Library services access, e-Education: Departments of Basic Education & Communications briefings

Basic Education

19 August 2013
Chairperson: Ms H Malgas (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) firstly briefed the Committee on the Library and Information Services (LIS), which were extremely important in supporting and ensuring that learners succeeded and that the education sector outcomes improved. It was mentioned that e-Education would complement LIS by multi-media and enabling text to be made available to learners. The DBE conceded that it had not done as well as it should have in the LIS area. The numbers of schools in the lowest-achieving provinces, Eastern Cape and Limpopo, with functional central libraries, classroom libraries or mobile libraries were set out. 47% of schools did not fulfil minimum standards for LIS and 51% did. In order to respond to this, the DBE planned to roll out phased access to library services over the next three years. The estimated budget was R16.5 billion, which was why it had to be done incrementally. The plan was to provide centralised school or classroom libraries in the seven provinces with the lowest access. Over the three years, 1 006 centralised libraries and 3 000 classroom libraries would be set up. Whilst DBE awaited approval from National Treasury, it had asked the provinces to identify the schools with the most need.

The DBE then reported on the state of e-Education, which was first mentioned in the White Paper of 2004, which announced a goal of every basic and higher education learner being ICT-capable by 2013. that had not been achieved. Provinces gave unequal funding to support e-learning, very few schools made computers available for teaching and learning, although they may have some for administration. The private sector had partnered with government in rolling out some initiatives, particularly in 16 inclusive education schools, and there were now ICT Resources Centres, which also catered for the disabled, with a library of resources to assist learning. Another initiative supported by the Telkom Foundation was geared to helping teachers in multi-grade classrooms, and this would be extended. Although teacher development rested with the provinces, DBE had recognised the need to take this up, and was focusing on training teachers to integrate ICT into their lessons. 77 of the 86 districts had connectivity for schools, but Northern Cape did not. Although 14 260 schools were connected, 223 Dinaledi schools were still without connectivity. Private sponsorship was usually provided for a period, but when this was withdrawn the school failed to maintain the connection. DBE was urging that  the 223 Dinaledi schools would be included in the 2010 FIFA World Cup Legacy project. DBE was developing a dedicated centralised content-hosting platform and open resources. A draft new e-Education implementation plan was mentioned, but it was also noted that this had not been approved (and the Chairperson criticised the Department for having raised this at all). Challenges included lack of dedicated budget, lack of provincial plans, lack of competent personnel, limited coverage, high cost of connectivity and reluctance of network operators to offer e-rates.

The Department of Communications (DOC) then outlined the e-Skilling strategy for South Africa. The E-Skills Institute was driving this, with an emphasis on connectivity, use of hardware and capacity building across the e-skills fields. There was emphasis on how ICT skills and capabilities could be promoted and used to access opportunities, including those in the creative space. Whilst it was important to have e-literacy in all schools, other e-initiatives should also be pursued, and the National Development Plan’s aims to have all South Africans e-literate by 2030 would be pursued. This would involve making over 10 million people e-literate in the next five years, which must involve cross-departmental and partnership initiatives, and encouragement for parents and children to educate each other in this field. Six provincial CoLabs had been established, to build (capacity and delivery capability, and to grow research capabilities. There was investigation into how to build on the existing capital asset base. It was emphasised that coordination was needed in both investment and operations. The points highlighted at the first National e-Skills Summit were summarised, and the provinces had been asked to identify needs. Demand and supply must be built at the same time, and skills retained in every province. New courses being created all the time were directed to filling gaps. The increased opportunities on the mobile platform were to be seized. A National e-Skills Curriculum and Competency Framework was drawn up in collaboration with other business and industry stakeholders, and people would be constantly encouraged to change mindsets and move to online environments. Collaborative efforts were needed to address affordability questions. DOC was putting high priority on rolling out the broadband policy.

Members asked a number of questions but it was apparent that most felt that not enough had been done to develop e-learning since 2004. The Chairperson emphasised that ten years was substantial, given the strides in ICT development, and that there simply was not enough delivery. Members were concerned that some of the matters reported on by the DBE were not contained in the Annual Performance Plan, questioned how its information had been obtained, feeling that it relied too much on reporting and too little on actual investigations, and that too little was being done for the disabled. They felt that computers for administration should have been left out of the report, and wondered how the DBE hoped to achieve its plans, given that the laptop initiative had failed. They did not think that there was enough sense of urgency, either for the libraries or the e-learning, questioned the costs, and asked if the proposed Ministerial Advisory councils and task teams had eve been formed. They asked why more consideration was not given to mobile libraries, and, where these were being used, what plans had been made to ensure that they were secure, and maintained. Members questioned the DBE’s intention to train teachers on incorporating ICT, when many of them were unaware even of how to use a computer or software properly, and had no opportunities at their schools to implement what they had learned in training sessions. The Chairperson felt that the DBE report was inadequate in many respects. Not enough numerical, as opposed to percentage, information was provided, the location of ICT Resource Centres was not specified, training plans were still in drat, and the advancement of technology meant that the DBE had to look very carefully at what children would need in the future, for their employment and future lives. It had to be more creative about what content it provided, which could be downloaded even on to old cellphones, and how to capitalise on mobile technology, as “traditional” reading, writing and arithmetic skills, while necessary, were not enough. She commented that there was no point in providing centres if the general communities were not trained and there was a need for full collaboration and engagement between departments. Specific tasks were given to the DBE by the Committee, that it should report on at future meetings. She also tasked the DOC with ensuring that the Independent Communications Authority would deal with licensing issues, and putting project and communication teams in place.  
 

