Textbook delivery in Limpopo, 3rd quarter 2012 performance: Basic Education Dept updates

Basic Education

04 March 2013
Chairperson: Ms H Malgas (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee asked for feedback on the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (NEEDU) Bill, but the Department of Basic Education (DBE) admitted that there had been misunderstanding on this and requested permission to deliver a full report later.

The Committee then took a briefing on the delivery of textbooks by DBE, with a particular focus on Limpopo, where, because of the Department being under administration, the national DBE had assumed some functions that would normally be performed by the provincial department. Members had been concerned by conflicting reports as to whether textbooks had been delivered, and wanted to confirm information given during oversight. DBE explained that a decision was taken to centralise procurement of textbooks, with standardised core textbooks for each school. DBE aimed to provide a book per learner per subject per grade. There would be staggered procurement across grades from 2012 to 2014. Master lists were drawn and signed off by the provincial heads of department, and textbooks would then be ordered, orders confirmed, delivered to the schools, who would sign acknowledging receipt, and the receipts would be correlated. In Limpopo there was about a 2% decrease in numbers of learners each year, because of migration patterns, but an error margin was built into the orders to try to ensure that there were no shortages. DBE said that proper systems were in place, and outlined the stages of the process. After delivery, schools would be required to declare any shortages, which would be verified against delivery notes, and principals would be held accountable for any incorrect information. DBE claimed that delivery for phase 1 in 2013 was fully complete, at 100%. Phase 2 would make further deliveries where there had been logistical problems in delivery, and the final “mop up” would happen on 8 March to cater for any discrepancies. Delivery was in line with the Curriculum Assessment Policy Standards (CAPS) implementation, and there were some misunderstandings on what would be delivered when. Later, however, DBE said that there had been 90% distribution in Limpopo. The distinction was highlighted between text books and workbooks. 

Members indicated that they had a number of questions, and these formed the focus of the discussion on the 3rd quarter performance report, which also went into the delivery of the Learner Teacher Support Material (LTSM). That report noted the achievements in the third quarter, giving many statistics for the national pass rate for National Senior Certificate, the numbers completing matric and those able to apply for university. The highlights f each of the programmes were outlined. Specific reference was made to interactions with Cuba to conduct an exchange programme of tutors in Maths, Science and technology, the School Capacity and Innovation Programme (SCIP) that was designed to improve primary grade reading, Zimbabwe’s offer to train teachers in Maths and Science for South Africa, and discussions with China on education development. It was also noted that e-Education was to be increased, and the results of benchmarking were set out, which indicated that although there were improvements in the number of lowest-performing learners in reading and literacy, maths and science, there were not corresponding increases at the top-performing levels, and the South African schools were performing lower than counterparts in other education systems. There had been underspending of the budget both by the National and Provincial departments, particularly on grants. 

Members were critical of both reports, with several calling into question the accuracy of the information, which differed from earlier presentations, and even within this presentation itself – as evidenced by the uncertainty about delivery of books in Limpopo. They questioned why the final “mop up” that was apparently due 10 days after the school reports was now only being done on 8 March. They questioned the centralisation of procurement, the evaluation of textbooks, and asked exactly who was responsible for delivery. They questioned how delivery was done, noted that DBE had been taken to court for lack of credible processes, and insisted on hearing “the truth”. The DBE attempted to explain where problems arose and that this was partially due to misunderstandings at the schools, but in response a Member who lived in Limpopo said that it was certainly not true that every child had a book, and he was most disturbed to see the differing versions. A DA member said that the DA had been accused of being on a “fishing and bullying” expedition, but was merely insisting on getting proper answers. 

In relation to the 3rd quarter report, members noted that they expected to hear more on the SCIP programme, human resources, the Kha Ri Gude programme and CAPS. They wanted to know more on the financial implications of the international agreements and the reason they were signed. They wanted more detail on the performance testing of teachers and pay, and how the DBE intended to align with the National Development Plan. They queried why there was so little mention of the challenges that had been identified by the Committee itself, questioned the filling of vacancies and wanted reports on the Integrated Quality Management System, which was problematic. They asked for more detailed breakdown on the Annual National Assessment, and wanted to know the outcomes of the Kha Ri Gude programme in a full report. They also asked about partnerships, whether these catered for interns or learnerships and said that learnerships had not proven successful in the past. They questioned the low spending in Mpumalanga, North West and the Northern Cape, and asked for clarification of the figures on the grants, saying that if one province had not spent, money should be transferred to those that could. They asked for details of multi grade schools and their performance. They wanted to get reports on schools and teacher vacancies,and clarity on what the minimum standards for schools were.  A member wanted a full report on a technical school that the Committee had visited in 2011, questioning how the students could possibly pass their technical practical examinations since there was no workshop set up, although equipment was available. The students had apparently all passed. They also wanted to know why DBE was not able to sort out the mobile classroom needs, asked if anyone had been taken to task for submitting incorrect information and insisted on accountability at the DBE. The DBE said that perhaps there had been misunderstandings but the Committee did not accept that and insisted on full reports and answers in the following meeting and during a forthcoming workshop. 

Meeting report

National Education Evaluation and Development Unit Bill progress
The Chairperson noted that Members had previously received a briefing on the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit Bill, which had been tabled to Cabinet, but for which costings were still needed. She requested when it would be tabled in Parliament.

