The Department of Basic Education (DBE) led the Committee through the presentation on Social Cohesion and Wellness Learner Programmes. Certain strategic approaches had been put in place and the Department wanted systemic responses that were evidence-informed.
The Department described the different wellness interventions in place. De-worming was a central concern. Education on this issue was necessary, and the Department had been working with the World Health Organization and with Kenya, the one African country which had taken a lead on de-worming. Regarding HIV, AIDS and TB, the most important part of the draft policy were the youth-friendly Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) services, because learners needed to be able to be tested. Psychosocial support was also needed, but funding was a major concern that the Department was trying to address. The school dropout rate was also a major concern, particularly amongst coloured boys in the Northern and Western Cape.
There were different interventions for social cohesion as well. In addressing the need for a systematic response, the DBE wanted to prioritise and raise the status of Life Orientation classes through quality, evidence-informed texts and improved teacher training. Teacher development must focus on building social cohesion, and be compulsory for all teachers.
Committee members raised concerns about the provision of condoms. They asked if there was evidence that early exposure to sex education and condoms would encourage learners to engage in sexual activities. A Member said that some of the current condoms provided were not the first choice of learners, and the Department should take into account what the learners wanted in condoms and make them more attractive to use. Attention was also drawn to how peer education could play an important role. Members agreed that attitudes had to change, including their own.
The Department also presented on the issue of improving leadership and management in schools. Challenges of leadership in schools were considered to be the main contributors to under-performance and dysfunctionality. The Department planned programmes to improve leadership and management of principals. These included: developing standards for South African principals; development of an Advanced Diploma in Leadership and Management; review of the appointment procedure for school management teams; competency assessment for principals; training of principals on curriculum and financial management; and an induction programme for principals.
The Committee expressed concern about the poor performance of principals in the Eastern and Western Cape. There needed to be uniformity between all the provinces, and collaboration with higher education institutions. Standards needed to be set, and a draft policy was needed. The Department was asked if it could develop programmes to incentivise principals in rural areas. Members also sought clarification on how the DBE’s training was different from that of the South African Council of Educators (SACE)
Department of Basic Education (DBE) on implementation of Social Cohesion and Learner Wellness Programmes
Dr Granville Whittle, Acting Deputy Director General, DBE, emphasised that the Department believed in a strong link between health and education. Poverty made vulnerabilities worse, and the prevalence of HIV and AIDS in adolescents was a central problem. The country was not on track to achieving an AIDS-free generation.
He highlighted the high rates of gender-based violence, and said young African girls tended to date men who were at least five years older than they were. Moreover, the biggest risk factor for early pregnancy and HIV infection was dropout rates. It was therefore the Department’s responsibility to ensure that youth stayed at school.
Certain strategic approaches had been put in place and the Department wanted a systemic focus on what had been informed by evidence.
The Department described the different wellness interventions in place. The Integrated School Health Programme (ISHP) was the biggest programme of the Department. De-worming was a central concern. Education on this issue was necessary, and the Department had been working with the World Health Organization and with Kenya, the one African country which had taken a lead on de-worming. Regarding HIV and AIDS and TB, the most important part of the draft policy were the youth-friendly Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) services, because learners needed to be able to be tested. Psychosocial support was also needed, but funding was a major concern that the Department was trying to address. The dropout rate was also a major concern, particularly amongst coloured boys in the Northern and Western Cape.
There were different interventions for social cohesion as well. In addressing the need for a systematic response, the DBE wanted to prioritise and raise the status of Life Orientation classes through quality, evidence-informed texts and improved teacher training. Teacher development must focus on building social cohesion, and be compulsory for all teachers. Too few universities were focusing on this work. In the push for maths and sciences, the result had been neglecting what the Minister had referred to as “soft issues.”
Ms C Majeke (UDM) asked what the DBE could do to advise teachers and parents about learner wellness. Teachers did not know what to do with learners who simply did not want to be in school. What could the DBE do in these situations to help those who did not want to listen to anybody? This had been the situation at many schools she had visited. Sometimes the parents would switch schools for their children, but the same issue persisted.
Ms A Lovemore (DA) was interested in the behaviour change programmes, and how they would be put together. Sometimes they do not work the way they were expected to. She asked for clarification on the Sunday Times article on the availability of condoms for learners. To the best of the DBE’s knowledge, what was the link between the provision of condoms and sexual behaviour? Was it not possible that if condoms were given to young learners, they would be more likely to have sex?
Ms D van der Walt (DA) commented that as much as the DBE wanted to support the teaching of values and national symbols, this had been proposed before. What was the DBE going to do differently this time, to make sure it was implemented?
Also, regarding the girls’ dropout rates, what would the DBE do in terms of providing sanitary towels? In rural areas that she had visited, the girls did not have sanitary towels or bins. It was humiliating for the girls and must have an effect on the girls’ dropout rate.
