Quality of Education and Challenges thereto: Consideration of Submissions received during Public Hearings Day 2

Basic Education

16 August 2010
Chairperson: Ms F Chohan (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee began considering the second book of written submissions.

The first submission considered described Heidelberg Primary and the bad state of its ablution facilities. The submission had been sent to the Minister’s office, and requested that the Minister paid the school an unexpected visit.

The second submission considered asked for cognitive training at school, mother tongue literacy training for six year olds, and an understanding and implementation of a mega-cognitive approach to teaching and learning. This had already been discussed by Members in a previous meeting. A copy of the submission had also been sent to the Department of Higher Education. Members said that the mother tongue was introduced at the age of six or in grade one, while the second language was introduced only in grade three. Members thought that it should be introduced in grade one too.

The third submission considered complained that teachers were paid too little and consequently experienced teachers were leaving the profession. This had also been discussed by the Committee previously. Members asked that after the crisis of the current strike a symposium should be held between the Committee and all stakeholders concerned with teachers salaries, such as the Minister, unions, Treasury and the Education Labour Relations Council, so that the Committee could hear all role players’ perspectives.

The fourth submission considered said that many schools were not sure what to teach in computer centres. Learners should be able to change languages after they could prove that in grade four they were able to read and write in their home language. It was recommended that computer centres should be equipped with the correct curriculum. Learners should be taught in their home language. From grade four learners should have a third language up to grade seven. Home-schooling should not be allowed; it was a waste of time and money. School hours should be from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm to keep learners off the street. Different language schools should have different school uniforms, for example, one uniform for Afrikaans schools, one uniform for English schools.

Members did not feel that it was right to extend school hours as this would have implications. Members did not agree with the submission about different school uniforms for different language schools.

In the fifth submission considered, it was asserted that schools needed the support from the Department when problems arose. Important courses arranged by subject advisors were often cancelled due to funding problems. Technology at high schools was a huge problem. It was submitted that educators needed to be recognised and trusted. Educators needed to be dismissed when they were continuously absent. The workload of teachers was too heavy. The funding for hospitality studies remained a problem. It was requested that learners received a yearly allowance from the Department.

Members said that the subject of teacher discipline and absenteeism occurred in the submissions quite often and was something that needed to be discussed. The Department needed to deal with the issue. It could not keep paying teachers who did not do anything and who did not come to work. Members pointed out that this was to do with labour relations and was dealt with in the Labour Relations Act. There had to be ways of dealing with the issue through the Act. School principles were not able to deal with the issue themselves. If provinces were not aware of teachers who were absent with no good reason then it was a major issue.

In the sixth and seventh submissions considered, it was requested to bring back religion into the school system. This had already been dealt with by the Committee.

The eighth submission considered asked for the use of television to present subjects. Quality teachers needed to be used to present a subject via television. This would be helpful in areas where quality teachers were difficult to attain. Members thought this was a great idea. The Committee wanted to talk to the South African Broadcasting Corporation about incorporating educational programmes that it broadcast into the classroom.

The ninth submission considered said that schools needed to attain great success through standards, values and discipline. This had already been dealt with by the Committee. However Members said that this discipline was two way; discipline had to be shown both by teachers and children. There was also concern that there were no support structures for teachers to deal with disciplining children with big problems. Social workers and psychologists needed to be made available. Teachers also felt that the Department needed to do more to provide support.

Meeting report

Consideration of written submissions to the Committee on the quality and challenges of education and recommendations
The Chairperson said the Committee was starting with the second book of the written submissions. The first submission considered was from Ms Eunice Nyathela. It was about a particular school, Heidelberg Primary and the state of its ablution facilities which were in a very bad state. Ms Nyathela had requested that the Minister pay the school an unexpected visit. The Chairperson said that Ms Nyathela had asked to have the submission sent to the Minister’s office. Infrastructure in general was a challenge.

Mr D Bandi, Content Advisor: Parliament, said that submission number 21 was from Ms Di Smith from Awesome SA (BAS.EDU 21). Ms Smith had sought funding to support Zahke Agricultural College.

The Chairperson said that a copy of the submission should be sent to the Department of Higher Education and that she would also speak to the Department of Trade and Industry.

