South African Council for Educators, Education Labour Relations Council: 2011 Strategic Plans and Budgets

Basic Education

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

The South African Council for Educators (SACE) noted the expansion of its mandate, which would result in a research unit being set up to deal with increasing requirements for evidence-based research. The infrastructure to implement the Continuing Professional Teacher Development (CPTD) system was ready, with R7 million committed by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) for the coming financial year. The budget was explained in some detail. The subscription fee for educators, formerly R6 per month, had now been raised to R10 per month. The income from these subscriptions represented 95% of the SACE’s total revenue, without inclusion of the CPTD grant. SACE still wished to retain its autonomy by not receiving any funding from the State. On the expenditure side, R13 million, or 25% of expenditure, based on a set portion of every monthly contribution, was to be diverted to a Reserve Fund, to be invested against future accommodation and operational requirements. About 2% of expenditure ensured that educators were registered and databases kept up to date. About 4% would facilitate professional development of educators, and 35% would be used to implement a Continuing Professional Teacher Development pilot project. About 2%, or R1.2 million, was allocated to policy planning and research. Further amounts were set out for distribution of the Code of Ethics, Communications and hosting of an International Forum. It was then noted that about 10% of ethics complaints in the last year remained outstanding. Most cases were finalised within six months. The presenters reiterated Council’s commitment to ensuring that corporal punishment was not used at schools, and to ensuring safe environments for learners and educators.  Members enquired about the allocations for a building, queried who had been responsible for making the decision to purchase the currently-owned property, asked how SACE and the Education Labour Relations Council worked together, and were briefed on their complementary roles. Members asked how Umalusi would be involved in the teacher development system, asked if SACE was a provider of services, how the amounts allocated for professional development would be used, and questioned the high administration allocations. Members asked whether teachers had been empowered to use other effective disciplinary methods apart from corporal punishment, and enquired about the procedure if a teacher violated the code of ethics before being registered, Members asked for a detailed breakdown of several budget figures, as well as a full report on returns from the investment, and a revised operational plan document, filling in the gaps in the figures, within the next seven days. They also asked for a full report of the profiles and ages of those involved in the outstanding ethics disciplinary matters.

The Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) also noted a reorientation of its vision and mission, because it had realised that it needed to expand its areas of operation, and make more proactive interventions, particularly to replace displaced educators, negotiate where schools were merged or closed, and assist in the event of wildcat strike action. The project dedicated to educators affected by HIV and AIDS would come to an end in December 2012, but a new linked research project would follow in the next year.
The Teacher Development Planning Framework would be announced on 5 April. ELRC was now obliged, in terms of recent amendments to the Higher Education Act, to provide services in adult education and training, which could create financial problems. The budget had been increased to support research activities. Marked increases for compensation of employees were matched by increase in staff, and bringing their salaries in line with similar public entities. ELRC provided for a bargaining unit of 400 000 basic educators, and 8 000 lecturers in the Further Education and Training (FET) sector, although the former sometimes subsidised the latter’s activities. The performance of provincial Collective Bargaining Chambers had been standarised. Maximum class sizes were set at 45, with recommended maximum learner:teacher ratios. Gender and special needs equity in public education must be achieved. Some of the special projects, including the laptop initiative, were outlined. The budget expenditure rose from R27 million in 2007/8, to R68 million in 2011/12, with 33% of total expenditure going to collective bargaining. The only way to increase revenue was to increase educator and employer contributions from the estimated 400 000 contributors. Any surpluses would be invested as reserves and used when needed to supplement income. About 32% of the budget was allocated to employee compensation. Capital expenditure would be made from the existing reserves. Members questioned the number of contributors, and asked why this differed from figures that SACE had presented, asked how the backlog of complaints would be handled, asked for clarification on subsidisation of FET colleges, which was not sustainable, and asked whether the allocations to collective bargaining were adequate. Members thought that the teacher: learner ratios could be differentiated. They queried the fund management challenges, and asked for clarity on displaced educators.


