Education access & delivery challenges: Public hearings day 3
Committee: Basic Education
Chairperson: Ms F Chohan (ANC)
Date of Meeting: 18 May 2010
The Committee heard oral submissions by six entities.
Mr Marius Jooste, Senior Education Specialist in the Department of Education, Gauteng, argued that Outcomes Based Education could work, if the content of the learning areas could be mapped out term by term and week by week. In his opinion too much was left to the discretion of teachers. The content of learning areas had to be more defined and certain milestones had to be reached within a certain time. This approach would also deal with the pace at which the curriculum needed to be taught.
The South African Institute for Distance Education argued that the principle of Open Source computer software should be applied to textbooks and learning materials in the Department of Basic Education. The principle was that the Department would get together a team of experts. They would use good quality existing textbooks and other resources to develop textbooks and workbooks. They would receive a once-off payment for their work. No royalties would be owed to them. The Department would own the copyright to the books. The books would be released in the public domain under the Creative Commons License. The Department could have whole books or parts of books printed as needed. The books would be available free of charge as downloadable files on the website of the Department. Anybody would be able to download the books, adapt them and use them as they pleased, as long as they acknowledged the Department. It would be illegal to sell such a book for profit. This approach would be far more cost effective than the conventional route of buying textbooks. The Department’s budget for learning materials would go much further. This submission also mentioned that only two universities taught education students how to teach learners to read in an African language. Another study found very little evidence of the dedicated teaching of reading in schools.
Junior Achievement Enterprise was an organisation that taught a “Can Do” - attitude and entrepreneurial skills to learners in economically depressed areas. The organization had been working in and alongside schools for many years throughout the country. Its target market was youth from 10 up to 25 years of age. Its submission recommended that its programmes should be integrated in the mainstream school curriculum in order to provide alternatives to learners who were not academically inclined.
Izingane Zethu was a partnership between the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and four other organizations, of which three specialized in Early Childhood Development. Izingane Zethu sought to introduce a model for Early Childhood Development that would reach more children in the rural areas than was currently the case with centre-based Early Childhood Development. The model centred on family facilitators. Family facilitators were given Early Childhood Development training. They then went into communities to find people who were looking after babies and young children. These caregivers and mothers were then recruited to join the programme. The family facilitator spent two days a week with the family in the home, teaching the mother or caregiver the skills of Early Childhood Development. The mother or caregiver then had to continue the Early Childhood Development activities with the baby or young child. The family facilitator also checked whether the child was registered, had a birth certificate, or needed a grant. If there were older people in the household, the family facilitator saw to it that they had documents and could access pensions. The strength of this model was the fact that it could reach far into the remote rural areas, and could accommodate a much larger number of children than centre-based Early Childhood Development.
Lawyers for Human Rights and the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa submitted that the South African Constitution, as well as international treaties to which South Africa was a signatory, asserted the universal right to basic education for all children. However, many children of asylum seekers and refugees did not have access to education; 24% of such children of school going age did not attend school. The reasons ranged from the inability to afford school fees, transport, and books, and overcrowded schools, to the lack of documentation. It was recommended that lawmakers remove legal obstacles to refugee children’s accessing education, to allow children without South African birth certificates into schools, and to train school communities to recognise documentation used to enrol foreign children. Also tolerance of multicultural populations was to be encouraged.
Education Support Services Trust recommended that Outcomes Based Education remain, but that teachers had to acquire a love and enthusiasm for learning. The teacher had to impart this love for learning to the learner. The teacher then mediated learning, and allowed the learner to teach himself through his interaction with the learning resource. Group work was encouraged and the learner was accountable to his peers and himself to do his work. The Trust claimed that learners who participated in its programme achieved an average of 40% more than learners from similar schools who did not participate in the programme.
She called for daily literacy periods, as opposed to merely focusing on specific subjects, particularly in the foundation phase. There was something fundamentally wrong with the focus on the advanced aspects while the basics were neglected. She asked for the studies about literacy teaching to be forwarded to the Committee. She said that both the Bill of Rights and the South African schools Act envisaged universal access to school. In practice this ideal was not realized. The wording in Section 21 of the Schools Act was ambiguous. She suggested that some schools in areas where there were high densities of migrants and refugees be re-categorized as no-fee schools. She asked for the names of schools and districts and areas from where complaints of xenophobia emanated. She said that she and another African National Congress Member could not understand exactly what the Education Support Services Trust was proposing and how practical it would be. An African National Congress Member asked how the alternatives that the Education Support Services Trust were proposing, like two hour long periods, could be practically accommodated in an ordinary school, where four to five learning areas had to be taught every day. Another African National Congress Member asked why the entrepreneurship training that Junior Achievement Enterprise offered had not started at grade one already. A Democratic Alliance Member asked how the burden could be eased on quintile five schools that had large numbers of learners who could not afford the school fees, because they were refugees and asylum seekers.
