The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education received a presentation from the South African Council for Educators (SACE) on its budget review for the 2015/16 financial year. The budget review was based on SACE’s Annual Performance Plan for 2015/16 and the Strategic Plan.
SACE had focused on improving the teacher registration process and significantly reduced the turnaround time to within seven working days. Foreign educators were no longer required to apply for renewals annually but every five years, which eased pressure on the system.
In order to address the problem of fraudulent applications, Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) had been agreed with the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), Umalusi and the Department of Basic Education. SACE received close to 700 cases of fraud per year, which were difficult to investigate and prosecute in the same year. SACE also worked closely with the different Provincial Education Departments to ensure that the processing of complaints were streamlined and unprofessional teachers were vetted. SACE has also taken a decision to focus more on promoting the development of educators and extending its scope by improving and strengthening its research capacity.
It was expected that SACE would generate R64 million for the year, which came mainly from registration fees and annual membership fees. A possible government subsidy of R7.3 million was anticipated to roll out Continuous Professional Teacher Development. SACE was also in the process of acquiring its own premises during the 2015/16 financial year; funds amounting to R60 million had been saved for the purchase. Due to this purchase a surplus was anticipated which would be directed towards creating a stronger provincial presence.
The target of 26 000 new educators registered for the 2015/16 financial year was expected to be met. Better awareness of the Code of Professional Ethics was needed as indicated by the high number of corporal punishment and sexual offences cases being reported.
The APP was not adopted as Members had various concerns with the document. The Strategic Plan was only a one year projection when it was supposed to be a five year document. Members were concerned that there was not a clearly defined working relationship between SACE and the Department of Basic Education, especially around accountability and who was responsible for educator development. It was felt that the Department should be providing better oversight over SACE.
In addition, Members were concerned about the efficiency of SACE’s vetting process, and how it contributed to the reduction of sexual offences cases against learners. What measures were employed to ensure that every case was reported and dealt with? Where was the determination that sexual offenders should face criminal charges? Where was the commitment that the names of offenders were easily accessible by anyone employed as an educator?
Members of the opposition felt that the document included politically biased references in favour of the ANC.
Members also asked what informed the drop in the projected revenue for registration fees for the 2015/16 financial year. How was SACE going to implement the plan to ensure that educators received invalid education certificates did not get re-employed? What plans were in place to check whether what SAQA has given was correct? Who was responsible for providing guidance to provinces on developing programmes for educators? What measures were in place to ensure that the development of teachers at all provinces was uniform?
It was resolved that SACE would be invited back to brief the Committee on its APP and Strategic Plan before the 6 May 2015, when Parliament would be considering the Department of Basic Education’s Budget Vote.
Mr Llewellyn Brown, Committee Secretary, indicated that the Chairperson Ms N Gina (ANC) was unable to attend the meeting.
Ms J Basson (ANC) moved for the adoption of Ms N Mokoto (ANC) as the Acting Chairperson.
Mr A Mphontshane (IFP) seconded the adoption.
Ms Mokoto was the Acting Chairperson for the duration of the meeting. She welcomed Members to the meeting, together with officials from the South African Council of Educators (SACE) and those from the Department of Basic Education.
Briefing by South African Council for Educators (SACE)
Mr Rej Brijraj, Chief Executive Officer, SACE, thanked the Committee for the invitation. SACE was the national custodian of teacher professionalism. It was therefore necessary for SACE to organise itself to deliver accordingly in its main areas of operation. SACE was committed to further enhancing the system to cater for registration of educators within seven working days, including electronic registration and correspondence. The Continuing Professional Teacher Development System would be fine-tuned and ready for the rollout of cohort managers, Head of Departments (HODs) and educators. SACE was also committed to developing a fully-fledged unit that would make recommendations to Council and to the profession at large; this would be done on a quarterly basis.
