Ministerial and Department of Basic Education briefings: 2011 Strategic plans & budget (Day 1)

Basic Education

28 March 2011
Chairperson: Ms H Malgas (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Deputy Minister of Basic Education addressed the portfolio committee on the Departments Strategic Plan 2011-2014, giving a broad overview of the strategic direction of the Department and locating it within government's Outcomes. He noted that Government had made education its apex priority and improving the quality of basic education was central to the Department’s Strategic Plan.  The Delivery agreement signed by the Minister and the Action plan 2014, which was geared towards the realisation of the long term “Schooling 2025” plans, were also important. Government had identified key challenges in the quality in basic education, and the Deputy Minister identified access, equity and quality as indivisible key elements in addressing these challenges. He reiterated the emphasis on the “Triple T's” - 'Teachers, Text and Time' - in the State of the Nation Address 2011. The Department had crucial leadership, policy making and monitoring responsibilities>

The Director-General of the Department of Basic Education (DBE) presented a high level overview of the Strategic Plan for 2011-214, followed by the details of the Departments Strategic Objectives, and the 2011 Budget Review. It was emphasised that the strategic plan reflected the commitment of the Department to undertake activities effectively, and on time, to produce the agreed-upon outputs. The focus of all strategies would be geared towards basic non-negotiables that involved learners, teachers, schools and provinces. Five strategic goals were identified and priority was given to improving the quality of teaching and learning, regular assessment to track progress, improving early childhood development, to improve capacity in the Department and to ensure a credible, outcomes-focused planning and accountability system. Key interventions would be undertaken where necessary, especially in terms of infrastructure and school nutrition. Standardised assessments and systemic evaluations would be used to measure whether learners were achieving the curriculum outcomes and to identify the key areas in the curriculum that required improvement. Throughout the presentation, great emphasis was placed on the key monitoring role that the national Department would play. The DBE also outlined its interventions in provinces, the Eastern Cape in particular, where a three-to-five year intervention, in terms of Section 100 of the Constitution, had been put in place.

It was noted, when presenting the budget, that the DBE was one of only a few departments that had received additions to the baseline, which proved government's commitment to education. Expenditure had increased from R4,8 billion in 2007/08, to R10.9 billion in 2010/2011, and was expected to continue to grow over the medium term to reach R20.4 billion in 2013/14. Increases were also apparent in the provinces and the manner of funding and the role of Provincial Treasuries was outlined. The increases also included allocations for school nutrition and infrastructure, which would help to alleviate poverty. The priority areas that received additional allocations included the Funza Lushaka teacher bursaries for maths and science, the National Curriculum Statement Review, improving conditions of service, and addressing school infrastructure backlogs, the full capacitation of the DBE, and the running of its expanded public works programmes. The Department had effected some austerity measures. In future it would be following stringent project management.

Members raised questions on a broad range of concerns, directly mainly to the infrastructure backlogs, the equitable allocation of funds to provinces, the cost of administering a single school and related issues, the Funza Lushaka bursaries, the provision of laptops to teachers, e-Education, IT and connectivity, post provisioning, and the Dinaledi Schools. They also questioned the commitment of provinces and how the DBE would exercise control and monitoring.

Meeting report

Normal 0 Address by the Deputy Minister of Basic Education
Hon Enver Surty, Deputy Minister of Basic Education, apologised for the absence of Minister Angie Motshekga, who was abroad.

He stated that the Strategic Plan of 2011-2014, of the Department of Basic Education (DBE or the Department) fulfilled the Department’s legal obligations to provide strategic plans to Parliament, and informed all education stakeholders about the strategic direction of the Department. Government had identified education as a key priority, as well as student development. The DBE had to improve the quality of basic education, and the 2011 Strategic Plan articulated the overarching goals of improving the quality of learning and learner achievement, as well as the Department’s crucial monitoring, policy making and leadership responsibilities.

The Deputy Minister stated that the  Strategic Plan set out the key priorities of the Department. For each strategic priority, a set of strategies, outcomes and deliverables had been developed for the period 2011-14. These strategic priorities were informed by the government's programme of action, the delivery agreement signed by the Minister, and by the “Action Plan 2014”, which would contribute to the realisation of the “Schooling 2025” targets. Clear and measurable targets had been set for strengthening learner achievement at key stages of the schooling system. This long term plan allowed for the monitoring of progress against a set of measurable indicators, covering aspects such as enrollment and retention of learners, teachers, infrastructure, school funding, learner well-being and school safety.

Government had identified key challenges that reflected on quality of basic education. It was widely recognised that the country's schooling system performed below potential, and this must be improved to reach the long-term development goals. The importance of the quality and quantity of learner and teacher support materials, the quality of school based tests and examinations, and the quality of support for schools were all recognised. The Deputy Minister noted that during a recent meeting in Thailand, it had been noted that access, equity and quality were indivisible and interrelated, and all were informed by the socio-economic context.

