Department of Basic Education Programme of Action briefing; Consideration of Committee Programme

Basic Education

14 September 2009
Chairperson: Ms F Mshwana (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Basic Education briefed the Committee on the Human Development Programme of Action.  The Programme focused on objectives identified in the Medium Term Strategic Framework and the electoral mandate. The Department explained that the Social Cluster was re-organised by the new administration and a Human Development Cluster as well as a Social Protection and Community Development Cluster were established. The Human Development Cluster would improve the health profile of society and build cohesive, caring and sustainable communities. It would also help to strengthen the skills and human resource base. The Department focused on its contribution towards strengthening the skills and human resource base, and what had to be done for the cluster to be effective.  

The Committee posed questions concerning media reports on the lowering of the distinction percentage from 80% to 70%, service level agreements
, the training of mathematics and science teachers by March 2010, the ability of the Department to identify gaps and where intervention was required to attract qualified teachers. Members asked about the strategy for attracting teachers and what the teacher resource centres would offer. The wanted to know if the volunteers involved in basic literacy were paid and if the 3500 practitioners in the Early Childhood Development programme were already trained. The Committee wanted to know how the Department recruited school principals for training.  Questions were asked about the lack of transport to schools, the Girls Education Movement and Boys Education Movement clubs in schools, the Kha ri Gude project, the involvement of the South African Police Service in safety initiatives for schools, the rationalisation of small and non-viable schools in rural areas and the quintile grading system for schools. The Committee asked the Department to elaborate on the “100 Model Grade R classes” that were established and if there was a document that showed how the Department was going to implement all their plans. Members suggested that the Funza Lushaka Bursary scheme contained a requirement for those that benefited from the bursary to teach in rural areas after qualifying. The DA informed the Department that they had written to the Minister asking about safety in schools and the budget for safety measures in schools.

Members discussed the Committee Programme.  Members noted that the Programme needed to be more specific as the Committee had to conduct oversight on the issues included in the President’s State of the Nation Address. The Programme needed to include details of the desired outcomes. Members preferred to discuss and agree the Programme.  This way, the whole Committee can be held accountable.
The Committee agreed to meet again to discuss the Programme.

Meeting report

Ms Vivienne Carelse, Deputy Director-General in the Office of the Director-General, briefed the Committee on the Department’s Human Development Programme of Action (PoA).  The PoA focused on the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF). The MTSF built on the successes of the past fifteen years of democracy. The MTSF base document was meant to guide planning and resource allocation across all spheres of government and was informed by the electoral mandate. It took in to account how global and domestic conditions might change over time. Each priority in the MTSF had to be attended to.

Certain objectives were identified in the electoral mandate such as halving poverty and unemployment by 2014, ensuring equitable distribution of economic benefits and improving the safety of citizens. The Social Cluster was re-organised by the new administration. A Human Development Cluster (HDC) and a Social Protection and Community Development Cluster (SPHDC) were established. The HDC would improve the health profile of society and build cohesive, caring and sustainable communities.

The HDC would also help to strengthen the skills and human resource base. For this to happen a culture of achievement had to be created and an overall improvement in key subjects like mathematics and science was needed.  Increased participation in and improvement of the quality of early childhood development services was needed and access to and the capacity of secondary education also had to be expanded. In order to strengthen the skills and human resource base, public schools needed proper infrastructure and resources. The safety efforts regarding schools needed to be intensified.  Support was needed to develop a teaching profession that was dedicated to providing high quality education and conditions for effective school management had to be created.

The Department was intensifying efforts to ensure access and retention of learners in rural and farm schools through
rationalisation of small and non-viable schools. The Department was involved in implementing programmes to improve the understanding of values and human rights.  The Department wanted to promote and build a sense of common national identity amongst young people, expand the provision of basic literacy classes for adults through the Kha ri Gude Mass Literacy Campaign and improve the performance of “no fee” schools. The Department was also involved in youth development interventions. The Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) needed to be extended by expanding access to Early Childhood Development (ECD).

