The Department of Basic Education (DBE) presented its Annual Report for 2011/2012. The role and mandate of the DBE was explained, stressing that this had been expanded over the last few years, and that DBE was taking a far more active role insofar as provincial departments were concerned, and had devised systems of better monitoring involving District managers. The achievements in key areas were given, and there was a comparison of the achievements against targets in matters such as pass rates, literacy rates, Annual National Assessments and continuous assessment processes. The performance monitoring and support functions were also given. 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 negotiation by DBE for 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. 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. 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. Finally, the Annual Financial Statements were tabled and it was noted that the DBE had managed to spend 91.6% of the budget, giving a full motivation for the under-expenditure was given.
Members noted a number of concerns with several aspects of education still. They questioned why, after 18 years, many children were still not attending their local schools, but were still tending to travel to other suburbs. They also noted the high incidents in some areas of violence at the schools and questioned exactly what the schools were doing to offer proper sexual education and deal with pregnancy of learners. Members were in agreement that there had been substantial improvements in access to education, but some Members wanted an indication of whether DBE believed that education was in crisis, and more detail on the quality of education that learners were receiving, particularly in view of the initiatives implemented, and the money spent. They were concerned about ongoing reports of high teacher absenteeism. In some provinces, lack of funding meant that facilities were either constructed, but not furnished, or that matters such as proper sanitation and safe drinking water were still not in place at the schools. A report on the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative was requested. Members were concerned that two of the provinces received audit disclaimers, wanted to know how they were being monitored in relation to their 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, and said that when schools did not advise the Department of their requirements timeously, this created problems. Members asked for more detail also on the quintile ratings of schools, and what factors influenced the allocations.
Department of Basic Education Annual Report 2011/12: Briefing
The Chairperson said in her opening remarks that it was clear that the education sector faced challenges, but hoped that it would be able to make improvements. The shortages of learning material and teacher absenteeism had to be overcome and education had to be taken seriously.
Mr Bobby Soobrayan, Director General, Department of Basic Education, tabled the Annual Report for 2011/12 and outlined its legal requirements. He noted that the Department of Basic Education (DBE or the Department) drew up a strategic plan each year, for implementation throughout the coming financial year. The Annual Report reflected the DBE’s budget and mandate. He recommended that perhaps this Committee should make a specific recommendation to review the Annual Report systematically, province by province, to prepare a sector analysis.
Mr Soobrayan noted that the Annual Report did not address the legal aspects of the budget, but essentially gave data on how the monitoring had functioned. He would take the Committee through the Annual Report information, setting out the service delivery environment, the organisational context, the programme performance, conditional grants, provincial budget monitoring and support and the Annual Financial Statements.
Mr Soobrayan outlined the legislative mandate of the Department of Basic Education, and the main requirements of the National Education Policy Act No 27 of 1996 (see attached document for full details). He said that in order to deliver as required, it had been accepted that DBE must fulfil a more active steering role, with a direct involvement in support of implementation of DBE initiatives. Critical performance monitoring and assessment was identified as a requirement by DBE, the National Treasure (NT), the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) and the Auditor-General (AG). DBE called for monthly provincial budget monitoring reports, recognising that its role could not be confined to policy alone. The Action Plan to 2014 (introduced in 2010/11) was the first ever Sector Plan to provide a robust mechanism to steer the education system with a clear indication of priorities.
He noted that DBE consolidated the national targets, which varied from province to province. The newly appointed Minister had introduced quarterly meetings with District Managers to ensure that priorities were implemented and that problem solving was done by planning committees. This had proven successful, and had assisted with policy implementation. The main purpose was to identify blockages so that they could be addressed early.
Mr Soobrayan elaborated on the service delivery environment and provided statistics (refer to attached presentation).The interventions focused on various issues, including the financial and supply chain management, the concerns about excess teachers, the spending of the budget, and the non-delivery of learning and teaching materials. For instance, in the Eastern Cape, the focus was primarily on financial and supply chain issues. Deficit budgeting had been a problem, as no auditing process was conducted. This placed considerable strain on the DBE’s institutional capacity and demanded a re-engineering of its work.
