South African Council for Educators (SACE) & National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) on its 2015/16 Annual Performance & Strategic Plans

NCOP Education and Technology, Sports, Arts and Culture

17 June 2015
Chairperson: Ms L Dlamini (ANC; Mpumalanga)
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Meeting Summary

The South African Council for Educators (SACE) presented the strategic plan for 2015/16 financial year. SACE received R10 per educator for monthly levies and the Department of Basic Education (DBE) gave a grant of R9 million, giving approximate revenue of R60 million per year to SACE. It had around 200 staff. It now issued out certificates within seven working days and had finalized 80% of the applications, and 80% of complaints. There was increasing emphasis on professional development for educators who had to participate in continuing professional development activities. SACE had a call centre and an assistance facility for teachers, and used electronic communication. SACE had a budget of R55 million for the 2015/16 financial year. SACE also received a subsidy from DBE for the administration of the continuing development for educators, for which R8.9 million had been pledged for the current financial year. Foreigners had to pay R400 registration fees, but South African educators paid R200. It had purchased its own building at the beginning of the current quarter, and directed the money previously saved for the purchase of the building into increasing its outreach in provinces, where it had rented offices in Bloemfontein and Durban. SACE planned to register 20 000 new educators for 2015/16, and deal with the 30 000 conditional and provisionally registered people. It was hoping to vet 80 000 qualifications. It aimed to promote ethical conduct and it would uphold the image of the teaching profession by reviewing its code of professional ethics periodically, conduct investigations, and organise workshops on the Code. Names of any teachers struck off the roll were forwarded to the Department of Social Development (DSD) for it to update the Child Protection Register. The three programmes were described, the first dealing with the continuing education, the second focusing on professional standards and the third on policy and research.

SACE would be working closely with relevant departments and stakeholders in achieving its strategic goals for the five year term.

Discussions focused on the cities where SACE offices were situated, whether the objectives filled the SMART objectives, to what extent teachers were complying with the Code, and the links between strategic and annual plans. Members asked for a summary of the continuing education. They asked about the link between SACE and the school governing bodies and how it might empower the latter. They wanted more detail on the rationale behind unqualified educators and conditional registrations, and if SACE had capacity to attend to all cases, as well as monitoring other provincial activities. The Committee requested a written report on other issues raised such as the status of professionalism, the backlog of cases handled by SACE, and the funding models of other professional bodies in order to make comparison.

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) then presented the strategic plan for 2015/16 as well as its annual performance plan 2015/16. NSFAS was currently in a transformation process from the old model of funding students by paying the monies to educational institutions, to a new student-centered model where it dealt with the students directly in terms of receiving applications, short-listing qualified students and awarding the bursaries, loans and allowances to the students directly. The new model was now working operating in six universities and five Technical and Vocational Education and Training Colleges. It paid institutions upfront to cover bursaries and allowances, using recoveries from former beneficiaries of loans, then replaced once NSFAS received its allocation from the national fiscus. The maximum funding per university for 2015 was capped at R67 200. About R70 was dedicated for students with disabilities, usually used to purchase assistive devices such as wheel chairs and special computers. In this year, NSFAS had made upfront payments of R966 million to universities and R661 million to TVET colleges. It had a strategy for recovery and was focusing on monthly payroll deductions, by sifting data received from SA Revenue Services. The total budget for 2015 was R65 million for administration, R8.8 billion for student-centred model and R115 million for core operations. The nine strategic goals were set out and explained. Challenges included the fact that the numbers of deserving students far exceeded the available funds, leading to student protests, some untimely disbursement of funds to institutions, and the need to raise additional funds, address data challenges and improve the turnaround time for queries.

Members sought clarifications on loans and bursaries being granted to unqualified students and students with fake documentation and asked about historic debt and its linkage with the upfront payment made by NSFAS to institutions. They questioned the ability of the new student –centered model to pick up discrepancies and address corruption within the entity, and asked about the mechanisms put in place to monitor and evaluate the monies allocated for both the old system (to universities and colleges) and the new student-centered model, the difference between bursaries and allowances, the uniformity of amounts awarded. They thought the APP needed to include something on evaluation of the current financial system, asked about bursaries for foreigners and questioned the status of the ongoing forensic investigation on the alleged fraud within the entity.

The Parliamentary Liaison Officer of the Department and Higher Education and Training (DHET) then gave an update on the current forensic investigation ordered by the Minister, and the scope that the investigation would cover. A service provider would be appointed, to conduct  a comprehensive audit for the 2012 to 2014 academic years. Investigations would be carried out simultaneously in five universities and five TVET colleges, across four provinces in the first phase. The scope of the investigations would be increased to other institutions for the second phase. 

Meeting report

Appointment of Acting Chairperson and opening remarks
The Chairperson was present but could not chair the meeting because she had lost her voice. She therefore delegated Ms L Dlamini (ANC; Mpumalanga) to chair the meeting on her behalf.

