Schools Infrastructure Development; National Working Group on Restructuring of Higher Education System in South Africa: briefing

Basic Education

30 April 2002
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report


30 April 2002

Chairperson: Prof. Mayatula

Documents handed out:
Government Gazette: Republic of South, 11 April 2002 vol. 442 No. 23327 (Education Laws Amendment Bill 2002 and Higher Education Amendment Bill 2002)
Infrastructure Plans Powerpoint Presentation
Prioritisation of Water and Sanitation Provision to Schools (see Appendix 1)
Restructuring Higher Education: SAUVCA and the CTP (see Appendix 2)
Restructuring Higher Education: Association of Vice-Chancellors of South African Historically Disadvantaged Tertiary Institutions

Physical Planning Directorate gave an overview of the Department's schools infrastructure development investment. There were questions of clarity and the main concern was underspending in the face of backlogs. South African Universities Vice-Chancellors association presentation was a response to the National Working Group's report on restructuring of higher education. The presenters were critical of the report. The responses will be further discussed in future.

Department of Education
Mr Makote from the Department of Education, summarised the capital budget for school infrastructure investment. He was pleased that the entire budget rose to seventy one percent compared to previous year. He was however, concerned and unhappy about the underspending in the Free State and North West, whose budget was under twenty percent.

Dr Sheppard, also form the Department, continued the briefing by summarising the Minister's Schools Register of Needs as a way of showing how far the process of infrastructure development in schools was. He gave a graphical overview of each province's planned infrastructure expenditure and development plans. The infrastructure that is to be developed included classrooms, administration rooms, toilets, water connections electrification, renovations, sports facilities, telephones and computer connections. Mpumalanga was the only province that submitted names of schools whose pupils learn under trees and that some of the provinces had not yet provided business plans for schools infrastructure development.

A member commented favourably on the increase in spending for schools' infrastructure development and criticised the Free State and North West for underspending. He commended the Department on its efforts to build sports facilities. A dilapidated school (in his constituency) that had just been shown on a slide was in fact being rebuilt through the Minister's effort after his appeal to the Minister. He was very emphatic that the committee needed to look into the issue of children learning under trees.

One member asked the extent to which vandalism constituted part of "minor repairs" (which had the largest expenditure share) in Gauteng. What was the Department's policy on mobile classrooms and permanent classrooms? The Department agreed that vandalism constituted part of minor repairs, but that maintenance was another part.

The Department said that mobile classrooms were a temporary arrangement and that even though they might be semi-permanent in the short run, the long-term goal was to build permanent classrooms.

A member asked if it would be possible to get a detailed data of each province. What was the role of school governing bodies (SGBs) in the process of infrastructure development The Department agreed that it was available and would be possible to furnish such information.

The Department replied that the role of SGBs was maintenance of physical property and its surroundings.

The same member asked if the Department was aware of lack of co-operation between the schools and the Department of Public Works.

The Department said that it was aware and gave an instance of KwaZulu Natal. There was a task team established to deal with the issue of the uncooperative relationships.

One member asked why were there such bad school conditions in informal settlements yet still there was underspending.

The Department attributed such anomalies to general lack of management at provincial level.

One member asked why Gauteng had an elaborate business plan with an integrated approach unlike other provinces. A related question from another member was to know if the Department made any follow ups to assess progress in school.

The Department explained that the process of infrastructure development was still at an incipient stage with no concrete policy. Presently they were busy with policy development.

One member asked if the Department intervened in the event where provincial government defaulted on service payments.

The Department said that it could only intervene to discuss reason for default and not to provide financial assistance.

South African Universities Vice-Chancellors association (SAUVCA), Committee of Technikon Principals (CTP), Association of Vice-Chancellors of South African Historically Disadvantaged Tertiary Institutions (ASAHDI)
The delegation comprised of ten chief academic officers from South African universities and technikons. The three organisations were responding to the National Working Group's report on restructuring higher education. SAUVCA and CTP made a joint presentation (Prof. N Ndebele and Prof. H Snyman). All three associations were very critical of the report and made the similar comments. Firstly the report was based on conceptual and factual inaccuracies. Secondly, they contended that transformation should not be prescribed but negotiated. Thirdly, the report was not based on broad participation and consultation. Finally, the report was not research based. ASAHDI (Prof. G Nkondo) added that the report overlooked the historical legacy of our higher education system both at the national and international level. The three associations concluded their presentations by providing some recommendations to the report.