Mr Herbert Mweli, Acting Director General, Department of Basic Education, tendered the apologies of the Director General and said that there had been some misunderstanding. He asked for permission to forward the report shortly.

The Chairperson accepted that but reminded Mr Mweli that he had committed to send the report by Thursday of last week.

Delivery of textbooks in the Department of Education, with a focus on Limpopo Province
Mr Allan Subban, Director, Department of Basic Education, briefed the Committee on the report on the delivery of textbooks in the Department of Basic Education (DBE or the Department). The principles agreed upon were:

- There would be centralised procurement of textbooks at school level
- There would be standardised core textbooks for each school in the district and provinces
- Each learner would get one book, per subject, per grade
- The procurement in 2013 would focus on grades 4-6 and 11. In 2012, textbooks were procured for grades 1, 2 and 3.
- Procurement of grades 7, 8, 9 and 12 would be done in 2014, in alignment with the implementation of CAPS.

Mr Subban explained that the National Catalogue set out eight titles per subject, ranked from 1 to 8, according to price, with no differentiation of the quality of books even though there might be variation in price. Choices in respect of provision of textbooks in Limpopo were restricted to books listed in the catalogue. Packs of readers would be provided per school. For home language basic readers, each school would get ten packs, and would receive a total of 360 books for the training of grades 4, 5 and 6 only, in the implementation phase.

Given the budgetary restraints of Limpopo, there had been a meeting with all publishers to discuss further reduction of prices in the catalogue, again with no compromise on quality. After submission of prices by the publishers, the Limpopo Department of Education (LDoE) textbook committee went through a process of identifying three publishers per subject per grade. This had achieved savings of almost 50% in Learner/Teacher Support Material (LTSM).

In October 2012, further orders were placed for titles on the Addendum Catalogue, which included Grade 11 English Accounting as well as Grade 4-6 Graded Readers for Xitsonga, Tshivenda and IsiNdebele and Afrikaans First Additional Languages (FAL). There were no textbooks for natural science and technology on the catalogue. Here, the DBE developed its own workbooks and textbooks for grades 4-6, as well as the teacher guides. The Department also developed maths and physical science textbooks. It decided rather to use these, because of the budgetary constraints in Limpopo.

Delivery was informed by a master list for grades 4-6 and 11, signed by the Head of Department (HOD) and provided to the service provider. In Limpopo there was a 2% drop in learner numbers per year, due to migration and other reasons, but there was a 2-5% top up on applications for textbooks to avoid any school having a shortfall. The Provincial Department of Education (PDE) signed off on the order, accepting it as the only distribution list. Orders were placed on 7 September 2012 and publishers were required to deliver by 12 October 2012. The total books ordered for grade 11 cost R1.142 million, and for grades 4-6 they cost R3.8 million.

Proper systems were in place for the receipt and distribution, so that schools could quantify the stock and it was possible to check what each school received. Distribution was done by fully trained and vetted personnel. There was a code of practice and ethics pertaining to drivers and the vehicles were equipped with satellite tracking and state of the art security systems. IT support produced trip sheets/delivery notes and proof of delivery per consignment.

The various aspects of delivery were outlined (see attached presentation for details), from first receipting to final collation of sign-off by principals. The requirements for the delivery note, in terms of the details it had to contain, and who must sign, were also set out. There was provision for a school to indicate if there were any shortages and to confirm that the books were in the correct language.

The DBE noted that the delivery for phase 1 in 2013 was fully complete, at 100%. Phase 2 would encompass further delivery that was occasioned by inability to reach some schools in the first phase. About 20 bridges had been washed away, but 4 x 4 vehicles had now been hired to deliver. DBE faced huge challenges in ensuring a one-on-one match of books and pupils, especially since students still tended to migrate at the start of the school year. This meant that a final “mop up” was needed, when some schools identified shortages or surpluses, where they had started new grades without informing the DBE in advance, where they had not confirmed the correct languages or had not indicated that they were dual-medium, or where schools had been merged. 

Phase 3 delivery was also necessary: delivery of books to the district warehouses closer to the schools. Schools had been collecting books on a daily basis. Each school was required to complete, stamp and sign forms when collecting and these were collected daily, to reconcile total books provided to each school. This should be completed by 1 March and the final analysis would be done by 8 March.

Mr Subban concluded that it was very important to understand that delivery was linked to the Curriculum Assessment Policy Standards (CAPS) implementation. There had been a number of requests with respect to grades 7, 8, and 9 - 12. He reminded Members that Grades 10-12 were, however,  provided with textbooks in the previous year, and it was necessary, given these requests to look into the rate of retrieval of books at grade 10 level. Some schools claimed not to have received the books, but they had signed Proof of Delivery forms, which were now captured online. The Minister had advised stakeholders of this when meeting with them on 18 November 2012.

The DBE was committed to ensuring that all schools received their full consignment of textbooks. Schools ha been asked to declare any shortages and these would be verified against the notes on deliveries. Principals would be held accountable where they submitted  incorrect information. There were about 4 000 schools in Limpopo, and the DBE was making every endeavour to ensure that every school had its full quota of textbooks. In Limpopo, it had achieved 90% distribution but wanted to reach 100%.