Mr Bandi said submission number 22 was from Ms Marelie Van Vuuren (BAS.EDU 22). Ms Van Vuuren had asked for cognitive training in the school context and mother tongue literacy training for six year olds. There also needed to be an understanding and implementation of a mega-cognitive approach to teaching and learning. Mr Bandi pointed out that the Committee had previously discussed the issue of cognitive learning.

The Chairperson said Members should look at notes from previous discussions. The Committee had already discussed that schools needed to know what new teaching techniques were being developed and the Department needed to create a platform were these could be introduced.

Ms J Kloppers-Lourens (DA) asked if a copy of the submission could also be sent to the Department of Higher Education.

The Chairperson asked whether it was not already the normal practice to have Mother tongue taught from the age of six.

Ms F Mushwana (ANC) replied that it was.

The Chairperson said that although mother tongue was introduced at the age of six or in grade one, the second language was only introduced in grade three and that should also be introduced in grade one.

Mr Bandi said submission number 23 was from DAG (BAS.EDU 23) who said that teachers were paid too little and because of this experienced teachers were leaving the profession.

The Chairperson said that the Committee had already discussed the number of teachers leaving the profession. In terms of teachers salaries it was the second time a submission about them had been sent in. She asked Members whether they thought there should be a discussion on the issue. The Committee had already established that it was possible for a teacher of 30 plus years to get a R10 000 salary; this was because the teacher did not have the most up to date qualification. If a teacher bettered his or her qualification then his or her salary would increase. In 2009 there was an 80% increase in teachers’ salaries. Teachers’ salaries were not an isolated issue; they affected teacher student ratios, money left over for other things, and the quality of schools. When looking at the international benchmark fro teachers salaries, South Africa was somewhere in the middle. The Committee needed to look at what other teachers were getting in other countries.

Ms Mushwana felt that it was not up to the Committee to make any decisions or recommendations regarding teachers’ salaries. The issue was related to other issues within schools but Members could not isolate it as a separate issue. The decision of salaries was in the hands of the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC). She said that the Committee needed to leave it to the relevant structures to debate the issue.

Ms Kloppers-Lourens asked if the Committee could not get the ELRC to come in and talk to Members and explain the situation.

The Chairperson said the Committee could do so when there was not a stressed situation as there was with the current strikes. She said that the Committee would also ask the Minister to visit and talk to Members.

Ms N Gina (ANC) suggested that Committee have an indaba with all stakeholders involved so that Members could discuss the issue with the Minister, the ELRC and unions.

The Chairperson reiterated that the Committee could only do that after the crisis period. It was impossible to organise an indaba when there were strikes going on. She suggested that the Committee have a workshop with all stakeholders.

Mr Z Makhubele (ANC) said that there was a framework in place for the structure of salaries. The Committee needed to decide what it wanted out of the workshop. Did it want answers or to give recommendations?

The Chairperson said that there were so many role players and when the Committee had meetings with each one they got bogged down by issues pertaining to the particular stakeholder. When dealing with the issue of teachers’ salaries the Committee never managed to have a symposium where all stakeholders came together and gave their views. Through a symposium the Committee could do vigorous oversights. The Committee did not know if all stakeholders felt the same.

Ms Mushwana said that the Committee should reconsider having a symposium. In Parliament there were certain Departments that dealt with different issues and the Committee did not want to appear as if it did not trust these other Departments. It would have been like saying that the Departments were not doing their jobs properly and that the Committee needed to have workshops with them. Each stakeholder had its own mandate and this had to be kept in mind.

The Chairperson said that she agreed with Ms Mushwana and said the Committee would not be able to call all stakeholders and then tell them that they were not doing their job properly. This was why the Committee was asking for a symposium in order to ask stakeholders for their perspectives. The Committee needed to hear perspectives from the Minister, the ELRC, the unions and Treasury. The Committee could then have meaningful discussion with the stakeholders about issues such as teachers not being public servants but professionals. Those issues were quite apt. The Committee needed to start preparing fro the symposium so that when the strike crisis was over it could go ahead. She said Members also needed to think about what Mr Makhubele said and must make sure that the Committee knew what it was going to ask or say to the stakeholders.