Meeting report

South African Council of Educators (SACE) Strategic Plan and budget 2011/12 briefing
Mr Rej Brijraj, Chief Executive Officer, South African Council for Educators, drew attention to the change in the mandate of the South African Council for Educators (SACE or the Council), which would result in an increased emphasis on evidence-based research. This meant that a research unit would be set up. The infrastructure for the Continuing Professional Teacher Development (CPTD) system was ready, and the Department of Basic Education (DBE) had paid its debts to SACE and made a commitment of approximately R7 million for the financial year 2011-12. He pointed out that the research focus area did not appear in the document, although the presentation would make references to research.

Mr Morris Mapindane, Chief Financial Officer, SACE, noted that the subscription fee for educators had been increased from R6 to R10 per month. The proposal was originally made to increase it to R20 per month, but this was rejected by the teaching profession. Income from these fees accounted for about 95% of SACE’s budget of R54.4 million, and the sources of the remaining 5% were briefly tabled to the Committee (see attached document). Mr Mapindane pointed out that the CPTD grant was not included in this figure, because a permanent funding model with the Department had not yet been set up. He added that when the founding Act for SACE had been created in 2000, the Council had not believed that SACE could retain its autonomy if it received funding from the State. This approach still held true today.

Mr Mapindane outlined the Council’s expenditure (see attached document for full details). He drew particular attention to an amount of R13 million, which he said amounted to about 25% of expenditure, and said that this represented R2.60 taken from the R10 monthly subscription fee, for all educator contributions, that had been allocated to a “future accommodation / operations reserve”. This money would be invested, and the proceeds from the investment would be put towards the SACE’s anticipated move to its own offices. SACE was presently accommodated in the offices of the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC).

He also noted that R1.2 million (about 2%) of the budget was allocated to registration. The objectives of this focus area were to register educators, and ensure that the Council’s database was accurate and up-to-date. Further details could be found in the Council’s Operational Plan. R2.3 million (about 4%) had been allocated to Professional Development. These funds would be used to facilitate the professional development of educators, ensuring that they were up-to-date with current trends. Again, he noted that further details could be found in the Operational Plan. About 35% of the Professional Development budget would be used to implement a CPTD System pilot.

Mr Mapindane noted that R1.2 million (about 2%) was allocated to Policy Planning and Research Coordination. This was described in the Operational Plan, but it did not appear on the budget breakdown of the SACE.

The focus area of Ethics had been allocated R1.4 million (about 3%). These funds would be used to ensure that the Council’s Revised Code of Professional Ethics was distributed to all educators. He mentioned that, once again, further details could be found in the Operational Plan. He then drew attention to R1.9 million (about 4%) that had been set aside for Communications. This was also not accounted for in the Council’s budget breakdown. This money would enable the Council to network with national and international stakeholders, and to share professional experience and expertise, as well as hosting the International Forum of Teacher Regulatory Authorities (IFTRA) Conference in July 2011. Mr Mapindane ended by acknowledging that time constraints had forced him to take a short cut in presenting the budget.

Mr Brijraj, referring to Section 1 of the document entitled “Progress on Previous Matters”, outlined that this document dealt with the breaches of ethics cases. Only 10% of complaints about breach of ethics were outstanding from the previous year. He pointed out that ethics cases presented to the Council should be resolved within six months. Thirdly he reiterated the Council’s condemnation of corporal punishment inflicted by educators on learners, as well as attacks on educators by learners. He stressed that the SACE and other stakeholders sought to ensure that schools were safe for all.

Discussion
Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) wanted the phrase “facilitation of professional development of educators” to be clarified, as he regarded this wording as “elusive”. He wondered whether this amounted to much the same as in service training. He also wanted more concrete information on what it entailed.

Mr Mpontshane asked who and what structures would be accommodated in the building to which the SACE was allocating so much money. He said that he was not sure about the structure of the SACE organisation.

Mr Mapindane said that SACE Council had purchased premises three years ago. However, it was then discovered that the cost to refurbish that building would amount to about R35 to R40 million. All stakeholders had expressed their concern and SACE decided to re-sell the property. It was still on the market. The Council had then decided to invest a certain sum from its income, each year, for three years. This investment, together with the sale proceeds of the rejected property, should provide SACE with the funds it needed to purchase suitable premises.

