Education Department's Budget & Programmes: briefing National Council for Library & Information Services Bill: voting

Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

20 March 2001

Mr D M Kgware

Relevant Documents:
Education Budget and Programmes 2001/02
Library and Information Services Bill [B44B-00]

The Director General of Education briefed the Committee on the Department's Programme for Action 2001/02 and the Deputy Director General outlined the financial aspects of the plan. Generally, the programme is moving toward targeting specific areas rather than a blanket programme. Important issues arising from the discussion included the quality of maths and science teachers, as well as matric markers and the leadership capabilities of principals. The Committee sought clarity on the areas of authority commanded by governing bodies of schools. The Committee also expressed concern at the state of rural schools, especially the issue of acquiring land for these schools.

The Committee was then briefed by the Legal Officer of the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, on the Library and Information Services Bill. There were proposals for amendment in three sections of the Bill to which all committee members agreed. Section 5, concerning the composition of the National Council, generated some heated debate as to whether the provinces should be represented in the council. The Committee proposed that the Bill be amended to cater for provincial representation.

2001/01 Programme
Director General Mseleku began by explaining that the Constitution gives the Department of Education a de jure responsibility for norms and standards in education while, in fact, the provincial governments are responsible for all education other than higher education. In practice, however, there has been a realisation that national mechanisms are needed for co-ordination and implementation, in line with the approach of government in targeting certain sectors and geographic constituencies. He said that the emphasis in government is now on integration of departments and levels of government for maximum impact. For example the Human Resource Development Strategy to be announced by the government brings in the need for education to focus on maths, science and technology in order to meet the country's resource needs.

The DG said the focus of the Department has moved somewhat away from a national strategy in order to focus on specially targeted areas. He said that obviously broad policy areas will not be ignored, but there is a growing move toward focusing on institutional change; in other words, focusing on the educational institutions in order to achieve broad delivery goals.

The Programme, Mr Mseleku said, will focus on the nodal areas outlined in the Urban Renewal Programme and the Integrated Rural Development Strategy. He added that the new plan was sharper than the previous one regarding poverty as there is a growing suspicion that the poor are paying more for quality education outside their local area. This is why local institutional change is necessary.

Mr Mseleku then outlined the focus areas within the 2001/2002 plan:

A three-prong focus:
Raising awareness through life-skills programmes
Examining the impact of HIV/Aids on education.
Educating educators on HIV/Aids.

School Beautification:
The DG said safe and habitable schools would inspire confidence in the system and bring back pride to schools. A way of doing this is to mobilise people to paint, clean and look after school buildings. He stressed that this area also includes school safety and that more attention needs to be paid to racism. There can be no security in a racist environment.

Talent Selection and Development Programmes:
Mr Mseleku said that the department feels that no talented students, especially those who are young, black and female, should go without education. This sector of the population will be targeted to enhance its representation and effectiveness in the economy. He added that although there will be a focus on maths, science and technology, the arts would not be ignored.

Matric Improvement:
Mr Mseleku said that schools which rate as 0-30% performers in the Matric exam results will be targeted, especially those in the nodal points identified in the Urban Renewal Programme and the Integrated Rural Development Strategy.

Values in Education:
Mr Mseleku said that the Department of Education plans to take the debate around values being taught in schools into the public domain. He said there is already consensus regarding the issue of featuring national symbols as part of school life, but more focused debate needs to occur in other areas such as whether the oath of allegiance should be a feature in schools.

Human Resource Development Strategy:
Mr Mseleku said, in line with government strategy, education must concentrate on producing students equipped with the necessary skills in a globalising world.

Learner Support Materials:
A lack of these materials has been identified as largely a problem of delivery. Mr Mseleku said that a big problem is that people given tenders to provide these materials do not deliver.

South African History Project:
The DG said history, particularly South African history, has been neglected. Pre-1994 there was a sense that history is a waste of time. History, he said, is critical to reflect back and know what to avoid in the future. In line with this thinking, Mr Mzeleku said that a report has been drafted suggesting how to give history back its rightful place.

Mr Mseleku went on to say that although these programmes are the focus of the Department's energies in 2001/2002, there are still systematic issues that will be addressed. These include the issue of early child development (Green Paper will be ready in four weeks), providing each citizen the right to basic education as enshrined in the Constitution and implementing the Department's National Plan for Higher Education.

The DG added finally that this programme of action is in line with government policy of integration and targeting. Mr Mseleku then introduced the Deputy Director General, Mr B Soobrayan to present the financial aspects of the plan.