Meeting report

Chairperson’s opening remarks
The Chairperson noted that during the recess, the Committee had visited farm schools and participated in a workshop with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) on infrastructure. She noted that the Standing Committee on Appropriations was meeting with the DBE on the same day on another matter.

She noted that apologies were received from both the Ministers of Basic Education, who had to attend a media briefing, and the Minister for Communications, who was attending the Portfolio Committee on Communications. The Acting Director General of DBE was also attending a briefing at another portfolio committee.

Library and Information Services: Department of Basic Education briefing
Mr Mathanzima Mweli, Acting Deputy Director General, Department of Basic Education, remarked that embedded in the objectives of the national curriculum statement (NCS) were high skills and high knowledge Library and Information Services (LIS) were extremely important in supporting these objectives, and ensuring that learner outcomes improved. e-Education was also important, not only in complementing the work of LIS through multimedia, but also by making digital information and text available to learners to assist them in improving their learning outcomes.

The DBE was not particularly proud of the progress it had made in the areas of LIS and e-Education, but the picture was not as bad as purported to be. The report on e-Education provided information on progress made thus far. DBE would like to report back again, especially on how it was processing the e-Education implementation plan. He said that there was not a problem in the strategic direction that DBE had adopted, but there were admitted weaknesses in implementation. The HEDCOM meeting of 27 August would be considering a new implementation plan, to put e-Education on a higher trajectory.

Increasing access to Library and Information Services
Mr Allan Subban, Acting Chief Director: LIS, DBE, briefed the Committee on what was being done to try to increase access to LIS. DBE had developed National Guidelines for School Library and Information Services, as one approach to encourage and support a range of library models. Results of the School Monitoring Survey showed that in the Eastern Cape 31% of primary schools and 34% of secondary schools had a library or media centre In the Free State 68% primary schools and 74% of secondary schools had a library or media centre. The picture for Limpopo and North West was bleak.

However, significant progress was made with regard to increasing access to LIS by provinces, as the survey revealed that 57% of learners were in schools that met the minimum standard for libraries.

An audit of functional libraries in districts showed that in the Eastern Cape, out of 5 589 schools, only 1 987 had functional central libraries, 730 had classroom libraries and two had mobile libraries. In Limpopo, out of 3 931 schools, only 232 had a functional central library and two had mobile libraries.

Eastern Cape and Limpopo provinces featured as the worst when rating schools that did not fulfil the minimum standards.  10 721 schools did not fulfil the minimum standards (47%) and 11 678 fulfilled the minimum standards (51%).

In order to respond to those challenges,  the DBE had developed a National Strategy to provide access to LIS in South African schools from 2012 to 2015, a costed implementation plan and a request for funding.

The estimated total budget to provide centralised school libraries and classroom libraries to the 10 721 schools that were presently without libraries was R16.5 billion. Given the current fiscal status and the current economic environment, that was a huge challenge to the DBE. It had therefore devised a plan of incrementally increasing access to centralised and classroom libraries, over a period of three years.

The plan focused on the provision of centralised school libraries or classroom libraries to provinces where most learners were in schools that had the least access to a library that met minimum standards. The targets for centralised school libraries for secondary schools focused on the seven provinces with the least coverage, which were Eastern Cape, Limpopo, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, and North West. The targets for classroom libraries for primary schools again aimed to reach provinces where there was least coverage, which were the same seven provinces.

DBE submitted a bid to National Treasury for the provision of centralised and classroom libraries in schools, pointing out that whether the implementation plan could be put in place was entirely dependent on approval of the budget over the Medium Term Economic Framework (MTEF). While the DBE was waiting for that approval, it had asked the provincial education departments (PED) to identify sites for the centralised school and classroom libraries for each year.

When it went ahead, the phased-in plan would result in 1 006 centralised libraries and 3 000 classroom libraries being set up, in those provinces targeted, over a three-year period. The initial provision was for 450 centralised school and 1 000 classroom libraries, at an estimated cost of R700 million. The target for 2015 and 2016 was to have 328 centralised and 1 000 classroom libraries for each of the two years. Bids for further funding would have to be submitted for further roll out within a ten-year period.

The DBE had taken certain steps to limit or mitigate the risk. Firstly, it had recognised the challenges in the data from the EMIS system, and so had asked the districts to provide and sign off reports with data. It was establishing a LIS sub directorate in the DBE, with similar structures in provinces. It was trying to ensure that suitable infrastructure was made available. In order to address the lack of a reading culture at present, it was investigating a national reading campaign. Lack of funding, personnel and schools in the LIS posed challenges. The DBE recognised the lack of resources being given to material in South African indigenous languages.

Implementation of E-Education
Mr Phil Mnisi, Director: E-Education, DBE,  reported on the status of e-Education implementation. He noted that the implementation was largely from the national DBE but certain responsibilities lay with provinces and districts. The Department was supported by the Department of Communication (DOC) in driving connectivity.

When the White Paper on e-Education was released in 2004, the goal was that every South African learner in the general and further education and training bands would be ICT-capable by 2013.

