Department of Basic Education: 2011 Strategic Plans and Budget review (Day 2): Specific programmes

Basic Education

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

The Committee continued its consideration of the strategic plan and budget of the Department of Basic Education (DBE). The DBE briefed the Committee on three of its programmes, and the Committee questioned these, and then general statements under the Departments’ Programmes 1 and 2.

The Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) was described as a four-pronged strategy that aimed to bring
schools to basic safety functionality, with provision of water, sanitation and electricity, that would further replace 395 mud schools in the Eastern Cape, would also replace other inappropriate structures, and upgrade schools to optimum functionality through the provision of core spaces such as libraries, laboratories and administration blocks. Schools would be upgraded to optimum functionality by providing core spaces for libraries, laboratories and administration blocks. Part would be funded through conditional grants, and part through the provincial equitable share, with provinces being asked to reprioritise, and the total funding would amount to R8.204 billion over the four-year period. Provinces had been asked to reprioritise their budgets to address the specialist rooms and 74 entire inappropriate structures. Conditional grants would address the mud schools and the basic services. Funding for the programme would total R8.204 billion over the four year period. The Construction Industry Development Board had assisted in the planning. In 2011, 50 mud schools would be replaced, through a service delivery agreement with the Independent Development Trust, and water, sanitation and electricity would be provided. The Programme Support Unit in DBE would oversee this, and details of provincial obligations were outlined. Members commended the programme, but asked about its implementation, particularly in Eastern Cape, how tenders would be advertised, the different allocations, and the numbers and definitions of structures. Members also asked who would be responsible for maintenance after completion, questioned the total costs, and wondered why IDT was being used, in light of its poor record, and urged that close monitoring must take place. The DBE outlined its strict rules for all suppliers. DBE also explained that it was looking to the whole package, and that it would also be ensuring provision of teachers. Members asked about the provincial allocations where provinces had already done some spending, and to explain inventory and stationery and travelling costs in the budget, and questioned control at marking centres.  Members consistently stressed the importance of factoring in Early Childhood Development (ECD), an important performance indicator.

The presentation on the National Schools Nutrition Programme (NSNP) noted its strategic objectives of school feeding, nutrition education and sustainable food production in schools. Over 8 million learners were reached through the school feeding programme, with priority schools in Quntiles (Q) 1-3 at primary and Q1-2 at secondary levels, with the intention to add Q3 in April 2011. It aimed to ensure provision of quality meals to children on school days. The provinces’ and districts’ monitoring capacities were also strengthened. Schools were encouraged to develop food gardens. The achievements were outlined. There had been significant improvements in administration. However, the monitoring would be done differently in 2011, with more emphasis on support and intervention, involvement of communities, and direct transfers of funds to schools, and alignment of programmes to the curriculum. Members questioned the suspension of the programme in Eastern Cape, how people would be held accountable, how service providers could be improved, stipends to volunteers and plans to provide water for school gardens. Members queried the progress on the HIV/Aids programme, the schools safety and violence, including sexual violence, sports and support to Child Line. Members asked about screening and whether this could be made wider, where the programme was budgeted and tracked, and where monitoring and evaluation were done. They also asked about finalisation of funding norms.

The Post Provisioning Norms (PPN) aimed to create a pool of posts, in order to provide posts establishments to schools in preparation for the following school year. This ha worked well in eight provinces but the problems and the proposed solution were outlined for the Eastern Cape. The current PPN was holistic and systematic, but was not sufficiently nuanced to cater for curriculum delivery per grade, per subject. The proposed new PPN model would address persistent problems, manage staffing turbulence created by annual learner-number fluctuations, the management of class size and address the needs of poor schools. That PPN model and available funding, would together determine the educator/learner ratio. Members asked about filling of posts, and a distinction was drawn between posts in the Department, where the organogram still had to be revised, and recruitments at schools, including those for scarce subjects. Members asked whether any models had been created at foundation phase level, for teacher/learner ratios, and it was agreed that the DBE should present the results of research into optimum ratios, which differed according to circumstances and countries, and the other issues that needed to be examined. The full proposal, also addressing the curriculum per subject grade, and multi-grade schools, would also be presented in more detail. Members noted that the rising average age of teachers made it important for the DBE to put in place succession plans to cope with the rising attrition rates. The total salary bill of R120 billion, and bursaries for maths and science teachers, were also questioned. DBE also responded, in answer to questions, that the learner transport policy would shortly be presented.

Members raised questions on Programme 1, relating to the costs of office accommodation, the internal audit, and the benefit of international subscriptions and collaboration to South Africa. In respect of Programme 2, Members questioned the Kha Ri Gude campaign, whether the DBE had any other expanded public works initiatives,
Early Childhood Development programmes, and the success of the Dinaledi schools, in light of the large budget allocation to them. It was explained that this was the first year in which money would be spent on those schools, as all work up to now had been pilot work. Members asked about curriculum support at district level, the possible reinstitution of teacher training colleges, and curriculum and assessment policy statement phase-in. 

