The Department of Basic Education briefed the Committee on access to education and support for learners with special education needs; teenage pregnancy and sexual abuse at schools. The Department also briefed the Committee on programmes aimed at curbing violence in schools.
The vision of the access to education and support for learners with special educational needs was to provide inclusive schools provided an effective education to the majority of children, improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the entire education system, and build an inclusive and tolerant society. The education white paper 6 was launched in July 2001 and brought about systemic measures for changing schooling and support provisioning landscape. Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of Children with Disabilities spoke to the realities on the ground. It spoke of increasing access to education for learners with severe and multiple disabilities; increasing capacity in the mainstream to reduce the number of referrals and drop-outs by providing reasonable accommodation; integrating support in all programmes; and recognising dignity.
The aim of this section dealing with “Addressing Teenage Pregnancy and Sexual abuse in schools” was to address sexual harassment and sexual violence in public schools. The focus was on promoting a clear understanding of the law against sexual harassment and sexual violence in public schools. Awareness raising initiatives included popularizing guidelines for prevention and management of sexual violence and harassment in public schools (targeted at teachers and school management); and popularizing the Speak Out Handbook (a learner focused guidebook for identifying, preventing and reporting sexual abuse). Future plans included the training of teachers to identify and appropriately respond to abuse and distressed children. There should be a focus on parental involvement on dealing with sexual abuse at schools and communities, and the Department conducted research on sexual violence and harassment in schools.
The Department mentioned that crime prevention continued to be a priority of government. It was more concerning the fact that young people constituted a considerable percentage of the affected population segment, both as victims and perpetrators. Those instances occurred in spaces traditionally considered safe, e.g. schools, homes, etc. Psychological research hypothesizes that children exposed to violence and victimization were likely to become perpetrators of antisocial behaviour. This presentation aimed to provide an update on programmes by the Department aimed at curbing violence in schools. The Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention was appointed by the Department and UNICEF to conduct a baseline audit in all 585 Child Friendly schools in 2006. The aim of the audit was to collect baseline information that could guide the design, implementation and monitoring of Safe and
Members stated that it was sad that the Department had to deal with all the social ills at schools. Some slides indicated that the Department was working with the SAPS regarding violence at schools, and Members asked why the entity was only working with the SAPS and not with the other Departments like Justice and Social Development. Members asked if the entity could indicate how many Social workers and Psychologist were employed by the Department and what the ratio to schools was. Members indicated that the Portfolio Committee did oversight in various provinces and realized that there was a shortage of specialised personnel at schools and Members were therefore interested on the teacher to learner ratio. Members asked which schools were visited to assess the pregnancy rate and how it was identified because the tendency was to focus on urban areas while rural areas were neglected. Members asked how the Department would remove economic barriers to education and noted that the entity had great strategies and plans in place, but the main problem might be ill discipline educators with low moral standards. Members were of the view that there was a direct correlation between the discipline of the teachers and the discipline of the pupils. Members asked the entity to provide the Committee with the booklet on the alternatives to corporal punishment.
Briefing on Access to Education and Support for Learners with Special Education
Disabled learners accessed education in any of the following schools: Special schools which in the main were for disabled learners requiring high levels of support; Full service schools which were flagship ordinary schools that were welcoming to all children and support each every child to develop to his/her full potential irrespective of background, culture, ability or disability, gender or race – models of good inclusive practice; and Ordinary schools which focused on learners requiring low levels of support and the long-term vision of the inclusive education policy was that those schools should also be inclusive. The entity had various activities for supporting special needs learners. A Curriculum development included South African Sign language curriculum grades R-12; methodologies for accommodating diversity through Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements. Training of provincial, district and school management teams on visual and hearing impairment was a priority and consolidating a training programme for teachers of visually and hearing impaired learners for 2011 to 2013. It was in the process of adaptation of workbooks to Braille, the SASL and Augmentative and Alternative Communication, and procuring Braille textbooks grades 10-12. Posts were established for therapists and Learning Support Educators based at districts to support schools and the entity progressively increased full service schools and special school resource centres.
