The Department of Basic Education (DBE) presented the Annual Report for 2011/2012. After giving a background and describing the role of the DBE, the presentation outlined the achievements across the various programmes, compared this to targets, described the Conditional grants, and the monitoring and support given to the provinces. Finally, the annual financial statements were presented. In this financial year, the DBE’s resources and capacity were severely stretched by the Cabinet’s decision to invoke section 100(1)(b) interventions in Eastern Cape and Limpopo. This placed additional requirements on the DBE, resulted in staff having to be sent to the provinces to assist them, whilst the Department also still had to meet its regular targets, on the same budget, and meet its core mandate of oversight of the basic education sector. Notable achievements had included the distribution of textbooks in the various provinces, provision of training in terms of The Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS), and preparation and delivery of Learner and Teacher Support Materials, as well as negotiating lower prices on textbooks. There were significant developments in special needs education, including developing a sign language curriculum, and adaptation of Grades 1 to 4 English and Afrikaans workbooks in numeracy and literacy into Braille. Teacher, principal and school governing body training was provided for teachers in targeted provinces. The DBE had plans to address the ageing population and recruit and place more graduates under the age of 30. One third of schools had been visited for the purpose of monitoring the implementation of the Integrated Quality Management Systems, and Quality Teaching Learning Campaign committees were established in more than 3 000 schools. School management noted an improvement, although a lot remained to be done. School funding was an extremely important area, and more funding had been approved by National Treasury for equalisation of no-fee schools, and amendments to funding. The School Infrastructure developments had been hindered by lack of capacity, and further capacity challenges were noted in financial officers in the provinces. Another point was that the DBE was one of the departments experiencing high litigation, although it had won some cases and successfully reached settlements in others. The developments in the adult mass literacy campaign, learner well-being and conditional grants were outlined. The Dinaledi and Technical Secondary Schools Recapitalisation grants would come under review in order to assess their relevance and to decide if they should be prioritised over other needs. In general, the challenges faced by the Department were described as institutional policy compliance, coordination and management, budget pressures especially related to compensation of employees and backlogs.
The Annual Financial Statements noted that the DBE had managed to spend 91.6% of the budget, and the various instances of underspending were outlined and explained; some of which were genuine savings. The mitigatory actions taken were also described.
Discussion by Members related both to the Annual Report, and the current state of readiness of pupils in the provinces to write their examinations, with comments also being made on the Annual National Assessment processes. It was stressed that separate meetings would be arranged to debate these issues further. Members asked for further clarity on the grants, particularly the future of the Dinaledi schools. There was general consensus that access to education had improved, but some Members questioned whether the DBE believed that education was in crisis, and directed their questions to the quality of education learners that were receiving, particularly in view of the initiatives implemented, and the money sent. Members asked for an indication of the position in the provinces, noted that two provinces had received disclaimer reports, wanted to know how they were being monitored on performance, and questioned the accuracy of the data provided. The DBE admitted that there were some problems currently with data, which impacted on the budget. They were interested to know what was planned to regularise the numbers and placement of teachers. They questioned if the irregular expenditure of R74 million was linked to fraud or corruption. Members asked for more detail on the quintile ratings of schools, and what factors influenced the allocations. They commented that the DBE should have addressed issues of capacity when first raised several years previously.
Department of Basic Education 2012 Annual report briefing
The Chairperson noted the written apology from the Minister of Basic Education, Ms Angie Motshekga, who was placed on sick leave. The Deputy Minister of Basic Education, Mr Mohamed Surty, had also apologised as he was currently attending a Cabinet meeting.
Mr Bobby Soobrayan, Director General, Department of Basic Education, noted that the Annual Report assisted Parliament in its oversight of the mandate and performance of the Department of Basic Education (DBE or the Department). The statutory requirements of the report related to the way in which money allocated to the Department was spent, and the Department attempted to ensure that everything it did impacted on the whole sector, particularly in the provinces. However, what the Department was doing and what was happening in the provinces was influenced by a number of factors relating to inter-governmental relations and challenges around concurrency. Mr Soobrayan noted that the DBE had come under intense focus over the last year, particularly in relation to the Constitutional interventions into provincial departments.
