Meeting SummaryThe Department of Education presented and answered questions on the Department's Annual Report for the 2008/9 financial year. The report focused on what the Department was doing to address the five broad priorities of the Minister to deal with poverty, skills development, quality improvement, health promotion and institutional development. The achievements were then highlighted as including the declaration of no fee schools which constituted 40% of primary and secondary schools, which catered for approximately 60% of all learners. The National School Nutrition Programme was allocated R1,5 billion and catered for approximately 6 million primary learners in 17 899 schools nationwide. Other initiatives included the formation of 6 226 vegetable gardens, the QUIDS-UP initiative used to improve the quality of teaching and learning in disadvantaged communities, by providing basic resource packages that included books, teacher resource guides, posters and lesson plans. The Funza Lushaka Bursary Fund was used to aid teacher development, and this had awarded more than 5 000 bursaries, resulting in 1 085 bursars graduating in 2008 and being ready for placement in 2009. Through the Mass Literacy Campaign and adult training programmes, employment was created for 20 000 volunteer educators, 200 volunteer supervisors, 160 co-ordinators/monitors and 2 300 supervisors. Dinaledi schools were also established to improve the teaching of Mathematics and Science and resources valued at R12 million were distributed to these 500 schools. Early childhood development programmes ensured that 700 000 5-year olds were registered for Grade R education in January 2009. Life skills programmes and support were implemented and a campaign was launched in provinces to provide integrated service delivery to learners and school communities, including visual, auditory, oral screening and immunisation status assessments. The Sport for Development Programme was implemented to facilitate school sporting activities. 98% of the Department’s allocated budget was spent, with saving arising from the withholding of some conditional grants.
Members asked questions about the quality of the feeding scheme, the vegetable gardens, and whether alternatives were available. The apparent shortage, still, of maths and science teachers was of concern, and Members also enquired about safety in schools, the new building that the Department would be occupying, the reason why no changes had been made to the White Paper 5 on Inclusive Education, and the targets, what was the situation in regard to older and younger learners being put together in classrooms, and how many times a learner was permitted to repeat a grade. Members expressed their dismay at the continuing poor standards and attitudes of some teachers and principals, and asked if there were any incentive schemes for the good teachers. The criteria for rating were questioned, as well as the quality management systems. Members enquired about the full service schools, what was the situation with the rural schools, whether funding had been provided to assist them, the increase in libraries in rural areas, and Early Childhood Development centres, and Members enquired about whether unqualified teachers were still being employed. The existence of support structures for HIV/AIDS infected teachers was questioned, as well as declaration of financial interests and the employment of teachers for more than one function.
Department of Education (DoE) Annual Report 2008/09 briefing
Mr Duncan Hindle, Director General, Department of Education (as it was then named) presented on the Annual Report of the Department of Education (DoE or the Department) for the 2008/09 financial year. He presented the report in two parts. The first dealt with the Department's performance and the second looked at the Department's annual financial statements.
Ms Gugu Ndebele, Deputy Director General, DoE, presented on the Proposed Programme of Action for Rural Schools.
Mr Hindle's presentation was detailed and lengthy, outlining all the elements of the Minister's priorities. These priorities were addressing poverty, skills development, quality improvement, health promotion and institutional development. He pointed out that he would be addressing issues exclusive to Basic Education and that all matters pertaining to higher learning were to be directed to the Minister of Higher Education. He pointed out that since all the Members had the reports prior to the meeting they would be aware of the issues.
He highlighted the achievements as including the declaration of no fee schools, which constituted 40% of primary and secondary schools, wherein approximately 60% of the learners benefited, The National School Nutrition Programme(NSNP), which allocated R1,5 billion and catered for approximately 6 million primary learners in 17 899 schools nationwide, the formation of 6 226 vegetable gardens, and the QUIDS-UP initiative as one of the projects used to improve the quality of teaching and learning in disadvantaged communities by providing basic resource packages that included books, teacher resource guides, posters and lesson plans. The latter had benefited 15 503 schools.
The Funza Lushaka Bursary Fund was used to aid teacher development. This fund amounted to R180 million, awarding more than 5 000 bursaries which resulted in 1 085 bursars graduating in 2008 and being ready for placement in 2009. Through the Mass Literacy Campaign and Formal Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) programme, employment was created for 20 000 volunteer educators, 200 volunteer supervisors, 160 co-ordinators and 2 300 supervisors. The newly appointed supervisors were appropriately trained, the generic School Improvement Plan (SIP) was developed and the school evaluation guide was distributed to schools for use.
Dinaledi schools were also established to improve the teaching of Mathematics and Science. Resources valued at R12 million were distributed to these schools, which had increased to 500 in the year 2008. The early childhood development (ECD) programmes ensured that 700 000 5-year olds were registered for Grade R education in January 2009.
