Department of Basic Education on its First Quarter 2013/14 Performance Report

Basic Education

10 October 2013
Chairperson: Ms H Malgas (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) briefed the Committee on its 1st quarter 2013/14 performance report. The first half of the presentation would deal with the detailed presentation on performance indicators and targets. The second half of the presentation would deal with the financial report of the first quarter. The aims and highlights of each of the five programmes were described. In was noted that in the first quarter, DBE had advertised 16 posts and made 11 new appointments. It had completed its Human Resources plan. A committee was appointed to investigate the implementation of mathematics, science and technology programmes in the provinces, and this report would be shared with the Committee. It was noted that 4 669 first-time teachers under 30 were appointed, and 14 341 bursaries for teaching students were awarded. The National Strategy for the Prevention and Management of Substance Abuse amongst Learners in Schools had been implemented, in partnership with provinces. Consolidation of provincial plans, using the national priorities, was also being done for Inclusive Education, a focus of the year. More research was being done on those likely to make good teachers so that better evidence-based practices could be put in place at district offices, and to direct the careers advice. In this quarter, 28% of education infrastructure grant funds were allocated. There had been workshops held for district officials on management of the National School Nutrition Programme.

The financial report set out, in some detail, the spending in the first quarter. For the year, DBE was allocated R17.5 million, and R13.3 million of this was allocated for transfer payments. There had been 28.4% spending in the quarter, with substantial underspending in programme 2 but overspending in programme 3. The underspending was explained as a question of timing, for the bulk of spending always took place in the second and third quarters, and the high spending in programme 3 related to the transfer of bursaries but it was noted that DBE had requested a rollover that had not been granted. In programme 4, which focused on the infrastructure programme, spending was also not as expected. DBE did monitor spending monthly.

Members asked for clarity on certain of the targets that were not consistent with the Annual Performance Plan, asked about the education infrastructure grant and how the DBE tackled the problem of provinces not being up to date. They wanted to know about access to the Thutong Educational Portal. There were a number of concerns raised about the special schools, about whether they were adequately provided for in some districts, whether enough ground work was done, whether curricula and training had been finalised, and what were the criteria for allocations to the schools. Members asked why workbooks were delivered so late, but were told that the January delivery was a second batch. Members pointed to errors in the learning and teaching support materials and asked what quality controls were in place. There were concerns about lower than expected spending again on the Technical Schools. Members asked about teacher retention strategies, teacher pay, if there were still unqualified teachers in the system, whether interns were employed, use of languages,  and NSFAS loan conditions, and what was in place to prevent under-spending. 
 

Meeting report

Chairperson’s opening remarks
The Chairperson welcomed the team from the Department of Basic Education (DBE or the Department). She explained that one of the reasons why there were few Members present in the meeting was that no decisions would be taken in the meeting.

Mr D Smiles (DA) said quarterly reports were as important as annual reports, therefore the low turnout from Members was not acceptable.

The Chairperson said the Quarterly Report was a continuation from the Annual Report. All quarterly reports were brought before the Committee so that it could track and analyse all trends with regard to spending
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Department of Basic Education: 1st quarter 2013/14 performance report
Ms Carol Nuga-Deliwe, Chief Director: Strategic Planning and Coordination, DBE, explained that the first half of the presentation would deal with the detailed presentation on performance indicators and targets. The second half of the presentation would deal with the financial report. She reminded the Committee that the Annual Performance Plan summarised the Department’s priorities, which were aligned to the delivery agreement on Government Outcome 1: Improving the quality of Basic Education, together with the 2014 Action Plan.