There was a discussion on how to move forward. The Chairperson suggested that it was advisable to listen to what the Minister was going say next Thursday regarding the report and to have the delegates back for another detailed presentation. One member disagreed but as the Chairperson clarified his position it was then agreed that it would not be beneficial to discuss the report at this stage and rather settle for the next meeting after the Minister's response. The committee was pleased with the three associations' response and concluded by saying that the next meeting would be based on both the Minister's and the tertiary institutions' responses.

The meeting was adjourned.
Appendix 1
Prioritisation of Water and Sanitation Provision to Schools

Estimated Backlogs in Sanitation Provision

- Based on a learner toilet ratio of 30:1 a toilet shortage per school was calculated. Only toilets in a working condition were factored into the calculation. It is estimated that 187 182 toilets are needed countrywide, with the highest shortages in KwaZulu-Natal (42 723), followed by the Eastern Cape (38 146) and the Northern Province (36 281).

Backlogs in Water Provision

- Out of a total of 27 148 schools in the country, 7 817 schools did not have potable water on the school premises in 2000.

- 2571 schools in the Eastern Cape (41%),
1822 schools in KwaZulu-Natal (31,8%) and
1571 schools in the Northern Province
(36,9%) did not have potable water on the
school premises in 2000.

What has the Department of Education done to improve the provision of water and sanitation to schools?

- DoE participated in the development of the White Paper on Sanitation.
- During the reconstruction of flood-damaged schools in the Northern Province and Mpumalanga the DoE insisted that the upgrading and provision of adequate water and sanitation be included in the reconstruction of all schools funded by donors.
- With the implementation of the Japanese Grant Aid funding, the DoE insisted that all schools be provided with adequate water and sanitation facilities.
- The European Union funded Eastern Cape School Building Programme includes adequate water and sanitation provision to all schools which form part of the programme.
- The DoE and DWAF has developed a joint strategy for improved co-operation between the two departments for the provision of water and sanitation to schools. The strategy included the provision of points of supply for these services to all schools within areas where DWAF are implementing community water and sanitation programmes. The extent of inclusion is currently revisited to investigate the possibility of also proving water and sanitation infrastructure within the school sites.
- The DoE is a member of the management team for the cholera epidemic. During 2001 DoE assisted the DoH and GCIS to prepare and distribute information pamphlets and posters to all schools in the country on health and hygiene education to counteract the spread of cholera.
- In view of the cholera epidemic, the huge backlogs in water and sanitation provision, the particular problems experienced by farm schools regarding these services provinces have been urged continuously to prioritise water and sanitation projects in their business plans.


EC No Feedback was received

An amount of R500 000,00 was set aside for the 2001/2002 financial year for the provision of water at 20 farm schools and an amount of R1OOO 000,00 to provide 102 toilets at farm schools as well as 5 toilet blocks at public schools.

GT Gauteng Department of Education is spending R 8307217,51 during the 2001/2002 financial year on the provision of new water and sanitation services as well as the upgrading of existing services. The sanitation facilities of 60 schools have been upgraded, and 19 schools have been provided with running water.

616 seats (195 blocks) and 128 rain water tanks had been completed in the Ugu District Municipality at a total cost of R 4,9 million by August 2001. In Zululand District Municipality 18 school ablution blocks are being built.
In uThungulu and Umkhanyakude District Municipalities, 29 school ablution blocks are being built.
In King Shaka district Municipality, 20 school ablution blocks had been completed by August 2001.
In summary: Between 1 April 2001 and 31 March 2002 it is anticipated that 1596 new toilet units will be completed (many are presently under construction). During the rest of the year (2002) at least a further 3000 toilet units will be completed.

During the current financial year, 787 toilets are being built and 183 schools are being provided with water as part of the refurbishment programme from the provincial infrastructure budget. 134 toilets will be provided as part of new school buildings, whilst 33 toilets will be built as a result of joint ventures with the private sector. The total cost of these projects is R7,5 million.

NC The Northern Cape Department or Education is currently building 4 additional toilet blocks

The province indicated that no water and sanitation projects aimed at addressing backlogs will be embarked upon during the current financial year as a result or lack of sources. Where new classroom blocks are being provided toilets are also built for those classrooms.

