The Committee was brief by Ms Angelina Motshekga, the Minister of Basic Education (DBE) and Mr Mohamed Surty, the Deputy Minister of the DBE.
The Minister gave the introductory remarks and highlighted the key areas that the plan will focus on. First was that the Department of Basic Education will revamp the manner in which it procures books. A second key area was infrastructure, by creating conducive areas for learners. The DBE will soon be completing its hundredth school, so that is a milestone. The other area of focus was district monitoring and improvement. Another area of focus was teacher recruitment, attrition, exist, utilisation and migration. In addition, ICTS was a main focus, as well as Kha Ri Gude. Then, the fact that 85 percent of South Africans are non-readers remains an important issue. Another area of focus was placing targets to build maths and science areas. History should be a compulsory subject for everyone as well. The next key focus area was inclusive education. Children with special needs should get special support, and the DBE did provide sign language for the first time.
The Director of Strategic Planning of the Department of Basic Education led the Committee through a presentation on the Five Year Strategic and Annual Performance Plans.
During the discussions which followed the presentation, the Committee Members raised a number of issues, many of which questioned the capacity of the Department of Basic Education to do implement the set plans and reach the targets.
Members of the DA voiced concerns about the quality of the schools and laboratories built. While doing tours around the country on schools built, it is impressive but the concern still remains on whether or not they will be equipped with competent teachers, a library with books, water and sanitation facilities, kitchens, and science laboratories with tools.
Likewise, the ICT program raised questions from multiple Committee members. An ANC member said that the Department and stakeholders are spending a lot of money on donating and supplying schools with equipment. But, it seems that educators themselves are unable to support the learners. What is the target in this strategy? The Department assured the Committee that by the time the computers arrived at the school, the teachers will have been trained to use them.
Also on the issue of targets, a DA member said that of the targets was that by 2019, 55 percent of the teachers will be competent. That is really unacceptable. The DBE is starting at a very low baseline. This is something that should be treated with urgency.
Inclusive education was also an issue raised multiple times. The Committee members wanted to know what the targets where and where was it allocated under the budget. Department members noted that a big issue was that the teachers do not differentiate the curriculum and use a “one size fits all” approach. The Department noted that this cannot work, and it has put together a program on curriculum differentiation and are reminding the teachers that they must do so.
The Deputy Minister highlighted how far South Africa’s basic education has come in the last five years due to the work of the Department. He emphasised that there is a long way to go but there has been significant improvement has been done, and the country is certainly moving in the right direction.
Remarks by the Minister of Basic Education
Ms Angelina Motshekga, the Minister of the Department of Basic Education, was present for the meeting. She began by expressing grief for the passing of Minister Collins Chabane, stating that he was “sharp, witty, with a beautiful sense of humour.” He made many contributions to our country, especially with his role in fight against apartheid and in building the new South Africa. The Minister also expressed condolences to the Chairperson for losing her brother in law.
The Minister gave the introductory remarks and highlighted the key areas that the plan will focus on. First was that the Department of Basic Education (DBE) will revamp the manner in which it procures books. There is no reason why each child should not have a book. A second key area was infrastructure, by creating conducive areas for learners. The DBE will soon be completing its hundredth school, so that is a milestone. The other area of focus was district monitoring and improvement. The DBE looked at best practices of the provinces and tried to build a hybrid system. It found that the top provinces had very effective distance systems. The DBE is working with provinces to ensure it has good standards and norms. Also, an area of focus was teacher recruitment, attrition, exist, utilisation and migration. In addition, ICTS was a main focus, as well as Kha Ri Gude. Then, the fact that 85 percent of South Africans are non-readers remains an important issue. The Department wants to make South Africa a reading nation. Another area of focus was placing targets to build maths and science areas. History should be a compulsory subject for everyone as well. The next key focus area was inclusive education. Children with special needs should get special support, and the DBE did provide sign language for the first time.
Minister Motshekga then commented on social mobilisation. In the next five years, the driving principles must be issues of quality and efficiencies. There were a lot of challenges. Another challenge was retention rate and dropout rates. Finally, soft issues could not be ignored, like bullying, a very important issue that the DBE was paying special attention to.