He outlined the legislation governing the department and said that the National Education Policy Act set in place institutions such as the Council of Education Ministers (CEM), as well as the Heads of Education Departments Committee (HEDCOM), which were mechanisms to foster concurrency and monitoring. The Department was bound, by the governing legislation, to look at policy norms and standards and monitoring and evaluation of policy implementations, and their impact. In response to the challenges experienced, various mechanisms were introduced to help the Department to perform a more active role. The DBE introduced stronger performance monitoring and evaluation and direct interventions into matters such as Workbooks, Annual National Assessments (ANA), the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiatives (ASIDI) and fiscal measures including conditional grants, monthly provincial budget monitoring reports, clear signalling of priorities through The Action Plan to 2014 (introduced in 2010/11), quarterly meetings by the Minister with District Managers and the creation of the Planning, Delivery and Oversight Unit (PDOU).
Mr Soobrayan proceeded to the overview of the service delivery environment. In 2011/12 there were 12 283 875 learners in ordinary public and independent schools, who attended 25 851 schools, and were served by 420 608 educators. The reduction in numbers of schools was caused by an assessment that some small schools were not viable and were rationalised, as well as by demographic shifts.
Two developments dramatically expanded the mandate the of the DBE in this year. On 2 March 2011, the Cabinet decided to intervene in the Eastern Cape Education Department, in terms of section 100(1)(b) of the Constitution. On 5 December 2011, Cabinet announced a section 100(1)(b) intervention in the Limpopo Education Department. DBE had to embark upon a task which had no precedent, and that was unbudgeted, both in terms of finances and resources. The interventions in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo focused on a number of issues, including financial and supply chain management, failure to deal with excess teachers, over-expenditure and the non-delivery of learning and teaching support materials (LTSM). This placed considerable strain on the DBE’s capacity and required a re-engineering of the Department’s activities, within the existing budgets and organogram. DBE’s staff, including the Director General himself, had to be deployed to the provinces to deal with the situation. Provincial departments were much bigger, and had far bigger budgets, than the national DBE office. This had taken up much energy as it was particularly difficult to step into a dysfunctional environment with no notice.
DBE meantime also had to continue to consolidate the advances it had made to improve learner performance in the basic education sector through strategic interventions. These were anchored by the Action Plan to 2014, and the Delivery Agreement. These strategic interventions were Focusing on Teachers, Textbooks and Time (3Ts), issuing and implementation of the Continuous Assessments (CAPS), planning and preparing for the ANA, expanding the workbooks programme and improving infrastructure to maximise learner performance. The Minister had emphasised that the DBE must remain focused n the interventions without compromise to the general mandate, but this had placed a strain on people and resources.
An independent General Household Survey reported that 85% of 5-year olds (ECD or Grade R) attended educational institutions, an increase on the 39% attendance in 2002. This was an important achievement, particularly because of the agreement between the legislatures, the sector, the Executive and the Cabinet about the importance of Early Childhood Development (ECD) and Grade R. Concerted funding and efforts were put into the roll-out of ECD.
99% of 7 to 15 year olds attend educational institutions. Attendance at schools was compulsory for this age group and this was considered full access to education. The Department was, however, unhappy about the 1% that was still unaccounted for. A large portion of the 1% comprised disabled children, or those in very far-flung rural areas, and this spoke to the non-effectiveness of inclusive education, access and strategies, as they still needed to be reached. However, given that the largest proportion of children in South Africa were poor, and a majority of them came from far flung rural areas, the 99% was quite some achievement, and was comparable to other industrialised countries.
93% of 16 year olds attended educational institutions, which suggested a high drop-out rate at ages 15 or 16. 86% of 17 year olds were still attending educational institutions, some in Further Education and Training Colleges (FETs), and some were repeaters. He then noted that 74% of 18 year olds attended educational institutions, but 26% did not. 35% of those who were no longer attending any institution had completed Grade 12, although not all had passed. The drop-out rate must be distinguished from the Grade 12-completion rate. The DBE wanted to increase the rate of those successfully completing Grade 12, although in fact this was higher than the general perception.
Mr Soobrayan then spoke about programme performance related to targets. In the Administration programme, four of the eight targets were achieved, four were exceeded and four were not achieved. In Curriculum Policy and Support, out of 17 targets, eleven were achieved, eight were exceeded and six were not achieved. In Teachers and Education Human Resources Development and Management, six of the nine targets were achieved, three were exceeded and three were not achieved. In the Planning, Quality assessments, and Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) programme, out of 16 targets, 6 were achieved, 5 were exceeded and 10 were not achieved. In Social Responsibility, out of 11 targets, 7 were achieved, 3 were exceeded and 4 were not achieved. Overall, out of 64 targets, 34 (56%) were achieved, 30 (49%) were exceeded and 27 (44%) were not achieved.