He highlighted the distinction between workbooks – which were provided for only certain grades and subjects – and textbooks - which were provided for all subjects. He reiterated the need to ensure consistency of numbers of learners, subjects, grades and books. If there was an unexpected shortage, the schools could still use their initiative and ask that learners share textbooks while this was being sorted out, although workbooks could not be shared.

Discussion
The Chairperson thanked Mr Subban for the report, saying that she had called for it in view of the media interest, and noted that all Members must be satisfied whether the DBE was doing the work.

Ms N Gina and Ms A Mashishi (ANC) proposed that the 3rd quarter 2012 performance report of the DBE be presented before discussions, because these issues were also highlighted there.

Dr A Lovemore (DA) did not agree, and suggested that this was a political ploy to avoid discussion of the Limpopo issues. A report had been promised last week but this one presented now was dated October 2012. She noted that there had been substantial public outcry in Limpopo and felt that debate was necessary.

Ms Gina maintained that she had not suggested that the Committee must not interrogate the report, only that it be interrogated together with the section on Limpopo in the Quarterly Report.

Dr Lovemore argued that the Committee had made a decision to interrogate textbook delivery in the province, and there was no basis to delay this.

The Chairperson asked whether Limpopo was indeed covered in the 3rd quarter report.

Mr Mweli confirmed that it was, although the issues were not outlined in as great detail as just presented by Mr Subban.

The Chairperson ruled that questions on the two reports should be asked together.

3rd Quarter 2012 performance: Department of Basic Education Briefing
Before the presenters began, Dr Lovemore raised the point that the Chairperson had requested that a full report be submitted by the Committee, by the previous Thursday.

The Chairperson ruled that all reports must be received before the time of the meeting, so that Members could familiarise themselves with the contents before the meeting.

Mr D Smiles (DA) raised another point of order. The agenda listed two items for consideration. The first was the delivery of textbooks in Limpopo Province, and the second was the 3rd quarter 2012 performance report by DBE. He noted that this second presentation contained 124 slides and thought that, in order to do full justice to the issues, the Committee should focus immediately on the section that dealt with delivery of LTSM, and link that to the Limpopo delivery.

The Chairperson reiterated that the Limpopo issues would be dealt with when the Committee considered LTSM in general.

Ms Carol Nuga Deliwe, Chief Director: Strategic Planning, Research & Coordination, DBE, tabled the 3rd quarter 2012 performance report.

She noted that in this quarter DBE had made some significant achievements. In the National Senior Certificate, the national pass rate for the 2012 matriculants increased from 70.2% to 73.9%, and the number of young people who completed matric increased by 7%. The Annual National Assessment (ANA) revealed an improvement on the previous year for learner performance in literacy and numeracy tests.

She noted the strides in planning and accountability. The DBE had worked with the National Planning Commission (NPC) to align DBE with the National Development Plan (NDP) and the Action Plan to 2014. DBE had conducted an independent evaluation of the use of literacy and numeracy workbooks developed by the DBE. The first  National Education and Evaluation Unit (NEEDU) report to the Minister of Basic Education would be received by the end of the financial year, and this would elaborate on mechanisms, processes and structures for improving accountability for quality delivery.

She then outlined the achievements of each programme.

Programme 1: Administration
Ms Nuga Deliwe noted that DBE had managed to advertise and fill 26 posts. Key posts of Director for Educators, Labour Relations and Conditions of Service, and Director for Examinations and Assessment, as well as Director for Labour Relations were filled during this quarter. On the international front, DBE had interacted with the Government of Cuba on an exchange programme for tutors in Mathematics, Science and Technology, and a draft of the terms of reference was now under consideration. A School Capacity and Innovation Programme (SCIP) was launched, in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Financial Services company J P Morgan and the ELMA Foundation. It was designed to improve primary grade reading outcomes through teacher effectiveness and the strengthening of classroom and school management in all South African schools, but also offered models for other African countries. Zimbabwe had expressed interest in concluding an agreement for the training of Mathematics and Science teachers for South Africa. DBE had discussed and would possibly sign an agreement in March 2013 with China on education development. DBE had been the convenor of the second meeting of the South African National Commission for UNESCO (NATCOM) on 28 November 2012.

DBE had employed 55 interns in this quarter, a reduction on previous quarters, because of the employment opportunities available, but this had met the targets.

Programme 2: Curriculum Policy, Support and Monitoring
This also showed improvements on the previous year’s NSC results. This programme aimed to increase availability of e-Education learning and teaching resources amongst teachers. Intervention programmes that focused on problem areas in mathematics in grade 4 were development, as well as support materials, and these would be made available to schools in underperforming districts. A study guide for literature, which also addressed folklore, was completed. The impact evaluation on Grade R was ongoing and a basic list of resources was developed.

In respect of inclusive education, DBE had held a two day workshop in Braille in December 2012, for teachers teaching at the 22 schools for the blind. It had completed the adaptation of Braille workbooks for Grades 7-9. Teacher guidelines for sign language and Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAAC) were developed. The DBE had held meetings with Braille production service providers, to explore options and expedite provision of materials. Training manuals were being developed for teachers, on Guidelines for Full Service Schools, Guidelines for Special Schools, and Guidelines for Curriculum Differentiation.