The Annual Performance Plan (APP) was therefore prepared in line with the current Strategic Plan of SACE and it reflected the performance targets which SACE would endeavor to achieve, given the resources made available by the budget for 2015/16. SACE was constituted by members from all teacher unions, school governing body organisations, the further education sector, the higher education sector, the independent schools sector and Ministerial nominees. SACE was appointed by the Minister of Basic Education to serve a four year term, ending on 31 July 2017. There had been a focus on registrations to correct the process that may lead to a backlog of teacher registrations. This process had resulted in SACE taking a decision to ensure that all vacant positions within the registrations division were filled. The turnaround time was also reduced significantly so as to ensure that educators were assisted as a matter of urgency within seven working days. The number of foreign educators had also been causing pressure and this was reduced significantly when SACE took a decision to extend foreign application renewals from yearly to five years, provided they had all the relevant documents.
Due to the high number of fraudulent applications at SACE, Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), Umalusi and the Department of Basic Education were introduced. In the 2015/16 financial year SACE would be focusing on piloting online registrations. Close to 700 cases of fraud were received per year, cases which were difficult to investigate and prosecute in the same year. In response, SACE worked closely with the different Provincial Education Departments to ensure that the processing of complaints was streamlined and unprofessional teachers were vetted. SACE has also taken a decision to focus more on promoting the development of educators and extending its scope by improving and strengthening its research capacity. In realising this new area of focus, the policy and research unit would be expanded during the 2015/16 financial year.
SACE had a staff complement of 87, of which 10 were at managerial level under the leadership of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). SACE has appointed provincial coordinators to facilitate and manage Continuous Professional Teacher Development. At least two provincial offices were to be operational during the 2015/16 financial year. It was expected that SACE would generate R64 million per annum, this would comprise of once-off registration fees: R200 for South African educators and R 400 for foreign educators. Educators were also required to pay a R120 annual membership fee. SACE was also expecting a possible government subsidy of R7.3 million to roll out Continuous Professional Teacher Development. New premises would be acquired during the 2015/16 financial year and funds amounting to R60 million had been saved for the purchase.
Mr Morris Mapindani, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), SACE, explained that in the current financial year, SACE had a budget of R55 440 million, with the main source of funding being memberships and subscription fees, which was a monthly amount of R10. These funds were used to run SACE’s administration costs. SACE also received funds from the Department of Basic Education, which subsised Continuous Professional Teachers’ Development. However SACE had not yet received a written commitment for the 2015/16 financial year. As soon as the funds were received SACE would adjust the budget accordingly. Renewal of registrations cost R50 and SACE had a good number of renewals due to the number of foreigners who had to renew their registrations annually.
There was a reduction in interest income in line with a reduced bank balance due to SACE purchasing its own building. The purchase of the building has already been concluded; therefore funds which were directed to the building were now being directed towards the improvement of mandatory functions within SACE. The projected surplus would be directed towards the expansion of its provincial presence starting with the Free State and KwaZulu Natal in the 2015/16 financial year. The provincial offices would be operational from 1 June 2015.
The Continuous Professional Teacher Development (CPTD) funding was still under discussion with the Ministry after difficulties in 2014/15, hence only R1 million was allocated for non CPTD activities under professional development.
Ms Matseliso Dipholo, Chief Operations Officer (COO), SACE, said the target of 26 000 new educators was expected to be reached for the 2015/16 financial year. In 2015 there was a high number of students registering after completing their certificates. Of the 26 000 target, SACE was currently standing at 18 000 newly registered educators.
For the previous financial year SACE had a target of 10 000 beneficiaries to be apprised of the Code of Professional Ethics, for the 2015/16 financial year, this target was increased to 15 000. For the 2015/16 financial year, 700 cases brought before SACE had been concluded of the 720 received. In the 2013/14 financial year SACE had a low turnout for the cases concluded due to budgetary constraints. One of the things SACE had not done well was to appraise educators of Code of Professional Ethics because SACE was under pressure to finalise cases for the 2013/14 financial year. There were still a high number of corporal punishment and sexual offences cases being reported and this needed to be addressed. SACE was attempting to educate teachers about the Code of Ethics so that they could better report any cases of misconduct.
Mr Brijraj said that SACE had decided to add percentages to its targets for the 2015/16 financial year, primarily because it was very hard to predict the number of teacher’s who would actually be registering. It was also difficult to predict how many cases SACE would be receiving. SACE had been getting a lot of criticism in the past for not meeting targets, however for the current financial year, SACE was committed to dealing with 80% of cases brought before it and SACE was committed to registering 80% of educators from the set target.