The Deputy Minister noted that the President had emphasised the vital role of education in improving productivity and competitiveness in the economy. The emphasis in achieving quality education had to be placed on the Triple T's : namely, Teachers, Text and Time. The Department now committed itself to undertake these activities effectively, and on time, to produce the four outputs of the Delivery Agreement. The first was the improvement of the quality of teaching and learning. The second was to undertake regular assessment to track progress. The third was to improve early childhood development (ECD), and the fourth, to ensure a credible outcomes-focused planning and accountability system. He emphasised that quality learning and teaching, both essential to growth,  could only be attained in an enabling environment, and the DBE was committed to creating that.

Mr Surty said that the Strategic Plan reflected five key interventions to establish enabling conditions for quality learning in all schools. These included strengthening teacher development, providing quality learner and teacher support materials, putting in place national assessments in numeracy and literacy, strengthening district development, and increased support for schools. The Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASDI) would ensure the provision of appropriate infrastructure.

The Deputy Minister noted that the DBE committed itself to publication of frequent reports, flowing from its monitoring and research work. He expressed the gratitude of the Ministry for the good work performed by the Portfolio Committee, whose advice and recommendations were taken seriously.

Department of Basic Education (DBE) Strategic Plan 2011-2014 and 2011 MTEF Budget Review
Mr Bobby Soobrayan, Director General, DBE, stated that DBE’s strategic plan was aligned with National Treasury (NT) guidelines, ensured progressive improvements and tried to ensure that the Department’s oversight function resulted in the desired outcomes. The Strategic Plan also incorporated the lessons learned over the years, to ensure improvements in the credibility of planning. The Department did not see the Strategic Plans merely as a matter of compliance, but regarded them as a vital tool to monitor that the Department was on the right track. The Department would take the recommendations of the Committee very seriously.

Mr Soobrayan noted that he would undertake the presentation, but that the branch heads had all made input, and would take part in the discussion. He indicated that the Strategic Plan had been submitted on 9 March, which he would present, and that the DBE was currently finalising the Annual Performance Plan (APP), focusing on the detailed implementation, and this had to be presented by the beginning of April, in preparation for the Minister’s budget speech. The DBE would come back to the Committee with the detailed plans for implementation.

The Strategic Plan provided a multi-year framework. The goal and mission of the Department were to improve the quality of learning and learner achievement. Its vision was that all learners in South African schools should have access to quality teaching and learning. Until now, not all learners had access to education equitably, and that remained a challenge.

Mr Soobrayan reiterated that education was a key priority of government and that the Strategic Plan also took into account the Government Programme of Action, the delivery agreement signed by the Minister of Education and the Members of the Executive Council (MECs) in the provinces, and must also be seen in the context of the long-term vision to 2025.

There was general agreement on the challenges identified from the review on the state of education. Quality learning outcomes were not optimal, the quality and quantity of learner and teacher support material was not adequate, school-based tests and examinations were not up to the required standard and were not being moderated or benchmarked. The quality of support from districts, specifically school support personnel, was neither constructive nor responsive to the needs of the school management. All of these must be addressed over the MTEF period.

The Strategic Plan reflected the commitment of the Department to undertake activities effectively and on time to produce the agreed outputs. In order to ensure effective teaching and learning, the focus of all strategies would be geared towards basic non-negotiables that involved learners, teachers, schools and provinces. DBE would, for learners, address the quality of learning for effective and life long growth, development and well being. For teachers, DBE needed to address accountability, incentives, support and resources. Schools must be helped to achieve functionality for effective teaching and learning, and convert inputs into the required outcomes. DBE must help the provinces to manage themselves efficiently to deliver support to schools.

Mr Soobrayan also referred to the President’s call for more focus on the Triple Ts of Teachers, Text and Time. These were basic and non-negotiable requirements. The DBE would look to its own and international experiences. It would be focusing on literacy and numeracy, and increased access to and performance in mathematics and science at higher grades. This would entail increased access to quality materials and provision of competent and professional teachers. Standardised assessments and systemic evaluations would be used to measure whether learners were achieving the curriculum outcomes, and to identify the key curriculum areas needing improvement.

Another key intervention was to ensure universal access to Grade R, which should in turn offer quality programmes to compensate for socio-economic deprivation and low family literacy. Mr Soobrayan reiterated that a major challenge was inequality of income, which translated into inequality of results. Some children faced very different conditions from others, requiring specific interventions according to context. Early Childhood Development (ECD) was a critical factor.