Mr Soobrayan noted the highlights and achievements in the policy area of human resources management (see attached presentation for details). He stressed the appointments in the key posts of Chief Financial Officer, Deputy Directors-General for Finance and Administration, Planning, Information and Assessments. 264 officials attended courses during the financial year for professional and personal development, and 47 new Departmental officials attended induction programmes. 63 internships were implemented for unemployed graduates. There were two key resignations, of the CEO of the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (NEEDU) and the Head of the Planning and Delivery Oversight Unit. There were no strikes or labour action.
In the Curriculum Development programme, he noted that CAPS had been covered in previous presentations, but 968 district officials responsible for teacher training and support in grades 4 to 6 were orientated to the changes in the CAPS Subject Statements, except in Eastern Cape, where the orientation occurred after year-end. DBE identified subject advisors from different provinces to establish a National Training Team (NTT) to assist with the Grade 11 CAPS orientation. He set out the steps taken (see attached presentation).
In the LTSM policy area, all quintiles were covered in 2011. 23 million workbooks for language and mathematics, for Grades R to 6, were printed and delivered to 18 854 public primary schools in nine provinces. In 2012, schools were informed about the distribution of workbooks in an effort to improve the delivery process. Grades R to 9 workbooks were distributed to all targeted schools and offices. Proof of deliveries was given and verified by the auditors. Grades 1 to 3, and Grade 10 National Catalogue of Textbooks, aligned with the CAPS, was developed and released to the provinces. DBE had managed to bring down the price of textbooks. Other areas that contributed to access to a wide range of media were described (see attached presentation). 2 600 schools were provided with library books in the official languages, and The National Guidelines for School Library and Information Services (NGSLIS) to schools were released.
Mr Soobrayan also noted the achievements in e-education. An agreement was developed with Telkom in March 2012, to provide connectivity to 1 650 schools for a period of three years. Another nine provincial ICT Resource Centres were established in nine provinces, with a digital classroom to connect the nine centres and the 180 selected Mathematics and Science schools (Dinaledi schools). Over 22 000 educators attended ICT training courses and almost 4 000 were using and applying ICT in their classrooms. 2 266 schools were connected to ICT infrastructure and services.
The first cycle of ANA was written in February 2011, and after the report was finalised in June 2011, there was work on improving the usefulness of the data to achieve improvement in teaching and learning, and accountability for learner performance within the system. The lessons learned were incorporated into the planning for the second cycle of ANA, with the process of test development for this commencing in July 2011. the second cycle was written in September 2012.
496 090 candidates sat for the matriculation examination in 2011, compared to 537 543 in 2010 - a decrease of 41 453. The results of the 2011 National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations indicated that there had been an overall improvement of learner performance, from 67.8% in 2010 to 70.2% in 2011 (which, after the supplementary examinations in March 2012, rose to 72,7%). He noted that 120 767 learners qualified to enter a Bachelor’s programme. Ambitious targets had been set for Physical Science and Mathematics, and the number of passes in Mathematics was 104 033, and there were 96 441 in Physical Science. The decreased enrolment contributed to the lower achievement against predetermined targets. Mr Soobrayan noted consensus amongst both internal and external experts was that the reduction in numbers was largely shaped by the age admission policy when this cohort had started school. The Department would continue to monitor this to ensure that gate-keeping did not result in learners being excluded from entering into grade 12, by comparing numbers sitting for grade 12 examinations against population numbers for 18 year olds. Over the next ten years it would be likely that numbers would decline, given the reduction in the population.
A diagnostic report, based on the NSC examination results, that articulated the weaknesses in the key subjects and set out proposed remedial programmes, was compiled and distributed to all provincial education departments, to support teaching and learning in those key subjects.
Mr Soobrayan then discussed special needs education (SNE). The DBE successfully coordinated the development of a South African Sign Language curriculum for Grades R to 12 and English and Afrikaans workbooks for numeracy and literacy were adapted to Braille in Grades1 to 4. The Inclusive Education Strategy was developed and used to contribute to the development of the National Strategy on Learner Attainment Framework. The Guidelines for Responding to Learner Diversity formed part of the CAPS orientation programme for the Intermediate Phase, and Grades 10 and 11. No training on identification an support for special needs took place in this year, as it was decided instead to prioritise implementation of CAPS, but this year saw the refinement and finalisation of the Screening, Identification, Assessment and Support (SIAS) tool, which would be used for training and implementation of White Paper 6. DBE was not satisfied with the progress on inclusive education and was taking steps to remedy it.