Meeting report

Department of Basic Education: Presentation of selected programmes
Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI)

Mr S Padayachee, Acting Deputy Director General: Planning, Department of Basic Education, briefed the Committee on the Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI). He said the Minister and the MECs had agreed that this strategy would be run from 2011 to 2014. ASIDI was a four-pronged strategy to bring schools to basic safety standards. The first aspect would ensure that water, sanitation and electricity were in place. It was also intended to replace 395 mud schools in the Eastern Cape, and replace all other inappropriate structures. Schools would be upgraded to optimum functionality by providing core spaces for libraries, laboratories and administration blocks. Provinces had been asked to reprioritise their budgets to address the specialist rooms and 74 entire inappropriate structures. Conditional grants would address the mud schools and the basic services. Funding for the programme would total R8.204 billion over the four year period. The School Infrastructure Backlogs Grant would be centrally managed from the Department of Basic Education (DBE or the Department), with 60% allocated for mud schools in the Eastern Cape and 40% for basic services in the first year. The Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal, Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces would receive the bulk of the budget allocation, while the Western Cape received the least.

The procurement strategy had been developed with assistance from the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB). During the 2011/12 financial year 50 mud schools would be replaced through a service delivery agreement with Independent Development Trust (IDT), non-water-borne toilets would be constructed, water and sanitation would be provided, in conjunction with the Department of Human Settlements, as part of the Rural Household Infrastructure Programme, and schools would be electrified and a Memorandum of Agreement with Eskom was being finalised.

This programme would be overseen by the Programme Support Unit in the DBE. The planning for 2012/13 and 2013/14 would be finalised by June/July 2011, and this would include the verification of backlogs, which would also be assisted by a service provider, who would be paid by National Treasury (NT), and not the DBE.  

Mr Padayachee advised that, in terms of the Draft Grant Framework for the Education Infrastructure Grant and the Division of Revenue Bill, the Provincial Education Departments would submit, to the to the DBE and their Provincial Treasuries, User Asset Management Plans (U-AMPs) with prioritised project lists signed off for the 2011 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF). This was a requirement for the transfer of the first instalment of the grant. The R700 million would cover the basic services. The targets were 354 sanitation projects, 462 water projects and 231 electricity projects, across all the nine provinces, with the most in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal (KZN) and Limpopo.

National Treasury provided the Education Infrastructure Grant as a supplement to the Provincial Equitable Share (PES), whose funding had been inadequate. In addition, concerns had been raised that in some instances the provincial Education Departments never got their money, as it was diverted for other projects such roads and clinics. The grant was now under the stewardship of the Department of Basic Education. The grant was a Schedule 4 grant, and would be paid directly to the provincial Departments of Education, rather than to Provincial Treasuries, and would cover the construction of new schools and additional spaces, upgrading and rehabilitation of existing school infrastructure, and the maintenance of new and existing school infrastructure. Monitoring of school infrastructure projects was done through the Infrastructure Reporting Model (IRM) and this would be enhanced and customised to suit the education sector. In addition, the DBE would increase its capacity to ensure that data reported by provincial departments reflected the actual delivery by the Provinces.

Discussion
Mr W James (DA) commended the project and expressed satisfaction that National Treasury had set aside money to deal with infrastructure backlogs. Although some of the provinces may find it easier to implement the programme, the Eastern Cape had particular challenges with its high concentration of mud schools, so he asked how the Department was intending to implement this programme to ensure that school children derived benefits, particularly in light of historic challenges and lack of integrated administration systems in Eastern Cape and North West.

Mr Bobby Soobrayan, Director General, Department of Basic Education, responded that the Department was doing a lot of work, covering everything from procurement to project management, implementation, monitoring construction and maintenance. Government had a serious impact on markets, and the decisions now made would have a positive effect on the construction industry. Government was aware that inflated prices had resulted from inefficient procurement during the 2010 World Cup construction projects, and so the DBE was now fully conscious of the need for scrupulous fairness to give every provider an opportunity to win a tender, as well as the need for quality. Both IDT and the Department of Public Works (DPW) were being treated as service providers and had to deliver according to specifications and expectations or be penalised. DBE had also learnt lessons from government procurement systems and had put measures in place to mitigate against possible manipulation. Procurement would be done by DBE officials, in conjunction with the Auditor-General (AG), NT and independently-appointed, credible auditing companies, with a statutory obligation to exercise fairness. This procurement process would apply in the provinces as well. He added that the maintenance budget was built into the project to ensure that school buildings would not deteriorate.

Mr James asked whether tenders would be made public and advertised on the Department’s website.

Mr Soobrayan said the tenders would be made public, and all the advertising would be monitored by independent auditors.

Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) requested clarity on the diminishing equitable share and the allocations between provinces, noting that the first allocation for Eastern Cape was R520 million and KwaZulu Natal was R46 million, and the relationship of this to the Education Infrastructure Grant.

Mr Padayachee responded that preliminary statements for the Provincial Equitable Share were available, and approximately R3, 4 billion would be tabled under of the provincial budgets. Provinces were expected to budget, through their portion of the education budget, for infrastructure. Grants came about because the funds were insufficient. DBE would do an analysis, so that, for instance, in the Eastern Cape the infrastructure grant comprised R900 million, and R400 million was the equitable share. Of the R400 million, less than R100 million was allocated for schools, and therefore maintenance needs would not have been adequately addressed had the DBE not been involved. Further, over R9 billion would be spent over the 2011/12 period. The DBE would be accounting for this not only in financial terms but also by producing sound physical structures that would be durable for ten to twenty years.

Mr Z Makhubele (ANC) asked for clarity on the numbers of mud schools and entire inappropriate structures. He also asked who would be responsible for the project on completion, since DPW was not part of the implementation.  He also asked for clarity on the construction of new schools and additional spaces, as well as the cost implications.

Mr Padayachee responded that the additional spaces were part of the fourth prong of the strategy, which referred to the core spaces of libraries, laboratories and administration blocks. There were some schools that had sound infrastructure but did not have the core facilities, and this would need to be prioritised from the Provincial Education Budget. He indicated that the Department did not have all the information, although a request had been made and the information would be available on 8 April 2011. Mr Padayachee said the DBE would take overall responsibility for the projects, which would ensure political and administrative accountability.

Mr Padayachee then explained that the DBE had looked at the Eastern Cape’s whole infrastructure and all mud schools. Some schools had brick and mortar structures as well as mud structures, and these were referred to as “inappropriate” since it was not the entire school that would need to be rebuilt. These would be replaced in time, but not within the current period. The focus for this period was rather on the replacement of the 395 schools that were entirely built of mud. The Department had verified the requirements. R2.7 billion had been allocated countrywide, but he pointed out that mud schools had been eliminated in other provinces, but not in the Eastern Cape. A service provider for the replacement of the 50 mud schools would be selected, would agree to service terms, and then go out to procure. The schools would have to be completed in 12 months time. Communities would be consulted during the construction process. In addition, 10% of the amount would be retained for a 12-month period, so the Department would keep over R770 million because of the retention clauses.

Mr D Smiles (DA) corrected a figure in the presentation.

Mr Smiles appreciated the inclusion of CIDB in the Service Delivery Agreement, but he questioned why IDT was given responsibility, given that it had no good record. He urged the Department to ensure that learners would not be disappointed by suppliers who failed to deliver on their mandates and noted in this regard that the Eastern Cape’s education committee also did not have a good record.

Mr Padayachee said IDT was not the Department’s sole provider and would not be given preferential treatment. The Service Level Agreement indicated that there would be penalties for non deliverance and stringent measures had been put in place. He said the same applied to DPW. Those who delivered on time would be used, because the DBE wished to ensure that the end result was provision of proper infrastructure.

Mr Soobrayan added that in the past, a provider failing to meet the tender specifications would not be sanctioned, and could simply return to offer services in the market again. This scenario had now changed. Providers were expected to fulfil the specifications, or they would be penalised. The Department hoped this would create efficiency in the delivery system. DBE had been assisted by NT, to ensure that the project would succeed, and monitoring would be done throughout the construction process. Independent project managers would be hired to oversee this project and ensure that everything was done according to the required standards.

Ms A Mashishi (ANC) commented on the grant conditions, with special reference to the construction of new schools and additional spaces and asked that Provinces supply the data which showed where the new schools were needed, as well as where upgrading and rehabilitation of existing school infrastructure would take place. Ms Mashishi also asked for clarification on the allocation for payment of additional teachers.

Mr Padayachee responded that the Department was looking at the total package. It was basically responsible for building the schools, but the provision of infrastructure would mean little without providing teachers. Other lines of the budgets would need to ensure that desks and chairs were purchased, and that the required teachers were allocated and took up positions at the relevant schools, but this was a process outside the infrastructure function. DBE wanted to achieve a fully functioning school in all respects. That was why infrastructure also had to ensure maintenance, to avoid backlogs.

Mr Mpontshane asked why KZN did not have electricity projects under basic services.

Mr Padayachee said that although the province did already have electricity projects funded from its own budget this had not necessarily meant that there were no schools that still had to be covered.

Mr Mpontshane further queried other provinces whose allocations appeared under basic services.

Mr Padayachee said that was dependent on the money available. For instance, Western Cape and Gauteng were close to universal electrification, but the others provinces’ electrification status depended on the amount of money that was available. The projects were split between electricity, water and sanitation.