Mr Mpontshane said that the handling of the property purchase seemed very wasteful, and asked if the person responsible was still employed by SACE.

Mr Mapindane said that no single individual had been responsible for the purchase. The Council had set up a Building Task Team, which had made the recommendation to purchase the building. The problem had only arisen when the refurbishment costs had been announced.

Mr Mpontshane said that there would always be a clash between SACE and ELRC. He wanted to know how they would work together in cases where teaching had been disturbed by the activities of labour unions.

Mr Brijraj denied that there was in fact any clash between SACE and ELRC. They had complementary roles. He gave the example that SACE could not intervene if a teacher took part in legal union activity, even if it encroached on teaching time, unless it could be shown that this teacher had acted “unprofessionally.” Although teacher strikes posed a moral dilemma, SACE was essentially powerless in this regard, because of South Africa’s labour laws. In such cases, any intervention would be the responsibility of ELRC.

Mr D Smiles (DA) wanted to know how the Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training (Umalusi) would be involved with the CPTD system.

Mr Brijraj responded by clarifying SACE’s role in teacher development. SACE itself was not a provider of professional development programmes. Its role was, instead, to assess and approve or not approve the contracting of other service providers, and to evaluate whatever programmes were being offered.

Mr Mpontshane questioned how the amount of R2.3 billion allocated for professional development would be used, if SACE was only a watchdog.

Mr Brijraj said that he could provide a detailed breakdown if necessary. He pointed out that the maintenance of a national database was labour intensive.

The Chairperson formally requested a detailed breakdown.

Mr Smiles said that he thought the very high proportion of the budget allocated to administration, amounting to R32.2 million, or 60%, to be problematic. He also said that the income figure given by Mr Mapindane included a return on investment, but he was unsure where this would come from.

Mr Mapindane said that similar ratios for administrative costs were common in service industries.

The Chairperson pointed out that a similar ratio had been found in the Department of Basic Education.

Mr Mapindane then explained that the return on investment would come from the “future accommodation/operation reserve” and the proceeds of the property sale.

Mr Smiles was not fully satisfied with this explanation, and wanted a full report.

The Chairperson formally requested a full report.

Mr Smiles argued that there seemed to be a justification for increasing the proportion spent on ethics, on the grounds that the Council’s programmes were likely to encounter a large number of ethical problems.

Mr Brijraj said that the budget figure shown for ethics was only for the processing of ethics cases, but that in fact the SACE’s mandate included ensuring good professional practice. All focus areas were involved in this.

Ms A Mashishi (ANC) said that the figure of R100 000, listed in the Operational Plan for holding meetings with unions, seemed excessive.

Mr Mapindane said that after the proposal to raise subscription fees to R20 had been rejected by the teachers’ unions, the Council had decided to consult further with them in future, before taking any major decisions. He noted that, for instance, there would be an event in the 2011 financial year that would be dedicated to explaining the CPTD system to educators.

Mr Z Makhubele (ANC) said that the Operational Plan document contained many gaps, where sums of money allocated to a particular programme were not indicated, and he pointed these out to the presenters.

Mr Mapindane apologised for the incompleteness of the Operational Plan document, and undertook to send a complete version to the Committee within one week.

The Chairperson placed a formal request that this be done, within one week, on record.

Mr Makhubele wanted the presenters to clarify what the Council meant by the term “Imbizo”, in the Operational Plan.

Mr Brijraj conceded that the use of “Imbizo” in the document might have been a misnomer.

Mr Mpontshane appreciated his honesty.

Mr Makhubele said that many educators felt that now that they were no longer permitted to use corporal punishment, they were left without any effective mechanisms for maintaining discipline in their classrooms.

Mr Brijraj said that the Department of Basic Education (DBE) had distributed literature to schools on other methods of non-violent discipline. He admitted that perhaps more could be done to empower teachers in other ways, but remained firm on the Council’s commitment to employing alternatives to corporal punishment.