Mr Brijraj thanked the Department of Basic Education for the subsidy and the continued support. However, a meeting with the Department was needed to agree on a more predictable funding framework. The Department had difficulties with its own administration and these impacted on SACE’s planning, but SACE was committed to resolving this system before the end of the financial year.
The CPTD system was being implemented in line with the approved CPTD implementation plan and the three identified cohorts. SACE was committed to ensuring the teachers were growing professionally. 700 programmes had been registered and 300 providers had submitted their programmes and projects for professional development. The system was going well, according to feedback from over 50 evaluators who conducted quality assurance. SACE’s Endorsement Committee also double checked for quality assurance.
SACE was not a provider of professional development programmes and therefore could not determine the professional development needs of educators, as it did not have the infrastructure or the revenue base to do these. Assistance was requested from the Department of Basic Education in identifying the needs of educators, the nine provincial departments of education were the biggest providers for professional development. These provincial departments were the ones who should send programmes to SACE. Not enough programmes were presented to SACE for quality assurance – only 700 programmes had been presented in the four years of SACE’s existence, and this was a matter which required serious attention. SACE was engaging with the departments to ensure that this problem became a problem of the past. He enlisted the Committees’ assistance in persuading departments to send SACE programmes for endorsements, departments had the resources. There was about R1 billion which was set aside for teacher development, but these funds and their utilisation have not been managed well. SACE’s plea was the departments needed to maximise the use of the funds allocated for teacher development.
SACE did its research based on what its Council mandated it to do. Areas of research were therefore identified by the Council. However, there was pressure from the Ministry to look at other areas of research to inform the teaching profession. From the current financial year, the Council had agreed to establish its own base of researchers. SACE would not be able to afford fulltime researchers, but would establish a pool of researchers who would do research which would inform the general education needs within the country.
The Chairperson thanked SACE for the presentation.
Mr A Mphontshane (IFP) said the presentations’ introductory remarks referred to the President as “the High Honourable J Zuma”, and asked whether this was a new title given by SACE to the President. He said it was unacceptable for SACE to make a political statement by saying that the ANC’s number one priority was education. As a member of the IFP he also viewed education as the country’s number one priority.
It seemed that training was lacking for educators. How many foreign educators had registered for this current financial year? According to the presentation, SACE had not received any guarantee from the Department of Basic Education, was this also contributing to SACE not being able to provide programmes for teacher development?
The Chairperson said Members needed to focus on the APP, and interrogate it thoroughly so as to assess whether they were pleased with matters such as targets or not. Members would be awarded another session where they would be able to engage SACE on progress done on their work. The current meeting was to assess whether SACE’s targets were realistic and attainable and whether they were aligned with the funds available. Questions around performance should be reserved for another meeting.
Mr Mphontsane asked if awarding points to teachers would be linked to Occupation Specific Payment (OSD).
Mr D Khosa (ANC) said it was not the first time talking about the alarming number of cases brought before SACE. How was SACE ensuring that educators were being properly vetted? What preventative measures were in place? The relationship between SACE and the Department of Basic Education needed to be better defined especially around teacher development. What kind of working relationship was there between these two entities? Were there challenges with communication? What informed the drop in the projected revenue for registration fees for the 2015/16 financial year?
Ms H Boshoff (DA) said it was pleasing to hear from the CFO that SACE was going to do something about the vetting of educators and sexual offences against learners. But what was very disturbing was that SACE had indicated that they were yet to do something about these offences. How was SACE going to ensure that educators who had received invalid education certificates did not get re-employed? What measures were employed to ensure that every case was reported and dealt with? Where was the determination that sexual offenders should face criminal charges? Where was the commitment that the names of offenders were easily accessible by anyone employed as an educator? Figures of outstanding cases were still alarmingly high. The Committee had received a promise that these cases would be attended to quickly because SACE had received extra staff; why was SACE still struggling with this? She hoped that there would not be a repeat of saying that provincial offices were the reason SACE had no money to look at anything else; provincial offices needed to have their own funding. What measures were in place to look at educators who did not sign up for cohorts? What criteria did SACE have in place for professional development providers?