Mr Bandi asked Members to look at Addendum One which had more detail of submission number 24. The submission was sent in by Mr Nicky Du Plessis (BAS.EDU 24). Mr Du Plessis wrote that many schools were not sure what to teach in computer centres. Learners should be able to change languages after they could prove that in grade four they were able to read and write in their home language. He recommended that computer centres should be equipped with the correct curriculum. Learners should be taught in their home language. From grade four learners should have a third language up to grade seven. Home-schooling should not be allowed, it was a waste of time and money. School hours should be from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm to keep learners off the street. Different language school should have different school uniforms, e.g., one uniform for Afrikaans schools, and one uniform for English schools, and so on. .

The Chairperson said the issue of schools not knowing what to teach during computer studies was an issue that should be discussed.

Ms C Dudley (ACDP) said she felt the issue of extending school hours to keep children off the street was also a good issue to discuss as it appeared people had been thinking about it.

Ms Gina said she was confused by Mr Du Plessis’ allegation that teachers did not know what to teach during computer studies as this was a set subject with a curriculum in schools.

The Chairperson replied that Mr Du Plessis was saying that there was a lack of teaching of computer studies being taught.

Ms Mushwana said that there was a debate at the ELRC because teachers wanted to be seen as professionals. In order to do this they needed to work 35 hours a week, and that was why teachers worked seven hour days. Ms Mushwana felt the recommendation to have school hours increased was unacceptable as people had constitutional rights. The issue of different school uniforms for schools of different languages was also not appropriate.

Mr N Kganyago (UDM) said he agreed with Ms Mushwana on the issue of school uniforms.

The Chairperson asked Members to discuss an issue only if they agreed with it; she did not want to hear about submissions they did not agree with. She told the Committee that Mr Bandi was going to research the issue of computer studies.

Ms Dudley wanted to return to the issue of extending school hours to keep children off the street.

The Chairperson said that there were children doing extra activities after school, but at the same time there were children who were not, as these activities were not compulsory. If school hours were extended there would have to be teachers to supervise.

Mr Makhubele said that the symposium also needed to discuss the conditions of teachers along with salaries. In terms of extended school hours the Committee also needed to look at the implications these would have on students and their ability to concentrate for a long period. Governing bodies made certain decisions for schools and the Committee could not change these as to do so was against the Constitution and the Schools Act.

The Chairperson asked if there wan any other member beside Ms Dudley who was in favour of extending school hours.

Mr Dudley said that there were some studies that showed that the difference between smart children and not so smart children was because of activities they did in their free time. These activities could be beneficial for children.

The Chairperson said that she understood that Members did not support the submission, but on the issue of homework there was a problem. There were children who did not have a home which was conducive to doing homework. She wanted to know if this could be formalised into the submission of extended school hours. It could be used as a time for children to do homework. On the other hand were teachers going to be happy with having to work these longer hours so that children could do homework at school? This had implications. The Chairperson asked Ms Dudley to put together a three page document for the Committee on why it should support the submission and the benefits.

Ms Kloppers-Lourens pointed out that the submission suggested that teachers took shifts. This however could not be made compulsory.

Mr Bandi said that submission 25 could also be found in Addendum one. It was sent in by Ms Lettie Hough (BAS.EDU 25). Ms Hough said schools needed the support from the Department when problems arose.  Important courses arranged by subject advisors were often cancelled due to funding problems. Technology at high schools was a huge problem. She said that educators needed to be recognised and trusted. Educators needed to be dismissed when they were continuously absent. Workload of teachers was too heavy. Funding for Hospitality Studies remained a problem. It was requested that learners received a yearly allowance from the Department.

The Chairperson asked if there was any issue from the submission that Members agreed with. The Committee had already dealt with the workload of teachers. She was not sure what the issue was with technology as far as Ms Hough was concerned. The submission was in Afrikaans and the Chairperson asked Mr Kganyago to translate it for Members.

Ms Gina said that the issue of discipline in schools needed to be discussed. Corporal punishment was taken away and so something new was needed to guide teachers and learners in discipline.

The Chairperson pointed out that the submission was talking about the discipline of teachers only and not that of students.

