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South African primary education at risk because of poor governance

New report finds financial mismanagement, absenteeism and harassment and calls for better budget controls and more training at the provincial level

Poor management and a lack of transparency are damaging the delivery of primary education in South Africa, according to a new report from Transparency International, the anti-corruption organisation.

The report shows that one quarter of the schools in the districts surveyed were considered to be at high risk of corruption, and one in three principals considered embezzlement a significant concern.

“The government needs to strengthen governance controls both at the provincial and school level and ensure that education budgets are used correctly,” said Letshego Mokeki, National Programme Coordinator for Transparency in Service Delivery in Africa (TISDA). “The government has a duty to provide quality education for the next generation of South Africans, which is why it must take immediate steps to fight corruption.”

Mapping transparency, accountability and integrity in primary education in South Africa surveyed more than 1,500 education administrators, head teachers, teachers, parents and heads of teacher-parent associations in three representative school districts (Gauteng, Mpumalanga and the North West Province) to identify the main governance challenges in delivering quality primary education.

The findings show that poor governance is at the root of many problems. Lack of transparency and poor financial management skills mean that school budgets are at risk of embezzlement and infrastructure suffers, creating difficulties in the learning environment.

  • One out of three principals believes that the highest risk of corruption is related to the embezzlement of funds at the provincial level, e.g. when procuring textbooks, remunerating staff and constructing school buildings
  • Staff absenteeism, sexual harassment of learners and misuse of school funds are considered high corruption risks with one out of four learners indicating that the schools are unsafe and rape and violence are major problems
  • Three out of four principals estimate that they don’t have the means required to run the schools, and one out of two students is not always provided with a desk. About 15 per cent of schools had no electricity and 10 per cent no water supply
  • The survey showed poor implementation and enforcement of rules and regulations. Only half of the educators interviewed believed that rules relating to school fees and fee exemption are respected

The report makes a series of recommendations to improve controls on budgets and management, including timely budget allocations and more training on budget administration for schools and at the district level. It also stresses the need to increase parent participation in school oversight and recommends both an awareness raising campaign and more training.

TISDA is a three-year programme run by TI in seven African countries reporting on education, health and water delivery. As part of the TISDA programme, Transparency International Cameroon is releasing its report, Mapping transparency and integrity deficits in primary education in Cameroon on 29 July 2011.

Note to editors: Transparency and Integrity in Service Delivery in Africa, (TISDA), which started in 2008, seeks to support civil society in seven African countries researching the delivery basic services in primary education (Cameroon and South Africa), the health sector (Uganda and Zambia), and the water sector (Kenya, Ghana and Senegal). The TISDA South Africa blog also has more information.

For any press enquiries please contact

Letshego Mokeki, National Project Coordinator: TISDA
Transparency International South Africa
T: +27 12 644 2271 / +27 82 040 2868
E: [email protected]

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