Department of Basic Education 1st Quarter Progress Report

Basic Education

09 August 2011
Chairperson: Ms M Malgas (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

For the ‘first time in the history’ of democratic South Africa, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) reported on the progress of its Annual Performance Plan and Quarterly Report before the Portfolio Committee of Basic Education, for the period between April and June 2011. The quarterly report was based on the DBE’s progress with its activities which were structured into five programmes: Administration; Curriculum Policy, Support And Monitoring; Teachers, Education Human Resources And Institutional Development; Planning, Information and Assessment; and Educational Enrichment Services.
The presentation looked at the purpose and key issues of each programme. It then accounted for the activities that had occurred during the First Quarter.

The Committee complained that the absence of the Director General and several key senior management staff members from the briefing due to their deployment to an initiative held in the Eastern Cape caused the presentation to lack depth, both in knowledge and in detail. They noted that the report failed to discuss in detail the following matters:
• Laptops
• Progress on nutrition, which was not at all a part of the Quarterly Report presentation
• The Full Service school
• Infrastructural programmes on all of the provinces, including the Eastern Cape

The Committee held that the department set targets far too low thus allowing them to look as if they were exceeding their targets. This did not address the urgent needs seen by the country. The Chairperson advised that a realistic approach be taken and ‘a common vision’ be adopted.

The Department understood that it had to report on more specific targets and discuss in detail the processes, challenges, failures and successes thereof. The department said it would make an effort to work more cohesively with all branches of the department for a more inclusive account when accounting to the Committee for the Second Quarter of 2011/12.

Meeting report

The Committee elected Ms N Gina (ANC) as acting Chairperson in the absence of Ms H Malgas (ANC).

The Acting Chairperson noted that the Quarterly Report briefing on the progress of the department was one of the most important meetings that the department had. It served to inform the Committee on what the department was doing and brought the Committee up to date about achievements and challenges.

Ms Vivienne Carelse introduced herself as the Deputy Director General for Strategic Planning and Reporting, accompanied by her colleague, Mr Gerrit Coetzee, the Director of Strategic Planning. The delegation extended apologies for the absence of the Director General and colleagues from senior management who were supposed to accompany the delegation. This was due to deployment to other engagements.

The Chairperson noted her disappointment at the delegates’ absenteeism and hoped that the few who were present would be able to respond to the questions posed by the Committee.

First Quarter Report on the Performance of the Department of Basic Education (DBE)
Mr Gerrit Coetzee, DBE Director of Strategic Planning, stated that the quarterly report was based on the DBE’s progress between April and June 2011.
The activities of the DBE were structured into five programmes as elaborated in the Annual Performance Plan:

Programme 1: Administration
Programme 2: Curriculum Policy, Support And Monitoring
Programme 3: Teachers, Education Human Resources And Institutional Development
Programme 4: Planning, Information And Assessment
Programme 5: Educational Enrichment Services
The presentation looked at the purpose and key issues of each programme. It then accounted for the activities that had occurred in each programme for the First Quarter (see document).

Some of the achievements that the DBE were:
The production and printing of the Numeracy and Literacy Workbook 2 in all official languages for Grades 1- 6. A service provider was in the process of distributing them, of which it had already delivered 86.9%. It was made available on the internet as well.
The tax reconciliation of the DBE was balanced and submitted on time for the year.
2 480 subject advisors were trained in all provinces in order to further train teachers to implement the  Curriculum and Assessment Policy (CAPS) in Grade 10 and Grades R – 3 in 2012.
Teaching posts were filled in May 2011 at a rate of 61.5%. The annual target was 70%.
  The target of awarding 5 000 bursaries in the first quarter was exceeded, with 6 742 bursaries being awarded. This was due to improved administrative and coordination systems.
A total of 2 341 schools were visited by external Integrated Quality Management System (IQMS) moderators during the first quarter for the purpose of monitoring the implementation of the IQMS.
Provincial reports indicate that 41 611 educators participated in development activities in this quarter in Foundation Phase Literacy and Numeracy, and FET Mathematics and Science, Accounting and Technology.
In the 2011 academic year health screening was conducted in Northern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State and Limpopo. A total number of 46 704 learners received health screening and other services (health education, treatment of minor ailments) through the Phelophepa Health Care Train outreach services.
The implementation of phase one of the School Safety Partnership Protocol between the DBE and SAPS was completed by 31 March 2011. From April to June 2011, phase two commenced in KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape and Gauteng. A challenge regarding the implementation of phase two was experienced in Mpumalanga, North-West, Free State, Western Cape and Limpopo.
▪ 9 745 schools registered to participate in school sport leagues.

Mr W James (DA) asked what the required levels in which students were to perform in literacy and numeracy were.

Ms Vivienne Carelse, DBE Deputy Director General, said that it varied according to each grade and depended on the goals of the learning programme. She said that she could not provide Mr James with a specific answer.