Mr Soobrayan then elaborated upon teacher development. The Integrated Strategic Planning Framework for Teacher Education and Development, a comprehensive plan for teacher recruitment, initial teacher education, induction and lifelong teacher development, was launched by the Ministers of Basic Education and Higher Education and Training. DBE played a co-ordinating role in the provision of training programmes to the teachers, which was a function of the provincial departments. Teacher development programmes in priority areas reached 184 207 teachers. Collaborative programmes with unions and provincial education departments were done. The gala awards had been launched to validate teachers who were doing a sterling job, to increase recognition of teaching as a profession and to address negative public perceptions, and they had resulted in positive feedback.
Mr Soobrayan noted that younger teachers were now being appointed, and by the end of December 2011, 76% of teachers graduating in 2010 had found teaching employment. There was a need to bring in more younger teachers, for forward planning. The target of bringing in 6 200 teachers below the age of 30 was exceeded, with the appointment of 7 744 teachers in the 2011/12 financial year. This augured well for meeting the Action Plan commitments. The target of 8 517 Funza Lushaka Bursaries for 2011/12 was exceeded by 216 bursaries, with a cumulative total of 8 733 bursaries being awarded in 2011. DBE also established and trained the provinces on a post provisioning model that would assist provinces and schools to generate the staff establishment for schools.
In terms of teacher:learner ratios, he noted that 65% of learners were now in classes where numbers were below 45 learners.
In the school management area, there had also been training, with 1 485 principals participating in the Advanced Certificate in Education programme for 2011. The Integrated Quality Management System (IQMS) implementation was checked by visits to 8 407 schools. Quality Teaching and Learning Campaign (QLTC) committees were also established in more than 3 000 schools, to protect teacher contact time, and consolidate learning. Many school governing bodies were functioning effectively, and full participation of parents through SGB platforms contributed to making learning a societal issue. The NEDLAC Accord on Basic Education and Partnerships with Schools was held in Butterworth, Eastern Cape on 2 October 2011. 477schools benefitted from private partnerships.
Mr Soobrayan noted, with pleasure, that the funding request to National Treasury for expansion of Grade R in the following two years was approved. Some fee-charging schools were also given the option to become no-fee schools, with funding also provided for equalisation of allocations. Advertisements were now placed by Government Communication and Information Systems (GCIS) to advise parents when they qualified to be exempted from paying fees. In the 2011 academic year, approximately 78% of learners in public schools were accommodated in more than 20 000 no-fee schools. He explained the quintile system, but said that no-fee schools would be successful only if provinces provided the allocation results on time and accurately, and that this was presently not happening in all provinces. The national target allocation was R960 per learner for schools in Quintile 1, and the no-fee threshold for schools in Quintiles 2 and 3 was R880 per learner.
Mr Soobrayan then addressed the issue of school infrastructure. There had been poor spending in the provinces on infrastructure and in this year R10 million was allocated to each province to address the human resource capacity constraints, such as lack of technical experts to address infrastructure problems, in cases where this did not fall to Department of Public Works. Other human resources capacity constraints in the provincial departments included the fact that Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) were at least supposed to be qualified Chartered Accountants. However, this was a scarce skill, and there were problems in sourcing CFOs as well as engineers. This situation would not be remedied overnight.
The guidelines for planning for school infrastructure and for boarding facilities were concluded and approved by the CEM, with standardised designs and cost model were developed and approved. A guideline on school infrastructure maintenance was developed. Short-term technical assistance support was sourced, to assess infrastructure plans, and to assist provinces with long-term infrastructure planning. By the end March 2012, the provincial education departments had spent r5.254 million (93%) of the Education Infrastructure Grant (EIG). Some progress was shown in addressing school infrastructure issues since the Accelerated School Improvement and Development Initiative (ASIDI) started, but the Auditor-General (AG) had commented on the underspending. In the 2011/12 year, there was implementation of construction of 1 648 classrooms, 316 sanitation blocks, water supply to 63 schools, electricity supply to 540 schools, and fencing of 96 schools. Delivery on school infrastructure still faced numerous challenges, including variance of costs, lack of uniformity in planning, budgeting, design, procurement and implementation processes. The costs of building the same structure varied from one province to another. There were problems also with competency of contractors and consultants, the dispersed nature of the projects, the myriad of small contracts, inadequate project management and slow pace. Meantime, ongoing maintenance and operations were not receiving adequate funding and attention, thus contributing to the increasing deterioration of existing infrastructure.