Mr Soobrayan added that a province would not suffer because it had allocated money for the work. All provinces got their fair share, calculated according to their needs and not just based on the size of their population. If KZN had put its money elsewhere, it would be rewarded in another area. Similarly, if a province took money from its infrastructure, the Department would make sure that it worked on the matter, for the money to return into school infrastructure. He reiterated that a province would not suffer because of other allocations.

The Chairperson said it would be important to know the number of unsafe structures in South Africa. She pointed out that mud structures were found not only in Eastern Cape but also in other provinces.  There were more than 74 unsafe structures in most provinces, and the majority of the schools were prefabricated buildings, more than 50 years old. She requested a full report on all unsafe structures. She also expressed satisfaction with the report presented by the Department.

Mr Smiles asked the Department to explain R16 million spent on inventory and stationery, and R23 million on travel and subsistence.
 
Ms Ntsetsa Molalekoa, Acting Chief Financial Officer, Department of Basic Education, said this was the branch where examiners and moderators were based, and the high travel, accommodation and subsistence related to moderators and examiners setting the papers or visiting the Department. Printing was also related to the examination unit, as well as the annual national assessment.

Mr Smiles asked the Department to be more specific on Grade R, since Early Childhood Development (ECD) was an important performance indicator.

Mr Padayachee responded that presently Grade R was funded at 70% of the Grade 1 cost of a learner, and this took care of material as well as the subsidy paid to the teacher. Work that had to be done to ensure adequate funding for Grade R material and infrastructure. The other issue was to ensure that the Grade R practitioner was a qualified educator, in which case the cost would differ.

Mr Soobrayan added that Grade R would fall under the Provincial and not National Department budget, because delivery happened at provincial level. The Department only set the general framework, norms and standards. The sector budget would indicate the prioritisation of Grade R.


Mr James was concerned about the distribution of marking centres, noting that Mpumalanga had 22 marking centres for the same number of learners that the Western Cape had. This raised questions on supervision and monitoring. He asked how the issue would be dealt with, and whether it was included in the budget.

Mr Soobrayan said the marking centres were funded by provinces, and acknowledged that it was a huge concern. The DBE, with Umalusi’s input, was increasingly concerned about supervision in marking centres. DBE was now paying particular attention to the supervision and integrity, as a part of the monitoring exercise. Markers’ competencies and monitoring would be tightened. In some remote areas the Department was convinced that supervision of marking may not be at an acceptable level. This concern would be addressed and a balance had to be struck between devolution and acceptable supervision.

Mr Makhubele asked for elaboration on the allocation to provinces and municipalities, given the fact that municipalities often complained of non-payment of services by Departments and schools.

Mr Soobrayan said the amount reflected on the budget was what was paid to municipalities. Provincial  budgets would reflect what schools paid for the services. He acknowledged that Government institutions, including schools, sometimes had problems paying rates and services because of inadequate funding, or poor decision-making. On the other hand, municipalities also would try to target certain institutions that it saw as “cash cows” and often levied higher rates on schools. This issue had been discussed and would be taken up with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA).

The Chairperson indicated that at the next meeting the Department would discuss the issue of Technical Schools Grants.

National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP)
Ms Gugu Ndebele, Deputy Director General: Social Responsibility & Auxiliary Services, Department of Basic Education, gave the presentation on the National Schools Nutrition Programme (NSNP). It had strategic objectives of providing food to school learners, nutrition education and sustainable food production in schools. Over 8 million learners were reached through the school feeding programme, with the priority being schools in Quntiles (Q) 1 to 3 at primary level, Q1 to 2 schools at secondary level, with Q3 being added at secondary level in April 2011. This programme aimed to ensure that quality meals were provided to the children on school days.

One of the weaknesses in the past had been provinces’ and districts’ monitoring capacity, but this had been strengthened. Transfer of funds directly to schools ensured efficiency of the feeding programme and improved the quality of food, because this was sourced from the surrounding communities. Schools had been encouraged to develop food gardens to supplement meals given, as well as develop skills for learners.

Ms Ndebele outlined the evolution of the NSNP and highlighted its noteworthy achievements, which included the inaugural NSNP Best Schools Awards 2010, a recipe book developed by volunteer providers, a best practice booklet and annual reports. The budget for nutrition had increased to reach more learners. Another improvement was to ensure that provinces were spending at the required rate, and National Treasury had acknowledged significant improvement in the administration of the grant. The Eastern Cape, Limpopo and KZN showed high expenditure because of the number of poor learners in those provinces.

Monitoring of the grants would be done differently in 2011. Greater emphasis would be placed on support and intervention where required. Communities and other stakeholders would have a significant role in the nutrition programme. Systems would be put in place for the implementation of direct transfers to schools to improve efficiency. The Department was looking at the management of conditional grants, and would report further to the Committee once systems were in place. All the school nutrition programmes would be aligned with the curricula, because this was the best way to communicate the programme, and partnerships would be strengthened to improve areas of need through the recognition of excellence and best practice.

