A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.
7 May 2002
EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT; EDUCATION FOR LEARNERS WITH SPECIAL EDUCATION NEEDS: BRIEFING
Chairperson: Prof. S Mayatula
Documents handed out:
Early Childhood Development Powerpoint Presentation
Education White Paper 6 on Special Needs Education
Early Childhood Development Project Status
Department briefed the Committee on special needs education and early childhood
development. An inclusive education system that recognised and dealt with
learning barriers in early schooling, basic education, higher education and
adult basic education was recommended. The Committee awaited the full report of
audit of special schools
The Department is committed to providing access to early childhood development programmes equitably, especially for the poor and rural young learners. The challenge for government is to revise the current funding norms, which seem to be skewed in favour of previously advantaged learners. The Education Department also aims to develop curriculum for young learners with special programmes on HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases.
White Paper on Special Needs Education
Summary of presentation by Mr. S. Naicker
The 1948 Special Schools Act created false notion that education was a neutral phenomenon. This notion ignored the relationship between poverty and education. The education process took place within certain sociological dimension. This model of education placed learners with special needs at great disadvantage by treating them as under-achievers from their early years of schooling.
Mr Naicker said lack of adequate learning material created barriers for learners with disabilities to realise their full potential. For instance, the learning potential of blind learners would be hampered by lack of Braille facilities at special schools.
The presenter also submitted that the use of English as medium of instruction in schools created certain learning problems for learners with disabilities, as English is not their first language. Therefore, methods of communication must be in harmony with special needs of such learners. The National Commission appointed by the former minister of education Prof. S. Bhengu, also found out that most learners with disabilities (special needs) were neglected within policy-framework or legislation. The Commission recommended an inclusive education system that recognises and deals with learning barriers in early schooling, basic education, higher education and adult basic education.
The department of education proposed a twenty year plan of action on special education needs. There is also a three year plan of action focussing on the advocacy campaign and outreach program. Both programs would help with the completion of an audit of most schools with learners with special needs. It would assist in the formation of district support system. The department proposes to convert about thirty private schools into research centres. The major focus would be an analysis of relationship between poverty and the breakdown of the learning process. These schools would be used to assist in applying appropriate intervention measures to create a conducive learning environment.
Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) asked how inclusive would the system be given that only thirty schools were identified.
Mr Naicker replied that the thirty schools should be seen as pilot projects as part of the department's twenty-year plan. The inclusivity of the process would emerge as more schools were identified over the twenty-year period.
Mr R Ntuli (DA) asked if there was sufficient funding regarding this twenty-year plan.
Mr Naicker stated that the department of education is working in cooperation with NGO's, universities to ensure training for teachers, thereby developing a comprehensive human resource system.
Ms Gandhi asked if the department had provided measures to facilitate access to these schools for learners with disabilities.
Mr Naicker admitted that presently, most schools were not providing easy access to such learners. The department plans to rollout an integrated disability programme to address the situation.
The chairperson asked the presenter to highlight what financial and human resources implications there were for the twenty-year plan of action.
The presenter said that the existing special education centres costs R2.2 billion and the first three-year pilot project was costing approximately R90 million.
A member commended the presentation, but expressed concern that it seemed that the department's proposed twenty-year plan was not adequately being funded.
Mr Naicker replied that his department was awaiting the results of the audit done on different schools in respective provinces. The results of the audit would be used as an intervention tool in these schools to address their special needs. Until these results were released, it was difficult to tell if the current funding was adequate or not.
The chairperson noted that once a copy of the audit report was available, Mr Naicker should send it to all committee members to enable them to make comments on it prior to another meeting, which is due in August.
White Paper on Early Childhood Development (ECD)
Summary of Presentation by Ms M Samuels
Ms Samuels said that the Department of Education proposed three models, namely learners from birth to 5 years, 6 year-old and 7-9 years old in grade 1-3 in schools. She argued that the department is committed to providing access to ECD-Programmes equitably, especially for the poor and rural young learners. She noted that the majority of pre-primary schools in Guateng were found in white areas and this hampered the process of equitably providing access of programmes outside these white areas.
The second model for reception is a short-term strategy operating within public school system and community based system. The challenge for government is to revise the current funding norms, which are rather skewed in favour of previously advantaged learners. Regarding implementation of ECD-programmes, the Department intended to train practitioners with specific emphasis on policy objectives for ECD. She said practitioners would undergo training up to N.4 qualification level within framework of South African Qualifications Authority. This would be done in cooperation with Department of Labour under its Learnership programme.
In addition the Education Department aims to develop curriculum for young learners with special programmes on HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases. Practitioner development aims to encourage the use of radio and television within learning programmes. She noted that one such programme was Takalani Sesame. The funding for these programmes came from the United States and Sanlam and focused only in four provinces at the moment.
She said that for implementation of the ECD-programmes the department has identified 300,000 sites. However,this might be problematic as a majority of these sites were not registered in terms of Schools Education Act.
Mr P Mothoagae asked how ECD-programmes were linked to production within public school system.
Ms Samuels said the Department attempted to ascertain such linkage through appropriate practitioner development which filtered down to young learners. The department intends to get a return of seven rands for every rand spent on each learner.
Mr R Ntuli (DP) asked how many teachers were already trained for this programme and a member also asked if the department ever considered enlisting volunteers.
Ms Samuels replied that already teachers were being trained in KwaZulu-Natal and their qualifications were being accredited by SAQA. Her department embraced the idea of voluntarism but cautioned that a volunteers' programme still requires a clearly defined budget.
Mr Nhlengethwa (ANC) asked if there was a system in place to coordinate these programmes within different provinces.
Ms Samuels replied that the audit is being used as planning tool to harmonise activities and thereby build provincial capacity in different provinces.
Mr Abrahams asked if it is necessary to register these sites as the majority of them were still not registered.
Ms Samuels said that the Schools' Education Act required every site to be registered for purposes of tax and upon registration sites become eligible for financial grants from government.Â
The meeting was adjourned.