The Committee continued with its Oral Hearings on Delivery of Quality Education in South Africa.
Gauteng. Department of Education. Making Outcomes Based Education (OBE) work. submission
Mr Marius Jooste, Senior Education Specialist, Department of Education, Gauteng, said that the fragmented approach to implementing OBE and its assessment had left school and many teachers confused. Mr Jooste’s school had managed to implement OBE successfully to a degree that was acceptable to teachers. The school had achieved this through continuous curriculum development; filling gaps in the curriculum and the way it was assessed to match existing standards and practices; keeping teachers positive by relating change to what they already knew and did; creating simple documentation that worked and made their tasks easier so that they could focus on their key task of teaching; embracing change and development in education and the curriculum with a level-headed approach.
The Chairperson asked Mr Jooste to explain more about the educational environment that formed the background to his submission. She asked how many other education specialists there were and whether there were enough in Gauteng.
She asked what process needed to be embarked upon to adequately map out the contents of the curriculum. She felt that, if that process could be done correctly, teachers would have clearly marked milestones to map out what should be achieved for a particular academic year, and the pace at which it should happen.
The Chairperson said that she was flabbergasted every time she learnt that children who came through the public school system could not read or write. According to her logic, all children should come out of foundation phase education able to read.
She asked whether the Department of Education should look at interventions like introducing daily literacy periods, as opposed to merely focusing on specific subjects, particularly for the foundation phase. She said that there was something fundamentally wrong with the focus that the Department of Education placed on the advanced aspects, while the basics were suffering.
Dr J Kloppers-Laurens (DA) said that Mr Jooste claimed that the Outcomes Based Education (OBE) curriculum was of an international standard, but, she asked, who designed it initially? She asked whether it had been piloted in the schools and whether the teachers had been trained. Were there a set of criteria according to which these curricula were designed? It linked up with the Chairperson’s question about the process. Who was going to do the revision? Would it be piloted? Was the Department going to train the teachers? Why did this problem exist in the first place? It should have been done right in the first place.
Ms A Mashishi (ANC) had a question about task planning. When she checked she only saw ‘group of learners’. Was it part of the assessment? Were the learners assessed only in groups or individually as well? Mr Jooste spoke about the interpretation that was not clear. What was his proposal in that regard? Lastly, he said that the content was lacking. She needed him to elaborate.
Mr Jooste replied that each district had a Curriculum Delivery and Support Unit. It was then divided into phases: Foundation, Intermediate, Senior, and Further Education and Training (FET).There was a Senior Education Specialist for each learning area in each phase.
For the Foundation phase there would be Senior Specialists for Numeracy, Literacy and Lifeskills. There would be one for Assessment as well as a Coordinator who coordinated that specific subunit. It went up to matric level. FET had a co-coordinator /facilitator for each learning area or each subject with a coordinator and assessment specialist for each phase. That was basically how the Department was structured.
Mr Jooste believed that although there were vacancies, most districts were adequately staffed to carry out their mandate. In Gauteng all Senior Education Specialists currently had the opportunity to apply for state-subsidised cars. Previously transport was a major challenge for Specialists to get to the schools they needed to visit in order to do their work.
Generally speaking the working conditions for Senior Education Specialists were good. They only experienced a lot of resistance from the unions. There was a lock-out in Alexandra for the last two weeks. They were not allowed to go into any school in that area, as a result of the influence of the union. The unions did not allow the Department of Education’s officials to enter classrooms in the schools, where they needed to be in order to assist and support teachers. Facilitators should be in classrooms with teachers, but if they were not allowed in, they could only check the documentation and leave, with no interaction, which was counterproductive. This situation created a situation where problems were not identified, attended to, and thus were never solved.
Content could easily be mapped out by specialists in their fields. There was a programme where all learning areas were neatly mapped out and teachers had set structures to follow and knew exactly what they had to achieve for any given academic term and by extension, year.
What he was proposing was a similar system where the content was mapped out, and the teacher could then term by term measure the learner’s knowledge, skills and values.
Literacy and the Language Policies in the schools were very complex, because there were 11 official languages. Learners were taught in their mother tongue up to grade 3. It could be any language. From grade 4 most were taught in English. Without an English background, the results were disastrous. The grade 4 teachers had a big problem, because in terms of the promotion requirements and the legislation, they could not fail the whole class. There was too much documentation to complete and they rather left it and those learners progressed, without having mastered the curriculum in grade 4. This continued and they found themselves, in grade 7, unable to read in English.
He said that he thought that the policy had changed to say that all learners had to start learning English in grade 1, so that they at least had a background by the time they reached grade 4 and had to switch to English as the language of instruction.