Discussion
Mr James noted that for many children the school meals were their only good meals for the day. He had been horrified by the suspension of the nutrition programme, especially in the Eastern Cape. He wanted to know about accountability of the people who implemented the programme.

Mr Soobrayan said the DBE would hold people accountable. In Eastern Cape the problem was caused by others, but the Head of Department had tried to correct it. The Department would look at all the challenges, investigate the situation, and would, where possible, hold people accountable. He agreed that a robust risk management system was required to cater for the risk, especially in some provinces. In the Eastern Cape, risk management and interventions were being worked out.

Mr Makhubele queried the expenditure of 32% in the Eastern Cape during the period when the programme had been suspended. He queried how Eastern Cape was staying in line with other provinces, and what lessons had been learnt from some provinces that could be applied in others.

Ms Ndebele said the Eastern Cape always had a challenge of overspending, and the reason for the suspension of the programme was in anticipation of over spending. This was now resolved by direct transfers to schools, if they had sufficient capacity and financial controls. In addition, community service providers ensured that goods would be delivered, of good quality. This would probably lead to development of small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) and cooperatives, or utilisation of existing social groupings, such as stokvels, in the communities to provide resources to schools.

Mr J Skhosana (ANC) asked whether there were plans to improve service providers, to ensure efficient food delivery to schools. He asked whether there were stipends for volunteers who prepared food. He also asked whether there were plans to sink boreholes in areas that experienced water problems, where it was difficult for schools to develop food gardens.

Ms Ndebele said volunteers were paid a stipend for their services, although it was deemed inadequate.  She acknowledged the water challenges in some areas, and said discussions were under way with the Departments of Water Affairs and Agriculture, to mitigate some of the challenges.

The Chairperson noted that it was important for the Department also to address the HIV/Aids programme, the schools safety and violence, including sexual violence, sports and support to Child Line.

Ms Ndebele said HIV/Aids had been addressed through the Life Orientation Programmes, and a draft strategy had been sent for public comment. This strategy proposed a comprehensive approach, and would strengthen the curriculum, the support for educators and policy to support the strategy.  DBE, in conjunction with the Department of Health, was preparing for the HIV/Aids counselling and testing campaigns in schools.

Ms Ndebele said that in regard to safety, a Memorandum of Understanding had been signed by the Ministers of Police and of Basic Education, and consideration was being given to linking schools and police stations, community mobilisation, and physical fencing of schools. Safety also included psycho social issues of sexual abuse and violence in schools. A guideline on the prevention of sexual abuse in schools had distributed in schools, to enable learners to identify and report issues of sexual abuse. The availability of social workers for clusters of schools was also being investigated, to provide support for learners.

In regard to sport, Ms Ndebele noted that an integrated schools sports plan had been developed. This relied on physical education as a curriculum subject, coupled with resuscitation of school leagues. There had been discussions with sports federations to support the programme. The plan would be given to the Committee once the Minister had approved it.

Mr Mpontshane asked how the Department dealt with fronting by school principals, and what progress had been made in that regard.

Ms Ndebele said there were no fronting issues that had been found so far.

Mr Skhosana commended the Department for the rollout of the nutrition programme but observed that the Eastern Cape still had problems that had to be addressed.

Mr Soobrayan admitted that the track record for inclusive education was not good and needed to be addressed. It was linked primarily to funding problems. The funding through provincial budgeting was awkward, because it depended on the provinces’ ability to fund inclusive education. Although a White Paper had been published, it had been difficult to implement. The DBE was now trying to prioritise implementation, as far as the budget allowed.

Mr Smiles commented on the improvement of health and performance of learners. He was worried that if learners in Quintile 1 only received nutritional support, other learners who may well not be getting sufficient nutrition at home could miss out, which would affect their school performance. He asked whether the Department would address that limitation. He complimented the programme in general, but lamented the little money that it had.

Ms Ndebele said screening started at Grade 1, because of limited financial resources and health professionals in the Provinces. Other stakeholders had since been mobilised; these included Phelophepa and the Dental Association of South Africa. Identification of needy learners would be done through the grades. Some learners had been missed over the years.

Mr Soobrayan clarified that the actual budget for the programme could be tracked in the Provinces. DBE budgeted for the facilitation, norms and standards, and development work. Movement of money from another programme to this one would not make any difference to what was being actually spent in the provinces. The Department budgeted enough to exercise its stewardship, which would also extend to considering how additional budgets could be found in areas outlined earlier by Ms Ndebele. Part of the DBE’s work related to finding available professionals in the Department of Health, and forming creative partnerships with higher education institutions, and training.

Mr Makhubele asked whether monitoring and evaluation would still be done, noting that the budget for the Educational Enrichment Services (Programme 5) was used for salaries and other personnel related costs.