Mr Soobrayan then turned to the relationships with the districts. The DBE had quarterly engagements with district directors on the “Action Plan to 2014: Towards the realisation of schooling 2025” (the Action Plan). Guidelines on the organisation, roles and responsibilities of education districts were published for comment and would be finalised after careful consideration of the responses received. The PDOU supported 15 underperforming districts (set out in the attached presentation). DBE was involved in 37 courts cases, of which 22 were successfully resolved, either with rulings in favour of the Minister or Department, or by negotiation, with the remaining 15 still in progress. This Department was involved in substantial litigation, because education was a subject close to everyone, although in some cases it was cited incorrectly, and other cases involved the provinces.
The legislation passed or introduced in this period was summarised as the Basic Education Laws Amendment Act (Act No. 15 of 2011),Regulations Relating to the Prohibition of the Payment of Unauthorised Remuneration or the Giving of Financial Benefit or Benefit in Kind to Certain State Employees, which was signed into law on 23 December 2011, the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (NEEDU) Bill, 2011 and the Pregnancy Regulations (which were awaiting finalisation).
Mr Soobrayan noted the developments in the Department’s International Relations (see attached presentation for details).
In the realm of adult literacy, under the Kha Re Gude Mass Literacy campaign, 39 562 volunteer educators (including 176 blind educators, assisted by 161 sighted assistants) were employed on short-term contracts. R253.8 million was paid out in stipends to the volunteer educators. 3 671 volunteer supervisors were appointed on short-term contracts. 2 822 652 workbooks were supplied to 660 924 learners. 95% of the learner assessment portfolios had been completed and returned to the campaign's warehouse by the end of March 2012.
The DBE was also actively involved in Learner Wellbeing, through the provision of nutritious meals, daily, to 8 850 208 learners in 21 013 Quintile 1 to 3 primary and secondary schools. The National Schools Nutrition Programme (NSNP) grant programme was extended to a further 4 805 Quintile 3 secondary schools from April 2011, and by March 2012 there were 7 156 vegetable gardens at schools. 256 268 learners in quintile 1 primary schools underwent health screening. 902 279 Learning and Teaching Support Material on sexual and reproductive health were delivered to schools.18 039 educators were trained to implement sexual and reproductive health programmes for learners. 235 schools participated in the Care and Support for Teaching and Learning pilot programme. 9 745 public ordinary schools participated in school sport leagues. 8 871 public ordinary schools were linked to their local police station. The “Values in Action” training manual, which infused constitutional values and human rights into school governance, was developed for newly-appointed School Governing Body members. The Life Orientation Curriculum covered several vital areas. A social cohesion toolkit was provided, as a practical guide to school communities, on how to bridge the gap between schools and their host communities, in a bid to improve the quality of teaching and learning.
The DBE had five conditional grants – namely the HIV and Aids Life Skills Programme, the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP), Dinaledi Schools, Technical Secondary Schools Recapitalisation and the Education Infrastructure Grant (EIG). In addition to the conditional grants, the Department received an allocation for School Infrastructure Backlogs Indirect Grant, amounting to R700 million. Before conditional grants funds were transferred to the provinces, the Department ensured that all the requirements of the Division of Revenue Act (DORA), 2011, were met. The highlights and achievements of the grants were summarised (see attached presentation for full details). Challenges overall included the late approval of tenders, delayed payment of invoices, irregular monitoring, and the fact that low monitoring meant that early warnings were not given of under-performance. The Dinaledi grant was to be placed under review. This grant had supplied textbooks and study guides, science laboratories and other equipment, training of teachers in mathematics and science and supporting audio visual and IT equipment. The specific challenges here were late submissions of the monthly, quarterly, annual reports and business plans by provinces. The Technical Secondary School Recapitalisation grant would also come under review, to re-assess the relevance of the grant, and determine whether it was still a priority area. given its original intent and determine whether there are other areas in education that are of greater priority. These grants may require reformulation. The Education and Infrastructure Grant, whilst completing 39 090 projects, was hindered by lack of capacity for infrastructure development both within the department and in the private sector.
Mr Soobrayan addressed the issue of provincial budget and monitoring. A Budget Standards Exercise for the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) period was undertaken throughout all the nine provincial education departments, to analyse and evaluate the 2012 MTEF budget. Particular support was provided to Eastern Cape and Limpopo. Policy compliance with basic administrative and financial prescripts was still problematic. However, he wanted to say that contrary to criticisms that the DBE did not appear to be monitoring public expenditure at the provinces, they were in fact being monitored regularly and reports were made to CEM and HEDCOM. The Provinces, however, had to take corrective measures.