An assessment of ICT infrastructure in 2002, compared to that of 2012, was done to assess the progress. In 2002 the status of ICT infrastructure differed from one province to another, depending on provincial priorities, capacity and available funding. Nationally, 26.5% schools had computers for teaching and learning, and 39.2% had one or more computers for administrative purposes. The numbers of computers for teaching and learning were very low when compared to those used for administration. By 2011, some provinces, including Western Cape, had almost completed their roll out of ICT to public schools, particularly in terms of numbers of computers for administration. However, by comparison, by 2012, there was a drop in the comparative number of computers for teaching and learning, despite the increase in the number of schools.

In relation to inclusive education schools, DBE focused on certain targeted initiatives, and here the private sector partnerships were critical in rolling out ICT in these schools, as well as the assistance from  organisations such as the National Council of Persons with Physical Disabilities (NCPPDSA). Through the partnerships, participating schools had received interactive Whiteboards, collaborative software (the SMART Notebook and the Clicker Software), and projector, laptop, microphone and speakers to be used in conjunction with the Smartboard and Notebook software. There were only 16 inclusive education schools, but they had been used a pilot to gauge the impact.

Nine ICT Resources were piloted in the nine provinces, in partnership with the Vodacom Foundation. Inclusive Education was included in that model. Ten of the 40 computers in each centre were suitable for those with disabilities. DBE was working with disability organisations on the programmes to be used in the ICT Resource Centres. There was a comprehensive library of resources to enable almost anyone with physical or communication disabilities to communicate and learn by using the targeted products.

In 2009, a survey report on ordinary schools showed that 6 665 schools in the country, of which approximately 5000 were primary schools, had multi-grade classes. The majority were in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. The DBE had a partnership with the Telkom Foundation to assist teachers in multi-grade classrooms in giving time to each of the grades. This initiative provided a trolley with 800 books, educational DVDs, a TV unit, DVD player, and three laptops with 3G connectivity. The results were very positive. DBE decided to use some of its budget to extend the initiative to more multigrade schools in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo.

Mr Mnisi noted that although professional development was the competency of the provinces, the national DBE had recognised that without developing its teachers, it would not be easy to roll out ICT. Assistance was given from NGOs and the private sector. SchoolNet South Africa (SNSA), in partnership with Microsoft, ran training in almost all provinces. It was recognised that teachers should have the ability to integrate ICT in their teaching and learning. However the percentage that did so was low at the moment, and very few teachers had attended training in most of the provinces, despite the fact that provinces had the responsibility to train teachers in ICT skills and integration. For this reason DBE now planned to build capacity of provinces to train teachers in ICT skills and integration, by holding workshops for relevant provincial and district officials in selected provinces in 2014/15. DBE also planned to update the Framework for Teacher Training and Professional Development in ICT in 2014/15.

Connectivity in schools
Mr Mnisi outlined that the DBE had partnered with the Department of Communication, especially for the provision of broadband, and also with the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) to provide connectivity for the districts. 77 of the 86 districts were connected to the Internet, and only the Northern Cape had not yet been provided with connectivity.

14 260 schools were connected in 2012/13, including 10 065 schools connected for administrative purposes and 4 195 connected for teaching and learning purposes, through the initiatives of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Legacy project, Vodacom Foundation project, Telkom Foundation project, and CSIR-Meraka Institute projects.

223 Dinaledi schools were still without connectivity, including 17 that had connectivity facilities but no actual availability of connectivity. The reason was probably that there were no resources to sustain the connectivity. In most cases, the private sector sponsored connectivity for a limited period of time, but if this was withdrawn the schools could not sustain it. The DBE and DOC were in discussion with the hope of including those 223 Dinaledi schools in the 2010 FIFA World Cup Legacy project.

It was explained that the Digital content development initiatives included:
- The development of Interactive Rainbow Workbooks;
- Development of ‘hybrid’ textbooks/workbooks;
- Distribution of Curriculum Enrichment Videos; and
- Development of Open Educations Resources (OERs).

The availability of quality e-content was critical to the national roll out of e-Education. The Department was developing a dedicated centralised content hosting platform that would be accessible by different ICT devices. Provinces would contribute and share digital content produced by their own initiatives to the centralised hosting platform. The Department was also collating and quality-assuring open education resources (OERs) that could be accessed by schools from the centralised hosting platform.

Implementation plan
DBE had developed a draft new e-Education implementation plan to update the 2004 White Paper, including future targets for ICT access in schools. However, it was found to have some weaknesses, and a task team was therefore set up to address them before the plan was finally approved by the Director-General of DBE.

Mr Mnisi described the challenges to the implementation of ICT in the provinces. The lack of dedicated budget was noted, but this was being addressed by HEDCOM. Some provinces still lacked provincial ICT implementation plans, and where they did exist, there was often insufficient alignment of provincial plans and targets to the DBE’s Action Plan 2014. There was a lack of competent personnel dedicated to ICT implementation at provincial and district level. The limited network coverage, high cost of connectivity and reluctance of network operators to offer the e-rate were further problems. It was hoped that the latter would be addressed by a DOC and Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) initiative.

e-Skilling South Africa
Ms Mymoena Sharif, Chief Director: E-Skills Institute, Department of Communications, gave an overview of what was being done towards e-Skilling. The emphasis was on connectivity, usage of hardware and capacity building in e-skills.