Remarks by the Deputy Minister of Basic Education
Mr Mohamed Surty, the Deputy Minister, also added to the Minister’s comments. With regard to infrastructure, the DBE will reach its one hundredth complete school in a few weeks. It provided for the occupation of schools immediately, as soon as the school was safe and ready. In terms of “cutting the ribbon,” there were about 52 schools. But with looking at occupation, it is around 97 schools.
Mr Surty also wanted to emphasise the libraries. The DBE wanted to put it in a place that was accessible to both students and the community to encourage reading.
Additionally, he noted that the DBE is working with the private sector and coming up with comprehensive interventions that include dialogue.
Mr Surty also added that the provinces do have their own targets, informed by their realities on the ground. But, the national basis remains unchanged.
Finally, Mr Surty gave thanks to the Department and Committee for the great work thus far.
Presentation by the Department of Basic Education
Ms Stella Mosimege, the Director of Strategic Planning of the Department of Basic Education, led the Committee through a presentation on the Five Year Strategic and Annual Performance Plans
This was a new five year term after the 2014 elections. The first part of 5 year strategic plan comprised of: visions, mission and values; legislative mandates; emphasis on new policy developments; and relevant court rules that might impact service delivery
Strategic Focus on Mandates
The DBE plans had been guided by the National Development Plan (NDP): Vision 2030: Our future-Make it Work. In 2013/14, a Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF 2014) was created and aligned to the National Development Plan.
Action Plan to 2019
In 2011, the DBE put together a sector plan, Action Plan to 2014: Towards Realising Schooling 2025. Implementation of the sector plan and achievement of the target will continue in the DBE plans
The Strategic Outcome Orientated Goals included:
1. Effective and efficient governance and management support
2. Effective curriculum implementation and support
3. Improved teacher supply and capacity
4. Effective systems for planning, information, assessment and district support
5. Expanded implementation of social cohesion and learner wellness programmes
Key Focus Areas:
-Introduce an African language in schools that previously did not offer any African Language
-Work towards formalising the Grade R class
-Work towards the NDP’s objective that all schools meet minimum infrastructure standards
-Continue the provision of high quality workbooks
-The DBE will continue using the ANA to influence classroom practices
-Teacher skills for Foundation Phase and Grade R teachers
-Provision of Grade R workbooks and improved access
-Maths, science, and technology initiative
-Funza Lushaka bursary scheme
-Develop model to incorporate information about teacher recruitment, attrition, exit, utilisation and migration
-Change the process of appointing principals
-The DBE has committed to participating in international testing programmes
The Chairperson asked a question about where numbers used in the presentation came from.
Minister Motshekga responded that the numbers were informed by the budget, what the DBE wanted to focus on, and what it thought its capacity was. It also depended on what the provinces could do on their own.
Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) said that the Minister’s statement on appointing right people was a very important issue raised. But how is the Minister going to ensure that provinces do that? On the appointment of principals, will that need an amendment to the South African Schools Act? Mr Mpontshane also asked the DBE what the non-negotiables were. On infrastructure and shifting money from provinces, that is quite disturbing. Have funds for infrastructure shifted to the Western Cape? Historically, looking at the different capacities of the provinces, that is unfair practice to punish provinces that cannot use their money and shifting it to another province. Lastly, how long would the Grade R phase be?
Ms J Basson (ANC) asked about the targets. Why were some quantified and some in percentages? It made it difficult to understand. For example on the Grade R target, from where did the 30 percent goal come from? Ms Basson said that ICT was a crucial point. The DBE and stakeholders are spending a lot of money on donating and supplying schools with equipment. But, it seems that educators themselves are unable to support the learners. What is the target in this strategy? How many educators is the DBE targeting so that the educators can use the resources that the Department provides?
Regarding Kha Ri Gude’s budget cut, the issue is value for money. In terms of monitoring how will the DBE support the youth to give them quality education? On inclusive education, where is it allocated under the budget? What are the plans of DBE on establishing institutions in districts that do not have any, and learners are stuck in mainstream schools with teachers who are not trained to deal with the learners?
