Education minister, Angie Motshekga. Picture: GCIS
Education minister, Angie Motshekga. Picture: GCIS

Private-sector commitments may help the education department overcome part of the budget shortfall it faces for upgrading school infrastructure, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said on Wednesday.

President Cyril Ramaphosa placed school infrastructure high on the agenda after the death of five-year-old Viwe Jali in a school pit latrine, instructing Motshekga to audit the state of school infrastructure and provide him with a plan to fix the problem by mid-June.

Speaking to reporters ahead of her budget vote speech to Parliament, Motshekga said the cuts to the education budget were due to the constrained fiscal environment and the need to find money to fund free higher education for students from poor and working-class households after former president Jacob Zuma’s announcement in December.

The Education Infrastructure Grant (EIG) and the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (Asidi) — also known as the schools infrastructure backlog grant — had been cut by 1.3% and 43.3% in nominal terms between 2017-18 and 2018-19, she said. The EIG is allocated R9.8bn in 2018-19, while the Asidi is allocated R1.5 bn over the same period.

Motshekga conceded the budget cuts posed a challenge to improving school infrastructure, but said she was confident that, with the support offered from mines and businesses, progress would be made.

The school infrastructure audit requested by the president was complete, and officials were finalising a plan to tackle the schools in need of improvements, she said. "Our biggest albatross is the infrastructure challenge."