Mr Soobrayan also noted that another key intervention had to be made to turn around dysfunctional and poorly performing schools, by improving accountability and service delivery at district, provincial and national level. Accountability and support were stressed throughout the planning framework. The Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) aimed to ensure the provision of sound infrastructure. The main goal of ASIDI was to eradicate mud and unsafe structures and to provide improved resources such as laboratories, libraries and administration blocks to existing schools.

Mr Soobrayan recalled that in the previous year he had said that the Department had not achieved its targets in dealing with infrastructure backlogs, which was unacceptable, and had also said that if the DBE received sufficient allocations, it would put them to cost-effective solutions to improve infrastructure. DBE had now succeeded in having its budget increased, and this extra funding would be under the direct control of the national Department. He was confident that the infrastructure backlogs would be addressed faster.

Mr Soobrayan noted that an important cornerstone of the strategy was to involve and mobilise all key stakeholders, including citizens, to make education a societal matter. Another was to ensure synergy at intergovernmental level, to improve relationships between the national and provincial spheres. This would take the form of supporting provinces, monitoring and evaluation, and interventions, in particular, into the Eastern Cape which had hitherto not met national norms and standards, resulting in Section 100 of the Constitution being invoked. Another cornerstone was to safeguard the wellbeing of learners and educators.

Mr Soobrayan tabled Part B of the strategic objectives (see attached document) and elaborated on them. He stressed that these fell into government’s national plan of action. Any DBE plans must also talk to provinces, so that when this Portfolio Committee visited the provinces, it could be assured that exactly the same frameworks, outcomes and outputs applied. DBE was visiting each province in turn to check their strategic plans, budget and implementation plans, and alignment with national plans.

Mr Soobrayan again summarised the five main strategic goals. These were to improve the quality of teaching and learning (DBE’s core business), to hold regular assessment to track progress, to improve early childhood development, to ensure a credible, outcomes-focused planning and accountability system, and to improve the capacity of the Department.

He emphasised that the question of capacity was very important. Design and structure of systems, and the competencies and commitment of teachers were all taken into account. In addition, the DBE wanted to ensure that the organisational structures and priorities were aligned with the budget structures, and that all Estimates of National Expenditure (ENE) programmes and articulation corresponded exactly with the strategic priorities and organisational structure. He noted that this meant an examination of capacity in the bureaucracy, the curriculum policy, monitoring, teachers and support mechanisms, planning, information and assessments.

Mr Soobrayan then elaborated on the programmes of the DBE (see attached presentation). Under Programme 1: Administration, priority would be given to improving the capacity of the DBE, and ensuring that the  basic education sector and the country benefited from bilateral and multilateral co-operative agreements. This included entering into new co-operative agreements that supported education development in South Africa, and sharing experiences with other developing countries. The DBE would take cognizance of foreign policy objectives. It would also seek to improve inter-governmental coordination of policy and education delivery, including provincial delivery, in areas such as health and science and technology.

Programme 2: Curriculum Policy, Support and Monitoring, would took to giving teachers incentives to adopt e-Education, by increasing the availability of learning and teaching resources, including through the internet. It aimed to bring stability and coherence to the national school curriculum. It would specifically target improving mathematics, physical science and technical subjects at the Further Education and Training (FET) band, through national programmes such as Dinaledi and the Technical Secondary Schools Recapitalisation Grant. It would further promote adequate access to quality learning materials, through better national specifications, and a more proactive approach to textbook and workbook development and distribution. Savings of R450 million had already been achieved here.
School libraries were also being targeted. Quality pre-Grade 1 education and national screening guidelines to identify special needs were other important areas. Not enough had been done to screen at a sufficiently early age in the past,  to enable suitable interventions, often with the cooperation of the Department of Health.

Under Programme 3: Teachers, Education Human Resources and Institutional Development, Mr Soobrayan noted that the new teacher development plan would bring coherence and improvement to teacher education. There would be collaborative professional development activities. The National Institute for Curriculum and Professional Development (NICPD) would be established, together with a national ongoing campaign to promote teaching as a career. A set of planning, management and accountability tools would be introduced to realise quality in education. This programme also aimed to develop training strategies and materials aimed at parents, to encourage their integration and accountability, and to establish better evidence-based practices and procedures at 82 education district offices. Particular attention would be paid to teacher development and district support and related matters.

Programme 4: Planning, Information and Assessment aimed to establish a quality system of standardised and benchmarked learner assessments. This had been started, and would be done progressively to improve education quality. Many countries had adopted this system successfully, and this would allow for credible information to be gathered, to then be used as the basis for interventions and accountability. It would also grant a real role to parents, and would facilitate the Portfolio Committee’s oversight on performance. There were plans to ensure that all children completed a quality readiness programme in Grade R, before they entered formal education in Grade 1. There would also be creation of support systems for provinces and schools, to improve the physical environs and conducive conditions for teaching and learning.  Districts should be able to use quality information and data to implement school-based improvement programmes. Again, the DBE would play an important role in stewardship and coordination.