The Action Plan to 2014 was to respond to the policy formulation challenges. The Department was reaffirming principles of the White Paper 6, in particular to the need for greater access amongst the poor by increasing access to specialist services and the need for a fundamental mindset shift in the way the schooling system regarded special needs and disability through advocacy. Issues that must be tracked over the long term included the extension of the network of special and full service schools, the capacity of districts to support ordinary schools with respect to specialist services and the loan of costly equipment, and the extent to which ordinary schools refer learners to special or full-service schools for full- or part-time attention. The Action Plan To 2014 proposed an Inclusive Education Programme. The entity was looking at increasing full service schools to at least one per district by 2014 and increasing schools that implemented inclusive education policy, and developing a training programme on methodologies to accommodate diversity in the classroom through CAPS by July 2011. It was currently finalising the South African Sign Language curriculum grades R-12 for implementation from 2013 and developing teacher training programmes in special needs targeting visual impairment, deaf and hard of hearing in 2011/12 for implementation through to 2013.
The Department was strengthening its district capacity to support special needs by building the capacity of district officials on guidelines for full service schools and guidelines to ensure quality education and support in special schools and special schools resource centres in 2011/12; and building the capacity of district officials on SIAS during 2012/13 to support schools in the identification of special needs. The indicator would be to increase the percentage of schools in which at least one teacher has received specialised training in the identification of barriers to education. There was a need for the provision of accessible textbooks, workbooks, LTSM and assistive devices: The Department therefore intended procuring the Brailing of adapted workbooks for grades 1-6 and subsequent ones; procuring prescribed books in Braille for grades 10-12 in 22 schools for the blind; adapting subsequent workbooks for Brailing during 2011/12; procuring the Brailing of CAPS-aligned textbooks from 2012 onwards; and coordinate the procurement of assistive devices for schools by provinces ongoing until 2014. Challenges and risks was the limited capacity and expert knowledge to implement the inclusive education policy at all levels of the system. There was a demand for a multi-disciplinary approach in addressing barriers to learning including special needs and there was a lack of a coordinating framework in government for providing access to specialist services. Inclusive education was not being seen as cross-cutting and as everyone’s business in the system.
Briefing on Addressing Teenage Pregnancy and Sexual Abuse in Schools
Ms Hlela Mabunda, Chief Director, DBE, briefed the Committee on the Department’s efforts in addressing teenage pregnancy and sexual abuse in schools. The Department was focused on promoting a clear understanding of the law against sexual harassment and sexual violence in public schools. Awareness raising initiatives included popularizing guidelines for prevention and management of sexual violence and harassment in public schools (targeted at teachers and school management); and popularizing the Speak-Out Handbook (a learner focused guidebook for identifying, preventing and reporting sexual abuse). Future plans included the training of teachers to identify and appropriately respond to abuse and distressed children. There should be a focus on parental involvement on dealing with sexual abuse at schools and communities, and the Department conducted research on sexual violence and harassment in schools.
The entity worked towards a comprehensive strategy for preventing and managing teenage pregnancy in SA (with emphasis on school going learners).The Department commissioned a study in 2008 to review and critically analyze data with focus on learner pregnancy. The research report – “Teenage pregnancy in SA- with specific focus on school going learners” was released at a National seminar on teenage pregnancy – August 28 2009.The research finding in brief indicated that there was a decline in teenage fertility, and remaining in the education system was a strong factor in preventing teenagers from falling pregnant. The entity was in the process of developing programmes and activities keeping young people longer at school, by contributing to fighting poverty, removing economic barriers to learning.– and to reintegrating drop out learners back into the schools system as soon as possible; The research findings indicated that learner pregnancies were concentrated in Kwazulu-Natal, Eastern Cape as well as Limpopo provinces; thereby necessitating concerted efforts in these provinces. Learner pregnancies were more concentrated in schools located in poor neighbourhoods, schools that were under-resourced; and schools with a significant age differential / age mixing between learners. Poor school performance, regular absenteeism, history of child sexual or physical abuse were strong risk factors to watch out for; and there were cohorts of learners who remained uninformed and ill – informed about their sexuality, and the dangers of engaging in early and unprotected sexual activities.