Mr D Mnguni (ANC) asked about SACE’s situational analysis provided during the presentation, and asked why the Councilors were not remunerated. The analysis and certification of certificates was the work of SAQA, however SACE also had a responsibility to play. What plans were in place to check whether what SAQA had given was correct? SACE had indicated the previous year that they did not know how many teachers were in the system; what were the exact numbers? How many teachers were deregistered as a result of misconduct and what action had SACE taken?
Ms J Basson (ANC) said it was clear from the presentation that SACE did not work hand in hand with the Department of Basic Education; the fact that programmes were not received from the Department by SACE was a serious concern. Who was responsible for providing guidance to provinces on developing programmes for educators? What measures were in place to ensure that the development of teachers at all provinces was uniform? She agreed with Mr Khosa that the SACE APP was not clear; how many new educators were registered? The country was in serious need of educators but SACE’s estimations and targets of how many teachers would be registered was on the decline. What progress have all the provinces made around legislation, and how the provinces report on the cases reported to them? She urged that SACE’s planning should be in line with the targets of the Department of Basic Education. How many teachers were under disciplinary action per province? She also raise a concern about the cases of sexual assault on learners; was the SACE’s vetting process enough?
Ms A Lovemore (DA) apologised for arriving at the meeting late and missing SACE’s presentation. She indicated that the Minister of Higher Education and Training gazetted a list of the top 100 skills needed in the country, in that list mathematics and English teachers were enlisted. Why was the country making it more difficult for good educators to come and work in South Africa because there was a need for more skills? Why were foreigners being charged double the fees that South African educators were paying? With respect to under-qualified educators who had provisional or temporary registration, what were the time limits for this? There were thousands of under-qualified teachers within South Africa and following up on these needed to be an important aspect of the work SACE did.
SACE’s strategic plan referred to 2014/15 and it did not reflect five years. The plan therefore needed to be rejected because it was supposed to be a five year plan and not a one year plan. The APP’s opening paragraphs do not separate between a party and the State. SACE did not serve the ruling party and it should therefore not be commenting on ANC policy, certainly not in an official document like the APP.
The Chairperson said there were many issues which Members have raised which cast doubt on the adoption of the APP. There was misalignment of the programmes to the work of SACE, also the issues around budgets, the lack of a proper working relationship with the Department of Basic Education among others.
Mr Brijraj conceded that there were technicalities which SACE needed to attend to, and these would be addressed, one being reference to the President and the ANC in SACE’s presentation and APP. The Council enjoyed very good relations with the Department and with the nine provincial departments. SACE had bilaterals with the departments quite often. One challenge was with the national Department where the funding did not get to SACE timeously and the Department was yet to explain to SACE why they had that difficulty. The second difficulty was related to provincial departments; the national Department did not offer programmes for teacher development. It was the nine provincial departments of education that identified the needs for teacher development and were then engaging educators about the programmes. The problem was that these programmes did not get to SACE in the numbers they should be coming. SACE was not providing professional development programmes; this was not SACE’s mandate. SACE played the role of a referee. This was a challenge which needed to be overcome quickly. If the role of SACE needed to be broadened this needed to be agreed upon. Workshops had been held for providers within all the nine provinces to encourage them to develop programmes which were more relevant to teachers’ needs.
Ms Dipholo explained that from the beginning of 2015, SACE had a Council where they were tasked to verify organisations which did verifications and vetting. Managed Integrity Evaluation (MIE) and The Guardian were the two organisations which SACE recommended. The biggest task SACE was currently undertaking was verifying educators which were already on the system; it was not only educators which were newly coming into the office which needed to be vetted. One of the things Council was looking at was the financial implications of undertaking this work. SACE was committed to minimising its turnaround strategy for registrations. The quickest time for verification according to MIE and The Guardian was around four hours.
SACE had an MOU with Home Affairs whereby all educators who had passed on or were no longer active were reflected. SACE was also working with the Department of Basic Education to ascertain the number of registered educators. There were two database registers, which dealt with fulltime registered educators and with provisional registrations; this was bulky because it also included foreign educators, provisional educators and under-qualified educators among others.
The Chairperson requested the SACE only answer questions which cast aspersions around the work of SACE, and its relationship with the Department of Basic Education, together with the alignment of the APP with other plans and strategic. Engaging Members on other questions would end up taking up too much time. A proposal had already gone up that the Committee not adopt the SACE APP.