Mr James strongly condemned the fact that the department could not specify the pass requirement for literacy and numeracy. He found it shocking that the department expected only 53% of students, annually, to perform at the ‘expected required level’. He insisted that the department be able to specify what that requirement was.

Mr Coetzee said that the “achieved” were in direct correlation to Action Plan 2014 and needed to be seen in that light. He added that the Annual Performance Plan had not before been presented to the Portfolio Committee. Although he did not want to use this as an excuse, it was a reality that would complicate their first Quarterly Report briefing.

Mr James said that if the pass rate was 30%, for instance, then the target for this nation was 53% who needed to get 30% in order to pass. He said that it was ‘a pathetic figure’. He suggested that South Africa require 80% of its students to pass with 50%, ‘then we would be talking about education working.’ He again emphasized that it was important to know what that figure was.

Ms Carelse said that her delegation required a very detailed presentation on the findings of the Annual National Assessment and that it was to be made available by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) at a later stage. The research would add detail to the department’s presentation and add value to their set targets.

Mr A Mpontshane admitted that after the presentation, he was still uncertain about the state of basic education in South Africa.

Mr Z Makhubele (ANC) asked about the provision of electricity and sanitation of schools. He wanted to know whether the schools that had received water would also receive electricity and sanitation. He asked if the schools which had received electricity would also receive water and sanitation. With regards to the health screening of Grade One learners, he wanted to know, besides HIV/AIDS, what other diseases would ‘handicap the proper learning of a child.’

Mr Coetzee said that the department would implement the basic deliverables which were water, sanitation, electricity and security.

Ms Carelse said that there were some institutions which did not require every intervention and there were those which did. They were catered to accordingly. She invited the Committee to play an oversight role and to scrutinize that more carefully.

Mr Jamesanswered Mr Z Makhubele’s question about other diseases that ‘handicap the proper learning of a child’ whilst posing his own questions to the department. He said that they were directly based on Attention Deficit Disorders.

Mr J Skhosana (ANC) asked about the quality of the Learner Performance Intervention Programme as well as the monitoring and evaluation thereof. The pass rate of learners was important and it needed to be monitored.

Mr Coetzee said there had been many weaknesses highlighted in the area of basic education and an intervention programme had been put in place to ensure that there was progress in meeting the department’s targets, especially those of the Annual National Assessment. Challenges involved teacher development, the shortage of textbooks and the languages in which teaching took place. The intervention was to ensure that the actions meet the targets.

Mr Skhkosana asked how many educators had received laptops, as announced by President at the opening of Parliament in 2009.

Mr Coetzee replied that there had not been progress regarding the laptops. It was one of the issues that would be highlighted with the Minister in order to find a way to overcome that challenge. One of the issues was that the teachers do not want to pay.

Ms Carelse said that the matter had been subject to negotiation and that the aligned department branches would follow up on that. 

Ms A Mashishi (ANC) asked how much of a contribution was required from teachers.

Ms Carelse replied that the amount was subsidised and depended on which laptop a teacher wanted.

Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) said that the department should have done ‘their ground work’ first before President Zuma’s announcement that teachers would obtain laptops, because the department would be held accountable.

Mr Skhkosana said that the infrastructure initiative had taken place only in the Eastern Cape. He wanted to know whether the initiative applied to the other provinces, too. He was ‘seriously concerned’ about the manner in which the provinces submitted their reports. If only one province submitted a report, “then we are not working very well”.

Ms Carelse replied that the Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) Programme was one the department’s key projects, because it took care of some of the provinces’ sluggish developments. It also called for actions to match the levels of urgency. Attention was being given to all provinces however focus had been on the Eastern Cape, because it had been identified as a target area. The department would work together with various departments, such as that of Public Works and Water in order to meet all of the criteria.

She said that there was a high level of management, with comprehensive and organized monitoring structures which reported directly to the Minister and the Director General.

The Chairperson asked if the Eastern Cape would be the target for the next three years, as per target.

Ms Carelse replied that that was the department’s intention.

Mr James acknowledged the importance of the report and added that his questions and comments did not mean that he valued the report any less. He wanted to see improvement in the education system and he found that in the ability to debate it. Mr James said that the testing and screening should not be handled by the department, but should be done independently. This was because ‘teachers are marking it and it could produce all kinds of slippages in terms of how the results come out, because not all provinces have equal capacity... the more testing, the better; the more frequent, the better and the more independent, the better.’

Mr Coetzee said that primary health screenings were performed together with the department of health. The main objectives were to ensure that learners of unsound health were picked up at an early stage. The early detection of infections and disorders would allow the department to provide support for those learners. Attention deficit disorders would only be visible at a later stage.

A comment was made that the Portfolio Committee did not think it was a good idea for the DBE to become a publisher. Although the Committee understood why the Workbooks had been undertaken by the department, it did not think that this was the department’s function. It was ‘pushing out independent publishers.’