Under Programme 5: Education Enrichment Services, the current “basket” of education support to learners from poor communities would be improved. Stakeholders would also be involved to add value to the attainment of the core outcomes. The aim was that greater involvement would bring about greater integration and mitigate against poverty.

Mr Soobrayan then presented the 2011 MTEF Budget Review (see attached presentation) and detailed the medium term distribution of the budget. He noted that there was a focus on the integrated quality management system, which contributed towards the improvement of the quality of teaching and learning. Educators would be assessed annually, and areas needing development would be identified. Appropriate allocation of posts to schools was important, and this was the most important single aspect that had led to the deterioration in the Eastern Cape. The DBE had warned provinces that it would be very strong in addressing compliance with post allocations, to avoid potential losses. He also noted that provision was made in the budget for tracking patterns of learner enrolment, completion and drop-out, as an important contributor to credible and focused planning and accountability. Infrastructure allocations also featured strongly. There were still many schools housed in unsafe and inappropriate structures, without basic facilities such as water and sanitation. The eradication of these structures was a priority in the medium term, and this included rebuilding of 300 mud schools in the Eastern Cape.

Mr Soobrayan indicated that Annual National Assessments would be conducted each year, which offered a huge opportunity for improvements in the system. The revision of the National Curriculum Statement was another improvement that would lessen the burden on teachers. Enrichment programmes, guidelines and programmes to address discrimination and promote social cohesion would also receive focus. The Bill of Responsibilities was being taught, and could assist in instilling social responsibility.

Mr Soobrayan noted that the expenditure had increased from R4,8 billion in 2007/08, to R10.9 billion in 2010/2011. and was expected to continue to grow over the medium term to reach R20.4 billion in 2013/14. The increase reflected government’s commitment to education, and increases were also apparent in the provinces. There was funding specifically earmarked for DBE, to ensure optimal stewardship and optimal delivery. The increase was very large, but it included allocations for school nutrition and infrastructure, and thus reflected the government's commitment to poverty alleviation.

The budget also provided for additional allocations over the MTEF period of R6.3 billion in 2011/2012. R8.5 billion in 2013/14 and R11.9 billion for priority areas (see attached presentation). These included the Funza Lushaka teacher bursaries, the National Curriculum Statement Review (including the printing and distribution of documents), improving conditions of service, and addressing school infrastructure backlogs. He pointed out that it was also necessary to make provision for full functioning of the DBE, following the split of the former Department of Education, which had negative effects on capacity. Provision was also made for the DBE’s running of Expanded Public Works Programmes (EPWP) and a social sector incentive grant for Kha Ri Gude.  

Mr Soobrayan noted the additions to baseline, and indicated that DBE was one of only a few departments who had received additions to their baselines during the austerity years. However, it had also been required to effect savings. In regard to the conditional grants, Mr Soobrayan conceded that management of these in the past had been less than optimal, that this was a high risk area, and that funds had been allocated despite lack of capacity. In future, there would be stringent project management, especially on infrastructure and workbook funding.

In conclusion, Mr Soobrayan reiterated that the government programme of action and delivery agreement had been useful instruments in improving the credibility of the strategic plan, and that there was progressive improvement in linkages of planning, budgeting, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation. While there were enormous challenges, there were reassuring indicators that the system was responding positively to the outcomes-based approach.

Dr W James (DA) asked whether the Department had a single figure for the cost of running a school as one budget item. He also asked for the costs were of administering a school, including both provincial and national costs.

The Chairperson added that she would like to know the cost per learner.

Mr Soobrayan stated that prior to 1994 the disparities were dramatic and the challenge had been to equalise the amount spent per learner in the country. At present it was fairly stable. Although there was a perception that the poorer provinces were spending less per learner, in fact they were not. The spread was fairly equal. However, what was not taken into account was the amount that the parents contributed to the school, and that was out of the State’s control.

Mr Soobrayan stated that Mr James’ questions were also very pertinent, as they addressed how to track spending of the budget. In South Africa, this differed from province to province. Even a combination of the amount spent on each school with the amount spent per learner would give a different result from province to province. In South Africa, and elsewhere in the world, it had been found that there was no direct correlation on how much was spent per learner and the performance of learners. However, it was important that the bulk of the money went to schools, and if the money was consumed in administration then there was something wrong. The DBE would revert with more information on this, and this would include further information on the amount per learner.