The e-Skills Institute had a mandate to encourage more efficient use of ICT. Five priorities were identified, which were:
- Development of ICT policy
- Establishing broadband
- Preparation for Broadcasting Digital Migration (BDT)
- Development of PostBank
- e-Skilling

The Department of Communications worked closely with the IT International Telecommunications Unit, the international body responsible for driving an information society and knowledge economy. Its model was adapted to suit the local environment, and to ensure that technology impacted positively on South Africa’s strategic priorities.

The Department of Communications initially comprised the e-Skills Institute, the Institute for Space Software Applications (ISSA) and the National Electronic Media Information Systems (NEMISA). A decision was taken to integrate its three entities into one. The ANC Conference at Mangaung had called for the establishment of a e-skills fund for Further Education and Training (FET) colleges. DOC thought it important to look specifically at how to promote ICT skills and capabilities, not limited to e-literacy but also to investigate the opportunities that ICT and creative media presented. An important component would be e-literacy in all schools. The National Development Plan (NDP) also spoke to e-initiatives, and mentioned the need for South Africa to become e-literate by 2030. DOC was responsible for the promotion of e-literacy, not just in schools, but also across the broader spectrum of society.

A decentralised model was required, and that ha been informed by the DOC’s First and Second National e-Skills Plans of Action. The ICT environment was studied in five provinces to identify gaps. DOC also embarked on a multi-stakeholder exchange programme to countries such as the USA, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, the UK, Kenya, South Korea, Cuba, Rwanda and the EU, to examine how they had built their information society or knowledge economy, and to learn from their lessons and pitfalls. DOC, together with the Department of Science and Technology (DST), looked at the Human Development Strategy of South Africa and policy framework for provision of distance education in South Africa.

The Department established six provincial e-skills CoLabs, in collaboration with higher education institutions (HEIs) in the five provinces. Each followed a specific schematic area that spoke directly to the NDP. The intention was both to build capacity and delivery capability, and also to grow research capabilities.

DOT and National Treasury had considered how to capitalise on the existing capital asset base across departments and State owned companies, with input from Telkom, Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), DBE, and the Department of Rural Development and Land Affairs (DRDLR). It noted the connectivity already existing in service centres, Dinaledi schools, and provincial and local community learning centres. A coordinated approach would result in more effective investment into infrastructure. 

The first National e-Skills Summit had highlighted several points. The need for coordination in working to increased ICT uptake was the first point. A number of strategic development partners were noted (see attached presentation for full details), both local and international. It was also important to include the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) because the National Qualifications Framework showed gaps in e-skills that needed to be closed. Collaborators in implementation would include the DRDLR and the Department of Public Services and Administration (DPSA). Existing human and financial resources had to be leveraged, and perhaps new skills brought into the country.

At provincial level there was currently consideration being given to further decentralising, by identifying where exactly the needs were, then mobilising all stakeholders to grow the local environment. It was a question of building demand and supply at the same time. In a province such as the Eastern Cape, for example, the organisation ECSECC was working with the task team to listen in terms of how to create the demand and at the same time to create the supply. Most of the ICT graduates from the Eastern Cape were migrating to other provinces and there was a need to try to retain the skills base locally.

Ms Sharif said that there were now about 43 new courses that had not been offered in the 2010/11 years, and all of those were directed to filling the gaps in the information society knowledge economy. To create new opportunities for individuals, South Africa had to look at having new architecture and create platforms for innovation. Mobile applications allowed for fuller participation. Although there were many undergraduates at campuses, the Department was also working with local and provincial governments, to try to offer Smart Community Knowledge Centres that incorporated social interventions and learning centres for all sectors. It was important, overall, to grow uptake and usage.

Ms Sharif described the National e-Skills Curriculum and Competency Framework, which was drawn up in collaboration with other business and industry stakeholders. There had been partnerships with five universities around structural design capabilities. There were still fears about moving to a fully-online environment, but it was believed that this could be achieved, given the right processes and support. She noted that in most European countries, there was great focus on the ICT practitioner. The key to e-literacy was individuals’ ability to use digital tools to perform tasks, solve problems, communicate, manage information, collaborate, create, share content and build knowledge in everyday life. There were positive investments being made by business and civil society into applications. In 2011, the Department had undertaken Research in Motion, which was responsible for Blackberry coming in, and it had from there had the opportunity to establish three mobile applications development centres. E-literacy was also presenting opportunities for creativity, and it was pleasing to note that locally-developed applications were now being made available. This had increased spend in the sector and opened new opportunities for youth.

Ms Sharif noted that unfortunately, South Africa’s ranking had fallen on the World Economic IT Global Report, and that was largely because of questions around affordability which affected the social impact. Once again, collaborative efforts would be necessary to address the problems.

The aim around e-skilling was to have an impact on ten million people. The direct impact measured under the National Development Plan would be to achieve an increase in the country’s e-readiness rankings, increasing chances for individuals through the effective social appropriation of ICT, using ICTS more effectively across the broader society, increasing the knowledge workers in all sectors, and establishing peer-drive youth leadership to grow enrolment in ICT-focused education, and develop e-astuteness. Better analysis of data to influence policies around employment, innovation, productivity, inequity and skills development was needed. Research capacity had to increase.

Ms Sharif noted that a high priority of the DOC was finalising the broadband policy for rollout across the country.

