SADTU`s response on the 2016 Budget Speech

24 February 2016

SADTU welcomes the 2016 budget presented by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. The budget speech has come at a time when the country is facing the challenge of addressing the declining confidence in the rand and to meet the expectations for a better life from mil-lions of South Africans.

President Zuma`s administration has demonstrated its commitment and conviction that ed-ucation is central to economic growth and social cohesion. This has been demonstrated by the steady increase in the education budget. We have indicated that the schools in the townships and rural areas are not suitable for quality learning and teaching. We have char-acterized such schools as an obstacle to development for the working class children. The infrastructure in such communities were neglected by the apartheid regime and now we cannot condone a situation where such schools remind us that our country is still divided into rich whites and poor blacks.

Whilst we welcome the rebuilding of 510 inappropriate and unsafe schools and supplying 1 120 schools with water and 916 schools with electricity, we urge the government to em-power the department of public works to be the one to do this work to avoid public funds enriching individual companies who put profit before our children. We call upon the presi-dent and his government to set the deadlines for such projects because any delay in deliver-ing proper infrastructure for education cannot be justified in our 22 years of democracy. The working class children deserve better. We will monitor progress in this regard and en-sure that public funds are not used to privatize education.

The additional allocation of R813 million for early childhood development to increase the number of children in ECD centres by 104 000 over the MTEF period is welcomed. Early childhood development is the cornerstone for education. However, we would like to see Early Childhood Development in the hands of the Department of Basic Education.

We also welcome the additional R16.3 billion that has been allocated for higher education over the next three years. R5.7 billion of this addresses the shortfall caused by keeping fees for 2016 academic year at 2015 levels, and the carry-through costs over the MTEFperiod. R2.5 billion goes to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme to clear outstanding student debt, along with a further R8 billion over the medium term to enable current students to complete their studies.

Whilst government is playing its part in investing in higher education, we call upon parents to play a leading role in protecting the future of their children which is under threat from hooligans and criminals who are intimidating and threatening students with violence and destroying University property. Destroying the university property is counter-revolutionary and has nothing to do with students` plight. We call upon the police to accelerate their in-vestigations in these institutions and bring those who are involved in these barbaric acts to book. It`s time that the communities serviced by these institutions unite in defense of de-mocracy and against anarchy. The campaign free higher education for the poor is a just struggle and must not be hijacked by those whose interest is regime change.

We would like to see government extending the National Student Financial Aid Scheme to the children of public service employees that include teachers, nurses and policemen.

We are happy to see committment to the NHI R4.5 billion is budgeted over the medium term for revitalizing health facilities in the eleven NHI pilot districts, and related health sys-tem reforms. A healthy nation goes a long ways towards providing a healthy and sustainable economy.We call upon the working people of our country to see the damage that is caused by the commodification of health and stand together to support and practically promote public health through NHI. It`s time that public funds are spent in public health.