South Africa: Mboweni’s Budget Cuts Are Undermining the Right to Basic Education

No one can dispute that the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for South Africa. Faced with a constrained budget, National Treasury has had to make difficult decisions. Learners, teachers, parents and members of civil society cannot accept the drastic budget cuts to the basic education sector, and the devastating impact these will have on school communities and the realisation of the right to basic education.

The Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS), which will be tabled this week by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, has to provide some relief and reverse the budget cuts made to the basic education sector when the Supplementary Budget was tabled in June.

The state of basic education pre-Covid-19

South Africa’s courts, including the Constitutional Court, have said that the right to basic education consists of certain core components, including safe and sufficient infrastructure, scholar transport, textbooks, and desks and chairs.

The country’s Constitution also says the right to basic education is immediately realisable — this means that the government cannot use money as an excuse for not making sure every learner has access to education. This shows the importance the Constitution places on basic education as a way of achieving the…

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