Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Motshekga: ‘What we need is money’

South Africa does not have enough resources to meet growing demands like the eradication of pit toilets, Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga told Eusebius McKaiser on Monday morning during his 702 radio talk show.

“What we need now is money,” said Motshekga.

Motshekga was speaking in a wide-ranging interview on the state of South Africa’s education system that traversed a number of issues including the education department’s move to make history a compulsory subject, the teacher-pupil ratio, violence in schools, and structural inequalities.

Motshekga told McKaiser that the education department will need R10-billion in order to fix the problem of pit toilets in rural schools. The minister has spoken about the department’s monetary constraints before and she emphasised the department’s difficulty to provide service delivery in her budget vote speech on May 9.

READ MORE: Motshekga airs basic education’s infrastructure budget woes

When it was pointed out by McKaiser that South Africa’s per capita spending on education is one of the highest in the world, Motshekga said South Africa was a developing country: “While we have to redress past inequalities, we have to cope with the current [situation].”

Despite not having enough resources, Motshekga said the department has focussed on teaching in township and rural schools for the last few years, which has led to “good passes”.

She added that the rollout of information technologies has been focused on township schools to “reduce the gap between the poor and the non-poor”.

“We are moving from a very low base, but we are moving in the right direction,” Motshekga told McKaiser.

History as a compulsory subject

Last week, a department of education task team announced that it had recommended that history should be a compulsory subject from 2023. However, the recommendation needs to be debated in public.

During her interview with McKaiser, Motshekga said the notion that history should be compulsory emerged during talks in 2012.

“Every child [should] be exposed to history as it is being conceptualised” because, Motshekga said, “history is about identity and nationhood”.

Some of the recommendations that have been made to emphasise the importance of history would be to make the subject compulsory from grades 10 to 12 to separating history from geography in the social sciences in order to give teachers more time to teach history thoroughly.

READ MORE: Education task team — History should be a compulsory school subject from 2023

Another recommendation would be to strengthen the teaching of history up to Grade nine.

According to Motshekga, history teaches the skills that are necessary for well-rounded individuals, like critical thinking and analysis, as well as identity, which makes it important subject for all learners.

When McKaiser asked Motshekga if making history was a strategic investment for South Africa, she answered that no subject was more or less important. However, she said that history was more strategic: “You want your kids to know who they are in relation to their peers.”

“I think at a national level, we stand to gain a lot if we have a better understanding of who we are and how we relate to the world,” Motshekga told McKaiser.

Sex-pest teachers

Motshekga said that she and her department have been “for the past week”, debating how schools will get information regarding teachers who have been charged with, or dismissed on the grounds of, sexual abuse.

“It is very disturbing,” said Motshekga.

READ MORE: No job for sex predator principal

According to Motshekga, all teachers should have been vetted for a criminal record and that would prevent them from finding teaching positions in other schools. However, Motshekga said, the problem lies with teachers who had enough evidence to dismiss them from a teaching post, but not enough evidence to charge them with a criminal offence.

There is a hope, Motshekga said, that schools will log the details of dismissed sexual predators to keep them from teaching.

45 pupils to a teacher — government standard

Despite criticisms that classroom sizes are too big, Motshekga said that the government ratio is 45 pupils to one teacher in a primary school with 35 pupils to a teacher in high school. This ratio, Motshekga said, is used by the government to fund schools and provide resources.

Although this is the legal ratio of pupil to teacher, she said that discrepancies were found in township schools. In Soweto, she said, the average teacher-student ratio is low with 35 pupils to a teacher. But in a growing area like Ivory Park, Motshekga said, there could be roughly 60 pupils to a teacher in a classroom.

READ MORE: No money means poorer education

Some schools have so few students that they face closure, said Motshekga, adding that parents “vote with their feet”. On the other hand, Motshekga added, schools were “overcrowded” because they were “very popular”.

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Related stories


If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Subscribers only

South Africa breaking more temperature records than expected

The country’s climate is becoming ‘more extreme’ as temperature records are broken

More top stories

US fashion contaminates Africa’s water

Untreated effluent from textile factories in in Lesotho, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mauritius and Madagascar pours into rivers, contaminating the water

Deep seabed mining a threat to Africa’s coral reefs

The deep oceans are a fragile final frontier, largely unknown and untouched but mining companies and governments — other than those in Africa — are eying its mineral riches

Komodo dragon faces extinction

The world’s largest monitor lizard has moved up the red list for threatened species, with fewer than 4 000 of the species left

DA says ANC’s implosion has thrown local government elections wide...

The DA launched its 37-page manifesto on a virtual platform under the banner “The DA gets things done”.

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…