NW North West Province is in the process of providing 221 toilets to farm schools and water to 81 schools from the provincial budget. A further 686 toilets will be constructed as a result or the construction of 22 new schools from the provincial Department or Education's
infrastructure budget. The North West Education Development Trust is providing in
addition also 481 ablution blocks as well as water supply to 81 schools. From the capital
grant 278 toilets are being built.

The Western Cape Department or Education is providing 4 new blocks of sanitation
facilities to schools in Khayelitsha, Worcester Avontuur and Ongelegen at a cost or
R 900 000,00.

Action Plan for the MTEF Period

- Following the SRN 2000 launch, Prof Kader Asmal, wrote to all the MECs requesting the submission of their business plans for the 2002/2003 to 2004/2005 MTEF period before 5 February 2002. In his letter, Professor Asmal requested that the business plans must reflect the priority given to water and sanitation provision to schools. Thus far only the business plans for the Free State, KZN, Northern Cape, Mpumalanga and Western Cape have been received. Business plans must still be submitted by: Northern Province, Eastern Cape, Gauteng and North West Province.

2002/2003 Water and Sanitation Projects

- Free State:
The Free State plans to provide 20 existing schools with water borne toilets and 30 farm schools with pit toilets at a cost of R4 million. 20 existing farm schools will be provided with water at a cost of R400000,00. In the 200212003 financial year 16 new schools will be constructed, consisting of
6 schools carried over from the 2001/2002 financial year and 10 new schools of which the construction will commence in 2002/2003. All of these schools will be provided with adequate sanitation facilities as well as drinking water.

- Western Cape:
The Western Cape indicated in their business plan for the 2002/3 - 2004/5 MTEF period that they have the following plans for water and sanitation provision:
The Western Cape has 32 schools without water on site. Of these 25 will be provided with water during the 2002/3 - 2004/5 MTEF period. Seven schools will still be without water at the end of this period. The province also indicated that they have 182 outdated toilet systems.

The province plans to replace 25 of these systems, which will leave the province with 157 outdated toilet systems at the end of the period. The province will spent R8,1 million on providing new or revamping existing toilet systems.

- KwaZulu-Natal:
The business plan of KwaZulu-Natal indicates that they plan to provide 128 existing schools with water and they plan to build 6830 toilets at existing schools over the period 2001/2002 to 2002/2003 These plans are however subject to available funding.

- Mpumalanga:
During the 2003/2004 financial year, Mpumalanga will provide seven schools with water at a cost of R308700,00 and will built 348 toilets at a cost of R1 736 437,00. During the 2004/2005 financial year, 365 toilets will be built at a cost of R1 823 259,00 and 6 schools will be provided with water at a cost of R324135,00.

- Northern Cape:
According to the business plan two schools in the Northern Cape will be provided by ablution facilities at a cost of R412400,00 during the 2002/2003 financial year.

Japanese Grant Aid: Water and Sanitation Projects

- The Japanese Grant Aid is being implemented in four provinces, namely Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Northern Province.
- Actual construction work will be done in KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape during the 2002/2003 financial year.
- In the Eastern Cape, 287 toilet booths will be built and 119 rainwater tanks will be installed at 20 schools in the districts of Mt Ayliff, Tabankulu, Mt Frere, Maluti, Mt Fletcher, Bizana, Flaggstaff and Lusikisiki during the 2002/2003 financial year.
- In KwaZulu-Natal, in the Ubombo and Ingwavuma districts 116 toilet booths will be built and 154 rainwater tanks will be installed during the 2002/2003 financial year.

Appendix 2
30 APRIL 2002

1. Introduction
The NWG was appointed in April 2001 by the Minister of Education, Professor Kader Asmal, following the release of the National Plan for Higher Education. It was given the brief of advising the Minister on appropriate arrangements for restructuring the provision of higher education on a regional basis through the development of new institutional and organisational forms, including institutional mergers and the rationalisation of programme development and delivery.

SAUVCA and the CTP's initial concerns that the mandate of the NWG was too narrow given the complex nature of higher education and known difficulties and costs of merging have been borne out by the nature of the recommendations of the NWG, which proposes the reduction of the number of institutions from 36 to 21. SAUVCA and the CTP are not alone in this view. The Chair of the NWG is on record as saying that the terms of reference were "rather narrow" and that a wider mandate would have led to significantly different decisions. [Sunday Independent 28 April 2002, p.3].