The Department developed a comprehensive strategy preventing and managing teenage pregnancy in SA (with emphasis on school going learners). Elements of the strategy were on prevention by keeping young people in school; providing Basic Education - no fee schools, school nutrition programmes, school safety, and prevention against sexual harassment and sexual violence. Health wise the Department promoted access to quality basic health care services, youth friendly clinics, and accessible contraceptives. The Social Development Department provided social grants, and support to orphaned children. Higher Education ensured accessible higher and further education opportunities for learners post matric (counter the chances for learners being vulnerable to early pregnancy). The entity had to improve resourcing in schools because learner pregnancies were more concentrated in schools located in poor neighbourhoods, schools that were under-resourced (
It was one of the priorities of the Department to improve access to sexuality education and awareness. There were cohorts of learners who remained uninformed and ill – informed about their sexuality, and the dangers of engaging in early and unprotected sexual activities. Therefore the entity implemented age appropriate sexuality education programmes through the life skills programme and parents needed to take a much more active role in educating their children about their sexuality. The entity maximised opportunities to utilise mass media campaigns to educate learners of their sexuality and dangers of teen pregnancy. The entity needed more active involvement of other key stakeholders to leverage on its strengths and role in building society. These included the churches and traditional leaders, civil society organizations, etc. It was important to develop and implement an early warning system and research indicated that poor school performance, regular absenteeism, and history of child sexual or physical abuse were strong risk factors to watch out for in order to pre-empt teenage pregnancy. This necessitated the need for development of an early warning system; through which educators and school principals could use to be able to identify children at risk – and be able to attend to through providing support resident in the school system, as well as referring them to other institutions of support. The DBE wanted to resuscitate mobile clinics and social workers occasional visits to public schools. The involvement of teachers and teacher unions was important in preventing teenage pregnancy in public schools.
All students were encouraged to participation in extra curricula activities. The extension of school hours would allow learners to partake in sport, and cultural activities. There was a necessity to improve the peer education programme, school clubs (GEM BEM, soul budyz, etc) to empower young people. Through advocacy and communication the Department would ensure that all understood the policies importance of protecting vulnerable learners and the response to teen pregnancy which was multi-faceted. Elements of the strategy included management and support. The entity reintegrated drop out learners (due to pregnancy and child birth) back into the schools system as soon as possible (second chance opportunities). Clearly defined catch-up programmes and providing proper support to pregnant learners was to ensure that they received the necessary support during pregnancy. The entity also made provision of support to teenage mothers in caring for the children and implemented some form of training on parenting, coupled with sexuality training. Seamless policy on managing teenage pregnancy in schools was a necessity to ensure uniformity in a manner that schools responded to the situation was necessary (currently developing Ministerial Regulation on managing learner pregnancy). The Department was improving referral and support systems by strengthening links between schools and local health and social services.