Mr Soobrayan noted that the major challenges faced by the Department included institutional challenges, policy compliance, coordination and management, and budget pressures, especially related to compensation of employees and infrastructure backlogs.
Financial report 2011/12
Mr Soobrayan proceeded to the Annual Financial Statements (see attached presentation for full details). He noted that the challenges around expenditure were in relation to teachers and HR and management, planning, quality assessments, and M&E.
Overall, the DBE spent 91.6% of budget. He set out the reasons for deviation. The Administration programme under-spent by R6.328 million, which was a saving on office accommodation, due to fluctuations of the Consumer Price Index (CPI), so it was a genuine saving. However, in the Curriculum Support programme, there was R96.394 million unspent, due mainly to problems in procurement, as highlighted by the Auditor-General, necessitating changes to the procurement strategy. There was also a delay in the submission of invoices for the Curriculum Review project, which meant that payments could not be finalised before year-end. The final transfer for the Dinaledi Schools conditional grant to Limpopo was withheld, due to low spending. In the Teachers and Education HRD programme, R43.145 million remained unspent, due to the resignation, and difficulty in replacing, the external moderators for the IQMS project. There were also challenges in the ASIDI programme. Finally, he outlined mitigatory actions (see attached presentation).
Mr Z Makhubele (ANC) asked what mechanisms, other than private audit firms, were being used to keep track of spending. He commented that private audit firms were expensive, and he wanted to know why there were no internal audit mechanisms to respond to challenges being faced in the provinces.
Mr Soobrayan replied that the directorate of the internal audit was not functioning properly but it was present and it was not outsourced. It was not led by a qualified person and a suitably qualified person was subsequently appointed. Only certain functions are outsourced to private audit firms such as high stake tenders.
Mr Makhubele also enquired what exactly was being done to address the challenge of some learners still not having access to infrastructure in which to learn, and those schools that were demanding to be given infrastructure although they had very few learners.
Mr Soobrayan reminded Members that the DBE had termed some structures as “inappropriate” and these included those where the pupils were learning out in the open. They were prioritised in the roll-out of adequate structures. With regard to closure of schools, there were clear criteria to assess the viability of schools, and a prescribed procedures on how to close down a school. Schools with too few learners were considered a drain on the Department’s resources.
Mr C Moni (ANC) requested a response to the assertion that education was in crisis in South Africa.
Mr Soobrayan noted that the term “crisis” was sometimes used expediently and cautioned that use of this term could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. He admitted that there were serious challenges in the education sector, but said that the real question was whether education was actually deteriorating. The answer was that it was not, although there were continuing challenges. Infrastructure had improved, and learner performance was being reported upon more fully. The President had also announced and led interventions.
Mr K Dikobo (AZAPO) requested the overall performance results of the Dinaledi schools in order to assess whether this process was successful.
Mr Mathanzima Mweli, Deputy Director General, Department of Basic Education, noted that information on Dinaledi schools was readily available and was provided in the first quarter of the year. The concept of Dinaledi would be broadened, because the current concept had not yielded value for money. However, this did not mean that the Dinaledi schools would be abolished.
Mr Dikobo asked for clarity on the irregular expenditure of 74.8 million reported in the Annual Report. He asked if there was any corruption. He also asked for clarity about the position in Eastern Cape and Limpopo, because disclaimer reports were issued for both these provinces.
Mr Soobrayan was adamant that the incident of irregular expenditure was not due to corruption. It related to procurement that was done outside the Department’s proper prescripts, was audited by the AG, and no fraud was found. The only problem was regarding the National Treasury regulations that procurement should have been done within the Department.
The Chairperson interjected to ask if the situation had been resolved.
Mr W Madisha (COPE) first complained about the absence of the Deputy Minister, saying that it was vital that the Ministry should attend if education was “in crisis”.
Mr Soobrayan reiterated that the Deputy Minister was at a Cabinet meeting, despite a desire to attend these meetings.
Mr Madisha asked the Department whether all the pupils were ready to write the upcoming examinations, particularly those in Limpopo, given the interventions that had to be made in this province. He wondered why the DBE had not earlier addressed problems of lack of capacity, as he thought this might have contributed to the DBE’s inability to address issues as they arose.
