Department of Basic Education Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report

Basic Education

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

The Committee met to review the Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report of the Department of Basic Education for the 2012/13 financial year. The Committee went through the report page by page and Members were encouraged to raise any concern or suggestions as they went along. The first of which was one Member’s concern over the use of the words “progressively available” when speaking to the guarantee of basic education for all.  It was thought that the word “immediately available” would be more appropriate.  This was the first of many grammatical and technical issues that were noted.  Members felt as though language matters were difficult to deal with in the report and that one word could be interpreted in one way but end up changing the reader’s impression of the report.

The Committee reiterated concerns raised in previous years about the learner performance in Maths and Science and some Members wanted to be sure that the wording of the report properly reflected the fact that although some work had been done there were still many steps that needed to be taken. This concern was further present during the discussion over Funza Lushaka bursaries and teacher supply and demand.  The Committee felt as though students studying to become teachers should learn specific subject areas in concurrence with the national demand. This would mean that teachers had work when they graduated.

Members expressed concern over the South African Council for Educators and their registry of teachers as their figures did not coincide with those of the Department.  It was stated that on visits to Pretoria, SACE had admitted that their database was outdated.  The Committee felt that rectifying this was essential and added it to their recommendations.  Members were concerned with the authenticity of the registry as registration could be done online.

Some Members expressed further frustration with the report as they felt as though it was written in flattering language towards the Department and neglected some recommendations that had been made by the Committee over the years.  Furthermore some Members felt as though the report stated that some issues were solved but they had only been partially completed.

The Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report was adopted with amendments.
 

Meeting report

Opening Remarks
The Chairperson welcomed everyone to the meeting. She stated that she had read the Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR) BRRR many times and was satisfied that nothing was wrong as most issues had been resolved during previous meetings. The Committee would go through the document page-by-page and Members could raise their objections.

Department of Basic Education Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report
Ms A Lovemore (DA) raised the first concern with section 1.2 on page 1 which stated that the Constitution guaranteed basic education to all, and the Department of Basic Education must progressively make it available.  She noted that the courts had made basic education an immediate right and not a progressive right, she felt as though this wording was misleading.

Ms F Mushwana (ANC) stated that basic education for all was a progressive process and it could not be an immediate achievement.

The Committee Researcher noted that the words “progressively available” only applied to further education.

Ms Lovemore felt that the section did not read that way so it must be corrected in order to reflect this.

Ms Mushwana argued that the term in question was a planning term.

The Chairperson asked Members not to belabour the point as the courts had made the decision and the Constitution limited the Committee, they must let this point be.

Ms Lovemore stated that she had not intended to be difficult but she was not going to be part of saying that basic education should be made progressively available when it should be immediately available and the report should reflect this.

Mr Z Makhubele (ANC) believed that was no one was disagreeing with the sentiment of Ms Lovemore and her notion that basic education should be immediately available. The issue was a language problem leading to misinterpretation.

The Chairperson agreed with this assessment and moved onto page 2 which stated the purpose of the BRRR reports and the process followed to arrive at the final report.  She then asked the Committee to read through until section 2.1.

Ms Lovemore asked for clarification on section 2.1 in the second paragraph. There was reference to the Department striving to achieve 27 goals, but later on the report mentioned 13 goals. 

Mr Dennis Bandi, Content Adviser, noted this and agreed with Ms Lovemore that there needed to be more clarification as the number 13 was in reference to educational outcomes.

The Chairperson noted the need for the addition of some clarification in that paragraph; she moved onto sections 2.2 and 2.3 where no changes were made.

Ms N Gina (ANC) asked whether section 2.4: Key Development Indicators and International Conventions, was in reference to Millennium Development Goal 2.

Mr Bandi confirmed that it was.

Ms Lovemore addressed her concern that throughout the report there were words used that could be interpreted differently depending on who was using them. She used section 2.4 as an example; the phrase “some schools” was used and she believed that it gave the impression that there were only a few poor quality schools in South Africa, but this was incorrect.  She felt as though the entire report was written in a complimentary fashion towards the Department and suggested that some rewording was needed.

