SADTU statement on the 2021 budget
25 February 2021
The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU), notes the 2021 budget presented by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni on 24 February 2021
As the COVID-19 pandemic clearly exposed and amplified the gaps that exist in our education system, SADTU had called for a stimulus package for education to provide the long overdue infrastructure in the majority of schools, ensure education is equitable and accessible to all and is overhauled to meet the demands of the 4th Industrial Revolution. Accessibility in the midst of COVID 19 means having access to data and gadgets to enable blended learning; these are sorely lacking in the majority of schools. We were hoping the Minister would heed our call and avail the stimulus package.
We note R402.9 billion that has been budgeted for education; it is slightly above last year’s R396, 4 billion. However, it won’t bring in the necessary changes that are needed in education but will simply maintain the current status quo which is doing very little to improve education. Investing in education will, in the long run, have a positive impact in the country’s economy.
Early Childhood Development is critical foundation for education and SADTU believes it should therefore be under the direct control of the Department of Basic Education. We would have preferred that the R3, 5 billion that will be given to the Department of Social Services to improve access to early childhood development services in provinces, is given to the Department of Basic Education and it takes full control.
On funding deserving students in higher education institutions, we would urge the National Treasury and the Department of Higher Education to consider the students from the missing middle as they work on the policy and funding options for students as announced by Minister Mboweni. Students from the missing middle are currently excluded from accessing NSFAS and yet they still suffer because their parents – the majority of whom are public servants - are considered to be too rich for their children to receive this financial support when in reality, they cannot make ends meet. Their situation is being worsened by the fact that they did not receive increments last year and situation is bleak this year.
The budget speech showed government’s disregard and disrespect for labour rights. The Minister made no mention of the government’s failure to honour the last leg of Collective Agreement 1 of 2018 which would have ensured salary increment for public servants in April last year.
Instead of tackling the issue, Minister Mboweni nonchalantly spoke of the minister of public service and administration working with organised labour to achieve a “fair public sector compensation dispensation when a new multi-year wage settlement begins later this year.” This is news to us. How can we settle for a multi-year wage settlement after government’s betrayal with the 2018 Agreement?
We do understand that the economic situation is dire and belts have to be tightened but a zero percent increase is a betrayal to millions of public servants who continue to work diligently even in the face of COVID-19.
Public servants including teachers, TVET lecturers and education support personnel are all feeling the pinch. As the private sector has shed jobs due to COVID-19 many, public servants have become the sole breadwinners not only in their immediate families but to extended families as well.
We hope the R11 billion for the Presidential Youth Employment Initiative which employs education assistants, will ensure that the project will be extended for a longer period. Employment initiatives that last for less than a year do not provide solid solutions towards alleviating unemployment and poverty. We need sustainable employment creation initiatives.
We welcome the R10 billion that has been set aside for the delivery of COVID-19 vaccine. We call for tighter systems to be put in place to ensure that the money is not embezzled.
Issued by Nomusa Cembi, Media Officer, SADTU, 25 February 2021