Ms Nuga Deliwe outlined the Learner Teacher Support Material achievements. She noted that in this quarter, two meetings were held, to review the delivery of LTSM. Two onsite visits to provinces were also done. Between
October and December the DBE requested weekly progress reports on the delivery of LTSM to schools. All provinces reported over 96% delivery of textbooks and stationery to schools. The publishers reported 100% delivery of provincial orders by their members to the provinces. The national average of textbooks delivered was at 99% and stationery was at 96%. Delivery of Volume I workbooks for Grades 1 to 9 was completed on 15 November 2012, and was currently at 98.1% average across all provinces.

Ms Nuga Deliwe then noted the figures for grade 12 learners qualifying to enter a Bachelor programme at university. The target was 149 000, and in 2012, 136 047 were eligible to apply for university admission. This was an increase of 15 280 on the previous year. The sector was therefore on track to achieving its target that 32% of Grade 12 learners should be eligible for Bachelor degree studies. The pass rate for Mathematics was 54% , an improvement from  46.3% in 2011. The pass rate for Physical Science in 2012 was 61.3% compared to 53.4% in 2011.


Programme 3: Teachers, Education Human Resources and Institutional Development
Ms Nuga Deliwe said that Integrated Quality Management System (IQMS) survey information was very encouraging. Moderators visited 1 217 schools to monitor IQMS and schools readiness.

About 6 200 educators aged under 30 were appointed for the first time to the system in this year, or about 2 000 per quarter.

The Independent Schools provided a platform to produce Mathematics, Science and English training for new teachers who would then be recruited to the public sector. The Funza Lushaka bursary programme for teachers was possibly to be strengthened as well.

Programme 4: Planning, Information and Assessment
Ms Nuga Deliwe said that the total infrastructure spending in this quarter was R5.715 billion, or 64% of the total adjusted budget. Provincial spend under the Education Infrastructure Grant was at 62%. The Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) had spent around R475 million in this quarter, and R423 million was paid in advance. The total spend in 2013/14 on this should amount to R4.65 billion.

South Africa had participated in international assessments in order to benchmark learner performance. South Africa’s country reports on the Performance in Reading and Literacy Study (PIRLS) and on Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) were released in December 2012. The PIRLS study showed that the baseline performance at the Grade 4 level was fairly low, below performance of other countries in the same category, particularly in the indigenous languages. Although there was no significant improvement by grade 5, it was noted that there had been a decrease in the proportion of grade 5 students performing at the lowest level, although regrettably no corresponding increase at the highest level. The TIMSS study at Grade 9 showed similar results of improvement at the lower end but none at the top end. South Africa’s top performing schools still performed lower than their counterparts in other education systems. It had, however, improved since 2002, with a score raise to 352 points in 2011, compared to 285 in 2002. TIMMS estimated that within four years, a country should expect 40 points improvements, and South Africa had achieved 60 points.

Programme 5: Educational Enrichment Services
The Integrated School Health Programme (ISHP) was launched in October 2012, in the Tshwane District, which was also one of the pilot sites for the National Health Insurance initiative. The DBE was looking to more coordinated service provision. A consultative meeting was held in October 2012 to discuss the ISHP and the approach towards the provision of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services. Parent communities in each school would be consulted before sexual and reproductive health services were provided at a school, and the School Governing Body, Teacher Unions and School Principals would play a critical role. Educators would be trained to implement sexual and reproductive health programmes for learners.

The quality and depth of the school nutrition programme was being strengthened on a quarterly basis. Monitoring was taken to 22 schools across the country.

There were also jamborees held with the Department of Higher Education, South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) and the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs), to provide largely career advice and life skills information, focusing on prevention of risky behaviour.

Ms Nuga Deliwe concluded that DBE was well on track to meet its annual targets and most of the quarterly targets were achieved.

Third Quarter Financial Report
Ms Ntsetsa Molalekoa, Chief Financial Officer, DBE, gave a brief overview of the budget and spending. She noted the total budget figures and roll overs (see attached presentation), as well as the percentage allocations. The total expenditure of the Department for the 3rd quarter was also outlined, with details given for thee breakdown into conditional grants, transfers t public entities and other transfers, as well as line item spending (see attached presentation for full details). She explained the spending on examiners and moderators, noting that it was low because the Department normally received claims only after examinations at the end of the year.

Discussion
The Chairperson thanked the Department for the report, but commented that she was hoping to have heard more on the
School Capacity and Innovation Programme (SCIP), the infrastructure grant and the problems around human resources, teachers supply and utilisation. The Committee also needed to know where exactly  the Kha Re Gude programme was happening in each province. More detail was also needed on CAPS.

Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) said that he had noted the reference to a final “mop up” of the textbook distribution in Limpopo on 8 March 2013. This seemed to be an admission that in fact not all textbooks had been delivered here, and he wanted to know how many were not delivered.

Mr Mpontshane wondered if the procurement system should not be decentralised as it currently presented the Department with challenges.

Mr Mweli responded that the system used in Limpopo now was “a thousand times better” than the system used in the previous year. If the publishing industry was able to say it was comfortable with the level of delivery in Limpopo, that was some comfort.