Briefing on Programmes Aimed at Curbing Violence in Schools
Ms Nozipho Xulu-Mabumo, Director of School Safety and Enrichment Programmes: DBE. The briefing on the programmes aimed at curbing violence at school was presented by Crime Prevention continued to be a priority of government. It was concerning the fact that young people constituted a considerable percentage of the affected population segment, both as victims and perpetrators. Those instances occurred in spaces traditionally considered safe, e.g. schools, homes, etc. Psychological research hypothesizes that children exposed to violence and victimization were likely to become perpetrators of antisocial behaviour. This presentation aimed to provide an update on programmes by DBE aimed at curbing violence in schools. The CJCP was appointed by the Department and UNICEF to conduct a baseline audit in all 585 Child Friendly schools in 2006. The aim of the audit was to collect baseline information that could guide the design, implementation and monitoring of Safe and
Recommendations were implemented at the identified high-risk schools at provincial level and provided immediate attention. Targeted interventions were designed to meet the specific needs of identified schools developed. The Department encouraged learners to report all incidents of violence, including cases where educators might be abusing their position. Formal mechanisms for the recording and reporting of incidents by principals were developed and instituted within schools and districts. Physical infrastructure (e.g. gates, fences, metal detectors) controlling access to school property had to be maintained and monitored to ensure that only those who have business at the school were allowed access and deter learners from carrying weapons to schools. The DBE School Safety Approach addressed both the physical and social aspects of school safety. The main pillars were physical infrastructure; support to management and teachers; learner support; partnerships and community involvement. The provision of adequate physical infrastructure was important and the priority was to control and monitor access to school properties, and 9 Ministerial schools had been identified nationally. The social aspects consisted of 4 areas of focus: support to school management; support to teachers; learner support partnerships; and community mobilisation.
The support to management included exploring humanitarian law and Hlayiseka: Training on Early Warning System. The Department would provide support with the development of School Codes of Conduct and safety policies provide training for principals and teachers on drug searches and management. It would support teachers to deal with discipline in schools.
The Department had intergovernmental relations regarding school safety and enjoyed a collaborative partnership with the SAPS. Implementation protocol was developed and signed by the Minister of Basic Education and Minister of Police. The partnership was aimed at mobilising community support and the integration of activities; provide community patrols and watches around schools; encourage schools to develop relationships with structures and organisations within communities. The role of the SGB was to ensure the effective Safe School Committee was in place and programmes were implemented by schools; to ensure that law enforcement officials provided a visible presence on school premises during school hours and at school-related events; to ensure that schools had a School Safety Plan and a School Development Plan, clearly indicating short-, medium- and long term objectives; to ensure that schools had Crisis/Emergency Management Plan, which clearly outlined roles and responsibilities for all role players; to ensure that a Reporting Mechanism was in place to report on incidents of crime and violence that occurred on school property or at school-related events; monitor the implementation of searches, seizures and drug testing; ensure that school property was a gun free, dangerous weapon free and drug free zones; to ensure that signage should be clearly visible to learners and visitors.
The involvement of School Communities was crucial when it came to creating a safe, caring and child friendly schools. Parents had more access to information and resources than they realised – through their day-to-day interactions with their children, their friends, other parents/caregivers, educators, school principals, coaches and other community members. Parents had worked with school principals and staff to stop vandalism in its tracks, to curb theft, introduce conflict resolution programmes, redesign building spaces to discourage illicit activities and secure funding for security upgrades. The time had come for School Communities to take ownership of their schools by not tolerating any form of crime or violence which jeopardized their children’s future. Work on Ministerial Schools was concluded as it was set for a 5-year period. The DBE up-scaled attention to all schools though the DBE-SAPS protocol. Creating safe, caring and child friendly schools was essential for learners’ academic and social success. There were multiple elements to establishing environments in which youth felt safe, connected, valued, and responsible for their behaviour and learning. Key to this was preventing violence in all forms whether bullying, aggressive classroom behaviour, gun use, or organized gang activity. The basic principles that underlined effective strategies to reduce violent behaviour were the same as those that underlined strategies that promoted healthy development and learning for all students. Effective approaches would consist of balanced security measures, discipline with positive supports, skill building, parent and community involvement, and improved school climate.
Ms P Duncan (DA) thanked the Department for the presentation and hoped it would be without errors the following time. She stated that it was sad that the Department had to deal with all the social ills at schools. Some slides indicated that the Department was working with the SAPS regarding violence at schools. She asked why the entity was only working with the SAPS and not with the other Departments like Justice and Social Development. She asked if the entity could indicate how many Social workers and Psychologist were employed by the Department and what the ratio to schools was.
