Impact of State of the Nation Address on Education Committees' activities

NCOP Education and Technology, Sports, Arts and Culture

23 June 2009
Chairperson: Ms M Makgate (ANC, North West)
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Meeting Summary

The Chairperson opened a discussion about the impact of the State of the Nation Address on the work of the Committee. Members took note of the fact that although they would be hearing briefings from each Department, the issues identified in this Address would help them to hold Departments more fully accountable, and would also identify matters of priority for the Committee. In the field of education, Early Childhood Development, the development of arts at a later level, the need to promote the development of and participation in sports were emphasised. Members also noted the need for better management in schools, training for principals and subject heads, the need to address problems of the abuse of school children by teachers at some schools, and the need for parents, learners and teachers to work together to ensure that schools became well functioning units. The emphasis on patriotism, and to celebrate and instill respect for national symbols was emphasised. Members also noted that they needed to consider the issues identified in the Legacy Report of the previous Committee and said that they should study past Annual Reports. It was suggested that each Department be asked to provide time frames for achievement of their objectives during the briefings.

The Committee discussed and approved the dates of 26 and 30 June for the Departmental briefings prior to the budget voting on 1 and 2 July

Meeting report


Committee business and procedure
The Chairperson and Members introduced themselves. The Chairperson then established the ground rules under which all further meetings would take place.

The Committee Secretary explained how the attendance lists would be signed.

Members discussed the dates on which each of the Departments of Education, Sports and Recreation and Arts and Culture would present their strategic plans, in view of the budget votes scheduled for 1 and 2 July. It was agreed that the three would make presentations on 26 June and 30 June. Members queried whether one hour would be sufficient for each, but the Chairperson explained that the Chairpersons of Committees had confirmed that the schedules were very tight.

The draft
programme for the Committee, as amended, was considered and adopted. It was agreed that the workshop scheduled for 5 August would run over two days.
Impact of the most recent State of the Nation Address
The Chairperson said that Members should focus on the urgent issues identified in the most recent State of the Nation address that would affect the work of this Committee, and identify matters to be prioritised.

Ms N Rasmeni (ANC, North West )said that there were a few issues around education that this Committee must select, and if possible should include in future programmes, asking the Departments of Education to brief the Committee on these issues. The first key priority was the suggestion that teachers, learners and parents work with schools to turn schools into “thriving
centres of excellence.” She asked how this would happen, and said that it meant that the Departments should table a programme or plan before by this Committee, which could then ensure that this plan would be properly overseen, and that all relevant policies, manifestos and documents were being taken into account.

Ms Rasmeni thought the second key priority related to those non-negotiable aspects raised by the President, specifically the abuse of pupils at schools by teachers and the quality of learning provided by teachers. She said that this was extremely important as these problems were rife in schools at present.

The final priority should be the improvement of the management of schools, and she listed problems such as teachers drinking at school, or drinking with learners, and principals not taking their work seriously. She explained that the training of principals or head-teachers was not integrated, and it had formerly been up to individuals to train themselves. She said that this focus would help to address the current problems in South African schools.

Ms M Boroto (ANC, Mpumalanga) agreed with Ms Rasmeni and said that there should also be emphasis on Early Childhood Development (ECD).

The Chairperson also suggested that it was important to ensure that rural and farm children were no longer discriminated against in terms of access to education, and that they should all attend schools.

Mr S Plaatjie (COPE, North West )queried the relevance of considering the State of the Nation address and proposed that the Committee should wait for briefings by each Department rather than repeat the matters raised in the address. He said that this Committee was not formed to exercise oversight over the State of the Nation, but rather was formed to deal with Departmental issues such as the student financial aid schemes. He agreed that the Address would guide the Committee in formulating its programme, but he felt it was more important to consider the Departments’ briefings on their strategic planning as a starting point for solid programmes of action.