Both SAUVCA and the CTP realise that the inefficiencies of the apartheid past cannot be perpetuated and that restructuring is necessary to achieve the objectives outlined in the White Paper (1997) and the National Plan for Higher Education (2001). The process of achieving this, however, will not be an easy one, and all stakeholders need to be involved in finding solutions, particularly the higher education institutions and their leaders.

The recommendations to Cabinet by the Minister may mark a turning point for the good in our higher education system. However, it is the serious contention of the universities and technikons of this country that mergers of two or more institutions are not necessarily the only or indeed the most appropriate approach to restructuring and that institutions will be better positioned to continue to meet the transformation goals if a more flexible approach to restructuring is permitted. In fact, forced restructuring through unitary mergers, as the main strategy is likely to weaken the present system and add to the financial difficulties faced by the system as a whole.

2. Transformation
It is SAUVCA and the CTP's strong contention that the recommendations in the NWG report will not, on the whole, contribute meaningfully to the transformation of the South African higher education sector by strengthening the equity, sustainability or productivity of the sector. South Africa finds itself facing many challenges: the need to grow the economy, reducing unemployment, increasing the corps of skilled persons, coping with HIVIAIDS, facing the challenge of globalisation, strengthening the relationship between business/industry and HE, responding to NEPAD and other international initiatives, etc. These challenges require far more practical and sophisticated thinking than is evident in the NWG report.

Given the diverse nature of the higher education sector in SA, the NWG should have explored a range of options suitable for particular circumstances. Unitary mergers should not have been
regarded as the only solution, particularly when the benefits of the merger to the affected institutions or the system as a whole have not been explored. In cases where mergers can be regarded as viable, specific conditions that will create a favourable environment still have to be met. Minimal requisites for a successful merger are that: there needs to be strong support from participating institutions; affected institutions must be closely situated; the merger process must be adequately resourced; and it should add value to the educational process by strengthening programme offerings and promoting access and equity. Without thorough attention to these factors at least, mergers are a dangerous shot in the dark.

There is another consequence of inadequate preparation. While the recommendations are highly ambitious and far reaching, it is likely that in the absence of clear and responsible plans the effective change will amount to little more than costly tinkering with the system.

3. Benchmarks
The NWG appears to have relied heavily on performance indicators and benchmarks to support their recommendations. However, this approach is limited and seriously flawed as an instrument in this context:

· The range of performance indicators is narrow. A broader range would have provided a more balanced assessment of the performance of institutions. Ideally, indicators should have covered a wider range of variables including indicators of student educational and social disadvantage, employment rates of graduates, and the proportion of total expenditure on student services including bridging/foundation programmes.

· The fixing of benchmarks was highly arbitrary. There is no evidence of attempts being made to relate benchmarks to previous levels of performance of South African institutions or established international benchmarking efforts. With regard to discipline mix, there is an unargued and highly contestable assumption that all comprehensive institutions should have at least a minimum proportion of science and technology courses.

· In some cases, the indicators would have been fairer if they had included trend data such as the degree of change over the past five years. The heavy reliance on data for 2000, an atypical year in the system, which distorts perceptions and is a bad basis for decision-making.

· The use of research performance indicators for technikons seems inappropriate because of their traditional emphasis on teaching in line with their statutory mission.

4. Binary Divide
The recommendations in general signal an ambiguous and contradictory treatment of the binary divide which is likely to add to the complexity of the restructuring issues. While the NWG supports the continuation of the binary divide in line with national policy and rejects the use of the term 'university of technology' by technikons, it supports the creation of comprehensive institutions offering both university and technikon programmes (Recommendation 6.2). No strategically responsible argument is offered as to the advantages of the comprehensive university model and what implications its adoption might have for other technikons and universities. Nor is there any indication of how other features of the new Higher Education management system will have to be adapted to make the comprehensive institutions work. It is
essential that the issues relating to the binary divide in so far as it is affected by institutional structures and programmes is clarified as a matter of urgency.

