and pretending that you’re doing them a favour. This is the schools’ entitlement and now you are using that money while the schools have already budgeted for the use of it.”

“It’s a meagre sum as it stands and schools use this money differently, but it is extremely important that they get the money.

“You are stealing from them now and then you are going to be unhappy with them tomorrow when they don’t have the material for the next year.”

He said the decision was taken by the head of department and Limpopo’s education MEC, “and we got to ask the national department to step in”.

“As soon as you take away money that has been budgeted for curriculum, you are limiting the school’s ability to fully implement the curriculum. It is short-sighted and ill-advised.”