Mr H Khosa (ANC) asked how the DBE would deal with sex education, when all it talked about was issuing condoms. Were there other ways to address this, other than giving youth condoms? Drug abuse had been a problem for the past ten years. It had been discussed, but nothing had been implemented. In certain areas, shebeens were located near hospitals and schools. What was the relationship between the DBE and other departments that were supposed to be dealing with this? There needed to be serious steps taken -- not just talking about it.
Ms H Boshoff (DA) asked if female condoms were provided as well. Regarding the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) to supplement learners’ nutrition, it was good that the DBE wanted to improve this, but the state of the kitchens was the biggest barrier. Behaviour change programmes were critical, but what about peer pressure? Was there a way to get educators to speak to learners about peer pressure? Was parental approval needed for testing of under-age learners? Regarding de-worming and the administering of the medicine, there were many outlying schools that did not have clinics. What would the DBE do about that? Would the rural areas be left behind with programs addressing road traffic accidents? How would the DBE address the issue of drugs and weapons?
Mr D Mnguni (ANC) commented on how everyone kept talking about condoms. While it could not be denied that the issue was critical, he had seen that condoms were not a first choice for learners when speaking with youth in his constituency. Condoms had to be made attractive for young learners. He joked that he had advised the DBE to perfume and flavour the condoms. On the NSNP issue and the decentralization of schools, sometimes school funds would run dry because there was no financial management. Was there a plan to address this? The Life Orientation classes needed to get the status they deserved to make them more mainstream. Would tertiary education address this? Learners did not give the Life Orientation classes attention, because they knew they would not matter for tertiary education.
Mr T Khoza (ANC) added that the changes must come from everyone. The manner in which the DBE and the Committee addressed these issues and articulated them would matter for the children. The attitudes of parents must change as well. That was what the DBE should also highlight.
The Chairperson said collaboration with municipalities was important so that there could be implementation of the programmes. Everyone should be effectively involved. More attention should be paid to peer education, because the learners knew what they wanted. Another area that should be prioritised was the sports hubs, where different programmes came together. Where had the DBE started the programme with hubs? Many schools really needed this.
Ms Nozipho Xulu, Director: Safety, Enrichment and Sport. DBE, agreed that collaboration with other municipalities was very important. With the school sport programmes, the DBE did in fact work very closely with municipalities, because many schools did not have sports facilities. There was not national collaboration yet, but there was a lot of local collaboration between municipalities and the schools.
There were many programmes and camps that addressed peer education, such as prefect programmes. The DBE had found that when peers discussed issues together, they came up with their own programmes. However, it was an eye-opener to let the youth discuss their own issues, such as the topic of scented condoms. The DBE could really learn from them.
There were currently 58 cricket hubs in the country and the DBE was currently working on finding a central hub and allocating personnel and equipment. The schools that wanted to have cricket would receive full support. The DBE wanted to look at the model to transform sports and see how to expose more learners to a variety of sports.
Dr Faith Kumalo, Chief Director, addressed the issue of the draft policy for HIV and TB. The DBE had undergone a long process of having internal consultations with researchers, other departments, municipalities, and others to address the policy. The current policy was from 1999, and many things had changed since then. The DBE now wanted to make sure that the policy was aligned with its implementation plans. The draft policy had been open for public comments. It was critical to address some fundamental shifts from the previous policy, like linking TB and HIV together, as TB was the biggest killer for someone with AIDS. Another shift was to focus on educators as well, instead of just learners. The policy also took into account the public health approach, which highlighted that prevention efforts must be strengthened. Providing reasonable accommodation for those who needed treatment was another focus.
The recent Sunday Times article that had focused on condoms had not taken into account the comprehensive package of services from the DBE, like access to information and contraception and health education. The Sunday Times article was not really informed, and was highly sensationalised.
Ms Kumalo also agreed that as members of society, as parents and church leaders, these conversations could not be isolated within the school environment and needed to be discussed in people’s homes. Behaviour change was a very important aspect, but just giving information was not helpful if people could not put that knowledge into practice. Therefore, the DBE’s programmes were informed by providing sufficient levels of accurate knowledge, giving individuals the skills to use that knowledge, to adjust the social environment, to provide individuals the opportunity to test out the new behaviour they had learnt, and to make sure that behaviour change was communicated through the DBE’s messages to parents and others.
On the question on provision of condoms, she said that female condoms would be included.
Regarding the issue of early sexual debut, the DBE had programmes that were evidence-based, so the behaviour change programmes addressed this.
On the “sugar daddy issue,” this certainly had to be addressed. However, the DBE could not just talk to young girls, but also had to talk to the older boys.