Life Skills programmes were implemented in schools and support was provided to learners and communities infected and affected by HIV/AIDS and other health challenges. The Lethimpilo campaign was launched in provinces to provide integrated service delivery to learners and school communities including visual, auditory, oral screening and immunisation status assessments, whilst the Sport for Development Programme was implemented to facilitate school sporting activities.
The Department was allocated R19 749 370 and it used 99.8% for the programmes of administration, system planning and monitoring, general education, Further Education and Training (FET), social and school enrichment, higher education and auxiliary associated services programmes. A total of R40 300 was saved by withholding of the HIV/AIDS conditional grants, less interest and redemption claimed by Higher Education Institutions, cost saving measures and reduced UNESCO fees due to favourable Rand/Dollar exchange amongst other factors.
There were five focus areas for action proposed for rural and farm schools. These were outlined as improving the quality of teaching and learning, attracting and retaining learners and educators, improving infrastructure, building effective school governance and management, and promoting advocacy and sustainable partnerships.
Ms Ndebele stated that these five key focus areas were listed in the National Framework for Quality Education in Rural Areas, and they would be used to develop a National Implementation Strategy for the advancement of quality education and promotion of access to education at rural and farm schools.
The strategy proposed to target improving the quality of learning and teaching programmes, exploring the possibility of using school hostels where appropriate, safe and reliable transport services, and improved school infrastructure. This would require a phased approach, targeting an initial 450 rural schools over a period of three years in all the provinces. It would also develop the criteria for the selection of primary and secondary schools in collaboration with the provinces, and eradicate mud schools and unsafe structures as priority areas.
The Chairperson said that her main concern was on the quality of the feeding scheme in schools. She said that children were mostly being fed on biscuits. The vegetable gardens were planting only one type of vegetable. She wanted to know if there could be a balanced, varied nutritious meal instead, and suggested that it could maybe work better if the schools are given money to buy a variety of food packages.
Mr Hindle said that unfortunately schools could not be everything to everyone so they needed a lot of support from community groups to succeed in the food and vegetable programmes. He said that the food packages did not provide much, and it was for that reason that the food gardens were established, to supplement the additional nutritional meals needed. He believed that giving the schools money was a good idea, to deal with the matter, but that issues of accountability were not well maintained.
The Chairperson also enquired why Science and Technology graduates from the traditionally black universities were not seemingly employable, whilst graduates with the same qualifications from the traditionally white universities were employed. There was a shortage of skills in that area. She also wanted to know what was being done with regards to violent schools.
Mr Hindle suggested that all matters pertaining to higher education must be forwarded to the Minister of Higher Education.
Mr Hindle noted that in the area of Basic Education, girls proved to be sharper in maths and they tended to stay longer in school than boys. However, many schools were still lacking Maths and Science teachers because they were teaching other subjects in other schools, having resorted to teaching in vacant posts that they could find, not necessarily teaching their specialty subjects.
With regard to safety in schools, he said the basic infrastructure was provided in most schools to help ensure safety. He pointed out that safety was also an element of the society and surrounding environment, and that neighbourhood watches should be proposed by school governing bodies.
Several Members raised questions around the occupation of the new building by the Department. This was running on a 25-year contract, and Members wanted to know if there was value for money in this agreement and how much the Department was paying for it.
Mr Hindle said that the building would be shared with the Department of Labour, as it was too big for the Department of Education alone. He assured the Members that they would be getting value for money.
Ms M Boroto (ANC, Mpumalanga) wanted to know why the White Paper 6 on Inclusive Education has remained in the same form for the past five years without change. Her concern was that the implementation process was too slow and learners were not being integrated into the main stream.
Mr Hindle clarified that the target for the White Paper 6 was 2020. He continued to explain that this target made the implementation rate slow. However, the process was complex. The name remained unchanged as the policy had not changed, but should the policy change, the name would also change.
Mr M De Villiers (DA, Western Cape) inquired about the age of learners' control. He wanted to know if there was anything done in situations where older learners were in the same grade as younger learners. He reasoned that a big age difference among learners brought in undue and bad influence on younger learners and this impacted negatively on their progress.
Mr Hindle said that the standards for age and norms were available and should be implemented in such cases. Learners were allowed to repeat a grade only twice. Mature and slow learners should be referred to FET colleges and Technical high schools.
Mr De Villiers was also appalled by what he described as the “pathetic” standard of teachers. He was not happy about teachers who come late to school on the first day of the school term. He said this set a bad example and shows lack of seriousness on the part of the teachers and the schools. He then suggested that the Department should consider rewarding good behaviour among teachers, and incentives such as bonuses should be given to teachers with good performance.
