Adoption of Oversight Report on visit to Ohlange School, Durban & Committee Minutes

Basic Education

08 May 2012
Chairperson: Ms H Malgas (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Chairperson noted that she, together with two other Members who had been available at the time, had attended to oversight of the Ohlange Senor Secondary School, to consider urgent matters raised, in light of this school’s important status as a heritage site. Although one Member raised the point that, strictly speaking, the oversight report was not a Committee report, as Members had not been aware of the oversight visit, they accepted that no wrongdoing was intended and would adopt the Report as a Committee report. It was also noted that future meetings would be necessary, and attempts would be made to incorporate all the unions.

Members tabled and adopted minutes from meetings on 6, 13, 20 March 2012 and 17, 18, 19 and 24 April 2012, with amendments where necessary. The Committee agreed that in future “matters arising” would be noted, to enable follow up and the Chairperson requested that replies received from the Department or entities should be referred to her so that she could also track matters. The Department of Basic Education was asked to confirm whether it had held the meetings requested with the Education Labour Relations Council, in relation to disciplinary matters, and with Higher Education South Africa (HESA). It was noted also that parties should isolate, from the minutes, policy issues that they wished to have discussed and one that was specifically to be raised for clarity with Parliament was the question of when information could properly be withheld on the grounds that it was sub judice.

Meeting report

Opening Remarks
The Chairperson noted that the Ccommittee’s draft Report on the budget of the Department of Basic Education (DBE) would be made available to Members that afternoon, for processing at the next meeting.

Report on Oversight Visit to Ohlange Senor Secondary School, Inanda, Durban, 20 February 2012
The Chairperson noted that the draft Report on the Oversight Visit to Ohlange Senor Secondary School, Inanda, Durban (the Report) was prepared after a visit to the school on 20 February 2012, which was part of the Committee’s school visits. She noted that the full Committee had attended visits to schools in  Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Limpopo, but this was a late notification. Because of this, and in order to save costs, she had asked Ms N Gina (ANC), who was in Durban, and Mr Z Makhubele (ANC) to accompany her. The school was a heritage site and experienced many problems. The Committee would have a meeting with the Department of Arts and Culture about this school, and Members had consulted with all the stakeholders in the area, including various unions mentioned in the Report. She noted that the Committee was still waiting on the provincial department to submit its report on investigations into unresolved matters that needed to be finalised.

Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) stated that he could not recall the visit being announced in a Committee meeting. He appreciated the content of the Report and supported the recommendations made in it. He asked why only one union was consulted and whether other unions were invited, pointing out that there were many large unions in the area.

The Chairperson replied that the visit was not announced at any meeting of the Committee, and took place after the Committee had received a report on the school, because of the importance of that school as a heritage site, as well as the problems. She noted that every stakeholder in the area was invited to attend the meeting, and when the meeting was held she had specifically enquired about the absence of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (NAPTOSA).

Mr Mpontshane noted a correction that it was actually National Teachers’ Union (NATU)  who was not present, and suggested that he should find out from them if they were invited.

The Chairperson accepted the correction, and agreed to the suggestion by Mr Mpontshane.

Ms A Lovemore (DA) said that she shared the concerns about other unions being invited but also was concerned about involvement of other political parties. The visit to the school appeared to have been a visit by the Chairperson and the ANC Study Group rather than a visit by the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, but since no other parties were included, and the visit was not announced to the Committee, it was incorrect to head the report as a “Committee Oversight Visit”. She appreciated the points made about the short notice and lack of funding to invite the whole Committee, but noted that, strictly speaking, this had not complied with the procedures to qualify as a Committee oversight visit.

Mr J Skosana (ANC) appreciated the Report and assistance in dealing with the school’s problems, urging that the Report be seen in a positive light. The Committee had performed a governance function, not a party political one. He understood Mr Mpontshane’s concerns on whether all unions were invited.

Ms N Gina (ANC) reiterated that the visit to the school was necessary, in view of the particular problems. Subsequent visits would have to be paid to the school as it was a heritage site, and these should be by a full delegation from the Committee. She noted that, during the visit, the Chairperson asked about all the unions, and all unions should be involved in subsequent visits.

