The KwaZulu-Natal departments of education and health have received the lion’s share of the provincial government’s R130.5bn budget for the 2019/2020 financial year.

Delivering his first budget speech in the KwaZulu-Natal legislature in Pietermaritzburg on Tuesday‚ new provincial finance MEC Ravi Pillay announced that education received 41.4% of the provincial budget‚ followed by health, which received 34.5%.

This means the two departments jointly received nearly 76% of the budget‚ with the balance of 24% allocated to the remaining 13 departments‚ said Pillay.

The budget allocation for education over the medium-term expenditure framework (MTEF) annual‚ rolling, three-year expenditure planning‚ is R54bn‚ R57.7bn and R60.9bn earmarked for prioritising education and skills development.

Pillay said the largest share of the department’s budget allocation is for the provision of personnel. “In this province‚ no-fee learners currently constitute 75% of the total population of learners in public ordinary schools.” The national school nutrition programme will provide meals to 2.3-million pupils in 5‚729 schools.

Pillay also announced that the department of education aims to transform the schooling system and will therefore focus on the rationalisation‚ or closure‚ of small and non-viable primary schools with less than 50 pupils.

“In this regard‚ 172 primary schools have been identified. In secondary schools‚ the focus will be schools with learner enrollment less than 100‚ and a total of 76 schools were identified‚” said Pillay. Projects relating to new schools‚ curriculum support‚ classrooms‚ laboratories‚ multi-purpose classrooms‚ as well as electrification‚ sanitation and water will also continue in all 6‚175 schools.

Meanwhile‚ the health department’s MTEF over the next three years will be R45bn‚ R48.2bn and R51.6bn to provide for health services primarily to the uninsured population of the province.

Pillay said according to the 2017 general householdsurvey‚ 12.6% of the population in the province were members of medical aid schemes. “This means that some 1.4-million people are members of medical aid schemes while approximately 10-million‚ or 87.4%‚ are not. This fits into the provincial priority of ensuring that good health services are provided.” 

He said the department also plans to improve ICT‚ with broadband connectivity established in 92.9% of hospitals and 50.2% of primary healthcare facilities by March 2020.

It also plans to conduct more than 3-million HIV tests; reduce the malaria case fatality rate from 0.8% to 0.54%; perform 9‚700 cataract surgeries; and increase the average number of daily operational ambulances from 179 to 200.

Pillay also announced that the commissioning of the new Dr Pixley ka Isaka Seme Memorial Hospital is planned for 2019/2020‚ as well as an increase in the number of clients on the centralised chronic medicines dispensing and distribution list from 1.7-million to 2.2-million.

“This entails the distribution of chronic medicines to the public‚ but via private distribution centres‚ to allow for easier access and to reduce queuing time for patients,” he said. “The department will endeavour to attract and retain skilled health personnel‚ as well as specialists to deliver acceptable healthcare to our people.”