Mr T Khoza (ANC) commented that the building of libraries was not being distributed evenly. He proposed that instead of targeting schools, the DBE should target villages. He then said he was concerned about the ten percent repeaters. Is there any mechanism that can be put in place in the system, especially in scenarios where exceptional learners are all in one class? Likewise, is there any mechanism in place in secondary schools to place educators where they belong and specialise? Lastly, Mr Khoza said that while it is appreciated that newly appointed principals are assessed, what about the principals already in the system who are not performing adequately?
Ms D Van Der Walt (DA) commented on the libraries, science labs and workshops. There cannot be proper science teaching without labs that are well equipped, and that is still the case in many instances. She noted how she just visited a technical school that had no equipment at all.
Ms Van Der Walt started a tour of ASIDI schools in Limpopo. She was very impressed with what the buildings offered, but in speaking to community members, the concern still remains on whether or not they will be equipped. Will there be enough teachers? Will the library be utilised? One school she visited was high up in the mountains and very difficult to get to. Another school did not have any place for the teachers to live. What will happen to the schools in these rural areas when the small community leaves? Ms Van Der Walt also toured Soweto. The question everyone seemed to be asking was about toilets and ablution facilities. What systems do the school have in place to maintain these infrastructures?
Ms H Boshoff (DA) commented that the DBE said it would look into the question of mobile libraries. How far is that plan? And, regarding learner well-being, what is in place for these soft issues?
Lastly, Ms Boshoff said that many schools do not have kitchens. Some schools are feeding children but cooking by using an open fire, and municipalities are not providing water.
Minister Motshekga responded to some of the queries made by the Committee Members. Regarding the issue on putting teachers in right places, the DBE does major profiling of the teachers. One of the biggest problems occurs when a high school teacher has to teach younger students. That mismatch is crucial. So, the DBE provided information to the provinces to make sure that issue is addressed, and monitored. On the role of the principals, the DEB found that some were not even trained in management. The DBE is looking into that with all principals. Regarding non-negotiables, the Minister commented that the DBE agreed which were the key deliverables and what would be included in a common plan.
On the question on targets and using percentages and numbers, the DBE used both percentages and numbers because the targets are not consistent. In some instances, there are fixed figures but otherwise a percentage is used because numbers may change, for example the number of learners registered.
On Kha Ri Gude, the budgets were formed to match with the reduced number coming through the system as the program was ending within two years. The DBE has appointed people to monitor this.
Minister Motshekga explained that the schools build with ASIDI used ICT. By the time computers arrive to a school, the teachers will have been trained to use them. Minister Motshekga also noted that inclusive schools were not in the DBE’s budget. It was part of the provincial budget. Regarding libraries, the DEB’s plan was to have all children have access to reading materials, but did not have the financial capacity.
The Minister then noted that slow and fast learners were marginalised because teachers have to split attention. The DBE was conscious of the problem; there just was not enough enrichment in the “one size fits all” approach.
Regarding NUMSA and standards on labs, the DBE had a long term plan.
Minister Motshekga noted that there is no science labs in all the schools, but there will by 2030. There is a long term plan in place. And, some provinces are using mobile labs and the DBE is encouraging that.
The DBE does not have a budget for kitchens, but it is trying to use creative means. They have been quite successful through fundraising, and the parents themselves are helping with that as well.
On learner wellbeing and soft skills, the DBE had run assessments and advocacy work needs to be done, to let the parents know what they need to do. This may include deworming, and earing and eyesight tests.
Mr Surty replied to the other queries from the Committee members. On ICT, he noted there were different levels. First was basic use, second was how to integrate the knowledge into the curriculum, and how to develop the skills. ICT was about collectivism. The DBE was now using “Cloud,” allowing for the curriculum to be virtual and free to download.
Regarding the assessment of newly appointed principals, the DBE had a draft on the bill with reference to principals. The good news is that all political parties are in favour of this. On the old principals, the DBE cannot require a qualification from them, but it can assess them. It is not meant to be punitive, it is to develop the leaders and find out the deficits. And if the principal was not competent, then he will have to be replaced.
Regarding the issues on nutrition, this was an issue that was progressive. Compared to how it looked four years ago, there are so many more plans in place today. It is now decentralised and owned by the community, so the plans for nutrition are getting more successful. Every new ASIDI school had a kitchen and utensils.