Ms Molalekoa indicated that this was a sub programme in the Deputy Director General’s office. Monitoring for conditional grants in other areas fell under the other two sub programmes, dealing with education and care and support in schools.

Mr Smiles asked about the cost for production of the Z Form and the Bill of Responsibilities. He asked if it would not be prudent to seek sponsorship for this, rather than spending money that could, for instance, be used for sports.

Ms Ndebele said the Z cards were sponsored by “Lead SA” and were not paid for from the Departmental allocation.

Mr Smiles asked whether Ms Ndebele knew the cost for the Z forms.

Ms Ndebele responded that she did not know.

The Chairperson asked that details of the costs be provided within seven days.

Ms Mashishi sought clarity on Programme 5: Inclusive Education, since the medium-term allocations to it were not clear. She also questioned the delay in finalisation of the development of the funding norms for inclusive education and special schools

Mr. Padayachee said the draft proposal had been finalised and was being discussed in the Department. Progress on the funding norms would be apparent in 2011.

The Chairperson the Department’s work was commendable, given the present constraints. She suggested that the DBE bring its 2012/13 budget before the Committee early, because Parliamentary processes were not aligned with Government’s financial year. A quarterly performance progress report for provinces was requested for the Committee’s oversight purposes.

Post Provisioning Norms (PPN): Programme 3: Briefing
Ms Palesa Thobeka, Deputy Director General, Department of Basic Education, noted that Post Provisioning Norms (PPN) was regulated under the Employment of Educators Act 76 of 1998. The MECs were obliged, by regulation, to create a pool of posts annually, in accordance with available funds. Unions would be consulted from June to August every year. Schools would then receive their posts establishment by the end of September, in preparation for the following year. This process had proceeded smoothly in eight provinces every year, but in Eastern Cape the PPN had not been fully implemented since 1998, and this had resulted in unequal distribution of teachers. In Eastern Cape, where the process was under way, the unions had disagreed with the employers, resulting in the process being halted. In 2005 an intervention team went to the Eastern Cape, and some work was done, but the unions then again made it impossible for the Department to implement the system, resulting in “double-parking” of teachers, and bloated salary bills. The process was restarted in 2011, and a meeting would be held between the provincial MEC and Department on 31 March to try to resolve the issues.

The current PPN was holistic and systematic, but was not sufficiently nuanced to cater for curriculum delivery per grade, per subject. The proposed new PPN model would address persistent problems, address the management of staffing turbulence created by annual learner-number fluctuations, the management of class size and would address the needs of poor schools. The new model was being tested with existing funding to determine its effect on each school, and this would help deliver the intended outcomes. The PPN model, together with available funding, would determine the educator/learner ratio.

Discussion
Ms Mashishi asked whether the Department would be able to fill the vacant posts. She asked at what job levels the problems were experienced. She also enquired about the impact of unfilled posts on service delivery by the Department, and what measures had been put in place to fill vacant posts.

Mr Soobrayan said there was a need to distinguish between Departmental vacancies in Programme 1 and vacancies in the system, which largely were vacancies for educators under Programme 3. Provinces were responsible for educators, and the DBE played a monitoring role. A number of factors affected the filling of posts, including the processes followed and roles of unions, and this varied from province to province and school to school. Problems were experienced with some school governing bodies (SGBs), who determined the kind of teachers they wanted, rather than following requirements of equity and appropriate skills. Another problem was recruitment of appropriately skilled teachers for scarce subjects, and that was linked to the implementation of PPN. In Eastern Cape, for example, a significant number of educators were not good matches to the vacancies, as a primary school teacher could not be sent to teach in a secondary school. The split in the former Department of Education resulted in the development of a new organogram but many of the posts remained unfilled because they were not funded. A new organogram now had to be developed, in line with available budget, and this would result in matching of posts and budgets.

Ms Thobeka said the issue of filling teacher vacancies was a major concern across the profession.  Monitoring of the filling of posts was being done, with guidance from the Council of Teachers. The profile of vacant posts had been compiled, in conjunction with the provinces, and these included the Principal, HOD, and teachers’ posts. The timeline for filling posts was three months.

Mr Smiles asked whether the Department had considered a model that differentiated between the foundation phase teacher/learner ratios, and whether any research had been done on that.

Mr Soobrayan said the existing and changed PPN catered for phases, grades and curriculum and this was built into the model. A generous allocation was built into the programme, to offset the advantage of the wealthier schools in the appointment of SGB teachers, with poorer schools being given more generous weightings.

Ms Thobeka said the current PPN had not looked sufficiently at issues of curriculum per subject per grade. She proposed that the Department should present the full proposal to the Committee.

Mr Soobrayan said research showed that there was no standard answer to whether different learner / educator ratios made a difference, as this varied from country to country and context to context. Other interventions also needed to be done. The Department was ready to present some of the research that had been done, and the challenges from a planning and teacher development perspective.

