Millennium Development Goals, Report on Inappropriate Structures: Departmental presentations

Basic Education

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

The Department of Basic Education presented a report detailing the Department’s plans for elimination of inappropriate structures at schools. It explained that a large number of schools, particularly in the Eastern Cape, were constituted entirely or in part of prefabricated structures made from wood, sheet metal or mud. The Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI), had allocated R8.2 billion over 2011-14, and R700 million specifically in the current financial year, to raise the functionality of all schools to optimum level. Provincial departments would also reprioritise their budgets to bring schools up to optimum functionality. As a first stage, an assessment had been done of inappropriate structures and these would be replaced, with the major focus presently on schools that were entirely constructed with inappropriate materials. Members were interested in the timeframes, pointing out that the Department risked legal action against it for unsafe structures, and stressed the need to keep the public advised of the schedules for the work. It was clarified that the construction work for the upgrading was due to commence immediately. Members also enquired about governance, control of the budget and the necessity to ensure that provinces were monitored. They requested a full breakdown of the schools that were currently lacking water, sanitation and electricity, or were unsafe, with more detailed information on budgets and timeframes.

The Department then outlined what was contained in the Millennium Development Goals report, compiled by Statistics South Africa in 2010, in relation to two goals directly relevant to the Department of Basic Education. These called upon the Department to provide universal primary education by 2015, and to overcome gender inequality in primary education by 2015. The provision of universal primary education was measured by the Net Enrolment Rate, which had risen to 98.6% in 2009, the retention of pupils and literacy rate of individuals between 15 and 24 years of age. Gender studies showed that there were slightly more girls enrolled at education in all levels than boys. However, poor learner performance and the quality of education remained a problem. Members questioned the absence of statistics detailing the retention rate of the school system, and the Department conceded that this should be included in future reports. They also questioned the lack of information about the overall teacher-pupil ratio, but were told that this could be found on the Department’s website. Members also commented that retention rate of learners was another important indicator, not included, and asked about performance of learners in maths and science. They also questioned the involvement of departments in the compilation of the MDG Report. The Committee requested the compilation of a report on retention of children in primary school programmes, addressing the drop out rates and suggested strategies, as well as statistics for the 2011 year, within the next ten days.

Meeting report

Department of Basic Education Report on Inappropriate Structures
The Chairperson noted an apology from Mr Bobby Soobrayan, Director-General, Department of Basic Education (DBE), and noted that no decisions would be taken in these meetings, but that the matters would be discussed only.

Mr Paddy Padayachee, Acting Deputy Director-General, DBE introduced the DBE delegation before handing over to Mr Ramisedi Mafoko, Director Physical Planning, DBE, to give the Department's report on inappropriate structures.

Mr Mafoko listed some of the Department's goals for the years ahead, noting that these included ensuring that all schools were safe, and were provided with water, electricity and sanitation, as well as being constructed entirely with “appropriate” materials, by 2014. There were currently 395 mud schools in the Eastern Cape alone, all of which would be upgraded to optimum functionality. This meant that they would be provided with all the spaces, including libraries and laboratories, that constituted a fully functioning school.

Mr Mafoko showed a table which gave a breakdown, by province, of schools which included some prefabricated buildings, or those constructed out of sheet metal, wood or mud (which were considered to be inappropriate materials). In cases where prefabricated rooms had been put up to deal with overcrowding, or as a temporary measure, a verification exercise would be carried out in order to determine whether the structure could justifiably be deemed inappropriate. Often, a temporary solution became a permanent one. A second table showed a similar breakdown of schools constructed entirely out of one of the inappropriate materials (see document). This second group of schools would be the Department's priority for the next three years, as part of the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI), to which R8.2 billion had been allocated for the period 2011-14. In the financial year 2011-12, R700 million was available. Provincial departments would also reprioritise their budgets to bring schools up to optimum functionality. 

Mr D Smiles (DA) requested more detailed information about the prefabricated structure verification exercise. He enquired, in particular, what timeframes were envisaged. He cited examples of the Uitenhage, Cradock and Graaff-Reinet districts, where he said the DBE was at risk of having claims instituted against it for not complying with safety. Public representatives needed to be informed about the Department's plans so that they could tell the public.

Mr Mafoko replied that the provinces and the Department first had to agree on a list of schools that would receive maintenance. This process would, hopefully, be completed by the end of September, after which the process of procuring contractors could begin. Once the list was complete, public representatives would be able to tell the public when their school was due for maintenance.

Ms N Gina (ANC) asked whether Mr Mafoko was implying that until April 2012, the DBE would continue with the analysis of the maintenance and upgrade requirements, and that actual implementation would not begin until then?

Mr Padayachee said that this was not so, and that it was the Department's intention that implementation should begin immediately.

Mr W James (DA) asked for more detail about the governance of ASIDI, and who was responsible for the timeframes set out under that programme. He wanted to know who controlled the budget, particularly in the Eastern Cape, and who could be held to account for the way the money was spent in that province.

