The Committee had been given a pre-prepared five-year programme for it to flesh out. There was a concern that a framework had been devised in which the Committee had not had even minimal participation, especially since the Committee’s position was that of oversight. Its strategic plan was to be submitted between 23 and 25 March preceded by a strategic planning workshop.
Collaboration in the form of a forum amongst the education committees of provincial legislatures and national Parliament was also a new concept. By harnessing all their capabilities and resources, this would ensure better oversight with the aim to ensure better service delivery by the Department. A sub-committee was formed to create an oversight questionnaire that would be sent to the various legislatures.
The request for submissions on How to Improve Basic Education had so far netted only 14 submissions (see Appendix for details).
The Committee devoted time to the introduction of new members and its new researcher. An exercise termed ‘exquisite listening’ was embarked upon where members were paired to exchange their experiences. This served to acquaint the members and to create an ethos of patience, understanding and clear communication amongst the members. The aim of the exercise was to set the tone for the upcoming outing by the Committee. Members were given a choice of whether they wished to attend a ‘break away session’ strategic planning workshop outside Parliament during the week or during the weekend. The Chairperson informed the members that she would meet with administration on the matter of strategic planning workshop on 17 February and would give the Committee feedback thereafter about dates.
Members agreed amongst themselves that they would as far as possible put aside political differences and would work as one body in seeking to enhance education as a foremost priority. The meeting resulted in a formation of a sub-committee.
Discussion about proposed 5 year programme of the Portfolio Committee
The Chairperson alerted the members that they had been requested to do a broad five-year plan. This was the first time since she had been in Parliament that she was encountering a programme said to be ‘cast in stone’ so that the Committee could plan. She was referring to the programme that the Committee had received at the end of 2009 in anticipation of the first term in 2010. Other Committees have received plans of this nature for planning, however, in principle she did not agree with the five year plan (which was in very broad terms) as it was almost impossible to plan for five years if the Committee had not yet planned for the first term. This plan was said to be working concurrently with the Department of Basic Educations strategic objectives. The strategic plan was to be submitted between 23 and 25 March.
The Chairperson pointed at the first page of the Proposed 5 year programme of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education. She stated that the document would have to be amended from time to time in order to align it with the objectives of the Department and to include other contingencies. She disliked the idea of a framework being put up where the Committee had not had any minimal representation as the Committees position was that of oversight. However, she had been convinced to accept the programme. Issues that the Committee had not accounted for during the pending year could arise for the following year and cause major setbacks.
Another issue the Chairperson brought to the fore was that of a forum of some sort to be convened, in order to bring together various legislatures and their committees whom together with the department have an oversight function. The reason for this was that education was a concurrent function between the national and the provincial legislatures and committees. Each of the chairpersons of the committees would have to be convened, the idea having been the construction of a frame-work of oversight in an attempt to obtain as much agreement as would be possible in order to avoid possible disjunctures and priority-clashes between the department and the involved legislatures.
The Chairperson suggested that the parties involved should harness capabilities and resources as the Committee would not be able to cover each and every school within its jurisdiction within a five-year term. The collaboration between the legislatures and the Committee would give a good sense as to what the challenges are in schools given the varying dynamics across schools. She added that this would ensure better service delivery by the Department.
The Chairperson proposed a formation of a sub-committee from within the Committee which would carry out an oversight questionnaire that would serve in making the scope of the Committee’s enquiries manageable. She asked Mr N Kganyago (UDM) to serve in this sub-committee because of his experience. She also suggested that Ms N Gina (ANC) be part of the sub-committee based on her credentials as a former principal. The Chairperson urged that the sub-committee create a draft oversight questionnaire that would be sent to the various legislatures. Ms Kloppers-Lourens (DA) volunteered to serve as a convener in the sub-committee.
Ms Mushwana (ANC) proposed that the Committee should have some input after the blueprint of the oversight questionnaire had been completed.
The Chairperson agreed and invited anyone within the Committee to feel free to communicate and to contribute ideas to the sub-committee.
Basic Education public hearings
The Chairperson mentioned that the Committee had received fourteen written submissions. She had already requested a summary of the submissions from their researcher as education meant different things to each person that had submitted. She also suggested that the researcher be part of the sub-committee and contribute as resource personnel. She commended the Committee secretary, the researcher and the parliament communications staff for a job well done on engaging the public on the issues pertaining to basic education.
The Chairperson finally stated that the summary of the submissions would first be completed in order for the sub-committee to compile the oversight questionnaire. She encouraged Committee members to volunteer for serving on the sub-committee and asked that the Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG) invite the public to write submissions via their website.
The meeting was adjourned.
Request for Comment: Improve Basic Education
Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Basic Education is shifting its focus towards the delivery of, and challenges facing, quality education in South Africa.
This after the Committee noted areas of concern, particularly with regard to equal access to quality education by all categories of learners and questionable levels of learning outcomes.
The Committee is now calling for written submissions on aspects affecting quality outcomes in primary and high schools. Those aspects include the following:
- curriculum content
- teacher development
- class size
- managerial capacity at schools
- orientating schools towards specialisation
- values in education.
Submissions are also invited on the issue of access to education. This pertains to such issues as geographic location of schools and infrastructure; language barriers; homeless children/orphans; children in trouble with the law and education in prisons and inclusive education.
Through these submissions, the Committee aims to obtain first-hand information on the pressure points and to find mutual solutions that would make positive contribution towards improving areas of concern within the basic education system.
All stakeholders and teachers in particular are urged to contribute and send their submissions by 28 February 2010.
Submissions should be emailed to Committee Secretary: Mr Llewellyn Brown, Committee Secretary at firstname.lastname@example.org by no later than 28 February 2010
Enquiries tel Mr Llewellyn Brown: (021) 403 3764, cell 083 709 8450
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