Minister's briefing

Basic Education

13 September 2004
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Meeting report

EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE WITH EDUCATION AND RECREATION SELECT COMMITTEE
14 September 2004
MINISTER'S BRIEFING


Chairperson: Professor S Mayatula (ANC)

Documents handed out:
None

SUMMARY
Education Minister Ms Naledi Pandor briefed the Committee on her plans for education. She detailed several challenges, such as correctly implementing the fee exemption system, poverty alleviation in rural areas, improving monitoring and evaluation of school output and curricula, and providing adequate administrative and auxiliary support to teachers. The Committtee raised concerns about expanding Afrikaans tuition, student truancy in impoverished communities, infrastructure delivery and student parents not exercising their rights.

MINUTES
The Minister said she had requested to address the Committee on current developments in education, in the hope that Members' input would help to resolve some of the issues beginning to arise. The poor quality of education offered in South Africa, and the low level of attention this problem received, were deep concerns.

The National Curriculum Framework was intended to support new educational development in South Africa. The Ministry had placed great emphasis on the crafting of workable policies that would improve the quality of education, as opposed to solutions that were beyond the capabilities of educators.

The Integrated Quality Management System, developed over several years, aimed to improve the development and performance levels of educators. The implementation of this system from early 2005, would ensure educators performed at maximum capability. Monitoring and evaluation in the educational sector was also unsatisfactory and required attention.

Infrastructure delivery would be a key area. The Minister appealed to Members to assist both National and Provincial Executive Members in monitoring infrastructure provision.

The issue of tuition, particularly regarding HIV/AIDS, was another area in need of urgent attention. Great efforts to teach students about the dangers of HIV/AIDS had not curbed the pandemic's impact on the education sector. Acknowledgement of the complexity of this problem was the first step to addressing it. There was a need to be wary of believing that existing programmes were sufficient.

One of the greatest challenges in education was poverty. There was a need to develop an effective means of exempting poorer communities from the burden of school fees. The input of Members would be crucial to the successful implementation of an exemption law. Exempting certain schools from school fees created the risk of attaching negative connotations to those schools, thus leading to the creation of 'ghetto schools', as had happened in many countries. The Minister hoped these schools would receive support to ensure that they offered excellent educational programmes.

Improving education in rural areas, where educational infrastructure and resources were sub-standard, was a great challenge and would be a major focus.

The Minister said it was exciting that the importance of further education and training colleges, which offer skills at the heart of economic progress, had been recognised. She appealed to Members to talk to young people about this option so that the skills profile of the country could be dramatically altered.

The Minister hastened to add that universities and technikons would continue to receive financial support. These institutions would be encouraged to transform and become far more engaged with the challenges of skills development.

Discussion
Mr M Baloyi (ANC) asked if there was a plan to provide educators with support staff in order to relieve them from administrative work. The Minister said the MEC was looking to deploy underutilised public service officials as support staff. There was a need to develop auxiliary support as well, such as career guidance and health services.

Mr B Mosala (ANC) said parents tended to think that former Model 'c' schools were superior institutions. Children from the townships 'flocked' to these schools but the language of tuition did not reflect the consequent change in demography, and this hampered the development of these pupils.

Mr W Spies (FFP) said the Gerrell Committee had recommended that at least two universities should be earmarked for Afrikaans tuition, but that nothing had materialised from these recommendations. The racial basis of the subsidisation formula made it difficult for any university to focus on Afrikaans.

The Minister did not think the basis of the formula for funding in higher education was racial. The formula aimed to provide redress for students from disadvantaged communities. She said more could be done to ensure that Gerrell recommendations were implemented.

Mr Spies reported that the Northern Cape local government had imposed single medium education on a school, despite the fact that it was the only Afrikaans school in the area and that 70% of the Northern Cape populace was Afrikaans speaking. The Minister responded that she had a petition on her desk to this effect. She would respond when she had investigated the matter further.

Mr L Greyling (ID) said many parents were not aware of their rights with regard to fee exemption. There was a need for a drive to make parents aware of their rights.

Mr Greyling said the majority of children from an Eastern Cape school did not attend school and that the reasons for their truancy were not immediately apparent. He gave an example of children missing classes because they had to keep cattle out of crops. There was a need for an audit to find out why children did not attend school.

Ms P Mnandi (ANC) said the Education Act had been amended to enable the redirection of resources to needy areas. She asked what had been done to date. The Minister said the provinces had started to advertise posts. The major challenge would be to attract quality teachers to rural areas. To meet this challenge, the provision of incentives would continue to be negotiated.

Ms Mnandi said the nutritional needs of several schools were being met by organisations from outside the province. The Minister said the practice of tendering and contracting should be replaced, where possible, by community based initiatives such as school gardens. The religious sector could play a larger role in the provision of foodstuffs to educational establishments. She challenged Members to use their influence in communities to change the prevailing practices of tendering and contracting food supply.

Ms H Zille (DA) asked if the inclusive education policy was backfiring. Children with disabilities were not being adequately accommodated in many schools.

The Minister said schools were not ready to offer inclusive education. The fault could lie with poor policy implementation. Scant regard had been shown for the policy's stipulated phases of action and schools had been overwhelmed by a sudden influx of students.

Mr I Vadi (ANC) said there had been a marked loss of national focus on improving education in recent years. To rectify this, there was a need to outline and adhere to three national objectives for 2005, instead of dealing with the problems of education in a piecemeal fashion.

The Minister said she had begun her term by promising her enterprise would be one of stability and consolidation. The key to improving the quality of education delivered in South Africa was to set achievable objectives.

The meeting was adjourned

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