Mr Mapindani said there was no confusion at SACE, the Strategic Plan was submitted at the same time as the Annual Performance Plan. The Strategic Plan was a five year projection, which was why the financial projections went up to 2020. However the Annual Performance Plan dealt with items drawn from the Strategic Plan, focusing on the year ahead so that the plan for the coming year could be communicated. During the next APP presentation, SACE has realised that more detail needed to be given to the Committee.
Mr Enoch Rabotapi, Acting Chief Director, Department of Basic Education, said there might have been some misunderstanding about the Department’s working relationship with SACE due to how the information was presented earlier. The Department had a Work Skills Plan, generated by provinces, and SACE had a responsibility around endorsing programmes. The Department was committed to working with SACE very closely in creating a reporting template which reflected on the indicators the Department would be talking to. The template however would be limited. He agreed that the presentation did not reflect all the information in the APP. SACE and the Department needed to work closely to look at the omissions in the APP. The Committee also needed to assist in ensuring that the provinces were able to provide information on time. The presentation however needed to be structured in such a way that it spoke directly to the APP.
The Chairperson did not understand why the problems with the APP and the presentations were not addressed by both SACE and the Department before the meeting. Early warning signals should have been checked and acted upon before the meeting.
Ms Boshoff said she would take the CEO up on the offer to meet with Members again. It was very disturbing that primary school girls were falling pregnant and no one was doing anything; what about the Statutory Rape Clause which should be adhered to? Where did the figures come from regarding pregnancies? In an article published in March 2015, Mpumalanga had reported 3196 cases of pregnant school girls. However the figure given by the Department was 725; where did these figures come from?
The Chairperson interjected and reminded Members to only reflect on the issues which cast aspersions on the SACE Report; all other matters would be addressed in another meeting.
Ms Boshoff said this was a very important matter. Young children’s lives were being put on the line and the country needed answers on the vetting of educators.
The Chairperson indicated that a proposal has already been made by Ms Lovemore that the Strategic Plan needed to be rejected. There would therefore be another session to deal with all other matters.
Ms Masson agreed that if the Strategic Plan needed to be reworked then the document together with the APP should not be approved. The template given by National Treasury was too limited with regard to the information it provided. SACE and the Department needed to be in continuous engagement.
Mr Mpontshane thanked the CEO for acknowledging that the wording of the APP did not reflect impartiality. During the budget vote, the Department of Basic Education and all its entities would be debated; therefore the lines of accountability between the Department and its entities should not be blurred. He supported the proposal that the Strategic Plan not be adopted, but rather that SACE be called back for another meeting.
Ms Lovemore said reading the documents from SACE was maddening as no professionalism was reflected in the documents, and that was disappointing. The majority of the responsibility for this should be put with the Department, because partial funding comes from the Department. Just as the Department provided grants to provinces and withdraws the money if provinces were not operating, so the same level of oversight should be employed at SACE. She suggested that the Department look at giving SACE a conditional grant. The template was not the problem. The Strategic Plan provided no information, it was a poor plan and the people who compiled it should be ashamed. On Initial Teacher Education she asked whether SACE undertook responsibility for quality assuring initial teacher education.
The Chairperson said the overwhelming view was that the report should be taken back, and the Department must be asked to take full responsibility of its mandate to lead and guide entities. The Committee would communicate with SACE and the Department on when the follow up meeting would be, the budget vote for the Department of Basic Education was the 6 May 2015, and therefore the follow up process would be before that date so that other entities are not delayed.
Adoption of Committee Minutes:
The following minutes were adopted;
19 November 2014, Ms Basson moved for the adoption of the minutes, Mr Khosa seconded the move without any amendments.
24 February 2015, Ms Khosa moved for the adoption of the minutes, Ms Lovemore seconded the adoption without any amendments.
3 March 2015, Ms Basson moved for the adoption of the minutes, Ms Boshoff seconded the adoption without any amendments.
10 March 2015, Mr Mnguni moved for the adoption of the minutes, Mr Khosa seconded the adoption without any amendments.
The meeting was adjourned.
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