Ms N Vukuza-Linda (COPE) thanked the DG for the presentation and noted that it would take time to stabilise the Department. She referred to the Deputy-Minister's remarks on Access, Equity and Quality, which should be factored into everything the Department did. She was, however, somewhat sceptical of “pay off lines” such as the Triple T's of Teachers, Text and Time as they became mere rhetoric if there was not accountability attached to them. She was unclear what “Text” implied, as this could be interpreted as quality and she questioned how effective it would be if it was not delivering what was needed.

Mr Soobrayan agreed with Ms Vukuza-Linda on her application of the Deputy-Minister's concepts of Access, Equity and Quality to the Strategic Plan. This was reflected in DBE’s inputs on teacher support, the supply of textbooks, accountability, and other issues. These concepts guided the Action Plan and Schooling 2025. He agreed that statements could become merely rhetorical so the Action Plan attempted to move DBE from rhetoric to the actual implementation.

Ms Vukuza-Linda hoped that the bi-lateral and multi-lateral conversations and agreements cascaded down to school level, and that partnerships would take place at school level.

Mr Soobrayan agreed with the remarks on foreign policy and said that schools in South Africa had partnered fruitfully with schools in the north.

Ms Vukuza-Linda asked whether Programme 2 covered the provision of laptops, and, if so, how far this process had gone, country-wide, as she had last heard of it being applied in Gauteng. She asked if it covered the entire country. She noted that Mr Soobrayan had said that accountability was non-negotiable.

The Chairperson raised the issue of the laptops and said she recalled that the President had committed himself to the provision of laptops to teachers in 2009 and she asked the DG to respond to this.

Ms Palesa Tyobeka, Deputy Director General, DBE, answered that this was a national programme, but it had not yet taken off. DBE had hoped that National Treasury (NT) would have agreed to put a stop-order in place to get the laptops, but the request to do so had not been supported. DBE was currently engaged in discussions with NT to look at the option of DBE giving teachers loans to pay for the laptops, which they could then pay off back to DBE. DBE envisaged that the laptops would be teaching aids with relevant software uploaded upfront. It was still committed to the programme.

Ms Vukuza-Linda referred to the findings of the Higher Education South Africa (HESA) Report on benchmarking, and she mentioned the assessments in specific grades for literacy and numeracy.  She asked whether the Department still used NGOs such as READ, and whether there were still campaigns to promote a culture of reading and the creation of a reading and learning nation.

Mr Edward Mosuwe, Acting Deputy Director General, DBE, responded that there had been a HESA Report, arising from a study to what extent the South African curriculum was comparable to other countries. It was a similar report to that commissioned by the Independent Examination Board. Both those reports gave a clear indication that the national curriculum was indeed comparable to international standards. Mr Mosuwe said that at the heart of the question posed by Ms Vukuza-Linda lay a concern about the levels of literacy and numeracy in South Africa. Since the introduction of the “Foundations of Learning Campaign”, a programme that sought to promote literacy and numeracy, the Department had used multiple partners. READ had been one of those. DBE had also used other NGOs to conduct campaigns in the provinces. In addition the DBE had participated in roadshows to improve the level of reading, with partners such as the South African Book Development Council.
Reading was seen as an essential part of the educational system, and the curriculum statements that were being developed specified the types of books that learners needed, from the foundation phase upwards, for language development.

Mr Soobrayan added that DBE had also taken a group of Grade 12 learners, to determine how well they would do if they undertook first year level studies. Their results were being shared with the Department.  This study was in the initial phases and it would be helpful to evaluate how the Department conducted examinations, and also to assess the curriculum. There had already been some constructive feedback.

Ms Vukuza-Linda stated that she agreed to the intervention in the Eastern Cape. She asked whether there was a rehabilitation plan, and if the Department had a timeframe in place. She was concerned whether the Eastern Cape would be able to function on its own when the Department left.

Mr Soobrayan stated that the present intervention in the Eastern Cape was different to anything done before. The key difference was that this intervention had to be sustainable, in the sense that whatever was put in place to improve the systems must not collapse once the National Department withdrew. The directive from Cabinet had been that there had to be capacity in place when the DBE left, and the intervention was seen as a three to five year process.

Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) thanked the DG for his comprehensive report. He asked how difficult it had been to make the budgetary decisions. He noted the prioritization of eradicating mud schools, and the provision of libraries and laboratories. He asked if there were estimates on how many schools, libraries and laboratories would be built, and the cost attached. He said that the DBE must be held to account. He was worried that this would otherwise remain simply a “wish list”.

Mr Soobrayan responded that there were detailed plans for the matters mentioned. He commented that the Portfolio Committee should highlight areas in which Members wanted more detail, so that the Department could provide it. He noted that infrastructure was a critical aspect and he reiterated that the money on this was to be spent by the provinces, and not by the National Department.