Mr Makhubele wanted to know what SACE would do if a teacher had violated its Code of Ethics prior to becoming registered with SACE, and therefore claimed not to be subject to discipline.

Mr Brijraj pointed out that in such a case, the employer would, in the first instance, be guilty of unlawfully employing that teacher. The teacher would also be charged with failing to register. Once registered, the teacher could be charged with the violation of the Code of Ethics.

The Chairperson asked SACE for a breakdown of the types of cases, and ages of the teachers, in respect of those 10% of ethics cases that remained outstanding from the previous year.

Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) 2011-14 Strategic Plan briefing
Mr Dhaya Govender, General Secretary, Education Labour Relations Council, thanked the Committee for the opportunity to present the Strategic Plans of the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC or the Council) and noted that the Council had spent the last two months bringing its strategic plans into line with the service agreement concluded by the Minister of Basic Education with the President. There had been a reorientation of the ELRC’s vision and mission.

Mr Govender said that previous interactions with the Portfolio Committee had made it apparent that ELRC needed to become more responsive, and for this reason, the ELRC had expanded its areas of operation. For example, in the Eastern Cape, ELRC now had offered community facilitation services, to help speed up the process of replacing displaced educators. He suggested that it would be prudent for the ELRC to take a similar proactive role where schools had to be merged or closed, as this could help to smooth issues and would minimise discontent. Similar services could also be offered in the event of wildcat strike action.

Mr Govender noted that the ELRC’s
Prevention, Care and Treatment Access Project (PCTA), dedicated to educators affected by HIV-AIDS, would come to an end in December 2012. A new research project would be undertaken in the 2011-12 financial year, in collaboration with the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), that would look at the impact of research done since 2003, and the results of this project should be available by the 2012 financial year. The Teacher Development Planning Framework would be announced on 5 April.

Mr Govender said that in the last few days, the Higher Education Act had been amended, and it now required ELRC to provide services for adult education and training. He acknowledged that this change was not reflected in his report. This new development had the potential to create financial problems for the Council, and would need to be handled carefully. The ELRC’s budget had been increased, to support its research activities, and its premises would also be undergoing a renovation.

The ELRC provided for a bargaining unit of 400 000 basic educators, and for a unit of 8 000 lecturers in the Further Education and Training (FET) sector. He said that he would anticipate a question that would no doubt be asked by the Committee after the detailed presentation of the budget, and explained that the marked increase in the amount allocated for compensation of employees was the result of a corresponding increase in employee numbers, as well as an attempt to bring the ELRC’s staff salaries into line with other similar public entities. Most of these employees were involved in collective bargaining.

The ELRC had addressed the poor performance of the provincial collective bargaining chambers by standardising the operations of those chambers. All now had a common set of objectives. These included that no classroom should have more than 45 learners, that no teacher training would take place in teaching time, and that gender and special needs equity in public education must be achieved. Mr Govender admitted that the collective bargaining activities of the ELRC had been failing in the past, and in the past it had also not managed to ensure accountability at all levels of service.

Mr Govender said that ELRC had a number of special projects. The first example that he gave was the Quality Teaching and Learning Campaign (QTLC). The second related to teacher development. Like the SACE, the ELRC was not a service provider, but it did have a material interest in teacher development. The third example that he cited was the Teacher Laptop Initiative, which he expanded upon at some length. He said that the main question around this initiative was why it had been so slow in implementation. He noted that this was partially due to the fact that between 35% and 40% of teachers had been credit-blacklisted, and therefore could not obtain credit for the purchase of the laptops. The National Credit Act could not be circumvented to implement the initiative for teachers alone. Therefore, once this problem had been identified, it was necessary to introduce a new funding model. Discussions between the Department of Basic Education and the National Treasury (NT) had eventually been successful, and government had agreed to finance the full cost of the laptops, including software and connectivity, and allow teachers to take loans from government, and pay them back free of interest. In addition, laptop manufacturers would be asked to sign a written agreement that they were offering teachers a special rate. A concession from connectivity suppliers would also be sought.