The curriculum was in line with OBE curricula around the world. The problem was that content was not very clear. There were some learning areas where there was recommended and suggested content, but it did not show enough detail for teachers to know exactly what must be done from term to term.
As far as he knew the curriculum was not piloted and if it was piloted, it was done in selected schools. He was not sure whether this Committee was responsible for the review part, but it had to happen.
Learners did activities in various ways. Activities were done in groups, in pairs and individually. OBE did encourage group work and facilitated learners doing work in groups. Sometimes teachers had to assess the learners’ abilities to work in pairs or in groups. Most recorded assessments done during the term, had to be marked by the teacher and were done individually, but could also be done in pairs and groups. Group work was an important skill that learners had to learn.
The Chairperson referred to Mr Jooste’s reference to legislation that prevented teachers from failing a whole class, even though nobody was ready to move on to the next level. She wanted to know where the legislation was recorded and asked Mr Jooste to forward the reference to the Committee Secretary. In her opinion the education system was doing the learner a disservice if that was the case.
Mr Jooste said that the national Department of Education had designed OBE education.
The Chairperson said that there was a curriculum review process underway and she hoped that Mr Jooste, as a Senior Education Specialist in the Department of Education, Gauteng, was very involved in it. She said that his submission would be forwarded to the Department and that his recommendations had been echoed in many other submissions. She thanked him and wished him and his colleagues well.
The national Department of Basic Education reported that the assessment policy was captured in a policy linked to the curriculum and stated that no learner should repeat a year more than once in a particular phase and that learners should progress with their age group and should not be held back too much.
She said that OBE was developed by a broad based team consisting of school teachers and education specialists.
The South African Institute for Distance Education (SAIDE). Submission
The Chairperson said that she found many of the ideas and postulations that Ms Glennie had put forward sound and the issue of the workbooks was something that the Committee had raised with the Department a long time ago.
There were many aspects of Ms Glennie’s presentation that she found quite intriguing amongst which was the idea of open source learning materials. She asked Ms Glennie to explain what the legal challenges were regarding this concept in the South African context around textbooks in particular. The Minister had said that the Department would look at a centralized procurement system as currently there was no system and no uniformity regarding the procurement of textbooks. This was a financial decision and content was not considered.
The concepts of caring schools and homework classes would satisfy an existing need amongst learners, because many had no space at home to do their homework or study, and many had no facilities to do research for assignments and projects. It was an idea that was adopted informally in some communities, but not necessarily everywhere.
Dr Kloppers-Lourens referred to the slide numbered 3 in the presentation, the fourth bullet point where it said: “Integration of sport and cultural activities into the school day”. She said that she read over in the weekend newspapers that there was a draft policy on sport. She asked Ms Glennie to elaborate on that point.
The Chairperson returned to the issue of literacy. She referred to a footnote on page 5 of the submission that stated that research found that only two universities were offering reading instruction in an African language. Other research found very little evidence of dedicated teaching of reading in schools. She asked whether universities were training teachers on how to teach reading. She said that if SAIDE had empirical studies to show this, she would like to be informed, because this issue had to feature in the Committee’s report.
With the current text books, the copyright belonged to the publishers and one was not allowed to copy or re-use. But it was possible that one could, through the Department of Basic Education, assemble a group of experts from the field that could work together and develop a core text which would not belong to the publisher. Those people should be resourced to develop the materials really well. She cited the Open University, United Kingdom, as an institution which was renowned for its curriculum development, because it spent extensive time and energy into developing those materials which were then used throughout that country. She suggested a similar process here to have the team develop good textbooks grounded in the classroom. The team of experts had to be paid for their work, but they would never receive royalties. This work would then be released under the creative commons license. It would be made available on a digital platform for free and people could use it and adapt it as they pleased. It could be printed as a whole or in part, at a provincial or district level. There would be no legal difficulties as the Department would own the copyright but it would license anybody to use it and to adapt it as long as the user attributed it to the Department. There was in existence a legal framework in which one could do this. It was called the Creative Commons Licence. This meant that the money allocated for learning resources could go much further.
It was really about thinking about an integrated day in which all children would be doing academic work, sport, and cultural activities throughout the day. Teachers would not be teaching all day necessarily. They would have free periods. It was about having a structure for children, most whose parents were working all day. There was also infrastructure available at school which did not in many cases exist at home. Teachers had to work seven hours a day. It could create a mind-shift and contribute towards creating a caring school. She felt strongly that this concept had to be explored.