Mr J Lorimer (DA) said teacher discipline and absenteeism came up in the submission quite often and it was something that needed to be discussed. Mr Lorimer had figures about absenteeism in provinces which demonstrated what a problem it was.

The Chairperson said this was an issue which the Department needed to deal with. It could not keep paying teachers who did not do anything and who did not come to work.

Mr Makhubele pointed out that this was a labour relations issue and was dealt with in the Labour Relations Act. There had to be ways of dealing with the issue through the Act. The Department needed to deal with the issue since not even school principles were able to.

The Chairperson said she understood that labour relations could be a nightmare and a civil servant could not just be fired, but that was a bullet the Committee needed to bite if it was a really big issue. Mr Lorimer was going to bring figures to the Committee. If Provinces were not aware of teachers who were absent with no good reason then it was a major issue. The Committee had to take into account that there were people who became ill for long periods and nothing could be done about that.

Ms Dudley asked if this was not linked to the issue of salary and if it should not be discussed at the symposium as well.

The Chairperson agreed. She said that the Committee could give stakeholders its proposals.

Ms Kloppers-Lourens asked if teachers had to sign in and out when they arrived at school and when they left.

The Chairperson said this was a good question and she was wondering the same thing. During the 2007 strike the Minister said that if teachers did not work then they would not be paid, but in some provinces some teachers were still paid because the provincial department did not know who was actually at school and who was striking.

Ms Kloppers-Lourens said that some teachers would come to school, so that they were not noted as absent, but that they would leave at 10:00am.

Ms Mushwana said that in the school where she was principal teachers had to sign a register every morning when they arrived at school and when they left.

Ms A Mashishi (ANC) asked if the Committee could propose that teachers who were absent continuously should be fired after a certain amount of days.  

The Chairperson said the Committee could not make that kind of proposal. It first needed to research whether there was a problem. The Committee needed to find out if the provinces knew that they had a problem. It had to embark on research as an oversight exercise. The Committee needed to know if the employer body knew what was going on. This was an administrative issue; there were no systems in place and a school could not be managed properly without systems. This issue would also be discussed at the symposium.

Ms Gina said that it was because there were no systems in place there were problems. Principals were also part of unions so during strikes they were also not at school so they could not supervise.

Mr Makhubele said that there were teachers who wanted to go to school instead of striking but they were threatened and did not attend school out of fear, not because they were striking.

Mr Kganyago returned with the translation of Ms Hough’s submission. He said that she wanted hospitality to be put before computer studies.

Mr Bandi said that submission 26 from Lee Saunders (BAS.EDU 26) and submission 27 from Mr Spencer Courtis (BAS.EDU 27) were about bringing religion back into the school system. This had already been dealt with by the Committee.

The Chairperson reminded Members that when people were talking about religion they were talking about values.

Ms Dudley said that there was a document on the policy guidelines on religion in school that was released during Mr Kadar Asmal’s time as Minister. This document had caused some problems. She said that the document maybe needed to be reviewed and revised.

The Chairperson told Ms Dudley that the Committee had already discussed the issue of religion and recommended that she read up on what had been said.

Mr Bandi said submission 28 was sent in by Mr Christo Becker (BAS.EDU 28). Mr Becker said he had developed and written a book on a new mental model for a life skills curriculum for learners aged seven to 14.

The Chairperson said she found the submission very confusing and did not understand it.

Ms Kloppers-Lourens pointed out that Mr Becker was the father of one of the Waterkloof Four.

Mr Bandi said submission 29 was sent in by Corrie Hugo (BAS.EDU 29). The submission asked for the use of television to present subjects. Quality teachers were needed to present a subject via television in areas where quality teachers were difficult to obtain.

The Chairperson said that she liked this submission. When she was in Istanbul she had seen a system whereby a person could read for a degree through television lectures. The person would go buy a guidebook and then watch lectures on television. The Chairperson thought that this was a great idea.

Ms Dudley said she had spoken to a number of teachers who had said that they hated the idea as it made teachers lazy. There were positives and negatives to having television lectures.

The Chairperson said that she was not saying that television lectures should replace teachers. She remembered when the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) had a programme dedicated to mathematics that had helped learners.