Mr Mweli stated that the learners in different provinces were at different levels of readiness for the upcoming examinations. Nine provinces sat for the ANA, and they were ready at that time. In Limpopo, catch-up learning, or extra tuition, was given over two weeks. The quality of the tuition had to be monitored before readiness could be assessed. In North-West, because of the Oliphanthoek incident, learners may write exams later.
Mr Soobrayan added that the lack of capacity was due to sudden resignations and a failure to replace teachers quickly.
Ms A Lovemore (DA) first commented on the accusation posed that she was working with section 27, and said that she was only working to safeguard the rights of children.
Ms Lovemore commented that the AG had reported that there were no credible lines of communication between the Department and the Portfolio Committee, thus placing the role of the Committee in jeopardy. She questioned the Department about the increase in litigation against it, and wondered if this was reflective of incompetence on the part of the DBE. She also felt that the DBE should develop more meaningful targets that addressed critical issues, questioned the measurement tools used by the Department, and the discrepancies, which included not meeting targets, and underspending.
Mr Soobrayan noted that there were officials present at a meeting to which Ms Lovemore referred; although one official’s flights had been delayed, he himself was aware of issues raised. He noted that it was not correct to assume that the increase in legal cases was reflective of dysfunctionality in the Department. South Africa was a litigious society. Some cases brought against the Department were frivolous, others were based on prior problems within the Department, and some had been won by the Department. He conceded, in relation to the targets, that the DBE could improve, although he thought it was going too far to suggest that targets were “meaningless”, as indicators were based on data that was available. The discrepancies in the baseline were due to two different sets of data that were used, one of which was discredited.
Mr D Smiles (DA) commended the increased access to education but questioned the credibility of the figures. However, he asked why learner performance was not indicated in the Annual Report, particularly for grade R, where a lot of money was being expended. He also wanted DBE to report on why, in relation to the quality mechanism QLTC, only 3000 out of 26 0000 schools had quality committees. He also enquired why only 8 470 schools were visited, out of 26 000, to check on implementation of the IQMS.
Mr Soobrayan stated that there was a focus on learning, and various reports had already been published by the Department. However, this was not the sort of information that would necessarily be published in the Annual Report. The QLTC mechanism was supposed to improve quality, but schools had to be persuaded to implement quality assurance. The QLTC mechanism was still voluntary, and so there would never be full implementation of it in every school. He commented that IQMS was checked in one-third of all schools. This was not substantially limited, although he said that the DBE could always improve.
Mr Smiles was still not satisfied, but the Chairperson stated that a separate meeting would still to be held to discuss the IQMS.
Mr Dikobo questioned the funding norms and asked what made the Department decide that it was cheaper to maintain a child in a Quintile one school than in a Quintile two school.
Mr Soobrayan indicated that the original school funding norm was that seven times more finding would be provided to poorer schools than to wealthier schools. The schools were then divided into five quintiles. Parents in less poor quintiles were required to supplement the fees. For this reason, the funding norms were not in fact assuming that it was cheaper to maintain a child in a Quintile one school. Funding was provided on an equitable basis rather than an equal basis.
Mr Makhubele asked for a clarification of the terms e-education and e-learning, questioning whether they referred to the same matter.
Mr Mweli clarified the use of the terms e-education and e-learning, stating that they were inter-changeable.
Mr Makhubele enquired how many subject advisors had been trained since the first batch of training of 2 591 people, the impact this had had, and how many, in total, were now in the system.
Mr Soobrayan said he would have to report back to the Committee with the exact figures. He noted that it was too soon to assess the impact that the subject advisors had had.
Ms N Gina (ANC) questioned the accuracy of the database of learners and personnel, commenting that this would have an impact on the budget. She also asked why the Department had not achieved better quality education, considering all the initiatives it had implemented.
Mr Soobrayan noted that there was a huge challenge in the collection of data, but this was a provincial function, and principals had a tendency to inflate numbers in order to get more funding. Systems were being implemented in order to verify learner numbers which would make the verification easier, and disciplinary measures would be introduced for those deliberately inflating the numbers. He confirmed that the biggest challenge had been a budgetary one.
Ms Palesa Tyobeka, Deputy Director General: Planning and Delivery Oversight, DBE, added that her Unit had been affected by the resignation of its head but there was a decision to concentrate on 15 underperforming units. A lot had happened and the specific gains of the Department could be reported at the end of this financial year. These would include the identification of key challenges to performance, which revolved around credible planning, and the utilisation of data for planning. The findings of the challenges in the system have been used to inform planning for all the districts around the country.