She noted that the activities of the DBE were structured into five programmes, and outlined each in turn. Under Programme 1: Administration, she noted that this programme was intended to manage the DBE and provide strategic and administrative support services, by providing suitable human resources, ensuring that targeted support was given, improving inter-governmental planning, communication, and dealing with education policy and legislative development. She described the following highlights:
- DBE advertised 16 posts in the first quarter and managed to make 11 new appointments.
- The Human Resource (HR) Plan was completed
- As part of its research, the DBE finalised the General Household Survey 2011

Programme 2: Curriculum Policy, Support and Monitoring, developed curriculum and assessment policies and then monitored and supported their implementation. Some of the Programme’s strategic objectives were to increase the availability of e-Education learning and teaching resources amongst teachers, bring stability and coherence to the national school curriculum, and promote adequate access to quality learning materials. This would be done by better national specifications on what every learner requires and a more proactive approach towards the cost-effective development, reproduction and distribution of materials such as workbooks and textbooks. The following highlights were cited:
- 1 346 teachers, in six provinces were oriented about Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS)
- The Minister appointed a Committee to investigate the implementation of Mathematics, Science and Technology (MST) programmes in provinces
- An inter-provincial meeting on inclusive education was held on 29 and 30 April 2013 to report on the implementation of Inclusive Education (IE) during the first quarter and to consolidate provincial plans using national priorities
- An audit instrument for all schools for the Blind was developed and finalised as part of preparing the system for the implementation of the South African Special Learning (SASL) curriculum from 2014

Programme 3: Teachers, Education, Human Resources and Institutional Development aimed to promote quality teaching and institutional performance through the effective supply, development and utilisation of human resources. The programme would ensure the new teacher development plan was translated into a wide range of teacher training materials, that collaborative professional development activities within the schooling system were undertaken, and agreements made with the relevant service providers. An on-going national campaign for choosing teaching as a career would operate, based on research into who was likely to become a good teacher, focusing on giving the necessary information and bursaries to interested youths. The programme also aimed to establish better and evidence-based practices and procedures for the country’s 82 education district offices, including models for school interventions designed to tackle specific school shortcomings. Highlights included:
- 1 975 schools were visited by external moderators under the Integrated Quality Management System (IQMS) during the first quarter
- The “Race to the Top” project was initiated by the Minister as a holistic and urgent response to the National Development Plan (NDP). The project served as a turnaround strategy for the education sector.
- 4 669 educators under the age of 30 years were appointed for the first time in the system
- The policy on the Organisation, Roles and Responsibilities of Education Districts was approved on 4 April 2013
- 14 341 bursaries were awarded to qualifying and deserving students studying towards a teaching qualification in national priority areas

Programme 4: Planning, Information and Assessment aimed to promote quality and effective service delivery in the basic education system through planning, implementation and assessment. Some of the objectives of the Programme were to establish a quality system of standardised and benchmarked learner assessments, ensure that all children completed a quality readiness programme in Grade R before entering formal education in Grade 1, and putting into place support systems for provinces and schools, both to improve the physical environs of the school and create enabling conditions for successful teaching and learning, and to ensure that districts had quality information and data about the level and quality of learning in schools, to enable them to plan and implement school-based improvement programmes. The highlights were outlined as follows:
- 258 question papers for the November 2013/March 2014 NSC examinations were set and internally moderated during this quarter. 82% of the papers had been externally moderated and approved by Umalusi
- 80 School Based Assessment (SBA) moderators had been appointed. So far Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape were monitored
- R1.879 billion, representing 28% of the total R6.63 billion Education Infrastructure Grant funds had been allocated.

Programme 5: Educational Enrichment Services aimed to develop policies and programmes to improve the quality of learning in schools. The strategic objectives were to enhance the current basket of education support services to learners from poor communities, and to ensure the involvement of stakeholders in exercising involvement in schools, in a way that would add value to the attainment of core outcomes. The highlights included the development of the National Strategy for the Prevention and Management of Substance Abuse amongst Learners in Schools, in partnership with provinces. This Strategy provided comprehensive guidance to the basic education sector on prevention and management of substance abuse in schools. It was approved for implementation on 25 April 2013.

In addition, financial management workshops were held for district officials, on management of the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) funds.

