South Africa's education sector calls for urgent reforms amidst budget allocation concerns

Issues embedded in South Africa's education sector have prompted experts to emphasise a holistic approach to address learning deficits. Image:File

Issues embedded in South Africa's education sector have prompted experts to emphasise a holistic approach to address learning deficits. Image:File

Published Oct 11, 2023


South Africa’s education sector has been thrust into the spotlight recently with experts calling for a comprehensive approach involving budget allocation, education reforms, and strategies to counter learning losses.

In a webinar on Tuesday, the Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE) said that issues of corruption and state capture in the sector continued to have a significant impact on basic education sector.

It called for new leadership in the education department and at ministerial level, better teacher support, teacher unions to step back and stop interfering in the hiring of principals and educators, and heavier public pressure in the demand for better education.

Following the release of Census 2022 by Statistics South Africa on Tuesday, political party Build One South Africa (BOSA) called for Education Minister Angie Motshekga to be fired.

While President Cyril Ramaphosa claimed that the ANC government had increased access to education during its time in office, the census data revealed that at least 5.2 million young children of school-going age were not in formal education — an increase of 200,000 in the past decade.

“Minister Angie Motshekga and the department of basic education are primarily responsible for this dire situation. Motshekga has been in office for 14 years and has overseen the gradual decay of learning and empowerment of young people, as standards drop, and statistics are spun to cover up her shortcomings. This latest revelation is the final straw in her long list of failures,” the party said.

“BOSA calls on President Ramaphosa to fire Angie Motshekga as Basic Education Minister and replace her with a competent, qualified and committed individual from the education sector. It’s time for fresh blood to introduce innovative ideas, transparent leadership, and a social compact to build a world class education system.”

A point that was echoed by the CDE, which called for “fresh energy” in the education leadership.

Dr. Corrin Varady, CEO of IDEA, an edtech platform, called for the urgent need for clear intervention policies to drive positive outcomes, and stressed that tackling the nation's education crisis demanded substantial investments in professional development and the deployment of digital learning resources.

He further emphasised the need for efficient resource allocation to address the challenges rather than budget reductions.

Varady said as Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana readies the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement for November 1, South Africa's education sector were bracing itself for potential budget cuts, which raised concerns about an already struggling system.

Four years have passed since the last Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), which ranked South Africa among the bottom three nations.

Leaning on that finding, Varady said that this reality persisted as South African learners continued to grapple with fundamental subjects such as mathematics and literacy.

“With the upcoming TIMSS assessments looming, South Africa's education system faces intense scrutiny, demanding urgent attention and reform.

"While tests like TIMSS and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) are not the sole measures of education quality, they serve as crucial litmus tests for assessing basic competencies. However, without addressing the substantial challenges facing South Africa's education landscape, any significant improvement in these results remains unlikely,“ Varady said.

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