By Fahdia Msaka
After months of being underfunded, schools in Eastern Cape will finally receive the total funds allocated to them by the national norm and Standards Act after being pressured by the Legal Representative Council (LRC).
The Department, Under the threat of legal action from the LRC, the Department of Education in Eastern Cape led to the decision to avail R872.5 million to fund the National Norms and Standards Act for 2023/2024.
Despite most of the schools in Eastern Cape being no-fee-paying and funded well below the national per-learner target, students have been allocated R607,90, a third of the funds allocated to them. The budget allocated for the 2023/2024 year is R1602. The national norm and standards funding for education determines the funds allocated to each South African learner. According to the School’s Act, these funds are broken up into three categories: maintenance of the school, learner-teacher materials (including textbooks and stationery), and services (including municipal services and essential services such as water, telephone lines, copy machines, and etcetera).
These funds are meant to accommodate the quintiles 1, 2 and three schools, which are also no-fee-paying. 60% of schools nationally are no-fee paying schools, while most schools in Eastern Cape are no-fee paying. While quintile four schools are fee-paying, most students are still from complex socio-economic issues, so they are also allocated some funds, but it is lesser than the funds quintiles 1,2, and 3 schools get. Quintile 5 schools are model C schools that get allocated minor funds from the Department of Education because they have a bigger budget.
In addition to the struggles that COVID-19 brought, schools have also been struggling to survive the budget cuts financially. The Department of Education sent a memorandum to schools in Eastern Cape that explained they had budget cuts due to contributions that had to be made for COVID-19; this then led to two Makhanda SBG chairpersons, Xolilisile of Tyotha of Ntsika Secondary and Boniwe Tyota of Tyantyi Primary, to approach the Legal Resource Centre to enquire about the Department’s plan regarding the lack of funds in Eastern Cape schools.
The LRC also represented the Circle of Unity Education Cluster in Makhanda last May, trying to get a sense of the Department of Education’s plan for schools in the Eastern Cape. After multiple exchanges with the ECDOE since last year, they resulted in the LRC coming into possession of a parliamentary presentation that was made on 19 April which was available on the PMG website to reissue the budgets with the correct amounts.
The new budget allocated means a lot for the schools in small towns such as Makhanda. Schools have had to rely on the goodness of small businesses, which are some principles because schools could not pay them for their goods and services—implementing fundraisers in towns such as Makhanda, where the high unemployment rate could have been more practical and doable. Schools had to resort to asking parents for toilet paper and copy paper, although it is a no-fee-paying school. The learners deal with socio-economic issues daily, so alleviating them at their schools can bring real change.
Tantyi school principal Priscilla Glover said, “It is not only about the money. Knowing that the financial support is simply not there is psychologically and physically exhausting.”
Schools have said that when they receive funds twice allocated to them from the Department, first around May and then in November. They have noticed that when you tally both these amounts, it amounts to less than the total funds allocated. Schools are concerned that they will not have relieved the entire amount allocated to them at the end of the payment cycle.
Cecile van Schalkwyk from LRC said, “Even if you get the full amount, it is still very little. If you think about it, the Department says a school can use R1602 per year per learner. If you think about it practically, that child is in school 200 to 208 days a year, but it is far better than R607 they were initially going to get”.