Financial Report, First Quarter Expenditure
Ms Ntsetsa Molalekoa, Chief Financial Officer, DBE, said the total final appropriation budget of the Department for the 2013/14 financial year amounted to R17.5 million. Of this, R13.3 million was allocated for the following transfer payments:
•Conditional Grants: R12.3 million
•Transfers to Public Entities: R991 million
•Other Transfers: R37.2 million

The remainder of the budget was divided into allocations (see attached slide for full breakdown) between compensation of employees, examiners and moderators’ fees, earmarked funds, office accommodation, amount exclusively appropriated for special projects, department operations and projects.

The total actual expenditure of the Department for the 2013/14 financial year first quarter amounted to R4.9 million. R4.6 million of this was in respect of transfer payments.

Ms Molalekoa gave a brief introduction to the DBE’s allocations and actual expenditure for each of the programmes, against actual expenditure in the first quarter, per programme, for the 2013/14 financial year, as follows:
•Programme 1 was allocated R335 580, and spent R87 275
•Programme 2 was allocated R1.5 million and spent R40 964
•Programme 3 was allocated R984 697 and spent R934 115
•Programme 4 was allocated R8.9 million and spent R2 million
•Programme 5 was allocated R5.7 million and spent R1.8 million

The DBE’s total expenditure for the 2013/14 financial year amounted to 28.4% of the final appropriation.

Ms Malalekoa explained the reasons for the deviations from expected spending per Programme:
- Programme 2: Curriculum Policy, Support and Monitoring (2.7%). She noted that whilst the spending on this programme seemed very low, the bulk of the spending was expected to take place in the second and third quarters of the financial year, when Kha Ri Gude classes resumed for 2013. The printing and delivery of workbooks for the class of 2014 was scheduled to take place during September or October 2013.
- Programme 3: Teachers, Education Human Resources and Institutional Development (94.9%). The bulk of spending under Programme 3 was the transfer for Funza Lushaka bursaries, which was made to National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) in April each year. High spending also related to payments of invoices for the teacher training in collaboration with Teacher Unions, which were processed during in April 2013. The Department requested a roll-over to cover the shortfall, but it was not approved.
- Programme 4: Planning, Information and Assessment (23.3%). She explained that the bulk of this allocation related to the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI), where spending did not take place as projected

Ms Molalekoa said administrative and financial systems were in place within DBE. Expenditure was monitored on a monthly basis and responsible managers were requested to provide reasons if the progress on projects was not satisfactory. Senior Management, on at least a monthly basis, did discuss the spending trends, and reprioritisation of activities within the Department’s objectives was considered when necessary. In conclusion, the DBE would be consolidating the progress made in the first quarter by addressing improved learner performance through key priorities such as Workbooks and Teacher Education during the subsequent quarters of the financial year.

Discussion
The Chairperson thanked the DBE for the presentation. The Committee’s analysis indicated that about one quarter of the budget should have been spent. On Programme 1, DBE had six out of seven targets which were annual. The DBE seemed to be on track with its spending under Programme 1. The DBE’s performance indicator with regard to officials participating in staff development activities was indicated to be 682 in the presentation, whereas the Annual Performance Plan indicated 764, and she asked for clarity on this point.

Ms A Mashishi (ANC) asked about the Education Infrastructure Grant (EIG), what was done in regard to the provinces who were not up to date with submissions, and the progress on EIG spending for each province. She also asked if teachers were also allowed to use the Thutong Educational Portal, and how they could access it.