The Chairperson replied that the State of the Nation Address should act as the framework that the Members should use to guide their actions and thought processes. She believed it was necessary to consider it, as well as statements made at the Polokwane conference, in developing the five-year plan of work, to ensure that programmes were implemented on the ground to deal with issues that have arisen.

Ms B Mncube (ANC, Gauteng ) expressed support for the Chairperson’s approach to the State of the Nation Address. She said that the role of the Committee was to raise issues in this meeting, and then assess how these issues were being addressed by each Department’s strategic plan and budget. She expanded upon Ms Rasmeni’s statement on the training of principals and asked how this training was budgeted for, and how plans to deal with this issue had progressed to date. She added that it was not clear how further education and training, and access to higher education would be used to develop skills. Finally she asked about the unequal spread of the illiteracy campaign across provinces.

Ms Boroto added that it was important to remind one another of what the State of the Nation Address had discussed in order to hold Departments accountable to these statements.

The Chairperson agreed and said that it was important to measure each of the Departments, based on their previous annual reports, to assess how they would achieve their goals and monitor common problems.

Ms Rasmeni referred to the description of sport in the Address as a powerful nation-building tool , which she described as a “very pregnant statement”, seeing that the quality of South African sports was deteriorating instead of improving. She quoted a recent radio programme that highlighted that school sports were poorly resourced and attracting little Government attention. She said passion for sport and health began in the school years, and that as children grew so their support for sport would grow as well. She said that there was a need to ask government to inform people about the programmes that were in place at school levels, and how teachers were involved. She said some teachers should be specialised in particular sports and that there should be teachers in charge of sports in each school.

The Chairperson noted that when she was in school, school sports were held on a particular day of the week, and that this should be reintroduced at schools. 

Ms Rasmeni referred to the President’s statements
emphasising instilling of patriotism in schools, and suggested there was a need to build a common identity. She thought that it was important to ensure that learners were educated about national symbols and the national anthems in schools, not only later in their lifetime.

Ms D Rantho (ANC, Eastern Cape)agreed and said that if State symbols were not taken seriously by teachers, they would not be taken seriously by learners.

Ms Rantho also noted a severe shortage of art in schools, although this had been introduced at the level of Early Childhood Development, and said that more teachers should be trained in the field of arts.

The Chairperson agreed. Children in the past used to recite the then-National Anthem, and knew all the words. The current National Anthem should be accorded the same respect, and all learners should learn the words. She cited that a recent public hearing in Ventersdorp had been interrupted by dissident white people waving the old flag, and said this should not be allowed. Some police stations were also still displaying that old flag, which showed a marked lack of respect. Every member of the Committee should take responsibility for instilling respect for new national symbols.

Mr Plaatjie said that the Committee programme had said that the Legacy Report must be dealt with in August. He asked that each Member be provided with a document on the Legacy report before the Department briefings, to assess all outstanding programmes, and to allow for the current Committee to hold each Department accountable and query exactly the exact progress on each programme. This would also enable the Committee to address issues such as resource shortages.

Mr T Mashamaite (ANC, Limpopo) thanked the Chairperson for putting the State of the Nation Address on the agency. He added that when the Committee heard each Department’s briefing on the budget and Strategic plans, the Committee should ask for time frames allocated for achieving each goal. This would make clear what should be achieved in each quarter. He agreed with Mr Plaatjie that the Legacy Report was important, and that Members should receive information on the briefings before the actual briefings were delivered, to hold the Departments accountable.

The Chairperson noted that Mr Mashamaite was correct, and that it was common procedure that Members should receive all documents relating to a Committee meeting seven days before the meeting. She said that Members should also ensure that they made use of other available information, such as the Annual Reports from the previous year, to show the Departments that they were properly informed. She would ask the Research Unit to make these documents available. She commented that in many cases Annual Reports followed identical formats, year after year, and it appeared that information was simply cut and pasted. were the same from year to year as though “cut and pasted”. Members must avoid the commonly-held perceptions that they were too busy to read.

The meeting was adjourned


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