The Chairperson agreed that it would be useful for the Committee to get the research findings. She indicated that the report on quality of education also still had to be discussed.

The Chairperson requested an explanation of the management of class size through the linking of the allocation of posts and physical classrooms. In addition, the Department would have to refine the model to take into consideration the foundation phase teacher/learner ratio.

Ms Thobeka said the current PPN did not address some issues, such as the optimisation of teachers at some schools. The new PPN would address the issue of relevant educators where required.

Mr Makhubele asked whether the new model had taken into consideration those schools, especially on farms, where one or two teachers taught all the grades. Public schools were at a disadvantage compared to wealthy schools who created and funded additional SGB appointments. The teaching profession had not been able to absorb new teachers, and the average age of teachers was around 45 years. He asked how the Department intended to deal with this issue.

Ms Thobeka said the Department wanted to ensure that even the small multi-grade schools had the required numbers of teachers to make teaching more meaningful. These issues would be addressed by the new PPN. The Department had an obligation not to force schools to employ additional teachers, but rather to cater for their needs comprehensively. Mr Soobrayan indicated that it was important to link educator/learner ratio to the classroom to ensure optimum use of the full allocation.

Mr Soobrayan acknowledged that South Africa had a low attrition rate for teachers, at around 3-4%, compared to the international benchmark of around 5%. However, the average age of teachers was quite high. This meant that when they reached retirement age, the attrition rate could increase, and this had to be taken into account in planning. The problems of mobility and absenteeism were more prevalent than mortality.

The Chairperson asked about the bursary for maths and science teachers.

Ms Thobeka said that was part of the Funza Lushaka bursary, which targeted particular areas of great need in the system, being maths and science, and foundation phase, particularly indigenous language teachers at foundation phase. The policy prioritised subjects that required bursaries. Information on bursaries was sent to schools.

Mr James asked about the salary bill for teachers in the overall budget.

Mr Soobrayan said about R120 billion was spent on educators. In some provinces about 80% of budget was spent on teacher salaries alone, leaving only 20% on other education needs. About 6% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was spent on education, and that was already in the upper limits of what the country could afford. An increase in aggregate figures could result in huge deficit problems for the country. A drop in learner/educator ratios would raise the salary bar, and this had to be taken into consideration. The bottom line was to improve the quality of education, because the high failure and retention rates artificially increased learner numbers, which in turn pushed up the number of educators required.

The Chairperson reiterated that the President, in his State of the Nation Address, had said that all vacant posts had to be filled in within three months. She requested an explanation on the impact of vacant posts on service delivery. She also requested answers on learner transport and hostel provision.

Ms Mashishi asked for details of the policy on learner transport and asked whether the Department knew the exact number of learners who required transport, to facilitate adequate budget allocation.

Mr Padayachee said the learner transport policy had been drafted and finalised by the Department of Transport but it was still to be decided whether learner transport should fall under DBE or the Department of Transport (DOT), and each province should decide where they wanted it located, as a provincial function. Where this had been decided, service level agreements were needed to ensure that the agreements were met, and funds would need to be transferred once the required numbers were identified. Once approved, the policy would be published for public comment. The Department would provide information on the number of learners being transported.

Mr Smiles asked whether the Department was happy with the plans given by the Provinces and whether there were any risks.

Ms Thobeka said the Department was not entirely satisfied but was working with provinces and had plans and targets for them. The sector plans provided an anchor point, and this could be presented to the Committee.  

The Chairperson requested that the plans be made available in advance.

Programme 1: Discussion points
Mr Smiles asked for explanation on office accommodation

Mr Soobrayan said the cost of the building was high, in comparison with the costs prior to the move to the new premises. Under the Public Private Partnerships (PPP) agreement, the capital costs as well as the facilities management costs had to be paid, and these were R10 million per month, which brought the total for the year to R120 million. This model was used by all departments, as agreed to by National Treasury. Government would eventually own the building and continue with facilities management, but the capital costs must be paid. National Treasury believed this was the most efficient procurement model.

The Chairperson also asked the Department to address issues on internal audit.

Mr Soobrayan said the DBE was unhappy with its internal audit capacity, as raised by the audit committee, after the split of the former Department of Education. Steps had been taken for an external audit company to assist with the internal audit, whilst the DBE was simultaneously attempting to recruit a director of internal audit.

Mr Makhubele asked whether the international subscriptions and collaborations benefitted the country.

Ms V Carelse said the agenda on international commitments was largely set by Government’s foreign policy objectives. The former Department of Education had been the lead department in various multi-sectoral agencies, including UNESCO and other global partnerships. Most of these agreements now concerned the current Department of Higher Education, but the DBE was currently initiating its own Basic Education partnership agreements. The Department continued to host visits from other countries’ educational ministries.