Mr D Smiles (DA) appreciated the presentation. He asked what progress was made on the number of signed financial disclosures. He noted that the Auditor-General (AG) had raised concerns about capacity to improve the performance information, and he thus asked how DBE would address this concern in the following year. He noted the under-achievement on implementing the training manuals on Guidelines for Full Service Schools, and noted also that special schools were also not adequately provided for in many districts, and he thought that the ground work for them was lacking. He felt that the measures put in place for Learning and Teaching Support Materials were satisfactory, but the quality of the workbooks, in comparison to textbooks, was a concern. Many textbooks had many mistakes in the current financial year so he wanted to know what quality assurance mechanisms were in place. He was also concerned about the lower than expected expenditure on the technical schools in the 2012/13 year which seemed to be continuing, an wanted to know how DBE would address it. He asked about the DBE’s retention strategy, since 484 teachers left in the first quarter already. Finally, he thought that the reasons for the deviations in the DBE’s finance were not satisfactory. Curriculum and support were the main mandate of the DBE, therefore under-spending was a serious concern.

Ms F Mushwana (ANC) asked whether there was sufficient linkage with the internship programme, and whether there was any collaboration between DBE and the schools in terms of employment. She noted that the targets did not appear to appreciate the 11 official languages in South Africa, and asked what was done to promote lesser-used languages. She commented that the January deadline was too late for the delivery of workbooks and asked why these could not be delivered in December the previous year. She asked if DBE still had unqualified educators, and pointed out that, in comparison with other countries, those in South Africa were not well paid. She thought that the interest rates for the NSFAS student loans was too high, which resulted in students not being able to pay back these loans.

Mr Paddy Padayachee, Acting Director-General, DBE, replied to the question on internships and said DBE offered no guarantees on permanent employment after the internships. However there were some interns who, on the basis of their performance, would be offered employment within DBE. He also spoke to delivery of textbooks, and explained that each child received two workbooks. Workbook 1 would be completed and delivered at the end of October, while Workbook 2 would be completed and finalised towards the end of January/February in the coming financial year. He agreed that the DBE did in fact still have some unqualified teachers.

Mr Anton Schoeman, Deputy Director-General: Administration, DBE, replied to the question on financial disclosures and said the DBE was in fact taking this very seriously. At the end of May, members were requested to declare all their interests. Everyone in the DBE had declared their interests and the information was handed over to the Public Service Commission. The Internal Audit was also checking up on these.

Ms Vivienne Carelse, Deputy Director General: Strategic Planning & Reporting, DBE, replied to the question on the resignation of teachers, and confirmed that resignations accounted for the bulk of the teacher attrition figures, which were, annually, around 3%. In the first quarter, many educators would manage to find work in private schools, but this was a natural movement and DBE did not see it as problematic. She agreed that there were still unqualified teachers within the DBE, but said that this was mostly in the rural areas, where unqualified teachers may be employed until qualified teachers could be found. The majority of the unqualified teachers had experience, but had not upgraded their qualifications, and most were retiring so within the next three years there were likely not to be unqualified teachers any longer. Any teachers assessed were paid pay progressions, and other incentives also existed to get teachers in the rural areas, but remuneration remained a challenge and the DBE was working on a proper policy for rural incentives.

Ms Nuga-Deliwe added to the question on incentives and said that, as shown in the last Annual Report, DBE was focusing on performance and quality. The DBE would be providing more detail to the Committee in the next quarter.

Mr Suren Govender, Chief Director: Curriculum, DBE, said the Thutong Educational Portal access was readily available, and the portal could also be accessed on cellphones. However, DBE still needed to look into levels of utilisation of this portal. There were over a million downloads in the last financial year, and this figure indicated that even educators made use of the information portal. The DBE acknowledged the challenges faced with regard to inclusive education, with a special emphasis on special schools. 2013 was declared a year for specific focus on these areas. The DBE had conceptualised and initiated training programmes to advance training and to ensure quality support in special schools and a greater focus on the screening, identification and the assessment of learners’ programmes. Greater accountability was exerted on provinces for implementation, and each province was required to submit a progress report. The DBE intended to engage with these reports and identify intervention mechanisms customised for each province.

He informed Members that the Grade R Policy Framework was distributed for public comment and the DBE was committed to make Grade R a priority. There were clear policies and guidelines to try to screen and ensure the quality of workbooks and textbooks. Teams of specialist were appointed for the screening of all textbooks per subject and where errors were found, conditional approval was granted for the use of these books, with full approval only when corrections were made. Publishers had their own control measures in place but errors and mistakes did surface.