For the reporting period of 2011/12, the DBE continued to consolidate the advances it had made to enhance learner performance in the basic education sector through strategic interventions such as a focus on Teachers, Textbooks and Time (the Three Ts), implementation of the Curriculum Assessment and Policy Statement (CAPS), a plan and preparation for the Annual National Assessments (ANA), the expansion of the Workbooks programme, and the improvement of infrastructure under the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiatives (ASIDI). All were intended to maximise learner performance and prioritise strategic objectives. Government had allocated a significant budget toward the smooth running of these interventions, which had a positive impact on the teaching fraternity.
The interventions and ANA were significantly utilised and implemented, and the Department responded with strong focus and purpose as ANA provided DBE with clear guidelines. The entire process was extremely public and transparent. Educators faced challenges with regard to the assessment of workbooks, but ANA provided clarity in terms of consolidation and administration of work in teaching. Mr Soobrayan gave further details of the huge improvement and positive impact that ANA had on the education environment (see attached presentation for full details).
Key research findings from an independent source of a General Household Survey (GHS) were also highlighted.
Mr Soobrayan proceeded to describe the programme performance, and wanted to explain more about the Human Resource Management. He informed the Committee that the Department completed its internal re-configuration process, in order to meet its strategic objectives. A new organisational structure was fully implemented on 25 November 2011, and the PERSAL system had been updated accordingly. The key posts of Chief Financial Officer, and Deputy Directors-General for Finance and Administration, as well as for Planning, Information and Assessments had been filled. 264 officials attended training courses during the financial year for professional and personal development. 47 officials attended induction programmes as new appointees. 63 unemployed graduates completed internships in the Department. The Department had two key resignations. No strikes were reported on the labour front.
The implementation of the CAPS document commenced with Grades R to 3 and Grade 10 in 2012. During this period, 2 591 Subject Advisors were trained. All Grades 4 to 6 were orientated to the changes in the CAPS Subject Statements, between 6 February and 25 March 2012. In the Eastern Cape orientation programme, there were 968 district officials who attended the Intermediate Phase. The DBE identified subject advisors from different provinces to establish a National Training Team (NTT) to assist with the Grade 11 CAPS orientation, and this orientation was conducted in February 2012 and March 2012. The CAPS documents, in the form of Question and Answer booklets, as well as Self-Study Guides, were distributed to schools and districts. Thutong Service Centre information was provided on CDs and distributed to schools. Further feedback and a discussion followed.
Mr Soobrayan highlighted the E-education initiative. The Telkom Masters Services Agreement was signed on 27 March 2012, and in Phase 1 there would be connectivity provided to 1 650 schools for a period of three years. The website www.digitalclassroom.co.za was developed to connect the nine centres and the 180 selected Mathematics and Science (Dinaledi) schools. It provided support to teachers and also served as a content repository for teacher professional development material. Mindset, Intel and Microsoft made their content available in support of the initiative (see attached presentation for detailed information).
An additional 3 942 educators used and applied ICT in the classrooms. 22 159 educators attended ICT training courses and 2 266 schools were connected to ICT infrastructure and services.
One of the main targets in the Annual Plan was the tightening of planning and implementation. In certain instances, a target was formulated, but the numbers were not achieved. Although the pass rate increased, lower figures were achieved than the targets. The Grade 12 age group was to be specifically monitored. Improvements with the Grade 12 learners had been noted.
Sign language had been catered for and workbooks had been adapted to braille. A Ministerial Committee had been established and the National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations had been administered well. An international benchmarking of the 2010 NSC question papers revealed that the standard of the NSC question papers compared favourably to those of international bodies. A detailed Technical Report on the 2011 NSC examinations was developed and distributed to all stakeholders. A diagnostic report based on the NSC examination results, which articulated the weaknesses in the key subjects, with proposed remedial programmes, was compiled. This was distributed to Provincial Education Departments (PEDs) and schools, to support teaching and learning in those key subjects.
