Date: Sun, 28 Jun 98 16:48:26 CDT
From: email@example.com (Rich Winkel)
Subject: SOUTH AFRICA: Economic Policies Will Hurt Education
/** ips.english: 490.0 **/
** Topic: DEVELOPMENT BULLETIN-SOUTH AFRICA: Macro-economic Policies Will **
** Written 4:09 PM Jun 23, 1998 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **
Copyright 1998 InterPress Service, all rights reserved.
Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.
Macro-economic Policies Will Hurt Education
By Gumisai Mutume, IPS
20 June 1998
JOHANNESBURG, Jun 15 (IPS) - When teachers threatened recently to
embark on the biggest national strike after independence, fingers
again pointed at South Africa's macro-economic policies.
Government's newly adopted Growth, Employment and
Redistribution (GEAR) strategy, and all the cuts in social
spending it envisages, is being singled out as having dire
consequences on education, among other sectors.
"The education crisis which our country now faces is due in no
small measure to GEAR's spending cuts and is due to the obsession
with down-sizing government services, regardless of South Africa's
social needs," says the Deputy Secretary General of the Congress
of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), Zwelinzima Vavi.
COSATU's opposition to GEAR "has not simply been abstract or
ideological. We have opposed GEAR, because of the very practical
negative impact which it is going to have on the level of
government service delivery and on jobs".
Education has already started to feel the pinch of GEAR. During
the 1997/98 financial year, the education budget was cut by more
than six percent. Even the national Education Minister Sibusiso
Bengu warned of the consequences of such a move in a country with
a 48 prcent illiteracy rate.
Under GEAR, which was adopted in 1996, government has to
downsize. It aims to cut its budget deficit to three percent of
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by the turn of the century.
The forces of globalisation have made it incumbent upon
President Nelson Mandela's government to carry out budgetary
reforms, gradually relax tariffs and exchange controls, and
introduce labour market flexibility.
What this means is that the power of the unions is slowly being
eroded, jobs are being lost and the value of the Rand falling,
raising the cost of living.
In 1996, more than 71,000 jobs were lost in the formal economy
compared to the 126,000 GEAR envisaged and last year, 100,000 were
lost. Real GDP has grown sluggishly by about three percent in 1996 --
below the GEAR target. GEAR envisages growth rates of six percent
by the turn of the century, by which time 400,000 jobs are
expected to be created annually.
Given the government's commitment to meet the deficit targets
and given the rising debt servicing burden, fewer resources will
be available for social spending, especially in the education
sector where a crisis is looming.
The South African Demratic Teacher's Union (SADTU) says a dire
shortage of textbooks and other learnng materials, oversized
classrooms, failure to pay temporary teachers and horrendous
working conditions have all contributed to the education crisis
which nearly saw 300,000 teachers down their chalks last week.
Teachers were opposing, among other issues, the power of
provincial governments to set teacher numbers according to their
budgets. The strike was averted at the last minute, but critics
say only the symptoms and not the problems have been solved.
"SADTU has tied the teachers into the three-year medium term
expenditure framework - the structural adjustment programme of the
IMF/World Bank that is based on prioritising the interest of big
business and the apartheid debt over the interest of the very
masses that voted the ANC into government," says the Cape Town-
based Workers International Vanguard League (WIVL).
"SADTU have reduced their power to negotiate over crucial
issues such as national standards, to mere consultation, leaving
all power in the hands of the Minister of Education. The provinces
still have the power to retrench," and the recent agreement
struck merely postpones mass retrenchment to a later date, WIVL
By subjecting pupil:teacher ratios to the dictates of the
deficit chase, the system will fall, the league says.
South Africa's education system is characterised by high
repetition rates at all levels and poor outcomes at secondary and
tertiary levels. The Education Policy Unit says that 67 percent of
all schools are without textbooks.
Estimated at 22.6 percent of the GDP, funding of basic
education compares favourably with other developing countries, but
the worrying feature is the high level of current expenditure
devoted to salaries.
At primary school level, expenditure on teacher salaries was
360 U.S. dollars per pupil in 1996/97 and 20 cents on schoolbooks
and 20 cents on stationery.
The government is of the opinion that it is spending enough on
education, but agrees that there is need to re-direct resources,
optimise use and create efficiency. Real expenditure on education
is set to decline next year.
But while government is determined to cut spending on
education, there is consensus on the other side that improvements
in education and training would be the most effective way of
lifting the South African economy out of the structural
limitations imposed by the apartheid past.
A study released by the Financial and Fiscal Commission (FFC)
this year notes that the highest proportion of students come from
poor families and a strategy of higher fees necessitated by a
reduction in publi resources would disadvantage them.
"The burden of increased funding for basic education will
therefore fall increasingly on private households, especially
those who have the ability to pay," says the FFC report.
"However, user fees will have to be applied in a way that does
not increase inequality in educational spending."
Given the present scenario, the FFC recommends a number of
options: To gradually reduce teachers' salaries in real terms over
a 5-10 year period; implement productivity-enhanced mechanisms;
use less qualified teachers, especially at the basic education
level; or increase class sizes. (end/ips/gm/pm/98)
Origin: Amsterdam/DEVELOPMENT BULLETIN-SOUTH AFRICA/
[c] 1998, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
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