Mr Hindle pointed out that the effects of pre 1994 bad teacher training were still evident in some of these teachers and that was a major challenge to the Department. He also said that whilst training and qualification of teachers was one cause, discipline among individual teachers and lack of parental and community involvement was another. He emphasised that the people should be told what to expect, that teachers should be in class 7 hours per day and that if the problem was detected in schools it should be taken up with the district. The Department monitored the quality closely, but the schools and parents and the community needed to play their part also in monitoring the situation and making sure that bad teachers are reported. He said this problem was not a Departmental issue or governmental issue, but a societal issue. Incentives for good performance were currently provided, especially for those teachers who excelled in teaching. They could follow a career path progression wherein they could earn more than principals whilst still remaining in their teaching posts, instead of being promoted to management positions.
Mr S Plaatjie (ANC, North West) asked about the baseline criteria to rate teachers, which evaluation instrument was used in that regard, and who conducted these evaluations. He also asked if the quality management systems were provincial or national.
Mr Hindle said that national assessments on every grade were done, using assessments that were written and marked in schools for monitoring purposes. He also said that the Integrated Quality Management System (IQMS) was used as a developmental tool, not for evaluation. About 100 IQMS external moderators had been used in schools for the past two years.
Mr Plaatjie also enquired about inclusive education in full service schools, if these were private or public schools and if they had a special curriculum. His other concern was about closure of some rural schools, and he wanted to know if there were guidelines for that action and if there was compliance.
Mr Hindle pointed out that full service schools were ordinary public schools adapted to inclusive education for those learners who could not cope in mainstream schools, and who would benefit from being in a different environment. He clarified that not all learners would fit into or benefit from full service schools. He pointed out that a screening mechanism was used to help teachers in identifying and dealing with learners with learning disabilities, and those who needed special education. However, previously disadvantaged communities were still not aware of such services and were therefore not making use of them.
Mr Hindle said that some damaged rural schools merged with other schools which had better teaching conditions. Small and poorer schools got some support from the Department, though not enough. Sadly, poverty was used as a means of getting money by other schools, who would then not use that money to improve their conditions. The Head of the Provincial Department was the only one who had the official authority to merge or close schools, not any other persons.
Mr D Feldman (ANC, Gauteng) asked about libraries and whether these were accelerating in rural areas. He also wanted to know if the Department would continue with the implementation plan of education in the no fee schools, especially in rural areas. He made enquiries as to the situation with learners travelling to former Model C schools.
Mr Hindle said that the library policy for schools was being finalised and that the budget for this was being provided for at provincial levels out of the budget allocation per province. A full report on that would be given at a later stage.
Mr Feldman also wanted to know about the Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres. His concern was about the processes used and about the qualification of teachers at these centres, and he asked what were the measures used for screening.
Mr Hindle responded was that the ECD centres were solely established to regulate primary schools and were paid for directly by the Department. He mentioned that it was vital to have qualified teachers in order to qualify for a subsidy and that unqualified teachers were enrolled on an upgrading programme to help better them, and they were employed on a temporary basis. Some schools, especially in rural areas, preferred to retain these unqualified teachers rather that accept newly graduated and qualified teachers. Mr Hindle spoke strongly against such practices, and he emphasised that the learners deserved good quality education and the Department had done its part to provide skilled teachers through initiatives such as the Funza Lushaka Fund, hence no teacher was without excuse as to why he or she remained not qualified.
Ms R Rasmeni (ANC, North West) requested information on HIV/AIDS infected teachers and asked if there were any support structures for them.
Mr Hindle said that there were no special programmes in place for infected or affected teachers. However, support was available from union offices set up country wide, in discreet places, specifically for teachers. He also mentioned that there was a conditional grant which was made available to infected teachers.
Ms D Rantho (ANC, Eastern Cape) asked what the Department advised where multi-fielded teachers were concerned.
Mr T Mashamaite (Limpopo) added to this question by asking if the financial interests of such teachers and ministers were declared and if the Director General could divulge who the declared parties were.
Mr Hindle stated that multi fielded teachers such as teachers/councillors should resign from other posts when offered full time positions in either fields. He said the problem arose when these teachers were also elected as officials in local municipalities, and it led to double dealing. He further emphasised that this should not be done at the expense of the learners' education.
The financial interests of Ministers were declared, but the DG said he could not disclose the names as it was confidential.
He noted that teachers facing teaching difficulties in rural and farm schools with regards to teaching physical training should do whatever they could do in their given circumstance. Mr Hindle pointed out that it made no sense to wait until everything was perfect before starting to teach the learners, and was clearly not in their best interests. He noted that training packs from Mr Price would be sent to schools, to help give teachers ideas on how to make the most of few resources. This was one of the public and private partnerships that the Department ventured into.
The meeting was adjourned
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