KwaZulu-Natal, reported to have the highest number of HIV/AIDS cases in South Africa, has used only R1-million of the R19-million allocated for its AIDS awareness in schools campaign since 1999.
KwaZulu-Natal department of education spokesman Mr Mandla Msibi yesterday confirmed to Sowetan that the department still had R18-million that should be used for HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns at schools.
Asked why the department had used only R1-million of the funds, he said it was facing a huge task educating the rural teachers and pupils because some schools were inaccessible.
We acknowledge that we have used a small fraction of the funds to train both teachers and pupils on how they can handle HIV/AIDS cases.
This is an indication that we are doing something to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS in the province, Msibi said.
The province, he said, had 2,7 million pupils and it was not easy for trainers to reach every school within a short period.
We have the funds, but it does not mean that we will be able to do the job within a short period. It is going to be a long process, he said.
The department of education, he said, had been working in conjunction with the health and social welfare departments to help identify orphans and treat those who had been infected.
Msibi said the provincial department of education had already started with the process of allocating funds to its regions as part of its effort to ensure the local structures were directly involved in curbing the spread of HIV.
Meanwhile, African National Congress (ANC) KwaZulu-Natal spokesman Mr Mtholephi Mthimkhulu said it was ironic that the department was unable to use the funds allocated to fight a deadly disease.
He said the department was allocated a further R5-million in addition to the R14-million for HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns.
We understand that the province has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS infections in the country but the province has failed to use funds allocated to prevent the scourge, he said.
At the beginning of the 2002/3 financial year next month, Mthimkhulu said, the department would be allocated more funds to supplement its HIV/AIDS budget.
Our education department is facing the mammoth task of highlighting the scourge of HIV/AIDS among teachers and pupils in the province.
What is going to happen to funds allocated to the HIV project? he asked.
Mthimkhulu said last week the provincial standing committee on public accounts recommended to the legislature that the treasury should take control of the budget of the department of education amounting to R9-billion.
He said the decision was a sequel to a damning report released by the auditor-general on the financial status of the department for the 2000/1 financial year.
Mthimkhulu said the auditor-general's report revealed financial mismanagement of the education department funds that has cost it millions if not billions of
In response, Msibi said the department could not be judged on the basis of its previous financial weaknesses, as it did not have a financial manager.
Source: Sowetan, 18 February 2002