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EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
12 February 2002
2001 ANNUAL REPORT & PLAN OF ACTION 2002: BRIEFING BY DEPARTMENT
Documents Handed Out:
Annual Report 2000/01
Presentation on the Annual Report and Plan of Action 2002
The Director General of Education presented a general overview of the 2000/01 Annual Report and the Plan of Action for 2002. The Annual Report highlights achievements in the Department's programmes such as HIV/Aids in schools, school effectiveness, educator professionalism and the fight against illiteracy as well as challenges which included the issues of capacity, policy and legislation and equity. The Plan of Action 2002 highlights government's priorities as well as the Department's priorities such as Physical Planning and School Infrastructure and Further Education and Training.
Mr Thami Mseleku: Director General, Department of Education, noted that the presentation relates to the financial year ending March 2001 in line with the requirements of the PFMA (Public Finance Management Act). He added that time constraints had delayed discussing the 2000/01 Annual Report within the Portfolio Committee. The presentation was two-fold, firstly highlighting the 2000/01 Annual Report and then a focus on the Plan of Action for 2002.
Achievements, according to the 2000/01 Annual Report, included the HIV/Aids Programme that focuses on awareness, information and advocacy in schools. Here he pointed out that 1 million copies of the Policy on HIV/Aids had been distributed in all official languages.
The School Effectiveness and Educator Professionalism Programme focuses on improving teaching and learning in schools, especially in the rural areas. In this regard achievements include the strengthening of School Governing Bodies (SGB) and management, the reduction of vacant posts as well as the upgrading of unqualified educators.
The Fight against Illiteracy Programme achieved the setting up of SANLI (South African National Literacy Initiative) and the launch of the Masifunde Sonke Campaign.
Another programme focused on the restructuring of the FET and the HE systems' capacity building/Quality Enhancement. Achievements within this focus area included the 9% improvement in senior certificate results, the adoption of the framework for FET transformation and others.
The fifth and last programme focused on the organisational effectiveness of national and provincial systems of the DoE. The focus here was on making provincial systems work by making co-operative governance a reality, integrated planning and so forth. Achievements of this programme include the active assistance provided to provinces by the national department as well as the agreement on indicators for periodic monitoring.
Challenges facing the Department
The DG also talked about the challenges faced by the Department. The first challenge he identified was a capacity problem. This was more especially the case in terms of Project Management were he pointed out that the department was in a dire shortage of people with project management skills. Secondly, human resources is another problem area the DG highlighted were he pointed out that Higher Education institutions in particular were facing a leadership crisis in particular. To this end he made the example of UNITRA where the post of the Vice-Chancellor was contested by only three candidates who were all foreigners.
Policy and legislation was another problem area. He made an example about the admission policy in primary schools where the issue remains that policy unless legislated, cannot be binding, such that some may choose not to follow it. The legal opinion they had sought had alluded to this fact, citing the example of the National Education Policy Act, which legally has been determined as being unconstitutional.
The DG went on to inform the Committee about the plan of action for 2002 where he pointed out that this is a strategy based on the government priorities as according to the state of the nation address. A central aspect of the DoE is the Tirisano campaign.
In more detail, the government priorities include an overriding theme which is: the eradication of poverty and prioritising the poor where it is envisaged that there should be no children learning under trees and that there should be a development of Human Resources.
The DoE priorities include the: HIV/Aids at schools programme, school effectiveness and educator professionalism, the fight against illiteracy as well as physical planning and school infrastructure, which include, as noted, ensuring adequate learning facilities as in classrooms, labs and so forth. The objectives putting in place a database on the location of these schools and a prioritisation thereof for adequate infrastructure provision. The piloting and implementation of the development of 27 multi-functional schools in poverty stricken rural areas was also another priority.
FET plans included the continued improvement of senior certificate results and targeted interventions for priority areas as well as the registration of private colleges. Under the Higher Education sector, the Department is looking at the implementation of the National Plan for Higher Education, the registrations of private higher education institutions as well as the improvement of annual reporting by HE institutions and also a review of the efficiency of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
With respect to the Teacher Development programme the need to develop a policy framework for educator development and support as well as the development of a five-year implementation plan to support the policy was stressed. Under legislation he pointed out that there is a need to reflect on the on the implications of the decisions in court cases as in the enrolment age fiasco for school entering children. New legislation needs to be looked at carefully with regard to legal technicalities.
He concluded the Annual Report had indicated significant progress and that lessons drawn from challenges encountered have informed the new plans.
Mr B Geldenhuys (NP) asked why UNISA was dealt with separately and not as part of the proposed new structure?
Mr Mseleku responded that UNISA was not treated separately. The committee initially set up on the restructuring of higher education had ignored dealing with the details of the plan where UNISA is concerned. The Council on Higher Education on the other hand was more firm about the issue and contrary to belief UNISA was not treated separately but as part of the national plan.
Ms N Mnandi (ANC) asked what the DoE have in place concerning nutrition relevant to HIV positive learners. Secondly why were the workshops meant to empower school governing bodies conducted in English when most members of SGB's are not educated and therefore excluded?
Mr Mseleku responded that the school nutrition programme is currently under review as to where it is more suited. The school-based care programme is a multi-faceted integrated programme involving schools, the community, NGO's, CBO's and so forth.
On the issue of capacity building for SGB's, organisations are being contracted to ensure this task in a way that members of school governing bodies can benefit including the use of their mother tongue in these workshops. He also added that the feasibility of holding a conference for this purpose was being looked into.
Ms M Njobe(ANC) asked about certain complaints from some higher education institutions, such as UNITRA, that there is no consultation process between the department and themselves.
On the issue of UNITRA, Mr Mseleku responded that the problem was consultation with the 'community' and not with consultation as such. Community consultation was a very vague term because the community in and around the particular institution is not necessarily the inclusive of all the relevant stakeholders to the institution as many parents of the children are usually living far away from the institution and as such cannot be consulted.
Mr R Ntuli (DP) asked about security at schools; it is found that the guards there are only armed with a knob-kierrie whilst having to deal with armed criminals. Were measures being taken to remedy this situation.
Mr Mseleku noted that it was also an area of serious concern to the Department as the issue of guns versus knob-kierries was very complex, because arming the guards would still make them targets of the criminals, which would turn the school grounds into mini-war zones.
Ms D Nhlengethwa (ANC) asked the DG how the department intended to improve the one percent increase in the exemption rate? What measures is the department taking to improve the infrastructure in farm schools especially?
On the issue of the improvement of the one percent increase in exemptions, he responded that there is a plan in place to do so. He however pointed out that what is more important is the quality rather the quantity of exemptions as there is a focus more towards technikon rather than university education.
Lastly, on the issue of sports and recreation facilities he responded by saying that a directorate has been set up within the Department to look after the proper provision of infrastructure in schools.
Mr A Mpotshane (IFP) asked if the MEC's had not been given reports about the 'tree schools' in the various provinces? He also wanted to know, given that a large percentage of provincial expenditure goes to personnel salaries, is the national department considering increasing the budget allocations for the provincial departments?
The DG responded to the question of tree schools by saying that they are seeking to invoke a section in the Schools Act which prevents the Minister from reporting who is not delivering (provincially) in their duties. On the issue of additional budget allocations, he indicated that there is an infrastructure budget over and above the usual budget. The biggest obstacle is not money, but the capacity to use the money adequately.
The meeting was adjourned.