A summary of recommendations was presented. There should be:
- Greater coordinator and alignment to support the strategic goals in the ‘Towards the Realisation of Schooling 2025’.
- Use of ICT for teaching and learning, including instructional design capacity
- Leadership capacity around investment in ICT
- Building of e-literacy to leverage new job opportunities presented by the Information Society and Knowledge Economy, such as BDM and its 23 new channels
- Exploration of more ways to capture the e-skills capacity development programmes in Basic Education as part of a national aggregation framework for e-skills.
- A joint task team, including representatives from DHET, to formalise opportunities

Discussion
The Chairperson thanked the DBE and DOC for their comprehensive reports. However, she wanted to comment that although the White Paper had been in place since 2004, not much had been done. DBE had reported on some matters that were not included in the Annual Performance Plan. She felt that, as was apparent in Botswana, much more needed to be done specifically for the disabled.

Mr C Moni (ANC) wondered why there were more schools with computers for administration than schools with computers for teaching and learning. Administration should be a separate issue.

Mr Z Makhubele (ANC) noted that the plan for the establishment of libraries ran over a three-year period, and was concerned whether there would be sufficient numbers of librarians.

The Chairperson pointed out that nothing had been said in the Annual Performance Plan for the appointment of library staff.

Mr Subban agreed that this was so, but said that the DBE was engaging on the matter. There were alternatives, such as having library assistants or for Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) interns to be trained as library assistants to assist schools with the administration of libraries.

Mr Makhubele asked whether e-education and e-learning were the same thing.

Mr Makhubele was concerned that there could be a problem if there was no continuity with interactive boards being continuously supported in classrooms. He also was worried that schools benefited from connectivity provided by the private sector but were unable to sustain it when the private sector ceased funding.

Mr Mweli responded that when initiatives were conceptualised they were based on a set commitment at the time, but when the private sector pulled out, these wonderful initiatives were just dropped.

Mr Makhubele asked why the private sector was reluctant to give an e-rate.

Dr A Lovemore (DA) said she had not been given any sense of urgency around the libraries. The Committee had recently received a Report on Foundation Level literacy and Annual National Assessment (ANA) results would be released in September. It was known that literacy levels were very low, and children therefore must read and comprehend, and for that they needed access to books. There was a pressing urgency.

Mr Subban responded that the driving force behind the roll out of libraries was informed by the NEEDU Report, the ANA Report, the evidence of reading statistics, and he said that the Department would be moving quickly to roll out libraries.

Mr Mweli added that it was a paradigm shift, and he hoped that the relevant committees would ensure that there was greater speed in delivering library services.

The Chairperson interjected that the Member was not speaking to the slowness of library roll-out, but to the fact that the White Paper came out in 2004 but had not been implemented.

Mr Mweli said he had recently returned from Kenya and one of the main challenges identified by the 27 countries that attended that conference was that very few countries could confidently say that every teacher had been trained to train learners to read and write. In the majority of instances, teachers were trained in language acquisition. The culture of reading was “pathetically low” in South Africa. Nations that read and encouraged their children to read performed better. The DBE was engaging with DHET to start framing the programmes so that every teacher going out into the system would be fully equipped to teach the five aspects of reading, which was not the case at present.

Dr Lovemore asked how the Department would link the literacy targets with access to libraries and reading materials. It might be that each child was required to read a set number of paragraphs each day. It was pointless having books sitting in a corner of the classroom; they must be actually read by the children.

Dr Lovemore noted that there was “a plan” for provision of centralised school libraries, but asked where it was and what its targets were.

The Chairperson asked the DBE not to answer, saying that the plan had not been sanctioned.

 Dr Lovemore found it difficult to believe that the cost of implementation was R700 million, and that a start up classroom library cost R50 000. She asked if there was an intention to have a conditional grant, or how it would be funded.

Mr Subban responded that the Department had a detailed plan, and that was the average costing for an average classroom library. The Department was hoping it could be done for less, to ensure more rollout.

Dr Lovemore referred to the e-education presentation from the Department of Communications. The definition of e-literacy was presumably what everyone wanted to achieve in the next generation. This involved communication, managing information, collaboration, creation, sharing content, and all sorts of things, rather than merely how to use software. She asked if the Department was looking at how to use the software, or the development of e-literacy in our children.

Dr Lovemore referred to the e-Education White Paper, which set out three phases, which had not been met, and asked what was different now. According to that White Paper, everyone should have been e-literate by  2013. She asked why the Department now was confident that the new plan would actually be implemented.

Mr Mnisi responded that whilst it was true that the White Paper on Education specified clear objectives around delivery, it had not addressed the key responsibilities of national, provincial and district structures. The new implementation plan attempted to address that. The second part of the plan referred to what issues could be delivered on, and when. The White Paper had also not been specific on that, other than outlining a general goal that by 2013 every learner and every teacher should be ICT literate. It was clear that DBE had not reached that goal. However, bearing in mind how ICT learning was already now being carried out independently by the learners, the Department would not find the new goals very difficult.

Dr Lovemore said a Ministerial e-Education Advisory Council was supposed to have been formed, and asked if it had been. She also asked if the e-Education Inter Departmental team to manage the policy was formed.

Dr Lovemore asked whether the Department was looking at virtual classrooms, particularly for rural areas.

Mr Subban responded that it was considered that in primary schools, classroom libraries would serve to upgrade reading on a faster scale than learners visiting an outside library. Secondary schools would have a central library.