Mr Soobrayan added that the Department was concerned that the benefits of some associations were not evident. Sometimes, officials felt obliged to attend UNESCO events, and the South African delegation would be the largest. Some of the supposed benefits of study tours could in fact be researched off the internet, saving time and travel costs. He believed that sometimes there were distortions.

The Chairperson requested a brief outline of the various international commitments and their current status.

Programme 2: Implementation and Monitoring and
Kha Ri Gude campaign: Discussion points
Ms Mashishi asked whether the Department had other Extended Public Works Programmes (EPWP) besides the Kha Ri Gude campaign, which addressed the President’s call for job creation. She asked whether the Department had records on Kha Ri Gude, given the large number of 38 980 registered volunteers on the programme.

Mr Edward Mosuwe, Acting Deputy Director General, Department of Basic Education, said that in light of the expansion of the programme the Department was exploring mechanisms to put Early Childhood Development (ECD) programmes alongside the Kha Ri Gude model. ECD was a central component of the Department’s strategic plan and action plans up to 2014.

Mr Smiles requested explanation on the discrepancy between objectives and performance indicators, with emphasis on Kha Ri Gude. He asked the Department for a clear answer on the Dinaledi schools, and asked for justification for the spending of R70 million, in light of what was happening in the provinces. He asked about risk management strategies for the Further Education and Training (FET) colleges, where billions were invested, seemingly with little result.

Mr Mosuwe said the Dinaledi schools were started as a government project on maths and science, but were not the only schools to contribute to these subjects. Since the inception of the programme, no funds had been allocated apart from this first allocation of R70 million. Between 2008 and 2010 the Department, in collaboration with the World Bank, had carried out an independent impact evaluation on the Dinaledi Schools programme. The lessons learned included that the programme was effective, but it was important to understand the reasons for this. The capital injection would enable schools to be brought to the same level. The funding was located in the provinces, and not within DBE. The Department planned to put in place a management team who would ensure that all blockages related to the administration of conditional grants would be addressed. This was part of the risk management plans for the technical schools.

Mr Makhubele asked what curriculum support was given at the district level, whether there was a new approach, and whether the Department was satisfied. He also asked if the Department was in favour of the reopening of teacher training colleges.  

Mr Mosuwe said the action plan to 2014 highlighted the importance of districts supporting the programme. It was important to get a district support model that would achieve results across the system.

Ms Thobeka confirmed that the Department was not happy with the level of support provided by districts, as it varied across provinces, and had not reached optimum levels. Guidelines were adopted as to the key areas where districts were expected to support schools. This raised accountability levels in districts, and aimed to ensure that they did put support plans in place, and provided relevant information required by schools.

She added that human capacity at district level varied, but this was not central to the strategy; instead the outcomes should be agreed. The Department prioritised management, district and circuit level management posts, to ensure strategic leadership. It was important to harness the capacity provided by non governmental organisations (NGOs). There was room for improvement in 2011.

Ms Thobeka said the teacher training colleges were not a DBE function, but now were the responsibility of Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). However, the DBE and DHET had been engaging on them, because a wide range of people, including ECD practitioners, would benefit from re-opening of colleges.

Mr Makhubele asked about the late payment of Kha Ri Gude facilitators, the current status, and if this had been rectified.

Ms Mashishi commended the Department on progress made on curricula and assessment policy statements. She asked whether there was adequate system preparation, and whether Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) would be able to address curriculum gaps.

Mr Mosuwe said the curriculum and assessment policies would be incrementally phased in, as announced by the Minister. The Foundation phase and Grade 10 would be phased in during 2012, Grade 11 in 2013 and Grade 12 in 2014. This would ensure that, on an incremental basis, support would be provided. The Department had already developed a training toolkit to which all teachers would have access, to enable them to understand the implementation of the curriculum. Over 336 subject advisors had been trained for the foundation phase, from all provinces. This would ensure that those districts would be able to provide support and training of teachers in respective provinces. In addition, the implementation of CAPS would ensure that all aspects of the system were prepared. The Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement was with the publishers and by June 2011 there would be a submission process.

Mr Soobrayan added that Kha Ri Gude was the only programme of the DBE involving EPWP. There were not many other activities that were suitable for public works implementation. However, in the system, ECD was another large area, particularly pre Grade R, and here the DBE worked closely with the Department of Social Development to develop an integrated ECD strategy. Further areas were being explored for the roll-out of infrastructure and possible EPWP projects at provincial level. Communities were becoming involved, where necessary, and that formed part of job creation. The notion of an e-cadre was also being looked into, to support e-learning in schools.  

Mr Makhubele commented on the creation of schools of excellence.

Mr Soobrayan said this was an example of a phenomenon where learners migrated from township areas into former Model C schools. This was a key question around education quality.

Members pointed out some mistakes to the presenters, noting that the medium term expenditure estimate for 2011/12 appeared to be under-stated.

Mr Soobrayan acknowledged the mistakes and corrected them.

The meeting was adjourned.


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