Mr Padayachee replied that timeframes for renovation varied from school to school. By the end of March 2012, the R700 million allocated should have been spent, all mud schools should be eradicated, and all schools should have electricity, water and sanitation. The Division of Revenue Act would allow the DBE to ensure that money allocated to infrastructure development was used only for infrastructure development, and not, as in the past, for employee compensation. Ultimately, however, it was the Minister of Basic Education who was responsible for the governance of ASIDI, as well as the Director-General and his deputies.

Mr B Skosana (ANC) asked whether there was a mechanism to ensure that the renovation performance of the provinces could be monitored.

Ms F Mushwana (ANC) was worried about the reprioritisation of provincial education budgets. She asked how the Department would communicate this to the provinces.

Ms Gina requested a breakdown, similar to that given for construction materials, of the locations of schools that currently lacked water, electricity and sanitation, or were unsafe. She reiterated Ms Mushwana's worry about provincial budgets, and added that the underspending of previous years must not be repeated. She said that ASIDI was an encouraging initiative.

The Chairperson agreed with Ms Gina. She also asked whether the provinces had submitted business plans to the Department, as they were required to do by the Division of Revenue Act.

Mr Mafoko replied that the implication of the Act was that the provinces were required to have submitted their business plans by 1 June. All the provincial budgets had been finalised in the previous week.

The Chairperson requested that more detailed information about the implementation of ASIDI, including budgets and timeframes, be presented at a future meeting.

Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Report: Department of Basic Education presentation
Mr Bheki Mpanza, Chief Director: Information Monitoring and Evaluation, DBE, noted that his report would look at the process of the drafting of the 2010 Report on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). This was presented to the South African Cabinet, The National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC), and the United Nations (UN). It had been prepared by Statistics South Africa, using statistical indicators that had been customised to detect and express unique South African conditions. The Department's role had been to provide Statistics South Africa with data.

The MDGs relevant to the DBE were listed. The first related to providing universal primary education by 2015, which would be measured by the Net Enrolment Rate (NER), the “survival rate” of children in primary education programmes, and the literacy rate of individuals between the ages of 15 and 24. The second goal related to overcoming gender inequality in primary education by 2015, which would be measured by the ratio of girls to boys in primary education. In 2009, South Africa's Adjusted NER was 98.6%. The literacy rate among 15 to 24 year-olds was 91% (up from 88% in 2002). He added that “literacy” was defined as “having completed at least grade 7.” The Gender Parity Index (GPI) in 2009 was 1.05, indicating that the number of girls enrolled in education at all levels exceeded the number of boys. At primary school level, however, the GPI was still below 1, indicating a higher number of boys than girls. Poor learner performance and the quality of education offered remained a problem, but the Department was running programmes to improve quality.

Mr Skosana was concerned that the statistics provided were slightly out-of-date.

Mr Mpanza explained that the MDG report had been written in 2010.

Ms Mushwana asked if the presenter could clarify the GPI.

Mr Mpanza replied that the gender parity had been introduced as a goal in the MDG to address the historical problem that girls in Africa had not generally achieved the same level of education as had boys.

Mr James said that the retention rate was an important measure of success of a school system. He asked if it was one of the indicators used in the MDG Report.

Mr Mpanza admitted that the retention rate of learners had not been officially studied

Mr James asked what the performance of learners was in maths and science.

Mr Mpanza said that there were no precise indicators of maths and science performance, but that the MDG Report did mention some initiatives aimed at improving it.

Mr S Makhubele (ANC) expressed disappointment that the MDGs had not been achieved by 2010, and asked what factors had contributed to this failure.

Mr Makhubele asked how involved Departments had been in the production of the MDG Report.

Mr Mpanza explained that the reason the MDG Report had been written by an external agency was to ensure objectivity. The Departments had provided the necessary data.

Ms Gina asked if the reasons for the difference between the GPI at primary, and at higher levels, could be explained.

Ms Mushwana suggested that another important indicator - the teacher-pupil ratio - should have been included in the MDG Report.

Mr Mpanza admitted that this indicator had not been chosen as a core indicator. However, it would be included in future reports. He told Members that figures around teacher-pupil ratios could be found on the DBE website.

Mr Padayachee added that the teacher-pupil ratio was a part of the Department's programmes.

Mr N Kganyago (UDM) asked whether the Department hoped to introduce compulsory education in South Africa.

Mr Mpanza replied that education was compulsory already, between grades 1 and 9.

The Chairperson requested a report on the retention of children in primary school programmes. It would need to address issues such as the dropout rate and the Department's strategies for reducing it. She said that statistics for the year 2011-12 were urgently needed. She gave the Department ten days to provide a report on these to the Committee. She asked the Department to provide its report also for the third quarter of 2010, at the meeting in the following week.

Minute adoption
Adoption of outstanding minutes of the meeting of 24 May was postponed.

The meeting was adjourned.

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