Dr Lovemore noted that the presentation spoke about hardware and software, but not about the people that would be trained. She expected it should be mandatory for every teacher to be computer literate, and asked if there was a move to achieving that.

Ms J Ngubeni-Maluleka (ANC) noted that 10 000 schools did not benefit from libraries and that R16.6 billion was needed to ensure that those schools had libraries. She asked if this amount included staffing and training.

Mr Subban responded that it did include staffing.

Ms Ngubeni-Maluleka noted from the policy goal that it would take about ten years to roll out this project, and wondered why it would take so long.

Ms Ngubeni-Maluleka asked whether ‘every South African learner’ also included Grade R learners. She wanted to know if there was any plan to roll out to Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres, particularly those under the DBE.

Ms Ngubeni-Maluleka noted that e-skilling CoLabs were provided in six provinces, and wanted to know which provinces were not benefiting.

Dr Harold Wesse, Deputy Director General, DBE, and Acting Chief Executive Officer, National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa, responded that there should be nine CoLabs, but there were budget constraints. The problem could be addressed in collaboration with other departments.

Ms Ngubeni-Maluleka noted the intention to impact 10 million people on e-skilling, but wanted to know the time frame.

Dr Wesse responded that the time line for R10 million people was taken from the National Development Plan, which asked that by 2030 our society must be e-literate. To get to that over the next 16 or 17 years meant that over the next 5 years, ten million people would have to be reached, and helped to understand  how to think, live and work differently in this new world. If a mother understood, she would be able to pass on the information to her children. Obviously, one institution could not deliver to 10 million people in five years, so there was a plan how various government departments and the private sector must collaborate and build partnerships.

Mr D Smiles (DA) noted that the tables on libraries did not have comparisons and he asked for the base line.

Mr Subban noted that point.

Mr Smiles asked on what grounds the Department decided to have the option of centralised and classroom libraries, and whether it had considered mobile libraries. He was also concerned about the cost compared to other models.

Mr Subban responded that mobile libraries were not cost effective. The Japanese had brought out a number of vehicles that were put out in provinces. There were huge challenges with the Department of Transport in registration, and other challenges around shelving and books in those vehicles, maintenance, drivers, and security. The focus was therefore on having a more integrated plan of classroom libraries and centralised libraries. However, mobile libraries did have a role to play, and would be used as long as they were available.

Mr Smiles referred to the implementation plan and noted that 238 libraries must be provided by 2016. Looking at the present infrastructure of normal schools with classrooms, he wondered if the Department was too idealistic.

Mr Subban responded that the Department was hoping to do the initiatives in parallel. A number of concept schools were being rolled out at the same time as the resourcing of libraries. Library books were brought into every school opened. The guidelines specified five books per learner. The Department was able to meet that requirement, and the plan was to increase the number of books in those schools.

Mr Smiles noted the e-Education Policy Goal, but also noted that the targets set were not met by 2013. The urgency was not appreciated and the targets were missed. He asked why DBE, as a coordinator and leader for education in the country, allowed the provinces’ implementation plans to be so poor, and why it had not urged the provinces to deal with e-Education.

Mr Mweli responded that to begin with, it was difficult to get the plans. ICT had been viewed as a luxury and not as something that was necessary, and there was a need to have a paradigm shift in that thinking. Many people had not yet come to the point where they accepted that all employees, and all learners, had to be ICT-literate in order to interact in the current environment. The same thinking applied to libraries, which had traditionally been viewed as an auxiliary function, despite the fact that the curriculum emphasised that learning and reading materials were very central to learning outcomes. The Minister had taken a decision to place ICT and library services as standing items at the Education Committee meetings, to try to change perceptions.

Mr Mnisi said that the Department was aware that it had not made progress. However, DBE was hoping that the situation would change by this time next year. Every teacher should say they were ready to teach the content. Although the DBE was not yet moving on the issue of using cellphones in classrooms, it was looking into whether it could create content that would be made freely available to educators. The initiatives the Department had sketched for content would address that section.

Mr Smiles referred to the DOC recommendation to ‘explore ways to capture the e-skills capacity development programmes of Basic Education as part of a national aggregation framework for e-skills’. If the Department was still referring to “exploring” ways, this intimated that very little had been done to date. He asked why the DBE was asked to report on what it was going to explore. It should have been explaining to the DOC what was required.

Ms F Mushwana (ANC) was concerned that the Committee was getting reports based on information sent through, rather than on-site inspections. One example was the report that learners had books, but this report seemed to indicate the contrary.

Mr Subban undertook to report on schools visited.

Ms Mushwana said the presentation gave percentages, but she wanted to see actual numbers.

Mr Mweli responded that when dealing with a survey of 24 400 schools to be sampled, it was useful to use percentages. It was not feasible to go to each and every school.

The Chairperson said it was for the Committee to decide what it wanted, and it had asked for the numbers.

Mr Mweli committed to give numbers of the samples, the full methodology of the study, as well as the outcomes.

Mr Subban added that tables preceding the one referred to by the Member had given the numbers and percentages of schools.

Ms Mushwana referred to the slide on progress that stated Limpopo schools did not have classroom libraries, which again gave the impression that the Department did not inspect in loco, as that information was not correct.

Mr Subban responded that this information emanated from the School Monitoring Survey. When the DBE visited schools, it looked at  the status of the libraries in those schools and it was often found that where libraries did exist, plans for libraries and ICT could be aligned. Some models had an ICT Centre together with a library, but in some schools the library room was taken up for the computer room and the Department wanted to avoid that.