The Centre for Evaluation and Assessment at the University of Pretoria found that very few universities taught student teachers how to teach children how to read in their home languages. Without that foundation, the country was in a very difficult position. The fact that students at these institutions were from different language backgrounds made it difficult, but there was a need to address this issue. SAIDE was working with the University of Pretoria in this regard with their Foundation Phase teachers teaching Sepedi and Setswana with Afrikaans as a second language. It had been found that in other countries foundation phase teachers spent two and a half hours per week on literacy teaching. In South Africa it was one hour.
The Chairperson asked Ms Glennie to look for the studies about literacy teaching and to make it available to the Committee. She thanked Ms Glennie for her submission.
Junior Achievement South Africa. Submission
The Chairperson said that one of the submissions of the previous day had been from the School of Skills in Cape Town, where the instruction was towards equipping the learners with a vocational skill instead of a matric certificate, which was only useful if one intended studying further. At the moment the throughput and flow through the school system was not something the country could be proud of, as many learners left school before completing matric or failed. The reasons for this were many and complex, but part of the reason had to be the fact that the school system did not cater for learners that were more practically orientated. She understood the submission to address that gap in the system. She said that, because of the country’s past there were no entrepreneurial role models to emulate. In other societies there was a natural process of young people being taken up in family businesses or starting their own. The absence of entrepreneurial training also limit young people’s thinking as to what was possible. She asked Ms McClure to sketch the background of the organization.
Ms A Mashishi (ANC) asked why the programme did not start at grade 1, instead of grades 4 to 7. She also asked about the ages of the young people involved.
Ms McClure said that the programmes were offered to people from 10 to 25 years of age. In the Sasolburg and Secunda area in Mpumalanga there was a group of young people who have not completed their schooling, but they were too old to attend day school. She said that the programmes for grade 1 were still being developed. She said that the reason for the success of the programme was that they reached young people at an early age.
She said that Junior Achievement Enterprise was part of an international organization that had been in existence for 90 years. They were working in 123 countries all over the world of which 18 were in Africa. The South African branch was the oldest in Africa at 30 years of age. The organization worked across the country in urban and rural areas. The method of working was to have a small team at the head office in Johannesburg on a full time basis and to contract people in the various areas to execute their programme. The company set stringent standards when selecting the people whom they contracted. They also selected local people who knew the communities that they worked in very well.
She illustrated the importance of this point with an anecdote where they tried to run a workshop combining two schools from different residential areas in Johannesburg. It was a disaster, because the children hated each other.
She agreed that role models were important. The organization tried to get entrepreneurs to speak to the children whom the children could identify with. Richard Branson and Bill Gates were outside their frame of reference, but Richard Maponya who started Maponya Mall they could identify with. The focus for the organization was to bring about a change in attitude in the child so that the child learnt to think a bit broader. It this could be inculcated at a young age, they became functional economically active citizens.
There was a bridging school called Eden Campus in Sedgefield. The young people had passed matric, but not very well and their prospects were limited. The bridging school was providing them with additional English and mathematics classes and Junior Achievement Enterprise was providing them with business training. One of the fallacies and beliefs that these young people had was that they could not do anything and this programme changed that belief. They also believed that they could not do anything without money. This particular group had to raise money to start their business. One member of the group was called Godgiven. His fundraising effort was to walk around asking people whether he could give them a blessing for R5.00. He raised R250 in this manner. This illustrated how the programme changed the myths and fallacies and how it empowered and mobilized participants.
There was a young man who attended a school in Hazyview, Mpumalanga. He was part of a programme sponsored by SPAR. He showed such good leadership qualities in the programme that SPAR employed him on a part time basis during school holidays. They would probably employ him when he completed his schooling.
In the mainstream school system, somebody who was not coping, would pull back and not participate. The potential of that person would then be lost, unless there could be an alternative way for the person to discover and demonstrate their strengths.
There was a young man from one of the slums outside Nairobi whose whole class was killed during the riots. Despite his difficult circumstances and past, he was doing very well. He was running a small business making and selling bracelets. This organization offered mentorship and support and put them in touch with other organizations that could assist them further.
The Chairperson cited the example of Tony Factor, a man who was dyslexic and could not learn in the conventional way, who became one of the most successful entrepreneurs of his time. She thanked Ms McClure for her submission. She said that she would like the Department to create some kind of accreditation system and create a database of organizations like this one, so that it would be available to other schools which required the type of services that the organization offered.
Izingane Zethu Partnership. Improving Basic Education. Submission
The Chairperson said that one of the reasons why this project was invited to do an oral submission was for the Committee to learn more about the programme of training family facilitators and how it could assist with the difficulty regarding access to preschool education, particularly in rural areas, where centres were not as available as in urban areas. The weakness of the submission was that it did not have much empirical data to support the successes claimed, for example the assertion that children did better if taught the preschool curriculum at home by mothers and caregivers, than when it was done in a preschool setting. She asked Ms Ramatlo to supply the empirical data. She asked what it took to train a family facilitator, how many there were in the two projects, how many families were reached by the projects and how many children were reached as a result. When making submissions to Government it was important to state what the financial implications were and how this proposal would be more cost effective than having a centre based solution. All this information would not necessarily be available now, but had to be supplied in a separate written supplement to the submission.