Mr Subban said that the system that was applied to the Limpopo province was chosen because of budgetary constraints, and it was also used as leverage for economic per-scale benefits to be afforded to the province. It would not necessarily last for ever. Once the provincial Department had achieved more stability in its financial and budgeting ability, perhaps decentralised procurement might be considered.

Mr Mpontshane also noted the signing of an agreement with Zimbabwe for the training of Mathematics and Science teachers by Zimbabwe. He asked the reason for this, and the financial implications of such an agreement?

Ms Vivienne Carelse, Deputy Director General: Strategy, Research and Communications, DBE, responded that the agreement stemmed from bilateral consultations held in November 2012. The Zimbabwean education department had proposed that there should be a focus on Mathematics, Science and Technology. That had led to the draft document for further discussion at local level. The terms of the collaboration were not yet finalised.

Mr Mpontshane said that he still wanted to know about whether this was due to lack of training resources and facilities in South Africa, and still needed to know the financial implications of such an agreement with Zimbabwe. Mr Mpontshane also thought that DBE needed to present a more detailed report about the international visits by South Africans, which were usually based on bilateral agreements and determined by the foreign policy and Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO). The nature of the engagements and detail of any international agreements should normally come back so that there was discussion on terms and feasibility.

Mr Mpontshane found it strange that the Department was evaluating the effectiveness of the textbooks used, asked who was doing this, and against what criteria.

Mr Subban responded that the DBE had decided to visit various schools to look at the utilisation of textbooks in the classroom. Effectiveness of the textbooks had been accounted for earlier, through the screening process. All of the books had been quality assured. Because of the large sums being spent, it was necessary that the textbooks were utilised, and not kept in a storeroom.

Ms Nuga Deliwe added that the DBE, together with the Shuttleworth Foundation and other partners, had developed and approved textbooks but an independent evaluation was needed on their quality and use in the classroom.

Mr Mpontshane noted Mr Mweli’s reference to the alignment of DBE activities with the National Development Plan. The NDP spoke about performance testing of teachers, and performance-related pay. He asked for more detail on what the DBE intended to do on that aspect.

Ms Nuga Deliwe responded that the Department would be able to give more detail in future reports. The Council of Education Ministers had deliberated on this, and the key recommendations would need to be presented.

Mr S Makhubele (COPE) said a lot of information was given. However, some Members would have liked to have seen a more simplified report, setting out the targets, whether they had been met, progress and challenges. There was very little mention of the challenges, although the Committee, during its oversight visits, had identified several, including lack of implementation.

Mr Mweli responded that the Department would take those requests into consideration for the next presentation.

Mr Makhubele said he was struggling to grasp exactly who was responsible for the distribution of textbooks in Limpopo, provincial or national department, noting that the Limpopo provincial department was under administration. He also asked whether this was due to problems at provincial or national level.

Mr Subban responded that it was by and large a provincial responsibility. In Limpopo, because of its poor state of administration, the administrators and the DBE attended to the distribution of textbooks. The DBE played a supporting role in Limpopo. Where there was no administration, then the province became responsible.

Mr Mweli added that DBE’s role was to provide leadership and support and that was done by issuing a sector plan of how textbooks were supposed to be delivered at national level. DBE had been issuing similar plans for the last two years. Provinces were then supposed to align their delivery plans according to the sector plan.

The Chairperson asked who was responsible for delivery of maths and science workbooks.

Mr Subban explained that the DBE was responsible for the Natural Science and Technology workbooks, which had been screened, which could also be used as a textbook. DBE was also responsible for the Grade 11 Maths and Science textbooks. Most provinces procured these from the catalogue, but in Limpopo, because of the budgetary constraints, the procurement was done of DBE workbooks. Other textbooks would generally be provided through the provinces.

Mr Makhubele said the Committee was aware that delivery of textbooks for the North Rand was done through the post. In the previous year, there had been court action against the DBE for lack of credible processes. It was argued that an independent institution must verify figures, and Prof Mary Metcalf was appointed. He wondered if the DBE’s systems were now more credible.

Mr Makhubele asked how long the DBE would take to fill vacancies, stressing that if they were not filled, the DBE would not have the capacity to deal with the challenges.

Ms Molalekoa responded that it was not necessarily possible to fill all posts advertised immediately, as shortlisting and interviewing could take longer than three months, and they were only advertised in December.  

Ms Gina insisted upon hearing “the truth” regarding the delivery of textbooks, saying that there had been conflicting reports.

Mr Mweli responded that part of the confusion in Limpopo resulted from the schools making the decision on which textbooks should be used. Eight catalogues were reduced to three titles, and when some principals said they had not received “textbooks” they meant “textbooks of first choice”.

Ms Gina referred to the retrieval policy, which set out the target of one book per subject per child. There were varying reports on whether even this happened. If a child did not have a book, government was blamed.

Mr Subban responded that DBE focused on the retrieval policy. Given the huge budgetary inputs it was important that there were not losses, and DBE was looking at systems to monitor retrieval. There was a policy, and every school had to retrieve and report on what they had received, and the percentage on a year-on-year basis.

Ms Gina referred to e-Education and e-Learning as one of the resources offered to teachers to improve the quality of teaching and of learning. She wondered how far this had gone. Digitised workbooks aligned resources available for use in under performing schools, but they generally were the under-performing schools who may not get access to those resources. She asked if the DBE was reaching these targets.