Mr Soobrayan wanted to make some general comments about the Provincial Equitable Share, as it related to many of the questions. He said that the equitable share formula still determined how provinces were funded. In certain instances, there had been criticism that the educational component going to provinces was not poverty sensitive. For instance, 500 learners in the Eastern Cape would get the same allocation as 500 learners in the Western Cape, even if the families were at different levels economically. The equitable share formula was adjusted from time to time, including by the introduction of an infrastructure component. The biggest problems occurred within the provinces as to whether education got its fair share. The DBE had looked at what provinces were expected to get, and what they did get, and had tried to track the discrepancies. National Treasury held the view that in all provinces, education departments had been paid what they expected, or even in excess of that. DBE still had to do some more work on this.

Mr N Kganyago (UDM) referred to the statements on the appropriate allocation of educator posts to schools. He queried the multi-grade system used in some schools, which he noted was of concern in relation to the quality of education, particularly when compared to single-grade classes at schools. He could cite some examples where multi-grade education was provided, and the parents were not happy about the quality.

Ms Tyobeka noted that, for multi-grade classes, norms had been developed, but the Minister had advised the Department to look closely at what was in place. What existed at present was a set of complex issues that had to be addressed on many levels. DBE was looking at post provisioning norms (PPNs) to see how small schools and mutigrade schools would benefit. The main consideration in any approach would be to achieve quality.

Ms A Mashishi (ANC) asked whether there was still a huge demand for Funza Lushaka bursaries, and if backlogs were still being experienced. She also wanted to know if the allocation that Public Entities received was sufficient for their needs.

Mr Soobrayan responded that the public entities put in their proposals, which the Department accepted and supported, and these were then submitted to National Treasury. The mandate of the DBE came from the Minister as the statutory executive authority. However, the budget was submitted to National Treasury, who would have the final say on the funding.

Mr Mpontshane asked how learners, especially in the rural areas, were able to access information on the Funza Lushaka bursaries as financial assistance was sorely needed. He asked how many students were involved and how much had been spent thus far.

Ms Tyobeka said that the Funza Lushaka programme had started in 2007, and government had spent over R1 billion, in support of over 16 000 students. These students ranged from those in first year courses and in their first year of study, to those in the fourth year of study. The number of graduates produced was 6 000. She hastened to add that this number did not result from huge dropouts, but from the fact that some were still studying. In 2011 DBE budgeted R456 million to fund 8 710 teachers across all the years of study. There were just over 1 000 new bursaries, and at the end of 2011 DBE was anticipating that 2 500 teachers would qualify. Students in rural areas accessed information about the Funza Lushaka bursaries through their schools, as DBE had prioritised the sending of information to the rural schools, in Quintiles 1 to 3 in particular. She acknowledged that sometimes information did not get to learners and DBE would be addressing that issue.

Mr D Smiles (DA) noted that the Department was looking at Teacher Performance Appraisals and he asked when that would be implemented.

Ms Tyobeka said that this would be implemented from January 2012. The revised template was in place and DBE was in discussion with the Teacher Unions to get agreement on the implementation.

Mr Mpontshane asked if the provinces received an equitable share of the budget, noting that KZN had received less than an equitable share in the past. He queried the occurrence of agreements with unions and asked whether it was true that the hands of officials were tied, due to mutual agreements between officials and with the Unions. This hindered delivery in the provinces especially in the Eastern Cape.

Mr Smiles referred to educator posts, particularly Mr Soobrayan’s statement that a model was being tested, and he wanted to know where it was being tested and when the results would be available.

Mr Soobrayan stated, in answer to questions about the unions and post provisioning, that the MECs should calculate the number of posts that the Department should get, based on the budget. Some provinces were making mistakes with this calculation. The MEC would give the figure to the HOD to allocate posts and consult with the Unions. He emphasised that the unions could not veto post provisioning. If they disagreed, then up to a certain point in time the Department could proceed, as long as the correct procedure had been followed. In the Eastern Cape, the issue had been politicised and intervention was necessary.

Mr Smiles concurred with Mr Mpontshane that more detail was needed on infrastructure. He noted that turnaround times had been mentioned, but development was not always visible. He suggested that the World Cup model should be used, and construction contractors should be supplied with the specifics according to which they had to deliver.

Mr Mpontshane said that there had been an outcry about the development of educators. He insisted that the DBE needed to provide specifics of  how many educators were being developed per annum, and in which fields, for example science and technology. He requested that the DBE must ensure that this development was hastened. He added that the information was urgently needed by those who would be implementing the new curriculum.