The Chairperson apologised for not notifying Members, but said a quick response was needed. She had noted the concerns raised by Members, and she too assured all Members that more visits would be undertaken to this school

Mr C Moni (ANC) proposed that Members should adopt this as a Committee Report.

Mr Mpontshane stated that he was prepared to accept the Report as that of the Committee.

Mr D Smiles (DA) accepted the apologies and explanations, but wished the concerns on the procedure to be noted. He was prepared to adopt the content of the Report.

Members adopted the Report

Consideration and adoption of Committee Minutes
6 March 2012
Mr Makhubele referred to page 3, noting that some serious issues were raised, which had to be followed up by the Committee. One example was the policy on multi-grade teaching.

The Chairperson stated that the Department of Basic Education (DBE) was busy with the issue of multi-grade teaching. However, this issue would be noted and the next time the DBE appeared before the Committee, it would be asked if a policy was in place. In addition, she said that the Committee should ask those bodies who asserted that they were giving teachers professional training what they were actually doing. The issues of multi-grade teaching had been raised with the DBE and Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET).

Mr Mpontshane noted that this was merely one example, but other policy issues were raised. He proposed that two or three Members be mandated to go through the Minutes, highlight the policy issues, and report back to the Committee.

Ms Gina proposed that Members’ respective Study Groups should highlight the policy issues and report back to the Committee. This was accepted by other Members.

The Minutes were adopted..

13 March 2012
The Chairperson noted that the number of absentee members was unacceptable.

Ms Lovemore countered that she had been ill on that day. She asked whether Members who had not tendered an apology, but were absent, were listed under the ‘Apologies’ section.

The Chairperson replied that all those listed had sent formal apologies.

Mr N Kganyago (UDM) suggested that those absent without apologies should be listed under a separate heading.

Mr Makhubele said that there was some tension between Educational Labour Relations Council (ELRC) and DBE on dispute resolution in relation to disciplinary matters. The Committee should see if the different stances could be harmonised.

The Chairperson suggested that this issue be raised when the two entities appeared before the Committee in the following week.

Members adopted the minutes.

20 March 2012
Mr Makhubele referred to page 7 of the Minutes, and said that Members across a number of committees held different views as to whether information could be withheld when matters were still sub judice. This Committee needed to debate the matter, or perhaps ask the House for a ruling.

Ms Lovemore suggested that legal opinion should be sought on the issue. Whilst the principle was that matters before a court of law should not be debated to avoid prejudicing the case, she felt that the excuse was often used by persons to withhold information in circumstances where the court action may be threatened but not yet instituted.

Mr Smiles stated that the Minutes omitted the Report on Special Needs Education, which was made available at the specific request of the Committee.

Mr Mpontshane asked if the Report noted under the sub-title ‘Responses’ in the Minutes had been received by the Committee.

The Chairperson replied that only the Overview had been received, and not the Repot.

Ms Gina noted that page 7 of these minutes illustrated that the Committee was still failing to keep track of decisions taken by the Committee, and that matters arising should be noted.

The Chairperson agreed with Ms Gina.

Members agreed to adopt the minutes, as amended.

17 April 2012
Ms Lovemore asked if answers to questions in page five of the Minutes had been received by the Committee.

The Committee Secretary replied that the Committee had not received all the answers to the questions.

The Chairperson stated that in future, she would like to receive copies, to track the questions.

Members adopted the Minutes

18 and 19 April 2012
Both sets of Minutes were adopted without amendments.

24 April 2012
The Chairperson said that there was supposed to be a follow up meeting with the Higher Education of South Africa (HESA) and that a letter should be sent to DBE, to find out if that meeting had been held to  resolve outstanding issues.

Mr Makhubele stated that abbreviations could cause confusion, and requested that the full names be indicated.

The Chairperson agreed with Mr Makhubele, and said that DBE would be asked to provide the Committee with the full list of the acronyms it used.

Mr Mpontshane

Members adopted the Minutes, with amendments.

The meeting was adjourned.


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