Another official from the DBE answered the question on ASIDI budget cuts. It was not that the DBE took money from one province and gave it to another. It is funds that would have been used by the DBE anyway. It is managed and accounted for, and Schedule Four transfers assist the DBE in that. Regarding the second cut in ASIDI, it was known that the program would end in a couple years. The DBE will have to go back to the Treasury to reassess the funds given, since it might not be appropriate based on the progress the program has made.
Another Department official responded to the question on retention and retrieval of books. That was an issue the DBE is addressing. LTSM was definitely improving. There is increased retention but it has not been brought up to 100% yet.
Pertaining to the multi grade schools and migration of population, it is becoming more complicated. The DBE thought that when people moved to urban areas they would stay there, but if there were no job opportunities, than the people moved back to rural areas. The DBE’s population analysts will have to look into this matter more.
On cleanliness of schools, schools can use the allocated money. If correctly used, it can help to keep the surroundings of the schools clean.
Regarding figures, the percentages that the DBE gave is informed on capacity, available resources, and the progress that has been made.
On the issue of the 10% repetition and gifted learners, the problem is the lack of differentiation in the classroom. The teachers believe they are teaching a homogenous group, but that is not the case, the DBE has put together a program on curriculum differentiation and are reminding the teachers that they must do so.
Then, the Department member noted that the DBE has advanced from a two stream model to a three stream model. It includes the academic pathway, where most of the South African learners lay. But there is also the vocational/technical stream, which the DBE has strengthened. Now there is occupational stream as well.
Mr Surty also added that technical workbooks have already been developed, and there are sponsors who will provide these textbooks for all technical schools, free of charge.
The Committee members then asked more follow up questions.
Mr H Khosa (ANC) asked about infrastructure and the issue of maintenance. There is no plan to deal with maintaining infrastructure. He proposed that a target be put in place. There is also a challenge on targeting 100% for water provision. But it is a challenge because there is another Department responsible for that. Will the DBE have its own budget to deal with this, especially with draining bowls for the schools that have no water?
On libraries, Mr Khosa said that the challenge is books. The books available do not equal the needs of the children.
Mr Khosa said that learner-wellness is a non-negotiable and first aid kits must be in all the schools as well.
Lastly, on ICT, is the DBE being proactive in training the teachers so that they are relevant to what the DBE is implementing?
Ms A Lovemore (DA) asked about the target setting. One of the targets was that by 2019, 55% of the teachers will be competent. That is really unacceptable. The DBE is starting at a very low baseline. Surely this is something that should be treated with urgency.
And, there are not targets that deal with learner outcomes. Why are these not set?
Regarding non-negotiables, the curriculum is concerning. Why are streams not included in the curriculum? And how set in stone is the list of non-negotiables?
Ms Lovemore then raised the issue of targeted training for teachers. How will that be achieved? Is it through self-assessment?
On the detailed targets, Ms Lovemore said that in many instances, the indicators do not speak to the strategic objectives. Where are the detailed targets? There must be a detailed plan.
Mr Mnguni first congratulated the Department on its good work thus far. He then asked about non-negotiables, particularly social mobilisation. Are psychologists a part of the student wellness?
Regarding infrastructure, some of the schools he visited had asbestos, which is very dangerous. What will be done about these schools?
Also, what can be done for monitoring provinces if the DBE only has limited kilometres?
Pertaining to rural schools and scholar transport, some of the schools are not the school of choice of the students. For example, the students are forced to go to schools far away because of roads.
Lastly, is there a way for the DBE to speak to higher education so that the teachers can learn more practical information? There is a concern with new teachers coming from university who are afraid of leaners. Practicals must be the focus of their learning.
Ms N Mokoto (ANC) started by noting that the schools should be recognized for their good performance, especially the schools that are disadvantaged.
Regarding the budget, why did the DBE specifically agree on ASIDI and Kha Ri Gude to be cut? The DBE should have come up with better intervention mechanisms rather than losing funds, especially when there are still shortages on infrastructure. Have there been correct calculations made? And, is there going to be a rollover? Which times would be affected?
Ms Mokoto also asked about the allocation to the grants on the provinces. And, on the African languages program, what is the provision for this program? Will there be a target? What are the targets?