Ms Mushwana appreciated the DBE sector approach. She noted that it was necessary to ensure that those provinces with the least coverage would be given priority. Ms Mushwana believed the proposed implementation plan was also informed by information gathered electronically and was not correct.

The Chairperson was pleased that Ms Mushwana had raised these points, as she was not sure that delivery was taking place in Limpopo.

Ms A Mashishi (ANC) referred to ICT Professional Development and asked why the training was low in many provinces.

Ms Mashishi was concerned that mobile libraries carried computers, and asked what measures were being taken to prevent theft, and what steps were in place if the vehicles broke down.

Ms N Gina (ANC) was aware that there was discussion on the implementation of e-learning and training of teachers, but pointed out that the Committee was still waiting for the report from the Task Team. She asked what was in that report.

Ms Gina supported Mr Moni’s question as to why the computers provided for administration were even mentioned in this report. The number of computers for teaching in schools was very low, even for the teachers themselves. The Department had failed on the laptop initiative, and she wanted to know now how it planned to move forward. She wondered how the teachers were being trained, and pointed out that if, on their return from training, they had no access to computers to practise their skills, this made no sense, as they may have to trained again when computers were provided.

Mr Mnisi clarified that the Department was not training teachers to, for instance, use a mouse or on word-processor packages, but on how to integrate ICT into teaching and learning. None of the teachers had been trained on that and it was a new space that needed specialised training. Although the training was slow, partially because insufficient hardware was available, the intention was that teachers should be able to implement.

Ms Gina asked what was being discussed between the DBE and DOC in terms of e-skilling, and if there was common ground.

Mr Mweli said the DOC and DBE Deputy Ministers met every quarter, and the officials met every month. In future, the DBE and DOC would have to ensure that all role players had the same benefits as currently offered at DHET.

Mr Mnisi added that the DBE relied on the DOC for connectivity. DBE must put in place the structures to facilitate the process. DBE and DOC had drafted plans that must still be presented to National Treasury for approval, on how the connectivity should be rolled out.

Dr Wesse added that one of the biggest problems was that departments still had a “silo mentality”, working in their own domain without talking and exchanging ideas. These silos needed to be broken down in order to work with other departments. The DOC worked very closely with DHET. The DHET had just published a turnaround strategy for FET Colleges, which essentially dealt with ICT in those colleges. DBE and DHET would be working together on that.

Ms Gina asked for more information on the ICT Resource Centres rolled out, noting the intention of one per province. She asked what their impact was and if more were planned for the future.

Mr Mnisi responded that the DBE was looking at developing a model. He explained that an ICT Resource Centre was not “ICT outside the classroom” but was instead a teacher training centre. Teachers would use that centre to search for information and assist them in preparing lessons and reports. A further 20 ICT Resource Centres would be up and running before the end of the financial year.

Ms Gina was pleased that the Department was thinking of ICT in multigrade schools and emphasised that those teachers needed much assistance.

The Chairperson said that she thought another meeting may be necessary with the DBE. She pointed out that the DBE had not said where those ICT Resource Centres were, and it was important for Members to have a full picture. In addition, she commented that the information about the joint Task Team was important and should be linked to Ms Gina’s question. Again, she noted that although DBE reported on training of teachers, that was not in this year’s Annual Performance Plan. The plan for training was a draft, not signed by the Director General, but it had been made to sound that the Department was already implementing.

Mr Mweli said what was clear from the engagement with Members was that it was important to start from a set base line. Ten or fifteen years back, this data was not available. Today, the DBE was able engage with data that gave a sense of where the country was now, and where it was going, and this was crucial for planning and monitoring performance. The Minister had given a clear instruction not to hide anything.

Mr Mweli differed with Members when they expressed the view that very little had been done. He did not think the vociferous and very pointed questions that came out in this meeting would have been made five or more years ago, had the same issues been discussed. The DBE indeed acknowledged that it had not reached the stage that it had hoped to be. However, its report a few years back would not even have mentioned anything about e-education in multigrade schools, or about e-education in inclusive education, and library reports would not have referred to the DBE having conducted surveys, so these had been achievements. The meeting was discussing the report that came from the School Monitoring Survey conducted in 2011.

He agreed that whilst it was important to look at other dynamics when benchmarking against other countries, it must also be borne in mind that Botswana was only the size of one of the provinces in this country.

The Chairperson said even although Botswana was a small country it was still possible to learn from it. Members were not satisfied with Mr Mweli’s answers. She had indeed heard of e-learning in the Eastern Cape, many years ago. She agreed that much had been done in Basic Education in the last 20 years. However, Mr Mnisi, before he responded to questions, had already indicated that the ICT space was being led by the private sector. Five or ten years ago, ICT might have meant every learner in the school having access to a laptop. However, with the advancement of technology, there was no longer a need to have a laptop, as there could be a tablet or a cellphone instead. The challenge was how the Department matched its plans to developments outside the classroom, and whether it could come up with something that would drive education without the DBE having to make a heavy investment. If content was readily available for download, then it could even be downloaded on an old cellphone and given to a child.