DDG Soobrayan began by explaining that the provinces decide how much to allocate to education out of the portion of the national budget allocated to them. Other streams of funding include additional grants to the provinces made by the Department and donor funding which is not considered permanent or sustainable. He explained that although the Department does not have legislative jurisdiction, it does play a part helping each province with its budget to achieve maximum output.

Mr Soobrayan explained the breakdown of the money made available to finance the Programme of Action for 2001/2002. (See Department Budget document).

The Director General then briefly went through the economic classification for 2001/02 compared to 2000/01 (p 4 of Vote 14) and the pie charts on p 5 indicating how the money is being used. He also explained that the increases and decreases of money available to various programmes (p18-19) is due to restructuring of the Department.

With regard to the money allocated to higher education, Mr Soobrayan said that an increase in real terms to this sector would be 1,39%. (see p 6)

Mr Soobrayan said that it has been realised that conditional grants to the provinces are very important to achieve the specific aims of the programme of action. In the past, there was a problem of underexpenditure due to the inexperience of the Department of Finance and the Department of Education, as well as unrealistic planning.

Finally, Mr Soobrayan said it is clear that a certain amount of capital expenditure in order to develop infrastructure is needed. R3.6 billion of the R6 billion allocated to capital expenditure will go to the provinces. It is up to the provinces how much they wish to spend on education. He said the Department would exert pressure and encourage the provinces to spend some of this money on education.

(Q) Ms J Kgoali (ANC-Gauteng) complained that the pie charts in the document were unclear. Ms Kgoali then said as a member of the NCOP, she is worried about her province and asked what is being allocated to rural development in the provinces. She added that rural development is difficult as land is not available in these areas.

(Q) Mr B Mkhaliphi (ANC-Mpumalanga) said there is a problem in that often a township develops but there is no school for its residents in the area.

(A) The Deputy Director General, Mr Soobrayan commented on the problem of rural schools not having land in which to develop. He said that in terms of the South African Schools Act, in order to build a school on private property, an agreement must be signed between the school and the farmer. He said there has been tremendous resistance from farmers to house schools on their land. Many farmers have seen an opportunity to charge high rent to the government, but many have complied, charging nominal rates. He said that as more farmers comply, so will others.
Apart from the land issue, Mr Soobrayan said that there is a major crisis in rural schools in terms of resources and access. A big problem for developing rural schools is population flux as many rural communities are in a state of impermanence. For this reason, some schools are not viable as they may have many students one year and hardly any the next. The strategy that the government is pursuing is to integrate schools in certain areas.

(Q) Ms C Nkuma (ANC-Northern Province) said a number of schools are performing badly in the areas of maths and science. She said clever students who do well in other subjects are underperforming in maths and science because of the quality of the teachers. She asked what the Department plans to do about this problem. She also said there is a problem regarding the standard of matric paper marking as the markers are often underqualified.

(A) DG Mseluku agreed that there is a problem with the quality of some maths and teachers and said that broad programmes have been outlined to deal with this. With regards to the quality of markers, Mr Mseleku said that it is up to the provinces to decide on standards. Marking is a massive task and it is necessary to supplement teachers with other people with relevant qualifications to assist with marking. He said that the problem is being addressed and the Department plans to improve the current system.

(Q) Mr N Raju (DP-KwaZulu-Natal) said he was impressed with the plan, especially the plan for school beautification. He agrees that maths and science should be an important focus but he was glad that the arts were not being ignored in the process. Mr Raju had two suggestions. First, he said some students who are poor academically may be talented in other areas. These talents need to be identified and developed. He also said sport is an integral part of growing up, but can only be enjoyed if there are proper facilities.

(A) The DG said the issue of sports is a challenging one as there is a fuzzy area as to whether sport is a concern of the Department of Education or the Department of Sport. He said that the Department of Education is looking at this issue while promoting sporting activity on the ground.

(Q) Prof N Khurbisa asked exactly how provinces would be brought into the programme for action. He said it is important to develop the leadership qualities of educators as many are placed into positions of authority but do not know how to lead. Finally, he suggested the African Renaissance be incorporated into the school curriculum.

(A) Mr Mseleku agreed that the issue of leadership development is an important one, particularly in regards to principals and head of departments. He said there is no specific programme in place to train principals and heads for leadership, but this issue will be part of a broad programme of institutional change. In response to the question of bringing provinces into the programme, Mr Mseleku said there is a need to bring in and integrate all levels of government. He said the Department actively encourages the provinces and seeks their advice, taking an integrated approach.