Ms Tyobeka said that the statistics for 2010/11 teacher development programmes were that approximately 130 000 teachers had undergone long term training, which was formal training funded by the Department through bursaries. Around 80% had been on short courses of a generic nature. About 13% to16% had received training on critical skills. However the challenge was not so much about the numbers, but quality. This was a critical area of current focus. Ms Tyobeka stated that DBE had already trained curriculum advisors on a core set of materials, in a training programme that was completed at the beginning of March 2011. All provinces would train teachers by the beginning of the 2012 academic year. Training for teachers would take place across the grades and would be progressively implemented.

Mr Z Makhubele (ANC) referred to the goal of turning around dysfunctional schools and improving the system of accountability. He said that this was presented as a goal year after year. However, schools continued to receive 0% pass rates in the matric examinations. Some schools managed to get out of this cycle, while others fluctuated. A lot of attention was given to these schools at some point, but then the tendency was that they would be “forgotten” even if the DBE said it was monitoring.  He urged that a coherent system must be put in place to address the problem.

Mr Soobrayan noted that the situation with poorly performing schools differed from province to province. He said that the dysfunctional schools identified in Gauteng were being dealt with. The Department wanted to ensure that there was a common approach in addressing the problems.

Ms Tyobeka added that the strategic plan was very clear on targets and outcomes, and because of that it had been possible to put targets in place at provincial, district and individual school level. There were targets for numeracy and literacy, and for the FET band. DBE was aware that the quality of passes and certain other areas had been problematic. However, DBE, through the strengthening of the districts and leadership and support to schools, would be improving the outcomes.

Mr Makhubele recalled that DBE had, in the past, referred to e-learning, and it seemed that this was now being referred to under another name. He felt that it was preferable to have consistency.

Mr Soobrayan noted the comment on the change from e-Learning to e-Education raised by Mr Makhubele. However, he quipped that IT people thrived on change.

Mr Makhubele raised questions about the quality of teaching in Dinaledi Schools, and reports of declining numbers of students taking mathematics. He was concerned that this programme was not doing well and this would change the projections for improving the mathematics and science situation.

Mr Soobrayan said that the DBE was investigating whether declining numbers were due to the pressure placed on increasing pass rates, or if it was a natural numbers issue. In some years there was an abnormal increase in numbers, due to various reasons, including curriculum change. If taken over a number of years, it might well be that the numbers had not decreased substantially. The other curriculum change that had affected mathematics was the introduction of maths literacy. In respect of Physical Science, he commented that it was possible that the extremely difficult exam of 2009 had affected uptake numbers. The Department was monitoring this, and there was no clear answer at this stage.

Mr Makhubele noted that the infrastructural backlogs had a high cost estimate, and he was concerned that cooperation from provinces was not always assured, and that funds were not always used for the earmarked infrastructure.

Mr Soobrayan commented that, based upon past experiences, National Treasury and the Cabinet had now changed the conditions and methods of applying the grants, and that now gave the Department much more power to intervene. DBE was confident that it would begin to see a correlation between the money spent and changes on the ground. He then commented on the points raised earlier about learning lessons from the World Cup. In this case, the contractors had known full well that government was under pressure, and had inflated prices. However, DBE and government would also take on board positive aspects of the World Cup project management lessons.

The Chairperson commented on e-Education and Information Technology, asking what measures were put in place for the rural areas, so that they could access e-Education.

Mr Mosuwe stated that the Department had undertaken a feasibility study on how to expand ICT in schools. The findings were that in terms of access to hardware and infrastructure, Gauteng and the Western Cape were way ahead. Research had also established that a major impediment had been the whole question of connectivity. Broadband access had proved difficult in rural areas, as well as certain other areas, owing to the regulatory framework. This was under the Department of Communications and Telecoms operators. While all schools qualified for an e-rate, licence obligations made implementation difficult. There were different initiatives that provinces were undertaking, using different technology. Telematics broadcast solution was one such initiative.

The Chairperson stated that there were conditions attached to the division of the revenue and she asked how it was possible to make provinces compliant with these conditions.

Mr Soobrayan noted that the DBE would be adopting a hands-on approach, and if provinces did not comply of their own free will, then the DBE would see to their compliance. Essentially, the DBE was suggesting that it would proceed without or with the provinces, so that it had far more persuasive power.

Ms Vukuza- Linda emphasised that the campaign promoting reading should be more vocal.

Mr Soobrayan agreed with the need for reading campaigns and said that more attention should be given to reading and language as successful learning was dependent on language skills.