Ms Gina said the report on IQMS was not clear, and because it was problematic, she wanted findings.

Ms Gina also expressed concern at the low spending on technical schools to skill learners, and asked if the DBE was really serious about technical schools.

Mr K Dikobo (ANC) said that he did not know which of the conflicting versions to believe. A child was shown on television, saying that three children living in different areas had to share one book. The meeting today was told that DBE provided one book to every learner. On an oversight visit to Limpopo, the Committee was told that books had not been ordered, but the DBE said that everything was computerised and it could track where the books were in the country – something later found not to be correct. Nobody, however, was taken to task for these untrue statements, and he said that misleading this Committee amounted to perjury.

Mr Mweli responded that there was a target set for 2014, that every learner must be provided with a textbook in every subject. In CAPS-aligned grades, such as the foundation phase, Grade 10s and Grade 11s, the Department had tried to realign that 2014 vision with this year. The delivery had improved – it was 45% in 2007 and was now close to 80% overall for textbooks. He disputed that learners were still sharing textbooks.

Mr Subban added that a head count was taking place in Limpopo. It was possible that the data was not credible but there were attempts to improve this and link the data to the systems proposed. There were particular challenges around accuracy of data in Limpopo, despite efforts to get the orders from all schools. In future, this would be addressed through new processes.

Mr Dikobo referred to Section 21 and non-Section 21 schools. That distinction was originally made to simplify the bureaucracy, whereby certain schools, in view of having skills and capacity, were given responsibilities, including to procure their own LTSM. They were now being sent back to a system that even government was unable to manage. He asked for clarity whether the centralised procurement was only happening in Limpopo.

Mr Dikobo referred to the ANA results, and said it was important to see the movement of the results of ANA, per province per district. He wondered if the Department could break the figures down, to reflect performance in numeracy and in literacy. He also noted that the target under Kha Ri Gude was 630 990, and 665 246 learners did attend literacy classes, but wanted to know how many had completed the programme and what they were able to do by the end of the programme.

Ms Nuga Deliwe responded that a detailed report on all aspects of the Kha Ri Gude project, including the participants’ experiences after completing it, would be sent to the Committee.

Ms Nuga Deliwe also believed a report on the ANA learner achievement and results had been forwarded to the Committee detailing the quantitative trends over the last four years, the implementation of Senior Certificate curriculum, the trends per programme, and gender, as well as a qualitative diagnosis. The Department would make these available also in the future.

Mr Dikobo questioned whether the partnerships referred to catered for interns or learnerships. Some years ago, students had studied for teacher training via learnerships at independent schools but there were complaints that they were used as cheap labour, without proper monitoring.

Mr C Moni (ANC) asked for clarity on the 5% and 2% decrease in numbers of learners at schools.

Mr Subban clarified that this referred to surplus books purchased to cater for discrepancies.

Mr Moni was concerned at the change of school addresses, and asked if delivery was made to private bag addresses.

Mr Mweli responded that only the Northern Cape used the Post Office, and DBE was still assessing the success of this, as it was not amongst the best in terms of delivery. The DBE would have to check if the problem lay with the placing of orders or delivery of the orders. Avenues were being explored for future delivery.

Mr Moni asked what difference the National Planning, Monitoring and Reporting Framework would make.

Mr Moni noted that in the presentation on Limpopo delivery, there were many reasons given for discrepancies in delivery. The Quarterly Report, however, claimed that deliveries in Gauteng were 100%, Mpumalanga 100%, Western Cape 100%, and KwaZulu-Natal 99%. He wondered if discrepancies applied there.

Ms F Mushwana (ANC) asked two inaudible questions.

Ms Mushwana noted that the target for bursaries for 2012/13 was 6.8 in the earlier quarters, but only 1.4 by the third quarter. She wondered if the target would be met by the fourth quarter.

Ms Mushwana was interested to know which schools benefited from the NEDLAC Accord, and where they were based.

Ms Mushwana asked for clarification of numbers of learners provided with meals under the National Schools Nutrition Programme, and noted that the targets for the two years were the same.

Ms Mashishi referred to the slide on Sector Performance: Infrastructure, and asked the reasons for the low spending in Mpumalanga and Limpopo.

Mr S (Paddy) Padayachee, Deputy Director General, DBE, responded that Mpumalanga, North West and the Northern Cape were above the 50% spending mark but had not achieved 75% spending. Engagement with the provinces showed there had been invoices for infrastructure still to be paid. He reminded Members that payments were only made once the department was invoiced and had proof of progress, and so in the next few weeks those provinces would show better spending closer to the 90% mark. Limpopo fell into a separate category. Most provinces relied on the Education Infrastructure Grant, but in Limpopo there was nothing from the equitable share, so after the last transfer of R234 million, there was only 50%. There had been problems with the Infrastructure Unit in Limpopo and challenges from the Section 27 process. DBE had, for that reason, tried to assist Limpopo with its delivery capacity. It would be able to spend, but the question was whether this would achieve value for money.

Ms Mashishi asked for clarification of the figures for the indirect Grant and Conditional Grants.

Ms Mashishi referred to the need for building social cohesion in education, but said that this only seemed to be happening in KwaZulu-Natal.