Section 2.5 noted that the quality of Maths and Science learner performance in the country had improved.  Ms Lovemore felt as though this was misleading as learner performance in both subjects were constantly brought up as challenge and was noted later in the report as being a constraint to education in South Africa. She further believed that the litigious environment being listed as a concern should be deleted because the problem was that people had to go to court against the Department in the first place.

Ms Gina stated that there was indeed constant improvement in Maths and Science and that the report did not say that the Committee was satisfied with the level learners were at, but to deny improvement was incorrect.

Ms Mushwana stated that language matters were difficult and problems of interpretation would occur, but no one could deny the statistics for Maths and Science learner performance were rising.

Mr D Smiles (DA) stated that the Department could be brought to court because of non-delivery and there was evidence of this.  In many cases the infrastructure delivery promises that were made were not delivered as planned.

Mr C Moni (ANC) stated that irrespective of why litigations occurred they must appear in the report.  Many schools had not reached the targets set out before them and the report had to reflect this and address non-delivery.

Mr Makhubele addressed the issue of the use of the words “most” versus “some”, and acknowledged that the latter was the better word to use. Some schools were in poor quality. Not all. The same applied to court cases.  Some court cases were about non-delivery but not all. The Committee was not there to conduct a case by case study.

The Chairperson stated that the Annual Report had all the specific court cases and that the Annual Report still used the word some, thus making it acceptable.

Mr Smiles raised his disagreement and said it was not acceptable.

The Chairperson did not allow for further argument and moved onto section 2.6 which addressed the response of the Department to the recommendations of the Committee.

Ms Mushwana raised concern about the issue of the national supply of qualified teachers.  She asked whether the country was moving towards a system in which students were accepted to train to teach specific courses rather than general training. Too many people were being trained and not enough posts were available.  The issue had to be addressed early to eradicate the problem as when people entered training they wanted to know that upon completion they would have employment.

The Chairperson agreed with this sentiment and noted the suggestion.

Ms Lovemore noted that some of the bullet points in this section contained more than one issue. Many of the problems coming from the previous year’s BRRR report were only half addressed. She felt as though those problems should be noted again in order to completely solve them.

The Chairperson noted that some of the issues were addressed in the Auditor General’s report.

Ms Lovemore maintained that it made sense for the Committee to include the recommendations from previous year’s reports that had not been addressed and to add them to the 2012/13 report.

Mr Makhubele agreed with Ms Lovemore and felt that this was a logical point.

Ms Mushwana wanted to ensure that the Committee was not saying that nothing had been done.

Ms Gina added that everyone could agree that there were many challenges and in many cases steps had been taken to address them.

Ms Lovemore agreed and clarified that she was not suggesting that nothing had been done. Instead, she was stating that despite the fact that work had been done, many challenges remained.  The wording in the report suggested that challenges had been fully addressed.  There should be something added to note that challenges remained.

The Chairperson then moved forward to the section dealing with allocations and virements to the programmes of the Department.

Mr Makhubele stated that the report followed the Treasury format.

The Chairperson stated that the Committee had to stick to the format and write within it.

Ms Mushwana noted that in terms of expenditures and spending rates the Department improved in each area except planning.  This was of concern because in order to be successful there needed to be proper planning.

Mr Smiles noted that under Programme 4 it stated that the Department had under-spent by R1.2 billion, but the percentage listed was incorrect.

The Chairperson replied this statistic was correct according to the Department.

Ms Lovemore clarified to Mr Smiles that the way it was written was why there was confusion.  She then noted that there was a technical issue in Section 3.3.1 (v) which spoke about the Early Childhood Development (ECD).

The Chairperson noted that this was correct and the ECD was improperly referenced in the section. Further editing issues were noted including the need for headings in tables to be put in bold.

Ms Lovemore asked for clarification on the Advanced Certificate in Education (ACE) Diploma; she was under the impression that it was being phased out.

Mr Bandi stated that the phase out process was still in consideration as a new programme had to be established to replace the ACE Diploma.

The Committee continued reading through the presentation.

Mr Smiles did not agree with one of the highlights and achievements listed in the report which stated that there was proper implementation of the Department’s Integrated Quality Management System (IQMS).  He believed that there was no proper implementation of IQMS and this needed to be reflected in the report.

Ms Gina disagreed and stated that the report was referencing the achievements of the Department in this regard and the monitoring of IQMS. 

