Another year, again only one extra slice of bread per day for our children
Minister Pravin Gordhan has produced a low key budget which again is very disappointing for poor children and their families. Most shocking is the miniscule 3.6% increase in the Child Support Grant (CSG), by R10 per month to R290 per child per month and then to R300 per month in October, and the 3.9% increase in the Foster Care grant to R800 per month. The CSG increase will give each child only one extra slice of bread per day.
The Minister has targeted the budget at investments in improving access to healthcare facilities, schools, water, sanitation, housing and electrification. This is commendable. As a country we must reduce poverty, inequality and increase employment opportunities so that all are free from poverty and free from need. This budget however does not go far enough for our children and mothers who bear the brunt of poverty.
Following this budget our young children will still grow up hungry, living in poverty, lacking quality education, being homelessness and with their basic human rights trampled on.
The large allocation towards education, R232.5 billion, with R164 billion to basic education is welcomed. This takes up the largest share of non-interest expenditure with increases for school infrastructure, teacher bursaries, further education and training colleges and skills development. This is to be commended but much of this will be wasted because of the lack of quality early childhood development funding and opportunities for young children.
The benefits of investing in the chosen areas are largely lost if young children enter the education system without the critical skills acquired in the preschool years. If children enter school without early literacy and numeracy skills and hungry they cannot perform and the investment is wasted. Early childhood development is not mentioned at all in the budget yet international research informs us that the greatest education, economic and social return is expenditure on education at this level.
So what does this budget tell us? Vast number of young children will continue to go without quality education, without quality health care and without quality housing and their parents will still be without work, the very things that Minister Pravin Gordhan wants them to have.
Associate Professor Eric Atmore
Centre for Early Childhood Development