The Chairperson noted that the plan drafted with the DOC was looking at broadband and the area of 3G. Studies conducted around Africa showed that mobile technology was taking the lead in connectivity, but the departments had not yet fully addressed how best to capitalise on mobile technology to provide connectivity to learners. Dr Wesse had mentioned that the White Paper was published in 2004, which was almost ten years ago. Ten years in ICT terms was a very, very long time, and the e-Skills Institute must address the creation of an environment that would respond timeously to changes. Grade 1 learners would be seeking employment in ten years’ time, and the jobs that existed now may no longer be relevant by then. The question was therefore how to prepare the children in school for the world they would operate in ten to twenty years hence.

The Chairperson said that some Members indicated the need for children to read, write and be able to do arithmetic. However, she asked what about information literacy? Whilst people must be able to read, they must also be able to analyse and evaluate the information and knowledge obtained, say from Google, in order to function optimally, so there must be new ways of looking at e-education, e-learning, and education generally.

The Chairperson fully agreed with the need for departments to collaborate. Even if connectivity was provided, nobody might use it; indeed about 85% of centres were not being fully used because there was insufficient training given to ordinary people and communities. The DOC and its Institute must really engage with the DBE. There had been some meetings in the past, there was an MOU regarding connectivity of infrastructure but it was necessary to think beyond infrastructure.

Dr Wesse referred to issues around professional training. The DOC was working with UNESCO’s e-competency strategy. That strategy clarified that there were three aspects to ICT competency in teachers. One was the ability to use the device, the second was how ICT could be used to deepen knowledge, and the third was how ICT was used to create new knowledge. Unless the DOC, in collaboration with the DBE, could impact on children, the desired outreach to ten million people would not happen. The schools in the country were the way to really make the impact on many thousands of children, to prepare them for the future.

Ms Sharif commented that one of the challenges facing DOC and its Ministry was that whilst there was an understanding that industry was responsible for innovation, the Department was still expected to lead. Although the Minister of Communications and the top executive of DOC had met with the captains of industries it was very difficult to meet with them in isolation of what was happening in ICT generally. If South Africa wanted to increase e-readiness in the country, and DOC was responsible for that, then the question was how to create a platform. Industry had mooted that an “e-readiness fund” was necessary. Various leaders must engage with various sectors to reach national goals.

The Chairperson commented that the officials had seemed to dismiss some of the questions Members had asked. She understood that IT changed every day. The White Paper was created in 2004. Even DOC admitted that the DBE was slow. Some people still did not know how to use a mouse, so she questioned how the departments would train people on specialised equipment to adopt an integrated learning approach to ICT. The Committee had visited one farm school, where an interactive whiteboard was in place, but the teacher had said that the school was waiting for a person trained on it to come and switch it on. In Free State, the Committee had seen outdated and incredibly slow laptops. It was vital to ensure that new technology was in the schools. She commended the DOC on how new knowledge could be created through new devices.

The Chairperson charged Mr Mweli, as Acting Accounting Officer, with responsibility for the draft implementation plan being discussed, although it was not signed, saying that she was not sure that the Director General would take kindly to matters not approved as yet being discussed in the meeting.  

Mr Mweli responded that it was unfortunate that the Department had referred to the plan. The plan was on its way to being approved at the Committee HEDCOM, and indeed he should not have presented the details before it had been approved by the Director General or the Minister. CEM, the Committee of Education Ministers, had issued a very clear instruction that the policy direction in the White Paper – to achieve ICT literacy in every teacher and learner to a certain degree of competency – should be put in operation. He repeated that there had been problems in implementing the White Paper, because of inadequate delineation of roles, but this would be corrected.

Mr Mweli concluded that sometimes the comments and remarks made in these meetings might create a wrong impression, but the Department accepted that much of the progress that it made was due to the “mountain of assignments” that the Committee required it do during engagement.

The Chairperson thanked Mr Mweli for that remark, saying that the Deputy Minister had also commended the Committee on the value of its engagement.

The Chairperson summarised that it was clear from this interaction that the Committee expected:
- That the meeting with ICASA, and discussion around licensing had to take place
- that there must be a more integrated approach to communication, not only at Ministerial level, but with the Directors General
- The HEDCOM meetings should include library matters as well as e-issues
- Clarity on whether media centres included libraries; Mr Smiles had spoken of the difficulty when names were used interchangeably
- The DBE should ensure that there was sign-off on the draft implementation plan
- National guidelines for school libraries should be presented, s that the Committee could see clearly what this was all about
- A project team must be put in place, and, she suggested, also a communication team, because there seemed to be nothing specific in place for e-education and e-skilling
- A report on what was in place for the disabled and inclusive education. She reiterated that the committee had seen two successful centres implemented in Botswana and wanted something similar in South Africa
- Ms Mushwana’s challenge that certain issues in Limpopo were not reported upon must be followed up

Announcements
The Chairperson noted that on 10 October, Read SA was bringing learners to read to the Committee. The ANA assessments were due to start on 10 October. On that date, the DBE was expected to present on what was in place for those. It would also be expected to report on readiness for examinations.

The Chairperson announced that minutes would be adopted at the next meeting.

The Chairperson noted that the Committee would still need to visit a province, and it would be looking at Grade 12 examination readiness in the Western Cape, and also the violence in the Manenberg area. It was important for the Committee to assess what the province was doing and what contribution it could make not only here, but for all schools plagued with gang violence and drugs.

The Chairperson noted that the NEEDU Bill would not be tabled before this Committee as the Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Administration felt it should fall under this department.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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