Ms Gina said she thought it was a good idea as well. She said there were still learning programs on SABC that were really good and helped but it was just for Matrics.

Ms Kloppers-Lourens said that there was also a programme on Radio Sonder Grense on a different subject everyday. It was very valuable.

Ms A Mda (COPE) said that there was a really good programme for matriculants on SABC 2 from midnight to 3:00 am about career choices and subjects at school. However, it was at an inconvenient time and suggested that the Committee try negotiating with the SABC to have it broadcast at an earlier time so that children could watch. The same should be done for radio stations that had the same type of programmes.

Ms Mushwana added that the Committee should encourage schools, which had electricity, to utilise these radio and TV programs and try co-ordinate them with their lessons. They should be incorporated into the timetable so that the lesson given at the school was the same as the lesson given on radio or television.

Mr Kganyago said that this was a brilliant idea, but there was the small problem of how far a class was with the syllabus and that the progress of not every class would coincide with the programme’s content.

The Chairperson suggested that the Committee ask the SABC to brief Members on how it co-ordinated its programmes with what was happening in schools.

Ms Mushwana said that radio and television programs did follow the syllabus followed by all schools. There needed to be a paradigm shift if the Committee wanted the submission to work.

The Chairperson said that it worked two ways. It was a tool for teachers but the Committee could not ask broadcasters to change programming for teachers. There needed to be a synergy at school level.

Mr Bandi said submission 30 was from Mr Peter Snyman (BAS.EDU 30). He had said that schools needed to attain great success through standards, values and discipline. Mr Bandi said this had already been dealt with by the Committee.

The Chairperson said that this was where Ms Gina’s issue of discipline came in. Ms Gina said it was a problem; the Chairperson wanted to know what Ms Gina meant.

Ms Gina said that because corporal punishment was disallowed in schools there needed to be an alternative. The community also needed to be addressed.

The Chairperson said that there were difficult issues within society such as gangs and drugs, and teachers did not have the support structures to deal with children with serious disciplinary problems because of social issues. Teachers were asking for someone to assist them. If a district was going to support schools, it needed to make social workers and psychologists available.

Mr Lorimer said that he thought it was an important aspect that schools did not feel that they had the support of the Department. Schools submitted reports on children with really big discipline problems yet those children were not taken out of the school. He added that he was not totally against corporal punishment.

Ms Kloppers-Lourens pointed out that there was not only a problem with students but a discipline problem with teachers as well. A teacher would not have a problem if he or she arrived at school prepared and ready to teach.

Ms Mushwana said she agreed with Ms Kloppers-Lourens. There was also a document on an alternative to corporal punishment. If a teacher hit a child the teacher would be fired. However, parents also needed to do their job in disciplining their children at home but they did not want to do it as it was just easier to leave it to the teacher. She disagreed with Mr Lorimer and said that the Committee should not lobby for corporal punishment to return.

Ms Mda said she agreed with all three of the previous Members who spoke. She did not believe that corporal punishment should be brought back. Discipline was two way, there had to be a discipline of teachers and children. There was a school in Limpopo, which did not have all the necessary facilities yet there was a 100% pass rate. The principal said that this was because of discipline from teachers and students. Teachers needed to check up on their students, to make sure that homework had been done and that parents had checked on this as well. 

Mr Kganyago said there was an issue when teaching values because it had to be asked if a teacher taught traditional values or western values. In some cultures it was polite to look an adult in the eyes when speaking to them, but it other cultures it was seen as disrespectful.

Ms Gina pointed out that Members were talking about an ideal country and an ideal situation, but it was not always possible. There was the issue of broken families. The Committee needed to go deeper when talking about issues of discipline. It was a broad subject and quite a challenge.

The Chairperson agreed with Ms Gina. She said she knew of a teacher in the area, where her mother lived, who went to school early every morning so that she could bath a child who was really neglected at home. A child was a human being and people needed to remember that. Challenges in South African society were so extreme sometimes. However, a child could have wealthy parents but still get involved in drugs. A teacher was a big role model in society and had a huge influence on children. If a teacher cared, and showed that he or she had discipline, it would have a big impact.

The meeting was adjourned.


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