The Education and Recreation Select Committee was briefed by the Director-General of the Department of Higher Education and Training, on the transfer of Section Education and Training Authorities (SETA’s) and the functions of Further Education and Training (FET) Colleges to the Department of Higher Education. The briefing provided an update on the progress made in transferring responsibility for the SETA’s and FET to the Department.
Members asked questions about quality assurance, responsibility for auditing the remaining SETA’s, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, programmes to skill the unemployed youth, collaborations between Universities,
Briefing by the Department of Higher Education and Training
Ms Mary Metcalfe, Director-General of the Department of Higher Education and Training, presented the progress made by the Department to date on the transfer of the Section Education and Training Authorities (SETA’s) and the function of Further Education and Training (FET) Colleges to the Department of Higher Education. (see attached document).
The Presidential Proclamations were the key factors for shaping the administration of the transferred responsibilities. Legislation previously assigned to different departments was reallocated and certain components were moved from various Departments.
The legislation specific to the transfer of functions of FET Colleges were outlined and Ms Metcalfe explained which Ministers were responsible for the administration, powers and functions specified in the Acts. The Minister of Education and the Minister of Higher Education were both responsible in terms of the National Education Policy Act 27 of 1996, the Employment of Educators Act 76 of 1998, the South African Council for Educators Act 31 of 2000, and the General and Further Education and Training Quality Assurance Act 58 of 2001.
The Minister of Higher Education was responsible for the Higher Education Act 101 of 1997, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme Act 56 of 1999, the Adult Basic Education and Training Act 52 of 2000, the Further Education and Training Colleges Act 16 of 2006 and the National Qualifications Framework Act 67 of 2008.
An integrated approach by the Department of Labour and the Department of Education was needed to deliver quality education and work related skills. The constitutional amendment to make FET Colleges an exclusive national function was still with the Department of Justice and had not yet been tabled in Parliament.
Transitional arrangements were in place. The Department of Higher Education and Training were working closely with the provincial authorities and Memoranda of Understanding have been signed and the transfer of functions had been discussed. The MEC’s have agreed that the process needed to be put in place as soon as possible.
The conditional grant was announced by the Minister of Finance in October 2009. The grant had been integrated and detailed conditions were attached. The Department of Higher Education and Training was in discussion with the National Treasury to establish whether the baseline had been set correctly.
No constitutional impact was anticipated with regard to the transfer of the SETA’s. Responsibility for applicable legislation had been transferred from the Department of Labour to the Department of Higher Education and Training. The sections dealing with SETA’s, the National Skills Authority and the National Skills Fund in the Skills Development Act 97 of 1998 would be relevant to the Department of Higher Education and Training but other sections in the Act were relevant to the Department of Labour.
The legislation was enacted after the adoption of the budget. The funding remained with the Department of Education and the Department of Labour. The Department of Basic Education still needed to finalise certain matters and the Department of Education would remain the responsible executive. The Director-General of the Department of Education was unknown and there was no clarity on who was responsible for reporting. An informal arrangement had been put in place and the Chief Financial Officer of Higher Education had agreed that Ms Metcalfe would perform the function of Acting Director-General. If, however, there were legal matters that had to be resolved, a Director-General would have to be formally appointed.
There were changes in the staff compliment. Staff members were transferred from the Skills Development, National Skills Fund and Indlela branches with effect from 1 April 2010. Not enough staff members were transferred from the Corporate Services division. The Department was discussing the problem with the Department of Pubic Administration and hoped that the matter would be resolved shortly.
The Chairperson thanked Ms Metcalfe for her presentation and opened the floor for questions and comments.
Mr W Faber (DA,
Ms Metcalfe explained that there were both private and state-funded FET Colleges. The private Colleges would remain privately owned, while the state-funded Colleges would be administered by the Department of Higher Education and Training.
Mr Faber asked what the National Qualification Framework (NQF) system would comprise and who would be responsible for moderation.