Ms Vukuza- Linda commented, in response to the Department’s earlier explanation on the laptops, and the response to the Chairperson’s concerns on e-Education, that she had thought that the laptops would be given. It appeared that the DBE was not delivering on what had been promised. She stated that it was as much a National Treasury issue as it was a Telecoms issue, because the laptops would not work where there was no bandwidth. This was also serious because it spoke to the issues of infrastructure and the rural areas. She believed that teachers and learners would be disadvantaged by the lack of access to e-Education and the benefits of Information Technology

Mr Makhubele also raised serious concerns about the matter of the laptops. He queried whether, if the Department was contemplating giving teachers loans for laptops, that could be regarded as a condition of service or a right, and whether the teachers could be forced to take the loan and get the laptop, even if they did not want it. He cautioned that the interpretation of the loan arrangement would prove problematic, and that more thought had to be given to it.

The Chairperson agreed with these remarks.

Mr Soobrayan said that connectivity was critical, but it was not essential for deploying e-Education. He stated that a lot could be achieved with simple technology such as DVD players. Laptops could be used with a plug and play device. In a school, a local network could be created, with a server in the principal’s office, and content could be downloaded. He noted that there was a problem with 'last mile connectivity', especially in rural areas as Telkom provided fixed lines to a certain point. Alternatives were 3G, and the notion of “cloud computing”, where a local network could be created. Content could be supplied, via DVDs, to schools. DBE was working well with the Department of Communications who was assisting on connectivity.

Mr Soobrayan clarified that it was definitely government's intention to say that every teacher should have access to a laptop. The thinking behind the allowance was that teachers could buy a basic laptop, which could run 3G with sufficient RAM, and which could be preloaded with software. It had not been in the budget, but funds were available in the provincial budgets.

Mr Smiles raised the issue of selected performance indicators. He noted that all the programmes had been included except Programme 1, and he wanted to know why that was so. He said that it was evident that management and administration was a problem in most of the provinces and asked why no indicator for performance was provided. He also commented that Programme Four had received the biggest portion of the budget. He asked if the Department outsourced its research or whether it used its own researchers.

Mr Soobrayan stated that DBE intervened through other programmes and not through Programme 1.
On the question of whether research was outsourced, he responded that own capacity had to be established in a very lean and efficient manner. It was better to use the universities, where much expertise resided. The extent to which a Department became effective was a reflection of its capacity to build good relationships with researchers. There was research capacity in the DBE, but there was also a consortium of researchers with whom the DBE would partner actively. DBE did not interfere with their independence. DBE would commission research. Some would go out to tender, for major projects, but some research was provided free of charge.

Mr Makhubele asked if the DBE was making the necessary progress to address the lack of maths and science, including through initiatives of the Funza Lushaka bursaries and training of teachers in mathematics and science, as well as encouraging students to study these subjects, and to improve  their results and pass rates. He asked whether there were targets for achievement and what the present status was.

The Chairperson noted that, in regard to the Funza Lushaka bursaries, the Committee’s reports showed that between 2007 and 2009, 18 000 bursaries were awarded. However, the through-put had been only 3 795. She noted the Department’s comment that some people were still studying. However, she also noted reports from students that there were problems. She requested a written report on the Funza Lushaka Bursaries, to track who the recipients were, and how far they had progressed with their studies.

Mr Soobrayan said the Funza Lushaka bursaries were definitely making a difference. Initially there had been problems in placement of teachers, but because the graduates had performed well in the classroom, there was now a huge demand. A further consideration was that provinces had to place excess educators first before they could place the graduates. He agreed that a status report would be provided.

The Chairperson congratulated the Department on achieving a clean audit report. She noted, however, that some provinces had received qualified reports, and that three provinces had received disclaimers or adverse audit reports. She said that it was important for the National Department to tell the Committee how it was going to assist the provinces to improve their financial management, capacity and internal controls. She would be meeting with the auditors soon, and the issues of audit controls and the weaknesses in leadership, financial and performance management and governance would be discussed.

Mr Soobrayan noted that the DBE was already working with provinces and was going to increase this. He stated that the audit recovery plan was led by the provinces, through Provincial Treasury, and many of the problems in the audit report had their roots in “political issues”. DBE would go in and fix matters, but they would then return to their previous state. Instead, a total solution, such as that now introduced in Eastern Cape, was needed.  The oversight of the Portfolio Committee helped substantially, as Members would pick up issues on the ground, and this supported the work of the Department.

The Chairperson noted that normally there were findings and recommendations, and systems were put into place. Previous interventions in the Eastern Cape had not produced long-lasting results, and the Committee would be thinking about this. Infrastructure was important. The Department had said that it had a plan. She commented that, if requested, DBE should supply the Committee with the information within seven days. She stated that the Committee would be interrogating each programme at the follow up meeting. She requested that the Department should also address the issue of infrastructure and school nutrition, which had received the largest allocations in the budget.

The Chairperson reminded the Department about the information they were to supply in response to the questions raised by Dr James, and asked that this be submitted within seven days.

The Chairperson requested that the issue of post provisioning be addressed at the next meeting as well.

The meeting was adjourned.


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