The Department’s first progress report was due in October 2009. Three task teams were established to facilitate and manage the implementation of the Human Development PoA. In terms of alignment with Planning and Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) processes, additional targets were set by the M&E unit in the Presidency to address short-term challenges in the system. These will be factored into the planning for the 2010 school year. The next PoA cycle would address particular steps towards enhancing quality outputs for the education system.

Ms M Kubayi (ANC) remarked on the current discussion concerning the dropping of the distinction percentage from 80% to 70%. She wanted more clarity on the matter. She wanted to know if there were service level agreements in place to ensure that all stakeholders involved in educational initiatives would deliver the desirable outcomes.

Ms Carelse replied that the Minister had indicated that there was no announcement of changes to legislation.  There was a consultative process that would take place, which the Minister was more than happy to broaden.  The General Education and Further Education branches of the Department were also reviewing the distinction percentage within the Curriculum Implementation Review Process. Educators, educational officials and key academics were being consulted as well.  The Department hoped the reviews and discussions would result in a clear set of recommendations. The Minister would consider the recommendations and discuss them with the relevant bodies. Members should be guided by the fact that changes to legislation were not anticipated.

Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) agreed with the concerns raised by Ms Kubayi and asked for further clarity on the distinction percentage issue.

Ms A Mashishi (ANC) suggested that the Department make a written submission to the Committee with a more detailed response. The Committee could use this response for the following week’s discussion.

Ms S Geyer, Chief Director: Education Human Resource Manager, explained that a part of the Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD) agreement referred to principals signing performance management agreements in the future.  A draft service level agreement was created but the format was not yet agreed.  The agreement would be implemented when finalised.  The OSD would streamline the job description of a principal and would clarify accountability requirements.

Ms A Mda (COPE) asked what was happening to ensure that mathematics and science teachers were properly trained by March 2010. She wanted to know if the Department was able to identify gaps where they needed to intervene in order to attract qualified teachers and deliver on their mandate. She asked what monitoring measures were in place to ensure that interventions by the Department benefited the country.

Ms Carelse replied that the March 2010 deadline was a conservative deadline. The intention was to complete the training by that time.

Ms Geyer advised that extensive research was conducted and results indicated the supply and demand for teachers. The research indicated where there were gaps or a need for teachers. Most gaps were in rural areas, where there was a particular need for mathematics and science teachers. It was always difficult to appoint teachers in deep rural areas. The Funza Lushaka Bursary Scheme provided opportunities for learners who wanted to pursue a teaching career. More and more learners were seeing teaching as a career option. The difficulty was always with the placement of teachers. Learners from deep rural areas who received bursaries would study in urban areas. Once their studies are finished, they applied to teach in urban areas and did not want to return to rural areas. The Department was successful in placing some teachers in rural areas and other areas of need. The number of bursars was increasing annually and the Department expected to place more teachers in those areas of need in the long term.

Ms C Dudley (ACDP) asked if there was a new strategy for attracting teachers and what the teacher resource centres would actually offer. She wanted to know if the volunteers involved in basic literacy programmes were paid or were at least receiving basic salaries. She asked if the 3500 practitioners in the ECD programme were already trained or if the Department still aspired to train 3500 practitioners. She did not notice any information on nutritional programmes in schools in the presentation.

Ms Geyer advised that the teacher resource centres would help to provide support to teachers and would be located close to schools. The centres were supposed to be at a district level but there were not enough resources for this. The idea was to cluster the centres so that one resource centre could serve more than one district. Training workshops would be held at the centres and study materials would also be provided. There were models of resource centres in highly urbanised provinces such as the Western Cape and Gauteng. The idea was to extend the centres to more rural provinces. The centres were geared towards enhancing the quality of teaching and learning.

Ms Carelse replied that the 3500 practitioners were currently being trained. The Department of Social Development (DSD) spearheaded the programme and the Department of Basic Education was involved in the training.  She said that nutrition programmes in schools were part of the Department’s strategic plan. The operational plan covered the rollout of the nutrition programme.

Ms J Kloppers-Lourens (DA) noted that 159 libraries were included in the list of basic resources delivered to schools. She asked if these were new libraries or if the number included the upgrading of old libraries. She wondered how the Department recruited principals for training. She asked the Department to comment on the problem of lack of transport to schools and to provide more information on the Girls Education Movement and Boys Education Movement (GEM and BEM) clubs in schools. She asked the Department to explain what it meant to be a volunteer in the Kha ri Gude project.