Ms Kumalo emphasised that while the DBE wanted to prevent girls from getting HIV, pregnancy was a huge issue as well. There was clear evidence that condoms were the most effective to prevent this. There was no evidence that showed that talking to young people about sex promoted their wanting to have sex. In fact, the opposite was true. The DBE had done a lot of research on this, and the evidence was clear. If learners were exposed to sex education, they were more likely to engage later, or at least more safely.
Regarding the issue of shebeens being close to schools, the DBE was a member of the Central Drug Authority and a whole range of interventions had been discussed. When shebeen licences came up for renewal, the DBE asked that they be looked at very closely before renewing them if the shebeens were close to schools.
Regarding condoms, the Department of Higher Education and Training, together with the Minister of Health, had launched re-branded condoms that were flavoured and coloured, in response to the clear demand, though now the demand had outstripped the supply. The Department of Health was making sure that these would become available.
Mr Kojana wanted to emphasise Mr Khoza’s point of how parents could help learners. The DBE focus was on learners, teachers and the curriculum. However, the participation of parents was key. The DBE had developed draft guidelines on how parents could support children effectively by looking at critical areas, like support in the home. There needed to be an engaged and supportive relationship. The DBE had also looked into how parents could support the child academically, like how to assess whether the learner was performing well in school. These debates had been discussed in the DBE, and it had worked with external stakeholders as well. The DBE had addressed the issue of attitudes to change the mind-set of society and how this country was approaching education.
He also commented on the support for the initiative between the DBE and Cricket South Africa. South Africa was sport-loving country and liked to win, yet there was no focus on what necessary steps should be put in place. The DBE was learning from Germany and New Zealand. Performance centres must be spread out so that children at an early age could be exposed to sport and given opportunities. The key issue for South Africa was talent identification -- how to measure that talent, and how to refer talent to higher education institutions.
Ms Lovemore asked a follow up question on whether condoms were provided for all learners, or for secondary school learners only.
Ms Boshoff asked about child-headed households. How would the DBE address that issue?
The Chairperson asked the DBE for the draft policy document for the Members to look at.
Mr Whittle said the sanitary towels issue had been realised many times, but the DBE had not seen any evidence that the provision of sanitary towels was a problem. In a study that asked female learners to rate how easy it was to get sanitary towels, around 80 percent of the girls had responded that they could get them fairly easily in both urban and rural areas. There was no evidence of this link to dropout rates. However, the DBE wanted to do a study themselves, because while it heard a lot of stories, these had not yet been substantiated by evidence.
On the issue of the provision of condoms for secondary school learners, the statistics showed that learners became infected with HIV on average around 15 years of age, so the DBE wanted to provide condoms from the age of 14. Based on consultations, because of the high failure rate, there were older learners in primary schools, so while the DBE’s preference was to provide condoms in high school, the public consultations would engage on this matter and the DBE would find out from these processes.
On the child-headed households, the research seemed to be over-estimated. Even when there were genuine households headed by children, they generally had access to an adult in the community. However, the DBE could come back to the Committee and provide more information.
For the testing of underage learners, parental consent was needed.
On the issue of de-worming, worming affected all primary schools in the country. Medicine would come to the clinics, then the nurses would take it to the school. The de-worming period would last six weeks, which was not ideal, but it was linked to HIV testing as well.
DBE on improving leadership and management in schools
Mr James Ndlebe, Director: School Management & Governance, DBE, led the Committee through the presentation on improving leadership and management in schools. He said challenges of leadership in schools were considered to be the main contributor to underperformance and dysfunctionality. The Department had planned programmes to improve leadership and management of principals. These included: developing standards for South African principals; development of an Advanced Diploma in Leadership and Management; review of appointment procedures for school management teams; competency assessment for principals; training of principals on curriculum and financial management; and an induction programme for principals.
Mr Khoza said that his concern was about governance in the Eastern and Western Cape. There had been no improvement. Was this a question of attitude? This went back to the issue of needing to change attitudes. Things could change only if the provinces worked together. He appealed for the Committee to support the DBE in these programmes.
Ms Lovemore asked about financial management programmes. How did they tie in with what the South African Council of Educators (SACE) was offering? For the advanced diploma for principals, would they do this before or after becoming a principal? Was this a requirement for becoming a principal?
She also said that the Council for High Education had found that the Advanced Certificate in Education (ACE) programme was sub-standard. What underpinned the DBE’s confidence that its diploma would be of adequate standard? Recent research had also shown that intermediate-phase teachers were coming out of universities not able to teach properly. Lastly, the leadership structure in schools should be looked at. With mega schools, principals were still expected to teach. How would this be addressed in the programme?
Mr Khosa said he was worried about uniformity between the provinces. Why did they have their own systems? Regarding the Suid-Afrikaanse Onderwysers Unie (SAOU), were the unions not affecting the DBE? That should be checked out.