Ms Mokoto then proposed a change to the DBE’s goal of “attracting the young, motivated, and potential teachers.” The DBE must also target young people who have not yet entered the institutions.
The Chairperson then asked: when funds are allocated for NSNP, it is for the learner. However, why is the DBE targeting schools when it should be targeting learners?
In regards to the new conditional grant on maths science and technology conditional grant, what is the status of the clients now with the new grants? Is the DBE still supporting existing schools, and how is that monitored?
On inclusive education, what targets are there, moving forward?
On Kha Gi Gude, the DBE said it was in its mop up period, but the Committee would like a report that will list the progress of the program, like where it was when it started and what it looks like currently.
One of the non-negotiables was rural schools. But what incentives are there to rural schools for retention of qualified teachers?
Lastly, the Chairperson raised the issue of Limpopo schools in which there are no teachers at all. The DBE must follow up on this.
Minister Motshekga first responded to the question on targets. The DBE cannot put targets on everything because that would assume that the Department knows all the numbers. For example there cannot be a target to reduce teen pregnancy because there is no baseline to build a target from. This is especially true with soft areas.
Minister Motshekga also noted that the incentives issue is a big problem. Most of South Africa is rural, and the DBE knows that the teachers need incentives.
Mr Surty said that regarding libraries and the range of books available, there are 868 mobile libraries in the country. There are over 2,000 libraries in the county that are not fully equipped. The DBE is working with the local municipalities to ensure the resources are going to the learners. On water provision, there has been huge improvement in the number of schools, but the DBE needs to be firm it its commitment, because there cannot be a single school without water and sanitation.
Mr Surty stated that he agrees that every school must have a first aid kit.
Mr Surty then emphasised that the country is significantly improving since the last five years. The Department is definitely moving in the right direction.
Regarding asbestos, ASIDI deals with the replacement of mud schools and unsafe schools, and asbestos falls under that, so those will all be replaced by ASIDI schools.
Regarding the Dinaledi Schools Grant that the Chairperson raised, the DBE needs to provide for other schools as well. There are creative ways to utilise the resources so there can be a bigger impact.
Another Department member responded in response to the issues on improving competence level for teachers. The DBE is institutionalising the utilisation of ANA. It is developing models and certificates, starting with English as a first official language, and working with the British Council. And, the Department first does a pre-test of the teacher to make sure the intervention is helpful. But, there needs to be baseline information to support teachers adequately.
On appointing principals, there needs to be a framework with core principals of a principal, and assessments must be put in place. There is already training put in place for training principals for management.
Another Department member added to the issue of kitchens. The DBE has worked very closely with a range of corporates, and in the past three years the DBE has provided more than 300 mobile kitchens. For the following year, the DBE is trying to get more corporates involved.
Regarding the question on why schools are targets instead of learners, it is more of a logistical and practical problem. If learners were a target, the Auditor General would require evidence that the DBE feeds that number every day. Logistically, that is very difficult to monitor on an ongoing basis. The DBE is trying to be find creative solutions, such as sending independent monitors to the schools using monitor device. It is in the pilot stage and costs must be assessed, because the DBE will not want to spend more money on monitoring.
Another Department member commented that the DBE does not have control on the amount of budget cut. If the DBE said that ASIDI cannot be cut, then something else would be cut, such as school nutrition.
On the question of correct calculations from the DBE, it cannot guarantee correct calculations because a need might arise during the year that might need funding. If there is a pressing need, the DBE will work on legislation to push funds around.
On rollovers, they cannot be included at this time because the DBE does not know what rollovers will be required. The DBE is not concentrating on paying all invoices it is receiving so hopefully there will not be a rollover. However, this information will be included in the first quarter report.
Another Department member noted that 76% as a target is a learner outcome target.
On the issue of retention, it is not wise to rush into putting in retention targets when the system is still stabilizing.
The DBE moved beyond Dinaledi and is still using technicalised schools to reach out to other schools.
On Kha Ri Gude, the incorrect numbers may be because of the Auditor General, who wanted numbers on the adults who were competent instead of numbers of adults who were put through the system.
The meeting was adjourned.