Ms Metcalfe explained that the function of Quality Assurance had been separated from the Department of Higher Education and Training in order to ensure independence. There were three Quality Councils and the whole system was run on the basis of a peer review system. The councils were coordinated by the South African Qualification Authorities (SAQA) and not the Department. The qualifications were graded from NQF Levels 1 to 10.
Mr Faber asked Ms Metcalfe to clarify how many SETA’s remained and to explain who would be responsible for auditing the SETA’s.
Ms B Mncube (ANC,
Ms R Rasmeni (ANC, North West) asked Ms Metcalfe to brief the Committee on the performance of the SETA’s and asked what the timeframe was for the transfer of the responsibility for the SETA’s.
Mr M De Villiers (DA,
Ms Mncube queried whether there was any collaboration between Universities,
Ms Metcalfe explained that all companies in
The collaboration of Universities,
Universities have academic freedom in terms of what was taught, had the freedom to govern their own affairs and were only accountable in terms of the public funding that was allocated. Government provided a steering framework for guidance on quality and on the funding provided for research, teaching and learning as agreed with Government, which was planned in advance.
Mr De Villiers mentioned that there had been reports in the media that funds from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) would be administered by the Western Cape Department of Education. He asked Ms Metcalfe to verify if this information was correct and to provide the Committee with all relevant information on the NSFAS.
Ms Metcalfe replied that an amount of R2 billion was allocated to the NSFAS during the current financial year in order to financially assist students from poor families. However, poverty was relative and the biggest problem with the distribution of funds was whether it should be spread across a larger pool of beneficiaries or whether fewer people should be given full financial support. There have been cases were loans were granted to students, but the loans only covered half the cost of the fees for the year. This created a situation where students were unable to complete their studies due to a lack of funds. Another issue was that Universities took the funds allocated and used race as a proxy of class. The institutions also spread the money too thinly. These issues need to be resolved at a national level.
Mr De Villiers asked if the Department of Higher Education and Training had any plans in place to provide skills training for the unemployed youth.
Mr S Plaatjie (COPE,
Ms Metcalfe referred to the results of research that was conducted in 2007 on the educational lever for persons aged 18 to 24. At the time, there was a total of 6,8 million people in that age category of which 2,8 million were not in formal education or training and 2 million did not have matric. She feared that the current statistics would be much higher. She felt that the Department of Education needed to develop a system that considered the population in its entirety and to come up with a way in which to strengthen Universities and Colleges. This was an issue that needed to be addressed throughout the entire country. A big challenge for Universities and Colleges would be taking a 30 to 40 year perspective on dealing with the problem. She felt that targets and resources needed to come from Parliament. She expected that the data for 2008 – 2010 would reflect an increase in the numbers. The Department had commissioned a researcher to provide information and widened the age ranges to 18 – 24, 25 – 28 and 29 up to and including 65. Data on race, gender and province would be provided as well. She offered to report to the Committee once the results of the research were available.
Ms Mncube asked if there were any plans in place to address the problem of understaffing in the Corporate Service division and wanted to know who would be responsible for addressing the matter.
Ms Metcalfe explained that meetings were held with the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), who admitted that the split of staff resources was unfair. The DPSA would take up the issue with the Minister.
Ms Mncube asked for an explanation of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and how it would be enforced.
Ms Metcalfe asked the Committee to review the MoU as she felt that oversight from the Committee would be a critical factor. The Department and the Committee could jointly ensure that responsibilities did not fall through the cracks. Success could only be assured with the support of the provincial authorities. She suggested that the Committee requested a quarterly report and said that in this way, Parliament could hold the various parties accountable.
Ms Mncube questioned the capacity of the FET Colleges in terms of governance and curriculum.
Ms Metcalfe explained that she hoped that the FET Summit on Higher and Further Education during the first weekend in September would address these issues. During a roundtable discussion held in April 2010, all the challenges facing the sector were identified. The
The meeting was adjourned.
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