Ms M Nxumalo (ANC) said it was good the presentations had been done by women in senior positions in the Department. She asked for the audit on special schools and wanted to know how the Department identified autistic children. She understood that those children had been catered for in cities, but asked how the situation was in rural areas. She asked how Ministerial schools were identified in the various provinces.
Ms P Lebenya (IFP) said the Portfolio Committee did oversight in various provinces and realized that there was a shortage of specialized personnel at schools and she was therefore interested on the teacher to learner ratio. She asked which schools were visited to assess the pregnancy rate and how it was identified because the tendency was to focus on urban areas while rural areas were neglected. She asked how the Department would remove economic barriers to education. She noted that he entity had great strategies and plans in place but the main problem might be ill discipline educators with low moral standards. She was of the view that there was a direct correlation between the discipline of the teachers and the discipline of the pupils. She asked the entity to provide the Committee with the booklet on the alternatives to corporal punishment.
Ms C Blaai (COPE) asked how many children with disabilities passed matric in 2010 and why did some leave without certificates.
Ms Mabunda replied that that there was a subject of Life Orientation in the curriculum teaching pupils on the prevention of early pregnancy. The Department currently worked hard at schools to address the problem of abuse and sexual harassment and would like to share the full information with the Committee if requested to do so. Removing economic barriers was a real challenge and many pupils slept with older men in exchange for material goods. The government provided various feeding schemes while some schools did not require any fees for learners. The entity developed programs to and activities to keep students at school for a longer period. The problem existed where teachers had sex with students. The entity took reports but did not have the information at hand as to the numbers and ratio on how many cases had been reported, but the information could be made available to the Committee
Ms Xulu-Mabumo responded that the entity was working with carious other Departments besides the SAPS. The reason why the emphasis was on the SAPS was because of the contract the Department had with the SAPS. The entity worked with the SAPS in identifying Ministerial schools. The SAPS assisted in identifying hot spot areas and that was how the preventative methods were compiled and implemented. The hot spot areas were not only confined to township schools. Much progress had been made on the preventative methods and an impact study had been done. Information could be made available to the Committee on the intervention progress because most Ministerial schools made tremendous strides and improvement. The booklet detailing alternative measures to corporal punishment could also be made available to the Committee. The entity adopted a framework on sports and would work with the Department on Sport and Recreation on its implementation. The Department was working closely with Love Life on messaging the various challenges faced by learners, and the desired values and morals were already engrafted in the school curriculum. The entity planned to have Love Life as its formal partner on various school programmes and activities. All this information could also be made available.
Mr Simelane replied that the Department had 45 permanently employed Social Workers and the entity experienced a real shortage in that regard because it shared social workers with the Department of Health and Social Development. The entity conducted its reports on special school audits in 2002. It is unable to provide a breakdown because of the diversity of the schools, and the information were not available at hand. Autistic schools accommodated learners with language, speech or socialisation problems and the ratio between teachers to autistic learners should be 1 teacher to 6 learners. The challenge was that there were only 6 special schools in the country and those learners required special attention. The Department intended to use those 6 schools as resource centres for the whole country. The entity relied on professionals to identify autistic learners an therefore worked closely with the Health Department. In some instances the Department ensured that children had access to local clinics for assistance in various areas. The existing norms and ratings for the various disabilities was currently revised and refined by the Department. The entity should be ready by the end of 2011 with its revision regarding staff for autistic learners. There were about 600 learners with disabilities which did there matric examinations with an overall pass rate of 80%.The entity did not like the fact that learners dropped out because it promoted to quality education for all. The entity was currently reviewing its staffing norms and the teacher to learner ratio.
The Chairperson suggested that the Department should come back to Parliament for further discussion because education was of utmost importance for the welfare and wellbeing of all South Africans. There were also various other issues that needed further engagement.
The meeting was adjourned.
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