NAPTOSA's Response to the 2017 Budget Speech by the Minister of Finance Mr Pravin Gordhan on 22 February 2017
The President of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (NAPTOSA), Mr Nkosiphedule “Star” Ntantala, commenting on Minister Gordhan’s speech, said that NAPTOSA acknowledges the presentation of the 2017 budget as a delicate balancing act given the constraints facing the economy. The commitment given to various education challenges is not only heartening, but sets new challenges for the system as a whole.
The Minister’s acknowledgement of the current weaknesses that the South African economy faces, and the fact that he has a plan to get the nation out of the present low income and low economic growth trap, while appreciated, is viewed with skepticism by NAPTOSA.
NAPTOSA welcomes government’s plans to improve support of education and health services to schools by providing eye and hearing testing facilities at schools.
Mr Ntantala added that the increased allocation of funds for Basic Education was an encouraging move as it will have a direct positive impact on the sector. It is hoped that the money saved from reduced costs of building new schools will be utilised to accelerate provision of the much needed infrastructure backlogs in provinces that are experiencing growth and influx pressures. NAPTOSA wishes to align itself with the Minister’s concern around the timeous provision of LTSM to our poorer schools.
Mr Ntantala said that NAPTOSA welcomes the R900 000 transfer fee ceiling to assist the “missing middle income earners” to access housing. NAPTOSA is, however, concerned that the majority of the middle income group in the public service is still not able to purchase homes. This, in itself, is a sad commentary on the failure of the Government Employees’ Housing Scheme (GEHS).
Furthermore, Mr Ntantala stated that whilst there is much to applaud in this budget speech, NAPTOSA is concerned that the increase in the fuel levy and its resultant ripple effect on costs such as transport and food will affect the poor and middle-income earners most. Mr Ntantala noted the increase of social grants, whilst not significant, will provide some relief to those in need.
The increased funding to Higher Education is applauded by NAPTOSA as this will assist institutions to supplement their shortfall, and will address concerns of students struggling to attain higher education.
Mr Ntantala said that NAPTOSA applauds the acknowledgment of the literacy challenges experienced by Grade 5 learners in the country but asks, “Why, after five years of formal schooling, do 50% our children still not know how to read?” NAPTOSA has continuously raised its concern about the poor literacy and numeracy in the Foundation Phase and in other Phases. NAPTOSA wants the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to act definitively in addressing the literacy problems rather than carry out more tests to find out what is wrong.
“The DBE is still trapped in an assessment mindset with little attention being paid to the real problem of the training of teachers, better resourcing of schools with reading materials and greater attention to teacher assessment deficits. The DBE’s preoccupation with outsourcing core functions of teaching and learning, such as assessment and other functions, is negatively impacting on teacher professionalism,” said Mr Ntantala. NAPTOSA cautions the DBE to desist from implementing any form of assessment in the Foundation Phase in the guise of intervention.
Mr Ntantala stated that NAPTOSA once again raises the issue of the unacceptable dropout rate which sees less than 60% of a learner cohort reaching matric. “We are doing the children of South Africa a great injustice,” he added.
NAPTOSA supports the stance by government to confront cartels and collusion which only serve to disempower the masses, and echoes the sentiment that demands accountability to ensure public funds are used for their intended purposes. NAPTOSA calls on the DBE, PEDs, teachers, communities, learners and students to be accountable. NAPTOSA further calls on communities and students to refrain from damaging educational infrastructure. NAPTOSA believes that these socio-economic challenges can only be addressed through educating the nation.
Mr Ntantala concluded that the real test to the resolve of the Minister will be in the implementation of the budgetary imperatives. Mr Ntantala called on all government entities to, "Make the budget work for our people".
End of statement
Enquiries: Mr Nkosiphedule “Star” Ntantala – 072 198 0599
Mr Basil Manuel – 079 508 6228