Ms Mashishi asked how many multi-grade schools there were, and their performance indicators.

Dr Lovemore said she wanted to return to the question of textbooks. There was nothing in the Third Quarterly Report that referred to the two interventions in Limpopo. She understood that the National Executive decided on those interventions, together with the Minister, but thought that the Department would have some responsibility in executing that intervention, and should have drawn some targets.

Mr Mweli agreed. There was detailed information in the Limpopo report but for other provinces there was not a similar level of detail. He too would like to see more detail for the other provinces in future reports.

Dr Lovemore was aware that in the Eastern Cape there were currently 8 300 teachers. Approximately 40 schools were closed in protest at the teacher vacancy situation, yet this presentation said nothing about the interventions by the DBE.

Dr Lovemore asked what evidence underpinned the partnership with Cuba. South Africa needed some very  serious interventions.

Ms Carelse said the agreement with Cuba was a follow through on an initial agreement started by the then-Minister Kader Asmal several years ago. Fresh negotiations were now ongoing, and more details would have to be decided before any agreement was finalised. The terms of reference had been drafted by Cuba, and South Africa was considering its responses.

Dr Lovemore asked what the minimum standard libraries were. In regard to those schools complying with a very basic level of school infrastructure, this 3rd quarter report suggested that 55% was the new baseline for spending. However, she said that infrastructure impacted on teaching and learning.

Mr Padayachee responded that the target was to reach 100% by 2014. The NIMS Database of 2009 estimated that 77% was the basic minimum level, and that meant that about 25% of all schools had to be addressed. However, DBE had done its own survey and this concluded that in fact 55% of schools, not 77%, were at the basic minimum level. Now, about 45% of schools were under the minimum level. DBE would have to request funding to deal with that. The new baseline meant that more work had to be done in the same amount of time, and this may require additional resources.

Dr Lovemore returned to the issue of textbooks. She agreed with Mr Dikobo’s concern over whether the reports and figures were accurate and credible. She also noted that on 14 January 2013, this Committee conducted oversight in Limpopo, and was told that 99% delivery was done, and “mop up” would be done within the next three days. Now, the report said the “mop up” would be done by 8 March, and that delivery was at 90%. In a previous meeting a departmental official had accused the DA Members of being on a “fishing and bullying expedition”. However, she noted that even then, the Department only admitted to being 42 000 books short, whereas now it admitted to 42 226 being delivered and returned because they were in the wrong language. The DA would continue to “fish” for correct information. However, it had not, and never would bully. It merely wanted to be assured that the information was true and accurate. She would hold DBE to the statements made that morning. She also questioned the targets for textbook delivery. The DBE’s Annual Performance Plan said that 85% of learners must have their own textbooks, and this was repeated in the 1st quarter report. However, the statement this morning of one book per learner per subject per grade implied that 100% of learners must have their own textbooks.

Mr Subban responded that Mr Mweli had already spoken to the delivery and the point of one textbook per subject. The DBE aimed for “universal coverage” by 2014. The issues that were highlighted around numbers and migration required that there must be a mop up phase, which was done as schools reported from the beginning of the year. A ten day response was expected under the norms and standards. The numbers related to orders and deliveries.

Mr Kganyago commented that in 2011 the Committee conducted oversight in Mpumalanga, Limpopo and Tzaneen, visiting a standard high school that also offered technical subjects. There had been a problem highlighted, in the presence of the Director General, Chief Director and school staff, that those learners were only able to study the theory because there were no workshops. The Department had supplied equipment to the school by way of machines and tools, but they were kept in a storeroom because there was no workshop space. It was known that the students must sit and pass a practical examination. This was a serious issue that the Committee had expected to have been addressed. He had now been told that the technical students had passed the examination, but he asked how this could possibly happen when there were no facilities to do the practical. It was this practical aspect that their future employers would expect to have been complied with.  

Mr Kganyago raised concerns about the mobile classrooms, where teachers and learners were struggling with limited accommodation. Schools that were short of classrooms could use mobile classrooms but they were told there were no funds to move them from one site to another. He said that surely DBE must be able to make a plan.

Mr Smiles referred to the report on Limpopo and also questioned why there was no empirical evidence and why there were discrepancies in figures.

Mr Smiles noted the remark that principals would be accountable for submitting incorrect information. In the previous year, everyone had tried to shift the blame when problems were seen in Limpopo. Finally, one poor official was fingered as the culprit. However, the Head of Department (HOD) had signed off the database, and he questioned if the information was ever checked. The HOD had, in a previous meeting, confirmed that information from sources in the Department was not reliable, and this posed severe doubts on the administration. The accountability issues must be looked into. He asked how many senior (and junior) officials took responsibility for the knowledge presented today, for the DBE and for the province.

Mr Smiles noted too that the Department said it received weekly reports on delivery of textbooks from October to December. He understood there was a dedicated team that looked at Limpopo, to pick up discrepancies and act on them. Despite this and the weekly reports, the right quantity of books in the right languages at the right time were not being delivered and he questioned the purpose behind the reports.

Mr Smiles referred to the slides on Sector Performance in the Quarterly Report, comparing performance for the ANA and NSC, and said that serious questions must be asked about the discrepancies and the figures themselves.