Mr Soobrayan proceeded to the Annual Financial Statements. He noted that the challenges around expenditure mainly related to teachers and HR and management, planning, quality assessments, and Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E). Overall, the DBE spent 91.6% of the annual budget and any deviations from budget were properly motivated. Challenges were highlighted in certain programmes and initiatives, which impacted on the budget. The fiscal measures such as the conditional grants had to be funded and facilitated due to the priority in the delivery of the budget and its allocation. Details were also provided of mitigatory actions taken to address the identified shortcomings (see attached presentation for full details).
The Chairperson noted that the government was now eighteen years into democracy. Instead of the expected statistics of learners migrating to the township schools, the situation was completely the opposite. Learners were leaving the township areas daily to attend other schools. These institutions did have the resources available to provide quality teaching methods, but they faced social challenges such as lack of safety, and the risk of violence and gangsterism at the schools in the townships.
Mr S Plaatjie (COPE, North West) requested clarity on how the Department was planning to address the need for proper ablution facilities, as no school could function properly without running water. A message had to be conveyed to the provincial departments that they must prioritize these issues.
Mr Plaatjie commended the Department for the positive outcomes as shown in the audit report, but was worried that some provinces seemed to have regressed.
Mr Plaatjie was worried about the high teacher absenteeism in some schools and commented on the stagnation in certain provinces. He noted that the latest State of the Nation Address had emphasised the need for all educators to be punctual and present. The school year normally started with good order and discipline, but there was a tendency to regress during mid-year.
Ms B Mncube (ANC, Gauteng) was pleased to note the outstanding achievements of the Gauteng Provincial Department.
Ms Mncube was concerned with the mention of ongoing literacy and numeracy problems. The delays and backlogs in infrastructure projects were noted, including the lack of ablution facilities in the provinces. According to the audit report, these needs had been budgeted for, and the monies were available, so she wanted to know the precise reason for the delays.
Ms Mncube referred to the White Paper and enquired by when implementation was required, and when the results of this were likely to become apparent.
Ms Mncube referred to a court case in Gauteng, where the MEC was asked to make provision for learners. She asked how many schools were actually being under-utilised.
Ms Mncube asked how pregnancy and sexual education issues were actually dealt with by DBE within the schools .
Ms Mncube made some further comments on the focus on CAPS documents and the practice. She was concerned that perhaps there was constant redeployment of some educators.
Mr M De Villiers (DA, Western Cape) referred to the monthly budget monitoring programme, and asked whether it would be possible to implement this system, or if there was another more conducive.
Mr de Villiers raised his concern that some textbooks had been supplied with incorrect language used.
Mr de Villiers noted that on visits to two sites in Mpumalanga, it was discovered that although school buildings were erected, no furniture or equipment was provided, with the result that the learners enrolled had to go to other facilities at other premises to receive tuition.
Mr de Villiers asked about the responsibility and availability of the subject advisors to the schools, and whether progress reports at schools were being monitored.
Mr de Villiers was concerned that only a few schools had been given the benefit of ICT assistance. 90% of learners in the local areas were from poorer communities. He expressed concern regarding the lack of development, since 1994, at Model C schools.
Mr de Villiers wanted more detail on the under- and over-expenditure of the budget.
Mr de Villiers asked for more detail on the quintile ratings of schools, and what factors influenced the allocations.
Ms M Moshodi (ANC, Free State) enquired as to the reason for regression in Limpopo Province after the interventions. However, she commended the favourable progress in the Free State Province.
Mr Soobrayan referred to the audit report to address many of the concerns raised. In response to the Chairperson’s comment about the migration to other schools outside the townships, he said that the parents considered where a poor African would be best challenged and chose the school that they thought was best for their child. There had been some good progress, however, at historically under-privileged schools. A top matriculant, who performed with distinction, was identified as coming from the Limpopo Province. When educational institutions were reported as dysfunctional, the DBE tried to identify the resources that had to be addressed. Such schools had to be claimed back, and active involvement of parents had to be encouraged. When the resources and teachers were on track, the results would be obvious. However, this was a tedious and time-consuming process.