Mr J Skosana (ANC) said that it was a good programme that the submission had put before the Committee. He said that the NMCF was doing good work, but it had to spread its projects and services to all provinces in order to consolidate development.
The Chairperson told Mr Skosana that he had misunderstood. The presenters were representing the NMCF. She said that Izingane Zethu was a project operating in partnership with the NMCF. She asked Ms Moipone Ramatlo, Director of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund (NMCF) and Ms Shadi Xaba, Programme Specialist of the Izingane Zethu Programme, to respond to the questions about the family based preschool.
Ms Xaba said that in one community the project had seven villages and in those villages there were 20 family facilitators. The facilitators received R1 500 as a monthly stipend. Training amounted to about R10 000 per family facilitator, because they were trained as Early Childhood Development (ECD) Teachers. They were reaching 400 families and in the process 1 200 children. The projects were preparing these children to be school-ready. Most were between three and six years of age, but the project also looked after babies, making sure that they were stimulated and that the home environment was nurturing and supportive of their development.
The project also improved the quality of life of the children, which was important, because there was a correlation between quality of life of the family and self esteem of children. To compile the data, she would look at the number of children who had never attended an ECD centre, who received home-based ECD, who were in grade one and compare it with those who had.
There were products of these projects that had completed grade 12 and the data could be supplied. The children remained part of the project as they grew older in the form of youth forums, where they continued their development. The programme was integrated to that extent. The project developed young people to be responsible and able to make appropriate choices.
Ms Ramatlo explained that there were other ways in which this model differed from the centre-based model, for example when they entered the homes they also checked whether the children were registered and had legal documents, if not, assisted with the process, and where needed made sure they accessed child grants. They looked at the care givers, who in many cases were grandmothers, and made sure they accessed pensions. Part of the programme was to ensure that the family had all the legal documents that would enable them to unlock Government services meant for children. The family facilitator had to make sure that the family would be able to support the children by the time the facilitator pulled out. With centre-based ECD there were limits to the numbers of children that could be accommodated. With this model there were fewer restrictions on the number of children that could be reached.
The Chairperson asked how long it took to train a family facilitator. She asked how much time a family facilitator spent with a family in order to impart the knowledge of ECD to a caregiver.
Ms Xaba said that there were different levels in ECD training. One would look at the educational level of the person. The lower the educational qualifications, the more training they received. If someone went to school to the level of grade 7, or standard 5, for year one, it would be level one, or level one and two, depending on how quickly they could master the content. The project had been training people for eight years. Parts of the training were formal and other parts informal, for example workshops around the Children Rights etc. The regularity of visits to individual families by family facilitators was two days per week.
The Chairperson restated her request for the empirical information as well as budgets by way of a written submission. She would need the information if the Committee wanted to submit this model as a possible solution to the ECD challenges in rural areas, to the Department.
Ms Ramatlo explained that the reason that she did not have all the information at hand was that their partner organizations, namely Training Resources and Early Childhood Education (TREE) Little Elephant Training Centre for Early Education (LETCEE) and others, were ECD experts and had the detailed information. She would get it from them and forward it to the Committee.
The Department of Basic Education asked that, when the supplementary information was going to be supplied to the Committee, Ms Ramatlo and Ms Xaba should indicate whether the role of family facilitators could be played by community development workers, so that that link could be made to a position that existed already. She thought the model had great possibilities for job creation and reach.
Another factor was the stipends and the value thereof. There was a tendency to look down on and abuse ECD and Grade R teachers and to underpay them instead of looking at ways to help them to grow and then pay them better. She asked for more information about the stipends that these family facilitators received. This information should form part of the supplementary submission.
The Chairperson said that both the Bill of Rights and the South African schools Act envisaged universal access to school. In practice this ideal was not realized. The wording in Section 21 of the Schools Act was ambiguous. She asked Ms Sicel'mpilo Shange-Buthane, Advocacy Officer, Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa, to give a sense of the extent of the problem. Ms Shange-Buthane said that 24% of children of school going age of asylum seekers were not in school. Were there geographical areas where this was more prevalent? What kind of numbers did this statistic involve? Xenophobia was a nice label for racism. It was appalling that teachers displayed this behaviour towards learners in school. She expressed the hope that the organization had laid charges against teachers it had encountered who made themselves guilty of such behaviour. Teachers should inculcate the values espoused in the Constitution and should be role models in this regard.
