The Eastern Cape Department of Education, in partnership with the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) and the BANKSETA, has launched a pilot project to ensure sound financial management in 50 Eastern Cape schools.

Eastern Cape MEC Fundile Gade said that the project follows an intense training of 50 officials in financial management and auditing. He was speaking at the official launch event held at the East London Education Leadership Institute in East London.

SAICA Senior Executive: National Projects Robert Zwane, explains the project in more detail: ‘One of the things SAICA prides itself on is delivering excellence in the public sector. When schools apply proper financial management and minimise losses, they get maximum benefit from their funds and the results are visible in the learners’ academic success. It is for this reason that our partnership with the Department of Education exists. This project, which is currently running in the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, Kwa-Zulu Natal and Western Cape, will help to secure the well-being of learners by directly ensuring that resources are allocated in relation to the actual education needs of learners. While still in a pilot phase, our objective is to expand this project to every public school in the country.’

The 50 officials trained by the Buffalo City TVET College and Lovedale TVET College, will be dispatched to various schools in the following districts, namely Buffalo City Metropolitan, Chris Hani East and West, Alfred Ndzo East, OR Tambo Coastal, Alfred Ndzo West, OR Tambo Inland, Nelson Mandela and Amathola.

The officials will be on site at these schools for a period of 18 months to help improve schools’ finances. Additionally, these officials will also work with school governing bodies (SGBs) in a bid to develop better financial management in schools and to ensure that the financial affairs of schools in the province are overseen effectively and efficiently. The project will assist upskilling and mentoring SGBs and ensure that schools’ financial decisions are made in the best interests of learners. By law, every public school in South Africa must have an elected SGB to run their school’s finances. 

‘People like me’: Comments on the programme

Veronica Gope, a SGB member of one of the schools who benefitted from the programme in the Western Cape, commented: ‘You must remember that when some SGB members are appointed, they have no clue when it comes to school finances – but due to this programme we now have an idea on how to handle school finances and are able to ask questions. I think it was designed for anyone who is looking to gain an excellent practical knowledge of finances: people like me who are non-graduates, working as domestic worker.’

She further explains: ‘The main issue in our schools is that we are lack financial management skills. Today I am proud to say we are able to manage our school’s assets and liabilities. We understand the basic principles of schools budgeting and where the school funding comes from and how to get good value for our money. Our school budget is very clear and is reflecting our school improvement plan. We stick to our budget, plan, organise lead and in control. This programme also assisted me with my personal finances and boosted my self-confidence. SAICA, I don’t know where were you all these years!’

Athini Faltein, another participant said: ‘It gives me great pleasure to part of the inaugural programme in the Eastern Cape. For me personally, it means an opportunity for upliftment. SAICA, the Department of Education and the BANKSETA showed to us an inter-disciplinary approach to make this a success for us. The schools that welcomed us really displayed honesty and transparency in what they do – which in all portrays how our government works and aims to achieve collaborations and excellence at all times.’

Tando Siwendu, a qualified CA(SA) who is acting as a mentor in the programme, added: ‘My understanding of the SAICA SGB Schools project is that it is a multi-faceted initiative. The project aims to empower schools and their governing bodies by improving their financial management, financial accounting and financial literacy through the trainee (mentor) that is allocated to a school. The trainee gets much-needed work experience for 18 months. I decided to be a part of this project as a mentor because I did not want to sit on the side-line and always criticise the government. The Eastern Cape province faces a lot of challenges, so when this opportunity came, I jumped at it in order to lend a helping hand to uplift our society, brothers and sisters.’

Tando continued: ‘As a chartered accountant, my aim is not only about giving back to the community, but to equip the community through financial literacy skills transfer. However, I see that we have gone back 20 years because the schools still use cheques to make payments. The buzzword is 4IR, but the schools are being left behind and the gap will just get bigger if this is not addressed. This is a challenge that I have already picked up in my engagement with my mentee.’

Anathi Ntshanta, one of the trainees from Lovedale College, added: ‘We saw the need of working for SA-SAMS after we got put through a clear and transparent process to understand what is going on in schools, and this programme is new in the Eastern Cape. We are so fortunate to be part of bringing change. Thanks to Eastern Cape Department of Education, SAICA and BANKSETA for making this interesting programme so successful.’

Athini Faltein summarised the sentiment of many participants: ‘With a successful launch held in East London and endorsement by the MEC of Education, I strongly feel that such a programme will be extended beyond just a school-based resource, but an incubator to stir future and young leaders within our province.’

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