Mr Soobrayan responded to concerns regarding various requirements and needs within the various provinces, and assured the Members that the Department was committed to meeting the needs of its constituents and addressing pertinent issues in a responsive manner. In regard to absenteeism he reported that findings from a study showed that on average, educators had been absent for 90 days, which resulted in huge losses and backlog. With regard to under-expenditure in the current year, he assured Members that the DBE had ensured that the funds would be available for use in the following year. In KwaZulu Natal and the Free State, the rollout of facilities was on track, but a lot of hard work was also needed. Service delivery was to be improved and a tool was identified to assess results.
Mr Soobrayan responded to Ms Mncube by explaining that one incident was related to one learner application, where a Rivonia School refused to take in any more learners that would exceed the capacity at the school. Instead, the Department was asked to erect a new school building to accommodate the learner. This matter was being addressed.
The slow progress in certain provinces had been noted and here DBE had specifically asked for reports on whether systems had been put in place to address these outstanding issues, to prevent stagnation. Mr Soobrayan again made reference to the budget report and quarterly meetings which should help to bring such matters to light and move them along.
DBE and the subject advisors recognised weaknesses and monitored quality and impact of interventions to address areas of concern. A no-fee school could not charge fees and survive as a quintile school. Since the quintile system had been introduced, problems had been experienced, and the budget would dictate the way forward. He agreed that the provision of sports fields was a neglected area, due to lack of space. Mr Soobrayan could not give an indication as to when the interventions would be finalised.
Mr Soobrayan said that the lack of resources, such as textbooks, particularly in regard to mathematics and science, was being addressed. It was of paramount importance that the Department was kept abreast of requirements, so that the matter could receive the necessary attention.
In regard to the questions about the facilities, Mr Soobrayan said that any new school should cater for all facilities. The DBE’s policy stipulated that where infrastructure existed, it should be utilised.
On the questions related to infrastructure he informed Members that 49 schools were identified as needing work. Of these, 35 schools had been handed over at the end of March and 9 April, and 16 schools had subsequently been completed. Problems had been experienced with contractors, who had gone into liquidation.
Another DBE representative responded on social issues, and reported that regrettably the unpleasant conditions experienced in some schools were on the increase, internally in the schools, and externally in their environment. However, DBE had embarked on a safety programme and had made a plan to assist the schools, including giving advice to the school leadership on compliance and implementation.
In response to Ms Mncube, he noted that programmes on gender development had been embarked on, in partnership with loveLife, to provide assistance to the communities, which had proven beneficial. It was critical to educate the youth and learners in regard to morals, values and sexual and reproductive issues so that they were well empowered to make responsible choices when faced with challenges. The schools and parents were required to be collectively involved to achieve these goals. Schools had a direct line to the police departments should a need arise to report any violent incidents, and the distribution of condoms in schools was noted.
Mr de Villiers asked about litigation matters and wanted an indication whether the Department had plans to address these weaknesses.
Mr Anton Schoeman, Deputy Director General, Department of Basic Education, responded to the question about the litigation matters and court cases. He assured the Committee that these were relatively minor matters and informed Members of types of cases and outcomes. A database was created to create a better understanding of the involvement of the provincial departments.
Mr Soobrayan also said that now the DBE had a better capacity and better coordination around legal services.
The Chairperson noted the weakness still in education, as regards infrastructure and other matters. She asked about the provision of nutritional supplies to schools.
Mr Soobrayan said that the sanitation and availability of drinking water was being addressed. He also said that four or five quarterly meetings had so far been held in the various provinces, involving the District managers who were visiting schools. DBE was fully aware of the critical issues and had conducted evaluations as the first stage of being able to address the issues.
The Chairperson reiterated the concern that many learners were members of gangs and that stabbing incidents at schools had been reported.
She urged the DBE to close the identified gaps and deal with the most important problems, particularly those that impacted on the lower levels in the schools, and among the poorer communities.
The meeting was adjourned.
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