Dr Kloppers-Lourens said that Ms Shange-Buthane referred to fee exemptions and no-fee schools and mentioned that some of these learners were forced to go to schools in areas where there were quintile five schools. The principals were forced to enrol these learners, while the parents were unable to pay the school fees. She said that she attended a district meeting in Tshwane South in January 2010, where many of the principals underlined the burden of non-paying learners on their school communities. She asked whether Ms Shange-Buthane had any solution to the problems regarding funding.
Mr Skosana said that no-fee schools should accommodate all learners that could not pay. There should be no discrimination. He said that there were refugees in the country that were registered as such, and there were those that were not registered. In some cases they never applied for documentation. What did the policy say about registering learners at school?
Ms Shange-Buthane proceeded to explain about the ambiguity of Section 29 of the Immigration Act which read that “No Institution is allowed to knowingly give training or instruction to an undocumented person”. This wording did not specify whether it was aimed at primary, secondary or tertiary education. If it included primary and secondary education it contradicted the principle of the universal right to education for children, regardless of their status, a right that was upheld not only in the South African Constitution, but in the international conventions around the right to education.
The Chairperson asked whether schools were raising this issue with the organization. Did they quote the Immigration Act as a reason why they did not accept immigrant and refugee children?
Ms Shange-Buthane said that the organization never came across schools that invoked the Act as a reason for not accepting refugee children, but in their actions they rejected the child, for example, they would give the reason as a lack of documentation.
The Chairperson thought that that was a different issue. The school community did not trust the documentation of refugees to be authentic. The school communities had to be trained to recognize the documentation that people could use when they registered children at school.
Ms Shange-Buthane said that officials at school level would not quote the Act, but as one communicated with officials higher up in the Department, they would quote the Act. CoRMSA had engaged the former Director-General of the national Department of Education, Mr Duncan Hindle, in this regard and asked him to issue a directive to schools instructing them to register migrant children.
The Chairperson asked whether it was forthcoming.
Ms Shange-Buthane replied that every time COoRMSA enquired about it, the Department said that the legal department was still looking into it.
The Chairperson asked Ms Shange-Buthane to forward records of this correspondence to the Committee in order to follow it up.
Ms Shange-Buthane agreed to do that.
She said that the following question dealt with the numbers of refugee children that were not in school. She did not have all the information at hand, but it would be forthcoming. The data was obtained from the Forced Migration Studies Programme at the University of the Witwatersrand. The programme did a national survey at the Refugee Reception Offices and also with various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in the field as well as with refugees and migrants themselves.
She added in this regard that in some areas there has been some positive result to engagement whether with individual school principals or with the DoE at a provincial or district level. She cited Gauteng as an example where there was vigorous engagement and there were districts that were cooperating well with CoRMSA and one of the reasons was that there was a high concentration of refugees and migrants in that area. Communications and cooperation were improving in Durban as well as in pockets of the Western Cape, but there were still major challenges in the border areas, for example, Musina. The areas of prevalence where the problems occurred would then be Johannesburg Central, Durban and the border areas.
The Department of Basic Education asked whether certain problems manifested themselves in particular geographical locations, for example the language problem, did it occur in some pockets of migrant communities, but not in others?
Ms Shange-Buthane said that the language problem did not occur in all migrant communities. The universal problem was access to schools. Getting the child into a school was a major challenge for refugees, asylum seekers and migrants.
The Chairperson asked Ms Shange-Buthane to do a breakdown of the problems per geographical area and submit it as a supplement to the submission. This would enable the Department to develop some localised interventions.
Ms Shange-Buthane replied to the issue of xenophobia and whether people, who made themselves guilty of it, were held accountable. There were instances where the cases were reported, but following up on it was challenging, because the refugees would feel unsafe. They would report an incident, but ask the service provider not to follow it up with the educator; for fear that the child would be expelled as a result.
CoRMSA was working with the South African Police Service (SAPS) in the form of the United Nations Protection Working Group (UNPWG) where a system had been created where reports of incidents or threats of xenophobia were reported to the SAPS who would then follow up on it.
The communication and cooperation between CoRMSA and the Department was improving and CoRMSA was in the process of developing strategies on how to address the remaining problems.
The Chairperson asked Ms Shange-Buthane to include in her supplementary report the names of schools and districts and areas from where the complaints of xenophobia emanated.
When migrant parents were asked why they did not send their children to quintile 1-4 schools, they said that the standard of education was too low, and they wanted the best for their children. That notion extended beyond the migrant community into the South African community. People be believed that the former model C schools offered the best education .Until that perception was addressed it would be difficult to persuade people otherwise.
She suggested that some schools in areas where there were high densities of migrants and refugees be re-categorized as no-fee schools in order to lift the burden on quintile five schools. However, she said, from past experience she knew that many people would then remove their children from that re-categorized school, because it was then considered inferior. She suggested re-categorization, and together with it a massive campaign to convey the message that the school’s standards would not deteriorate.