Ms Boshoff said that commitment was needed from principals. Money was spent on training them, but sometimes these principals were not even at the schools. How could the DBE address that? On the induction programme and probation period, was there a system in place after the probation period to ensure the programme was actually implemented? How would the DBE address the issue of training principals on financial management, in terms of support staff? Where districts identified schools that needed assistance, would this be taken to outside schools as well?
Mr Mnguni said it was not on what the DBE teachers taught to learners, it was what was done for them as well. When it came to principals, how did the DBE ensure that they benefited? For example, there was no accommodation provided. The principals did not have their own cars and in rural areas they lived far away from the school. The principals were expected to do a lot. What about the deputy principals? The DBE also needed to address the issue of when principals stayed too long at a school. Who would teach advanced curriculum management training? Was the DBE just duplicating what SACE was doing?
The Chairperson asked about training and uniformity. The DBE should copy the standards of the Department of International Relations, which trained ambassadors and diplomats in advance.
Mr Kojana said that the development of a programme or a qualification was the DBE’s responsibility, but there were specific steps that needed to be taken. Now the DBE was testing the qualifications. However, the DBE needed the involvement of higher education institutions, so it took their input in workshops. Their suggestion had been to move away from ACE, which was why the DBE had developed particular qualifications. The DBE would not do the training -- this would be done by the higher education institutions. However, the DBE would provide guidance and the framework. On uniformity, the DBE looked at lessons from the provinces.
The DBE encouraged unions to work with institutes for professional development. Many trade unions had launched their own institutes and had their own programmes for professional development.
SACE would not do the training themselves. They were ensuring that the service providers offered training that had been accredited. When the DBE developed a training manual or qualification, it was accredited by SACE.
Mr Ndlebe added that the Eastern and Western Cape had been found to be behind, and had not been trained. The DBE would take into account the advice of the Committee and intervene in these two provinces.
Mr Ndlebe said that the standards would be made compulsory and would be implemented across the system. For the requirements of the diploma, the DBE had done two reports on ACE, and they had been positive. One report had shown there was dissatisfaction around the ACE programme. The successes and weaknesses of ACE had been put together, leading to the development of the advanced diploma.
A long term programme was in place, and the DBE hoped to develop a pool from which it selected principals. The diploma would not be compulsory next year -- only when the country was ready. Right now, the DBE had developed qualifications and training for people in advance, so that if there was a vacant slot it could be filled by appointing from those who had the diploma.
For the training of principals who lived far away from the schools, particularly in rural areas, this was a problem of accountability, monitoring and compliance. It was not an issue of training. The weakness was at the district level.
A weakness in induction programmes was that the DBE had not focused on enforcing probation. There needed to be a system put in place to enforce this.
Regarding incentivising posts, the focus should be on rural areas. However, poverty that the principals experience may not be easily addressed by the DBE. For example, if the principal did not have a car, that was not necessarily the DBE’s responsibility. However, the DBE knew that incentivizing the job was important, especially in rural areas when principals lived far away. Decent housing was important as well.
Mr Khoza asked about monitoring the movement of principals, when the district offices were very far from the schools.
Mr Majeke asked about the Eastern Cape situation, because it was lacking and had poor results, which quite worrying.
The Chairperson said that the DBE must be mindful when crafting programmes and guidelines, not lose sight of what the DBE did, because the emphasis was on training.
Mr Mnguni said that leadership went hand in hand with submitting things on time. Also, the DBE cannot allow principals not to have a car when they lived far from their schools.
In response, Mr Kojana said that as soon as there were more incentives, there would be conflicting priorities in terms of the budget, which would affect the budget of the whole country. The DBE managed in terms of how to develop norms and standards that could support schools effectively. However, it was aware it could revise policies around incentives.
Adoption of Minutes
The draft minutes from the meeting on 28 April 2015 were adopted with amendments. There were minor grammatical changes.
The draft minutes from the meeting on 29 April 2015 were adopted.
The meeting was adjourned.
- Social Cohesion & Learner Wellness Programmes implementation; Governance & Management in School: Department of Basic Education briefing 3
- Social Cohesion & Learner Wellness Programmes implementation; Governance & Management in School: Department of Basic Education briefing 2
- Social Cohesion & Learner Wellness Programmes implementation; Governance & Management in School: Department of Basic Education briefing 1
- Overview and Analysis of Basic Education Report on Introduction of Advance Diploma in School Leadership and Management.
- Overview and Analysis of Basic Education Report on South Africa Standard for Principalship
- Curriculum Management for Education Managers with Reference to School Principals
- Presentation on Learner Wellness and Social Cohesion
- Presentation on Improving Leadership and Management in Schools
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