5. Dialogue
The mandatory approach to restructuring without sufficient meaningful consultation and communication with the affected institutions and the sector, as a whole is problematic. International experience indicates that mergers are risky, and that negotiated change and voluntary mergers have a greater chance of success. The sector has had very limited participation in the restructuring process and exclusion of the role players in the implementation process will have problematic consequences. While it is the responsibility of the Ministry to set broad time frames and parameters, the input of the sector into the implementation plan is essential. The Minister of Education needs to take higher education leadership into his confidence with regard to the change agenda and timetable, and be free to adapt plans in the light of practical situations.

6. Mergers
The report recommends an ambitious and far-reaching restructuring plan which results in the reduction of the number of institutions from 36 to 21. In reducing the number of institutions while retaining all the sites of delivery, complex and expensive mechanisms for managing institutions which are often separated by significant distance or have very different foci must now be put in place. Further, while a regional focus has been chosen with the ideal of consolidating strength and spreading opportunity, it is essential for quality purposes that higher education institutions retain a national character within a global context.

In all sets of specific recommendations, the recommended restructuring mechanism is a merger of two or more institutions. Having extensively investigated the costs, sustainability and likelihood of success of merging institutions in countries which have undertaken such restructuring in higher education and in business, the sector has reached the conclusion that merging two or more institutions should be considered only in cases where the benefits of the merger are obvious and agreed, where there is a willingness between the two or more parties to cooperate and where structured arrangements are in place to sustain the process. In most cases, there is a range of other options, which is more likely to yield the desired outcomes in terms of productivity, equity and sustainability.

Instead of shrinking the HE sector, we believe there is a case for increasing the number of institutions in some areas and fields, in the light of the pressing need in South Africa for skilled human resources; the need to increase access to and participation in HE; and to meet the demands of internationalisation and globalisation. Mergers with a federal structure would also be considered more favourably than those with a unitary structure.

7. Areas Where Mergers are Viewed Favourably or are Being Considered
Certain institutions are exploring the opportunities which could include the merging of two or more structures, providing that the benefits to be realised by all parties are clear and the resources for funding such operations are made available. The merger of two technikons in Kwazulu Natal is close to complete, with further investigations into a merger being conducted by Border Technikon and Eastern Cape Technikon. Of the recommendations for mergers between universities and technikons, PE Technikon and the University of Port Elisabeth are engaged in discussions on this matter. The universities in Kwazulu Natal are investigating the establishment of what may ultimately be a unitary structure.

8. Multiple demands on the Sector
The sector is coping with the huge demands being made on it with the SAQA and NQF process, recurriculating programmes for registration in 2003, QA, Transformation, the Skills Act, meeting the requirements of various Acts and those of the DoE, etc. The sector has in many areas been demoralised and paralysed while it has waited for the Size and Shape, NPHE, NWG process to play itself out. This instability in the midst of major and time-consuming reshaping initiatives has already had a very damaging effect on the provision of human resources for the South African economy. We can ill -afford this.

The HE sector accepts that the status quo is not desirable and that changes are needed. But at this point we need specific and clearly rational plans that the sector can espouse with confidence. Major changes are already under way. More are necessary. However, it seems clear to us that there are better ways of handling the process than the present one.

9. Conclusion and Recommendations
The extent to which the objectives of restructuring are likely to be achieved through specific recommendations of the NWG is not at all clear. Even in those cases where the recommendations may make useful contributions to enhancing equity, sustainability and productivity, restructuring alone will be unable to achieve the objectives. It is clear that focused and meticulous plans, allowing for creative adaptation, and developed in partnership between the Ministry and the institutions, will be needed if these objectives are to be achieved.

A. Preliminary discussion of the recommendations by institutions indicate that:
· Some recommendations merit further interrogation in terms of the feasibility of the proposed restructuring, either in the recommended forms or amended forms; and

· Some recommendations should not be considered further on the basis that they are unlikely to contribute in any way to efficiency and the principles of equity, sustainability and productivity.

B. SAUVCA and CTP therefore recommend:
· The appointment of a National Restructuring Facilitation Team to initiate discussion with all higher education institutions to develop custom-made restructuring plans, taking into account the synergies within each region and the national requirements, within a fixed period.

· The need to develop a detailed implementation strategy in consultation with the sector through structured mechanisms so that state and sector are clear about the shaping of the system in this iterative process.

· The adequate resourcing of the restructuring effort to provide funding and incentives within agreed and manageable timeframes.


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