What emerged from research was that some of the difficulties experienced by refugees and migrant communities were caused by inadequate planning by Government. This was not only caused by refugees and migrants from other countries but by the internal migration of South Africans as they moved from rural to urban areas, and the effects that it would have on schools in these areas, for example, the influx of people from the Eastern Cape into the Western Cape. The planning of the Department had to take these facts into account.
CoRMSA did not consider immigrants legal or illegal. They were documented and undocumented. Refugees were allowed, in terms of South African and international law to enter the country without any documentation, but they were expected to present themselves to the nearest Refugee Reception Office and declare their intention to apply for asylum. Once they applied for asylum, they were issued with a valid asylum seeker permit and once they case had been adjudicated they were either granted refugee status in the country which was valid for two years and renewable, or they were rejected and given an opportunity to make an appeal. If they failed the appeal there were other processes that they could follow of which the last would be to go to the High Court.
With the challenges of Home Affairs it had been difficult for refugees to get documentation within a reasonable time, like within 30 or 60 days. She had to concede that there had been huge improvements in the service received from Home Affairs.
Undocumented migrants were people who did not qualify for refugee status, who came to the country for economic reasons, and who were not covered by the Immigration Act. They were not highly skilled, so they would not qualify for work permits. They had no relatives in South Africa who would let them qualify for a visitor’s visa. Some came from countries which refused to issue travel documents, because they wanted their citizens to remain in the country.
Documented or undocumented, all children had the right and the right to access education. The status, undocumented or not, of parents should not influence what was in the best interest of the child. CoRMSA was in the process of negotiating a permitting system with the Department of Home Affairs (DoHA) for categories of migrants who were not covered in existing legislation. The DoHA was conducting a review of legislation dealing with immigration, to see how it could be adapted in order to close existing gaps and address new and current challenges.
The Chairperson asked what happened in the practical situation when children without any documentation had to be registered at a school.
Ms Shange-Buthane said that it varied from case to case. Some people eventually arranged documentation for themselves through their country’s embassies. Children of undocumented parents who were born in South Africa could get birth certificates although they would be registered as foreigners. In rural areas schools were less strict in terms of documentation, because the South African system of supplying birth certificates was also not working perfectly.
The Chairperson said that the Department had to understand the different categories of migrant communities. Asylum seekers and refugees were categories of migrants for which there were clear laws, protocols and international treaties to which South Africa was a signatory and by which the country and the Department had to abide. For undocumented migrants the framework to define their legal status was in the process of being developed, but in the mean time their children had to be accommodated within the school system. In the case of the former there were mitigating actions that the Department could take in order to realize the principle of universal access to education, especially in those geographical areas that Ms Shange-Buthane was going to point out in her supplementary report.
Ms Shange-Buthane said that CoRMSA’s position was that children’s access to education should not be affected by the status of the parents, whether documented or undocumented.
The Chairperson said that she understood what CoRMSA’s position was. What she meant was that it was easier for the Department to issue directives with regards to refugees and asylum seekers, because the laws governing their situation were clear. With other migrants that did not fall within that category, the laws were vague and there were no clear policies in place. It was harder for the Department to make decisions in the absence of clear laws and policies. Those cases would continue to be handled in the way that they were handled now, until such time that the legislation had been developed and the Department had developed policies implementing said legislation.
The Department of Basic Education agreed with the Chairperson on how to proceed on this matter. She said the Department was looking at the quintile system and how to organize and adjust it in order to make matters more comfortable for the parties concerned.
Educational Support Services Trust (ESST). Submission
The Chairperson said that she understood the submission to say that there was too much emphasis on teaching and not enough on learning, that class size was unimportant and the classroom had to be redefined. She asked what that meant in practice.
Ms Catherine van Schoor, Manager, Educational Support Services Trust (ESST) said that the ESST valued OBE and had the same approach, but advocated a learning-centred as opposed to a learner-centred classroom. A learner-centred classroom presupposed that the learners came from a print-rich environment, that they have been exposed to a culture of learning and reading before they came to school, so that they could take that personal initiative in learning that OBE required from a learner. What learners in the practical situation needed to acquire in the classroom, was the culture of learning. The classroom had to become learning-centred before it could become learner-centred. The learner had to have the value of learning and the cognitive skills put in place by the teacher, through the teacher’s mediation. The teacher played a significant role, but the pressure of teaching was taken off the teacher and placed on the learner and the interaction between the learner and the resource.
The Chairperson asked Ms van Schoor to explain exactly what her proposal was. She understood what Ms van Schoor said was wrong with the system, but she did not understand what ESST proposed to fix it.