Mr Smiles said that there was also a link between that information and low spending in Programme 2, a consistent trade, particularly in goods and services which sometimes showed no spending. The sector was not performing because of poor performance on curriculum delivery. This had happened consistently for main years, with no improvement, and again, no one was taking responsibility. If this was the projection in the third quarter, then the Committee was concerned as to what would be the situation at year-end. He stressed that if a good start was made, the prognosis was good for the rest of the year.

Mr W Madisha (ANC) noted that he lived in Limpopo, and he was quite sure that it was not correct to say that  99% of schools received books. The Department also said later that “at least 90% received books” which suggested that actually the DBE was not sure, even though this Committee had urged that strict action had to be taken. He said that although the DBE said that learners were receiving books this was not in fact happening. The people of South Africa needed to understand that the Department was not doing its work here.

Mr Madisha asked the Department to indicate the assessment routes it either had or intended to pursue to establish whether its purported 90% of books had been delivered. He also questioned how South Africa met high pass rates if there were no books. In addition, there was no improvement if a certain number of children entered school each year, but only 20% would write matric, and of those, only a low number would achieve university entrance. He said that DBE was failing the learners of South Africa. He too questioned the disparity in figures even in the reports given here today.

Mr Subban responded that a circular was sent to all schools to provide the actual learner numbers, what they had received, and whether there were any shortages.

The Chairperson said that the turnaround time for the “mop up” was supposed to be 10 days after the report from the schools, and wanted a specific answer on those dates.

Mr Mweli indicated that perhaps the Committee and DBE needed to engage in a workshop, because sometime there was a misunderstanding that gave rise to mistrust. 100% delivery to schools was not the same as 100% delivery to all learners in every subject. When provinces reported 100% delivery to schools, there would always be shortages. The data from the prior years was used to order the material for the next academic year, and it would never be completely accurate. No province could ever say that on the day the schools opened, sufficient books had been delivered to all schools in every language.

The Chairperson asked whether schools requisitioned books.

Mr Mweli responded that they did, but even then the managers would be asked to build in small additional percentages for over supply. However, migration even then of learners meant that it was for practical purposes impossible to provide 100% in everything.

Mr Mweli also apologised that part of the difficulties that Members now had in understanding all the issues was due to the DBE not having forwarded all its documents on time to the Committee.

Dr Lovemore said Mr Mweli was incorrect in assuming that the Committee had misunderstood the language used. The table gave the number of books ordered and the number of books delivered, and there was a shortfall of 42 000. This information was obtained from a table that DBE had provided.

Mr Padayachee responded on infrastructure questions, referring to the lines in the tables. He explained that there were two grants. The Education Infrastructure Grant was a transfer in Provincial Education Departments, based on the infrastructure plans that were approved and vetted by the DBE and National Treasury. These indicated how the funds would be used in a particular year. The DBE transferred the funds and monitored the plans, but provinces actually had to spend. If they indicated that they were not sure they could spend, DBE and National Treasury would look into this. At the last  Council of Ministers’ Meeting, the Minister and the MECs had taken the position that where provinces showed low spending, the Department would redirect the funds to those provinces who needed them, on a loan basis, so that they could get money upfront, but would still have to pay back to the original province. The second grant, the Schools Infrastructure Backlogs Grant, was managed by the National DBE and was intended to deal with inappropriate structure for basic services such as water, sanitation and electricity.

Mr Subban responded that Mr Mweli had clarified the question how far the DBE was on delivery; the DBE was hoping to achieve one-on-one.

Mr Mweli indicated that some of the issues discussed would be dealt with in the forthcoming workshop. He would also provide more information on  human resources, teacher supply and utilisation, and the Kha Ri Gude project. He promised answers in writing to issues not responded to.

The Chairperson summarised that the questions to which written responses were still required included:
Ms Gina’s questions on  e-Learning, Mr Kganyago’s on revitalisation of the technical schools, Mr Dikobo’s questions about learnership and internships, giving the breakdown of that programme and how it contributed to human resource development in the country. Furthermore, answers were still needed for Mr Moni on transformation of the system, and Dr Lovemore’s questions on interventions, which, strictly speaking, were NCOP questions, but this Committee had the right to know what was happening in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo. Dr Lovemore also needed an answer on the technicality of the figures the Department spoke to last week, on delivery of textbooks and retrieval policy, and how DBE ensured that the provincial departments were carrying out national policy. Mr Smiles had four questions outstanding, and Mr Madisha’s questions were linked to others that she had mentioned earlier.

The Chairperson said that although there was a format for quarterly reports, they were currently full of statistics but very little actual information to deal with effectively. There was nothing on infrastructure, but she noted that the school nutrition programmes were said to be running very well. The overall spending trend of 23% was disappointing and there was not spending in many provinces. Where spending was not taking place the Committee believed that money should be given to others that were spending.

It was clear that the concurrent function around delivery of textbooks was problematic. Delivery of textbooks was the competency of provinces, and the Committee wanted very specific answers on the questions raised, as well as media reports. The Committee would meet again with the DBE on 26 March and would expect answers to its concerns. She was sure that the DBE was trying to be truthful, but it was clear that the DBE and Committee saw things in different ways. The Committee was concerned that DBE should follow best practices.

The meeting was adjourned.

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