Ms Molalekoa replied to the question of spending per province, and said the amount transferred to provinces was R8.7 billion. The breakdown per province could be made available to Members if necessary.

The Chairperson asked that the information be provided to the Committee in writing.

Ms Molalekoa commented on the spending per programme, and pointed out that in this quarter the bulk of the allocation had gone to workbooks. Delivery of workbooks had already taken place and delivery for the second batch would follow shortly. In relation to the Technical Schools spending she pointed out that the transfer at the end of the quarter was R33 million and R25 million was spent. In comparison to the other years, this spending had improved. The Northern Cape, Limpopo and Mpumalanga had the lowest spending trend.

Mr Padayachee said the DBE was concerned with Limpopo’s low spending. The issues related to Technical Schools were largely around capacity and DBE was working with that Provincial Department for more efficient use of the grant. The majority of the spending was around re-furbishing.

Mr Padayachee said that the interest charged by NSFAS was essentially the arrangement to recover funds. The matter was therefore under the Department of Higher Education and Training, but a broader debate was needed on free education. This was also applicable to no-fee schools. There was no quick fix to this.

The Chairperson noted that the Task Team was assigned to investigate the implementation of Mathematics, Science and Technology and asked that DBE to share some of the findings of this report. The task was a very significant one. She expressed herself a little more satisfied on inclusive education, but said the post provision norms were still a concern, and wanted to know what plans had been put in place to support the provision of Special Schools where they currently were not in place. She also asked how many full service schools were in place in the various provinces, and how these schools differed from ordinary schools, as well as what DBE had done to elevate the schools to full schools in term of White Paper 7. She furthermore asked how many learners were enrolled in these schools, whether the teachers had been fully trained, and whether the subject advisers were trained to provide adequate support to these teachers, especially with regard to curriculum differentiation.

The Chairperson commented on conditions of service, and said that the training of ECD educators did not lead to any qualification. In relation to career pathing, she said the audit in Special Schools was to be conducted but wanted to know on what basis devices were being provided, whether situational analyses were done, and what informed which devices were provided to each school. She noted that  HIV and AIDS spending was at 10%, and under-expenditure seemed to be rife. She asked what mechanisms were put in place to prevent under-spending.
 
Mr Govender said the Maths, Science and Technology Report would be made available to the Committee. The DBE had already responded to these findings and an implementation plan had already been shared with provinces. In relation to inclusive education, he assured the Committee that the DBE would put together a full document on service schools and this information would also be shared with the Committee. There had been training of subject advisors, but not everything translated to the classroom. In order for DBE to achieve intended outcomes, there needed to be a change in approach and mind-set with regard to inclusiveness. The DBE did not support the existence of multi-grade schools in general but for multi-grade teaching, specific programmes were in place. On the audit and provision of devices for special schools, he explained that the criteria were around specialisation, so for blind learners, the emphasis was on braille materials.
 
Ms Carelse replied to the question on post provision for education and said the DBE had looked at various disabilities to allow for a more favourable spread of schools, and additional personnel were also provided for Special Schools. The DBE’s technical formula used would be provided to the Committee. A lot of ECD teachers were required for teaching 1-4 year olds.

Ms Gugu Ndebele, Deputy Director-General: Care and Support for Teaching and Learning, DBE, replied to the question on HIV/AIDS and said the pattern of grant spending had been analysed. It was deliberate that in the first quarter the provinces focused on procurement rather than on spending. Challenges in Limpopo were linked to the broader challenges within the province, but DBE was committed to working together with the province. Approval of the HIV/ AIDS strategy was underway.

The Chairperson said the Committee was satisfied with the DBE’s first quarter report. The second quarter report should be submitted to the Committee towards the end of January 2014.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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