Ms Van Schoor said that it was a different approach to teaching that would fix it. It was a way of teaching that would enable teachers to engage learners. The teacher would have to display a love and enthusiasm for learning, which would rub off on the learner. This enthusiasm, together with content would make them want to learn.
ESST was advocating for teachers to be trained differently, so that they could have the value of learning themselves and be learning-centred. ESST also advocated that the method of teaching was such that the teacher led the learner to discover for himself, what he needed to learn, and not tell him what he should learn. The teacher then spent less time teaching the learner, but left the learner to interact with the resource where the active learning would then take place. The learner was taught to ask questions and engage his or her problem solving skills.
The Chairperson asked Ms Van Schoor to explain how the ESST Matriculation Support Programme achieved the 40% average improvement in learners’ end-of-year results for Maths and Science.
Ms Van Schoor said that ESST conducted a programme called the English Proficiency and Learning Adventure Programme. It also conducted the ESST Matriculation Support Programme from 1990 to 2008 and focused particularly on Maths and Science. ESST also conducted the Family Education Programme which ran for five years.
The focus was on developing the material in such a fashion that there was more interaction between the learner and the resource. The teachers also received training and the approach was a group work approach. Learners formed study groups of three or four and they worked through the material themselves. The teacher was there as a mediator. The schools, in which the programme was being run, achieved on average 40% more than schools where the programme did not run.
The use of the resources, which were developed with cognitive skills in mind, and the fact that they worked in groups and were responsible to each other and to themselves for their own learning, were responsible for the success achieved.
The Chairperson asked what ESST was putting on the table as an alternative approach. She wanted Ms van Schoor to demonstrate what happened in those classrooms that did not happen in a typical school. She asked whether learners were accountable to their peers as opposed to the teacher. Were the learners sharing information more or differently than in the usual situation?
Ms Van Schoor said that it had to do with the fact that there was more peer work, that there was greater responsibility placed on the learners; the resources were designed to engage all the intelligences, it was learning-centred and it took the responsibility off the teachers and the teachers were trained and acted as mediators. OBE had adopted many of those values, but there was a gap between the values of OBE and what the teachers have been able to produce. The set of assumptions were different. OBE worked very well in middle class well-resourced schools, but not at all in poor under resourced schools in largely illiterate communities.
The Chairperson said that she was already aware of what Ms Van Schoor was saying about how OBE worked well in schools in rich communities and not at all in schools in poor communities. Ms Van Schoor was invited to make an oral submission to the Committee because the Committee understood her to have said that ESST had a solution that worked. What she needed to understand from the submission, as a policy maker, was why the solution worked and Ms Van Schoor had to explain that.
Ms Van Schoor said that she could elaborate on the recommendations that were made and submit it as a supplement to the existing submission.
The Chairperson agreed that that was the way to proceed.
Mr Skosana referred to page 7 in the middle of the page where it read: “The above suggestions need not replace an existing curriculum, but can be introduced alongside the existing (or some variation of the existing) curriculum.” He asked how this would work. “Instead of dividing the whole day into 40 minute slots, we suggest a two-hour period where there is more flexibility than the formal curriculum allows for. These two hours can be used to develop and deepen any aspect of the week’s learning.”
Mr Skosana said that a classroom was defined as a place where a learner had contact with an educator. The educator had to use the learning support materials that he was supplied with by the Department. He could not understand how this could change. He wanted Ms Van Schoor to explain.
Ms Van Schoor said that the two hour slot would provide a longer period where the learners could engage in groups at a deeper level with a particular subject or complete assignments where they practically carried things out in more depth and detail.
Mr Skosana said at school level in a certain grade there were eight learning areas. There was an expectation that four to five learning areas had to be taught per day. With two-hour long periods, how would that be practically achievable?
The Chairperson said that Ms Van Schoor had to address Mr Skosana’s questions in her written supplement to the existing submission. She said that she and Mr Skosana could not understand exactly what ESST was proposing and how practical it would be.
The Chairperson, on behalf of the Committee, thanked the individuals and organizations that made submissions. She said that the commitment, drive and passion to improve education in South Africa, displayed by the presenters and their organizations, served as an inspiration to the Committee. She expressed the hope that the presenters had been enriched by the experience as well and urged them to submit the additional information she requested. She invited them to watch the website to see the finalized report that would be submitted to the Department. She wished the ones that still had to travel far a safe journey.
The meeting was adjourned.
- Improving Basic Education: South African Institute of distance Education submission
- South African Institute of distance Education submission
- Junior Achievement South Africa Part 1
- Making OBE Work presentation by Parliament of South Africa
- Making OBE Work submission by Marius H Jooste
- Junior Achievement South Africa Part 2
- Izingane Zethu Partnership submission
- Educational Support Services Trust submission
- CORMSA submission