The Chairperson agreed that the Department still needed to be given credit because people had been sent out to monitor IQMS, but the results were still pending.  She agreed that the sentence should be edited to better reflect this.

Ms Lovemore noted that under section 5.2 the inclusion of the Department of Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation’s (DPME) report on the Department of Basic Education should be included as it looked at the governance and performance of the Department.

The Chairperson agreed and noted that the results of the Management Performance Assessment Tool (MPAT) used by DPME should be noted as another external source of evaluation in the report. She noted that the South African Council for Educators (SACE) had a registry of all the registered teachers in the country but that there were anomalies between their statistics and those of the Department.  She asked Members to look at the section giving new recommendations by the Portfolio Committee to the Department and to determine whether they wished to add more.

Ms Lovemore stated that the report was very important yet Members only received it with less than 24 hours to examine it.  She felt as though they were not given adequate time to review the report and the Committee was neglecting its duty by rushing through it.

Ms Mushwana expressed frustration that Ms Lovemore waited so long to raise this concern.

Mr Smiles stated that the first line of the report stated that the Committee welcomed the quality of the Department’s report, yet Members had long questioned the accuracy and measurability of the Department. He felt as though the Committee was fooling itself.

Ms Gina stated that there were questions about the report but it was still a quality one.

Ms Lovemore stated that it was not a quality report and the achievements noted within did not coincide with the suggestions and goals of the previous year. There were too many anomalies within the report.

Mr Smiles added that the Auditor General stated that the targets set by the Department were not measurable and the information they were provided with was unreliable. How could the Committee describe this as a quality report then?

Mr Moni stated that the Annual Report had already been adopted and accepted so the Committee must debate what it had before it.  The Committee could not qualify what the auditors had deemed unqualified.

Mr Makhubele noted that the report could not be expected to be perfect.

The Chairperson then continued the presentation.

Ms Lovemore voiced concern about the recommendations by the Committee noted within the report and felt as though they were insufficient.  She asked what happened to the concern the Committee had over teacher supply and demand, and the Funza Lushaka bursaries.

Ms Gina believed that the Committee was still on the right track but noted that the concerns of Ms Lovemore must help shape the recommendations.

The Chairperson stated that there was something missing with Funza Lushaka as it was introduced to ensure that there was enough Maths and Science teachers. There had to be something put in the report to address this.

Ms Gina stated that the targets set with regards to teacher supply and demand were not sufficient and long term problems could arise from them.  The Committee needed to address this.

The Chairperson noted Ms Lovemore’s concern over inclusive education and asked if she had any recommendations to make.

Ms Lovemore stated that the issue of inclusive education had been raised many times throughout the year in Committee meetings. Why had these concerns raised by many Members not been captured in the report. She asked whether the support staff had gone through the minutes and summarised all the recommendations made throughout the year by the Committee.

The Chairperson agreed that it was a concern raised many times in the Committee and with the Department. The Committee had accepted the Department’s subsequent answers but would be include this in the recommendations.

Ms Gina added that the issues surrounding the number of technical high schools in the country should also be included in the recommendations.

Mr Makhubele stated that some funding had been allocated to inclusive education and it was not completely absent.

The Chairperson said that she would accept Ms Lovemore’s recommendations because it was a serious and reoccurring concern of the Committee.

The Chairperson raised her concern about the SACE database being different from that of the Department.

Ms Lovemore stated that the SACE had admitted that it had no idea about the correct numbers of teachers and its databases were out of date.  The SACE needed to get its databases up to date and ensure the accuracy of the qualifications of the teachers on its system.

Ms Mushwana noted that the registration of educators had changed over the years because now everything could be done online and this could lead to an inaccurate registry.

Ms Gina felt that the Committee needed to raise their concerns about Math and Science better in the report.

The Chairperson noted that this could be put under the concerns the report raised over Funza Lushaka.

Ms Lovemore noted that over the years so many issues had been raised that were not captured in the report, but slowly they were making progress.  E-education was a concern that needed to be added.

The Chairperson agreed.   She asked if the Committee was agreeing to the report and were ready to move it with the amendments suggested.

Ms Mushwana moved for the adoption of the report and this was seconded by Mr Moni.

The Chairperson thanked everyone for their input.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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