Ms Geyer replied that the 159 libraries listed were new libraries that would be built. Priority would be given to schools that did not have libraries. With regard to the training of principals, she advised that a pilot project was being conducted, which was not offered to all principals nor was it mandatory. The Department hoped to standardise the requirements and make it mandatory for teachers to have a qualification that would enable them to manage schools once they became principals. This would improve the quality of principals.

Ms Carelse answered that the GEM and BEM Clubs were a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) initiative that was being piloted across the provinces. This initiative encouraged youth to develop positive values and enrolled them in programmes that addressed gender awareness and sensitivity.

Ms Carelse stated that there was a great interest by retired and unemployed teachers to take part and volunteer in the Kha ri Gude Project. These volunteers qualified for a very basic stipend. The budget was cut back for the current financial year. The number of learners that qualified for the programme was increased but the stipend earned by volunteers was not reduced.

Ms Carelse could not answer the query on transport, as she did not have the information to hand. She undertook to forward the reply to the Committee at a later stage.

Mr Z Makhubele (ANC) asked how the Department was involving the South African Police Service (SAPS) in safety initiatives for schools. He noted that the Department spoke about the
rationalisation of small and non-viable schools in rural areas. This meant that the number of schools would be reduced and schools would be further away from some rural areas.

Ms Carelse stated that school safety initiatives were part of a social cohesion programme as well as the infrastructure support programme in all the provinces. School safety was a provincial issue. The provincial education departments were playing a key role and have been included in the PoA. Provincial departments were sometimes overlooked in the past. Actual implementation and planning of safety initiatives would happen at provincial level and the performance of provincial departments would be measured. The National Department was committed to ensuring that the policies were in place to protect learners and teachers. This could not be done without the assistance of the SAPS.

In terms of the
rationalisation of schools, there was a rural educational plan that set out key steps in terms of what would happen in certain provinces, specifically in provinces that were predominantly rural. The different steps in the plan were being explored and included transport to and from schools. The provinces would formulate plans and assist the Department. Provinces would also be involved in the implementation of the plan and in the allocation of resources. It might be found that a smaller school could benefit from having a cluster arrangement with other schools.

Ms Geyer added that the idea of
rationalisation was to have better quality schools, not fewer schools. If an audit was done of schools in rural areas, one would see that most of the schools did not have any or improper facilities or infrastructure. Certain schools had of the necessary facilities but had very few learners. These schools could be merged. The idea was to enhance the rural communities and the quality of education.

The Chairperson referred to the quintiles in which schools were classified. She stated there was a problem in defining schools according to quintiles. She wanted to know how the different quintiles would be treated.

Ms Carelse stated that many schools complained about the criteria that quintiles were based on and how the information was gathered to separate quintiles. The Department was in the process of looking at this problem, standardising requirements and correcting the method used to grade schools. The problems experienced with grading of schools would be corrected in the near future.

Mr D Smiles (DA) asked the Department to elaborate on the “100 Model Grade R classes” that were established. He wanted to know if these schools included qualified teachers or practitioners. He congratulated the Department for all the plans that they made to improve the education sector. He asked if there was a “do it” document that showed how the Department was going to implement all the plans. He did not want to see a situation where there were plans but not enough funds to implement them.

Mr Wilson Makgalancheche; Chief Director: Strategic Planning and Coordination, answered that the Department had just circulated its strategic plans for the years 2009-2018. This included an operational plan that showed how the Department would translate its objectives into reality. The budget for these activities was also indicated. An Annual Report would be sent to Parliament at the end of every financial year, which included the activities of the Department.

Ms Carelse stated that the model Grade R schools was a DSD initiative. The Department of Basic Education provided the training for practitioners. The Grade R teachers were highly qualified.

Mr Smiles remarked that Grade R was the foundation phase and good, qualified teachers were needed, not just practitioners. Things needed to be done properly at the basic level of education.