(Q) Mr Mkhaliphi said that governing bodies are elected on the whim of parents and there is no system to empower educators in the running of their school. He also asked if the National Illiteracy Initiative has a place in the programme.

(A) Mr Mseleku said three-year plans for the eradication of illiteracy are in place but it has not been established whether this will be a departmental programme.

(Q) Mr Raju said that there is a need to delineate areas in which governing bodies have authority as some have become a law unto themselves.

(A) Mr Mseleku said the issue of governing bodies is a complex one. Before, it was the principal who decided everything and it was therefore the whim of the principal as opposed to the whim of the parents. It is important to remember that there is a difference between governance and management and that decisions taken by governing bodies will not exceed the authority of national policy. He said that attempts are being made to establish a national organisation of governing bodies. He added it is important to emphasise the empowerment of parents who have a stake in their child's future. Therefore parents cannot be dismissed completely, but he agreed it is a complex manner.

(Q) Mr H Sogoni (UDM) said the programmes being introduced are good but the outputs in some areas will be difficult to achieve due to lack of monitoring. He also asked how much progress had been achieved in the Redeployment Programme.

(A) With regard to monitoring the provinces, Mr Mseleku said that this was a difficult issue and one that has been debated in the Constitutional Court over whether the Department of Education has the authority to intervene in the provinces. The Department and the provinces have to act in a co-operative way. The Department does not intend to be interventionist.
He said the Redeployment Programme is "far and not far". He said it is continuing in order to manage the labour force, but has been halted in many of the provinces as it is being used as a scapegoat for other problems.

The Chair said the duty of the members of the Committee is to cater for provincial interest and protect the national mandate. He said it is constructive for members to participate in national departments. He asked if at a later stage the Director General could look at the language issue in education

Library and Information Services Bill
Mr Beukes, the Legal Officer of the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology presented the Library and Information Services Bill (B 44B- 2000). He went through the Bill with members of the Committee and asked for their comments.

The sections over which members did not agree were sections, 5, 9 and 14.

Section 5 refers to the composition of the council. Ms Kgoali (ANC) asked what the link will be between the provinces and the council. She said libraries have a provincial function and asked if staff will be from the provinces to form a national council. The only way to remedy the disparities between the provinces is for them to be represented, she asserted, otherwise the poor areas will remain poor.

Mr Beukes said there are two mechanisms to have provincial input built into the bill. The first is MINMEC meetings and the second is regular consultation with experts in various provinces. He stressed that the Department intends to take the provinces into account, but that the national council will set the standards for all libraries which will bind the provinces.

Ms Kgoali maintained however, that the issue of representivity is a problem. She said the provinces must be represented by informed people and national interest must be guided by the needs of the nine provinces.

Ms R Cillie, a representative of the Department asked Ms Kgoali exactly what she meant by 'informed'.

Ms Kgoali replied that an informed person is someone who deals with the issues on a daily basis.

Ms Cillie asked if Ms Kgoali was suggesting that nine out of twelve people on the council should be from the provinces.

Ms Kgoali replied that all the provinces must be represented.

The Chair called for consensus on this issue.

Mr Beukes said section 76 bills provide for the provinces to have a seat on the councils. This is however a section 75 bill and there are no requirements for provinces to have seats on the councils. He reiterated there are mechanisms in place to use the expertise from the provinces. He also reminded the Committee that council is only an advisory council.

Ms Kgoali said NCOP has the right to amend a section 75 bill and so the views expressed there should be taken seriously. If the National Assembly agree with the NCOP, the Bill will not be passed. She said although the Department needs the support of the Committee, the Committee does not need the support of the Department.

The Chair said this deadlock needed to be resolved and called for the State Law Advisor.

The State Law advisor said that if the Committee would prefer representation of the provinces to be written into the bill, he cannot see a problem with this.

Ms Kgoali thanked the State Law Advisor.

Another area of difficulty was section 9 regarding the tenure of members of the council.

Ms G N Swartbooi said the bill is not clear and asked Mr Beukes exactly how long the term of office of the council was.

Mr Beukes said the tenure of the whole council is three years. If a seat is vacated, that seat will be filled by a new person who will stay in that seat for the remainder of the tenure of the council.

Ms Swartbooi suggested that this section of the Bill be put into clearer English as it was not easy to understand. This was agreed to by all parties.

It was suggested by a Committee member that subsection 2 of section 14 regarding the annual report be amended to include the Select Committee as well as the Portfolio Committee to be briefed on the annual report. This was agreed to by all parties.

The meeting was adjourned.


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