Ms Carelse said that there had been contentious issues in the past with regards to external publishers, because publishers continued to produce material irrelevant to the outcome objectives of the department. There had been a number of offences, too, displayed in the graphics of textbooks produced, including the reinforcement of stereotypes. Another concern was the under-representation of certain languages: These languages were not sure to be understood by every learner. At times, there had been a shortage of text and little graphical demonstration and vice versa. A draft catalogue was in place in order to provide an example of what a departmental textbook should consist of. There was a process underway in which writers were asked to present their submissions and to motivate why theirs was a suitable textbook for every learner. Cost of production was also an issue to be taken into account, considering the budget of the department.

With regards to HIV testing, Mr James said that he knew that the minister HIV testing in schools had been suspended, ‘rightly so’, he added, He wanted to know the status of testing the schools, in all nine provinces.

Mr Coetzee responded and said that as far as he was concerned, HIV testing in schools had not resumed.

On a lighter note, the Chairperson said that she hoped that Hon. W James did not ask about the independent publishers, because of his own vested interest.

Mr D Smiles (DA) agreed with Mr Mpontshane’s sentiments about coming out of the meeting, not having understood the state of basic education. He asked whether another meeting could be held for the DBE to bring ‘the proper information.’ He felt disappointed in the department, because some targets in the Annual Action Plan were ‘totally absent.’ This lack of information disadvantaged Members, because their lack of sufficient knowledge negatively impeded on the depth of their questions and thus the progress of their meeting.

Mr Coetzee said that the Action Plan would need to be finalized so that the Committee and the department could have a common place of reference.

Mr Smiles wanted to know the difference between the Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign (QLTC) and the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC).

Ms Carelse said that the QLT was the extension and combination of other programmes within the department. These programmes were then under the campaign banner of “Quality Learning and Teaching”.

Mr Smiles noted that the targets that were set for subject advisors had been exceeded; and he wondered how the department had tripled its target of 3 000 schools participating in the School League after only one quarter. He praised its success, but questioned whether DBE was still within budget or if it had overspent.

The Chairperson agreed that, at times, the Department set extremely low targets and did not address the urgent needs seen by the country. She suggested that a common vision be adopted.

Mr Coetzee said that the Committee needed to note that these initiatives neither started at the beginning of January nor the beginning of the quarter. They had momentum behind them. The targets previously set had underestimated the need and more provisions had thus been made. He would follow up on this in greater detail, involving all of the provinces.

Mr Smiles wanted to know what the function of the Minister’s High Level Delivery Task team was.

Ms Carelse answered that a high level task team was being put together in order to ‘look at the cross- cutting areas of intervention required in the department.’ It would draw on all levels of expertise internal and external to the department and would respond to the diagnostic analysis done by the HSRC.

The Chairperson wanted clarity on how the new organizational structures and methods of reporting would impact the Strategic Plan which the Portfolio Committee had and what these changes were. She asked what changed there were and how the Strategic Plan would be affected by these changes.

Ms Carelse said that changes to the Strategic Plan were minimal. There was a ‘system flow’. The new organizational structure had been made to become more effective in meeting the targets of the Strategic Plan. It aligned the problematic areas of the Action Plan.

Ms Carelse said that a delegation from every branch was being formed to provide the Portfolio Committee with much more analysis and detail.

Mr Coetzee said that it was the first time in the history of the DBE to be reporting to its Annual Performance Plan to a Portfolio Committee. The department was new to ‘being forced to report on specific targets.’ He said that he saw the gap between addressing the target and explaining what the progress had been in between. This would be taken into serious account the next time a Quarterly Report was being given. The department would make an effort to work more cohesively with both internal and external branches for a more comprehensive account for failures, successes and challenges in future. Their advantage was being able to present to the Committee and to learn from their mistakes.

The Chairperson asked and the delegation agreed that the department came back and deal with the issues that had not been sufficiently addressed that day. The Chairperson suggested that the next time the department returned, the entire delegation should be present to make it easier to account on a quarterly basis. This would make it easier for the Portfolio Committee to play the role of oversight. The Chairperson said that the department took the feedback positively and she hoped that the Quarterly Reports would really improve, because education was the country’s priority and its objective was to see it succeed. 

Mr James thought that the Quarterly Report should be presented by the Director General (DG).

The Chairperson agreed that it was a valid point, but with the apologies sent from the DG, the Committee understood that the initiative in the Eastern Cape took priority. She also appreciated the delegation present and how it answered the questions posed the best way they could have, considering the circumstances.

The Chairperson reminded the delegation of the issues the department needed to readdress. They were:
• Laptops
• Progress on nutrition, which was not at all a part of the Quarterly Report presentation
• The Full Service school
• Infrastructural programmes on all of the provinces, including the Eastern Cape

The presenters were excused and the Portfolio Committee stayed behind and adopted two sets of minutes from previous meetings held on 14 and 24 June 2011.

Announcements were made.

The meeting was adjourned.

he Chairperson, (ANC); Mr Z Makhubele (ANC); Ms A Mashishi (ANC) - who would joined the meeting late due to a late flight; Ms C Dudley (ACDP); Mr K Dikobo (AZAPO) and Mr N Kganyago (UDM).


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