Mr N Kganyago (UDM) stated that the issue of ownership needed to be taken into account when talking about the merging of schools. Some communities wanted to have their own school. These mergers could cause problems. In terms of safety at schools, building fences around schools was not going to help. It merely decreased points of entry into schools. It’s what happened at the gates that mattered. The Department needed to look more seriously at including the SAPS in more safety initiatives.

Ms Carelse conceded that the merging of schools needed to be seen in the context of social cohesion. She stated that the fencing of schools was just one of the safety issues being addressed and was a start. Provinces developed their own structures and plan to suit appropriate safety needs. It was a standard requirement for all schools to be fenced. The Department needed to find ways to mobilise the communities around schools and a forum had to be created for SAPS initiatives.

Ms N Gina (ANC) suggested that the Funza Lushaka Bursary scheme should have a requirement for those that benefited from the bursary to teach in rural areas as part of their community service. She noted that the subject of accounting was no longer taken seriously. Grades were declining rapidly. There were interventions taking place but not much improvement was observed. She wondered if “No Fee” schools would always mean poor performances by students. The Department realised that there was a perception that “No Fee” schools delivered a low quality education.

Ms Geyer confirmed that the scheme was attracting people from rural areas.  However, once qualified as teachers the applications submitted requested placement in urban areas rather than rural areas. The Department encouraged a deep commitment to newly qualified teachers to return to their hometowns in rural areas. The Department had to make it easier for educators to return to their rural towns. This was where the issue of incentives came up. Educators needed proper incentives to teach in rural areas.

Ms Carelse agreed that there was a public perception that “No Fee” schools were not equal to other schools. This was a negative consequence of being called a “No Fee” school. The Department was concerned about this and planned to adopt a strong policy to address the negative perception.

Ms Mashishi stated that the Department needed to attract appropriate qualified teachers. She suggested that social workers should be involved in safety initiatives in schools.

Ms Geyer explained that there were variations for qualifications in the teaching core. Sometimes teachers were professionally qualified but did not have the correct tertiary qualification. The Department was helping teachers to become properly qualified. The Department found that there was a lack of teachers who were qualified to teach mathematics and science.

Ms Kloppers-Lourens explained that the DA had written to the Minister asking about safety in schools and the budget for safety in schools. It was indicated that only six of the nine provinces budgeted for safety measures at schools. She asked for the Department’s comment on this issue. 

Ms Carelse replied that she would not challenge the information provided by the Minister. The Department knew that the matter of safety was a major concern and was always brought up in meetings. Whether there should be a line item in the financial statements for safety and security in schools depended on the provinces. It was up to provinces to implement guidelines and standards for safety that were set by the national government. The Department could follow up on what the provinces were doing regarding safety in schools.  

The Chairperson thanked the Department for the briefing. She noted that the Department would have to report back and submit information regarding the GEM and BEM initiative, issues about transport to and from schools, and a written response was needed concerning the lowering of the distinction percentage.
Consideration of Committee Programme
Mr Llewelyn Brown, the Committee Secretary, requested that the Members perused the Committee Programme document and forwarded any queries to him before noon on Thursday, the 17th September 2009.

Ms Kubayi said that the oversight duties of the Committee had to be informed by the work that the Committee was doing. She preferred that the programme be discussed and agreed upon by Members. This way, the whole Committee was accountable for it. It was a pity that the deadline for the programme to be submitted was so soon. She appealed to Mr Brown to approach the Committee with submissions so that all Members could agree on the way forward.

Mr Makhubele thought that the Committee would not reach a clear solution unless they knew the deadline for which the Programme had to be submitted. The Committee should meet again to discuss the Programme.

The Chairperson noted that Members were not happy agreeing to a programme that they were not involved in creating. She agreed that the Committee should meet again to discuss the document.

Ms Kubayi added that the Programme needed to be more specific as the Committee needed to conduct oversight on matters addressed in the President’s State of the Nation Address. The Programme needed to be enhanced to the level where details of the desired outcomes were included.  She asked what the deadline for submitting the document was.

Mr Brown answered that the document had to be submitted on the 18th September 2009.

Ms Kubayi asked him to see if he could get an extension on the deadline.

The Chairperson noted that the Programme was good but needed to be more detailed. She asked Mr Brown to forward a revised Programme to each Member.

The meeting was adjourned.


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