Ms Gina wanted more explanation on the utilisation of teachers, saying that in some cases teachers were made redundant, and in some cases two or three teachers were being paid for the same post.
Mr Soobrayan responded that DBE had set up a team to deal with teacher utilisation in the provinces. Excess educators were moved, but they were not necessarily matched to the right posts, and this had been a problem with the post provisioning implementation. Teachers not qualified to teach Foundation Phase had assumed it was easy to teach this phase, and they had therefore sometimes applied for and been placed in posts where they were not properly qualified to teach.
Ms A Mashishi (ANC) asked whether there were any provinces doing well with regards to infrastructure, how many principals still needed to be trained, and when they would be taken on board.
Mr Soobrayan noted that 1 800 principals had been trained in the ACE system, and any prospective principals would still have to be trained.
Ms Mashishi asked how many schools were earmarked for e-education and when these schools would be connected.
Mr Mweli said that exact figures were not readily available because the issue of connectivity was co-ordinated by the provinces, but these figures could be provided later.
Mr Smiles asked the DBE to indicate what other agents or resources, apart from ASIDI, were being applied to try to break the infrastructure deadlock.
Mr Soobrayan stated that the ASIDI was the main resource used to address infrastructure development. However, outside of the DBE, there was also a collective government effort to address infrastructure development.
Ms Lovemore asked why section 8(4) of the National Education Policy Act was not utilised by the Minister in 2011/2012 to intervene in underperforming provinces
Mr Soobrayan explained that other parts of NEPA spoke to the procedures to be followed by the Minister. Generally, once inconsistencies were discovered, the Minister would have to write a report, give the executing authority an opportunity to respond and remedy the situation, and table it in legislation. This was all done within the ambits of section 100 of the Constitution and inter-governmental relations.
The Chairperson questioned the allocation of the R960 and R880 figure to schools. She questioned how Limpopo had utilised these allocations and asked if other provinces had under utilised their funding.
Mr S Padayachee, Deputy Director General: Planning, Department of Basic Education, informed the Committee that there were plans to increase the allocation to no-fee schools to R1000, in an attempt at equalisation. He further explained that Free State, Gauteng and the Western Cape hade indicated that they will be able to equalise their funding norms by 2013. Some provinces such as Kwa-Zulu Natal, the Eastern Cape and Limpopo could not equalise, due to funding constraints, and the Northern-Cape could only achieve this in 2014. These funding norms were increased to over R1000 per learner in 2013 although this only covered service costs such as electricity. He further noted that plans were under way to abolish the quintile system and that in future all schools would be classified simply as fee-paying or non-fee paying schools. If due process was not followed, the money allocated to the schools would be tracked to ensure that it was used according to the funding norms.
The Chairperson enquired how the DBE planned to address the challenges that were the result of the Department’s concurrent function in the delivery of education.
The Chairperson asked, in relation to inclusive education, whether any assessment was done to see whether the objectives of the White Paper were met.
Mr Mweli confirmed that the DBE was evaluating its performance against White Paper 6 and international protocols, as well as the definition of inclusive education as provided by the United Nations.
Mr A Mpotshane (IFP) asked whether there was a mechanism to ensure that subject advisors were of good quality, as in certain provinces unqualified subject advisors were being appointed. He was concerned that the implementation of ANA in some provinces had been chaotic and some schools did not have their papers.
Mr Mweli responded that the appointment of personnel was done in line with the minimum requirements and criteria set, although it was yet too early to assess the impact of the subject advisors. He assured the Committee that If irregularities occurred, the Director General and the Minister would deal with them as best as they could.
Mr Padayachee added that a full report on ANA was submitted. Some schools were assisted in the copying of papers, and arrangements were made to accommodate all learners.
Mr Dikobo asked Mr Soobrayan to address the issue of disclaimers by departmental officials on national TV, and said it seemed that the problems in schools were due to administrative negligence.
Mr Soobrayan reminded Mr Dikobo that he was not the Accounting Officer for the Eastern Cape and Limpopo provincial departments. He agreed that there had been audit disclaimers in these provinces, but interventions had been introduced to deal with the issues in the provinces. Personnel were deployed to the provinces to help out, but the DBE did not actually take over.
The Chairperson thanked the Committee and the Department for their presence. She reminded Members that separate meetings would be arranged to cover some of the issues raised, particularly in relation to ASIDI, Dinaledi and QLTC.
The meeting was adjourned.
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