Mr Jeff Moshakga, Chief Financial Officer, ELRC, presented the budget. He drew attention to the fact that the only way for ELRC to increase its revenue, within the current funding model, was by increasing the contributions of educators and their employers. There would be surpluses generated in the years following such an increase, and these had to be very carefully managed. This was done by placing these surplus funds in reserves, and investing them with the Corporation for Public Deposits, then using these funds to supplement the annual budget allocations, when expenditure began to overtake income. The budget for the financial year beginning on 1 April 2011 would be supplemented in this way.

Mr Moshakga said that the fairly steep increase in expenditure, from R27 million in 2007/08,  to R68 million in 2011/12, was best explained by reference to the increased demand for the ELRC’s services, and the fact that the contributions of educators was last increased in 2007. 33% of ELRC’s total expenditure was allocated to collective bargaining. Half of that sum, or 16.5% of the total expenditure, was related to dispute prevention support services. The remaining half of the collective bargaining allocation went to the national and provincial collective bargaining chambers and special projects. R21 million (about 32%) of ELRC’s budget was allocated to employee compensation. Capital expenditure, which amounted to about R16 million, was not included in the budget figure of R68 million. It would come from the accumulated reserves. The figure of R68 million was based on an estimate of 400 000 contributors. If there were more than this, as there had been in previous years, the resulting excess would be allocated to capital expenditure.

Discussion
Mr Makhubele asked that the number of contributors be clarified, as a different number was given in different places in the Strategic Plan, and in SACE’s documents.

Mr Govender explained that SACE’s numbers would always be higher, because they included private educators, whereas ELRC only counted public educators. Numbers also fluctuated because of numbers of temporary teachers.

Mr Makhubele asked how the ELRC intended to deal with its backlog of complaint cases.

Mr Govender said that, from a management and administration point of view, there was no reason that all the cases should not be processed. Any backlogs resulted from delaying tactics employed by the lawyers acting for the educators.

Mr C Moni (ANC) asked for the subsidisation of FET Colleges to be clarified.

Mr Moshakga said that the budget just presented did not include money which ELRC expected to receive from FET educators. A separate budget had been drawn up for this group. However, if the income received from these FET contributors was insufficient to meet the basic requirements of ELRC’s mandate to FET institutions, such as collective bargaining, it would be subsidised with money from the contributions of Department of Basic Education contributors.

Mr Govender added that this was currently taking place, but it was an unsustainable situation. The FET unit of the ELRC would in future have to ensure that the contributions it levied on educators in the FET sector were sufficient to meet their expenses.

Mr Moni asked how the ELRC dealt with disputes of rights, as opposed to disputes of interest.

This question did not appear to have been answered.

Mr Smiles said that he was not sure that the 50% of the budget allocated to collective bargaining would be adequate.

Mr Govender said that the amount was adequate, but that a change of attitude was needed. Collective agreements were not bought, but negotiated.

Mr Smiles asked how exactly money allocated to improving the teacher to student ratio would be spent. He felt that the maximum ratio did not necessarily have to be the same at all levels of schooling. There was good reason why it could be differentiated.

Mr Govender agreed that a differentiated plan was desirable. He clarified that what he had meant by his previous statements was that, no matter what differentiated model might be adopted, no teacher should have a class of more than 45 learners.

Ms Mashishi asked for clarity on the ELRC’s fund management challenges.

Mr Moshakga said that the main challenge was to act in a financially responsible manner, even when it seemed that the Council had a comfortable surplus.

Mr Makhubele said that there were large numbers of displaced educators throughout the country. He wondered if the ELRC had any idea exactly how many there were, and whether there were any ways in which they would be accounted for.

Mr Govender acknowledged that the problem of displaced educators was substantial. In Kwazulu-Natal alone, there were 450. The Department had a programme in place in the Eastern Cape, which had culminated in November 2010 with the placement of some teachers. Since then, ELRC had been called in to help with situations in which school managers have been displaced.

The Chairperson said that all the departmental entities should be invited to the budget vote on 13 April.

The meeting was adjourned.



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