The Acting Chairperson noted that South African Council for Educators (SACE) was a schedule 3(a) public entity established in terms of Act 31 of 2000 and it was accountable to the Department of Basic Education (DBE), and needed to present its budget and Annual Performance Plan to this Committee.

SA Council for Educators: Five year strategic plan and Annual Performance Plan for 2015/16
Mr Rej Brijraj, Chief Executive Officer, SACE, gave a brief synopsis of the presentation document. He noted that SACE was getting R10 per educator for monthly levies, while the DBE gave the SACE a grant of R9 million, which amounted to revenue of approximately R60 million per year. The DBE funding was negotiated and topped up at the request of the Council. A levy increase had been projected in the near future, due to rising costs. SACE had recently purchased its own building. It had around 100 full-time staff and about 100 others who served from the Council as resource people, panellists and service desk people, making up about 200 in all. .SACE worked closely with the provincial Departments of Education (PDE) on a number of issues, such as helping SACE to get levies and fines. Currently, SACE had reached an enhanced level of its work and its projects were quite sustainable.

With regard to registration, certificates were given within seven working days; 80% of applications had been finalised , clearing the backlog of the past, all qualifications were verified and all educators vetted to ensure that they were of good standing. Registers were being checked to make sure there was categorisation. The two Departments of Education and SACE worked together on the registration status of educators by checking with each other.

On the issue of ethics, Mr Brijraj said all complaints were now processed within a three month cycle. SACE also ensured that 80% of complaints were finalised for each financial year, as opposed to the previous backlogs that arose through financial issues and staff challenges. SACE updated its code and procedures annually. The SACE would be meeting in June to consider the amendments to the current Code. An intensive outreach programme was conducted to educate everyone on the Code, as well as to instil professionalism. SACE also exchanged information with the provincial departments regularly on complaints received, measures it had taken, names of those struck off, and departments fed back to SACE as well.

SACE with the same information.

All educators had to participate in the continuing professional teacher development (CPTD)activities and by the end of the five year period, they would need to collect a certain number of points. The Council had targeted the approval and endorsement of 80% of all professional development (PD) activities. It was considering setting professional standards and would hold a seminar in the next two days on professional standards for teachers, the kind of induction to be conducted as well as designations for teachers. SACE had broadened its agenda to complement national efforts, and it collaborated with DBE on many parts of its continuing professional teacher development (CPTD), including on needs determination, appropriate provisioning, information sharing, advocacy, orientation of the different cohorts and people’s responses to their request for professional development.

In terms of outreach, SACE had a call centre and an assistance facility for teachers. It held regular meetings with national and provincial stakeholders in the nine provinces. There were now electronic facilities for communication purposes, and regular publications and regular media interaction now took place. It also organised conferences and imbizos to alert people about professionalism. The SACE had also developed an international profile. In the Council’s view, SACE had matured to deliver its mandates at full stream for the next five year period.

Mr Morris Mapindani, Chief Financial Officer, SACE, continued with the presentation by explaining the medium term expenditure framework (MTEF) projections. For the 2015/16 financial year, SACE had budgeted R55 million. The main source of funding was membership fees collected from educators, and interest on the money within the Council’s accounts. At the moment, SACE was collecting R10 per month from every educator that was employed or could be traced. These members were in public and private schools. It was easy to collect money from those in the public schools because deductions could be made directly from the payroll. For those in the private sector, the Council had a database for each and every school, which paid the council for the total number of educators once a year. However, the Council had projected the need for a 50% increase in its membership fees, which would mean an added R5 to the R10 monthly fee. The reason for the 50% increase could be traced to the turnaround that started in July 2010, escalations due to inflation, and prices that had put pressure on the Council. The amounts were increased rarely, because of the level of consultation that had to take place. In addition to levies, the SACE received a subsidy from DBE every year for the administration of CPTD. It recently received a letter from DBE confirming that DBE would be funding R8.9 million this year, and the increase over the MTEF would be 5% of the previous year’s subsidy.

SACE charged for registering educators; R400 for registering each foreign educator and R200 for a South African educator, and R50 administrative fee was charged as cost of certificate renewal for those who registered provisionally or those who had lost their certificates. The R400 fee charged for foreigners only was merely recovering the extra administrative cost, including postage for testimonials for foreigners and other paperwork involved. No extra funds were being generated from this higher fee.

There was a reduction in interest collection because the Council had, in the past, been investing money in its bank for the purpose of purchasing a building. That building was finally purchased at the beginning of the current quarter. The Council had taken a decision that a certain portion of the money anticipated for the purchase of the building would now be directed towards increasing its outreach in provinces, starting with renting offices in Bloemfontein and Durban, with plans for the other eight provinces (excluding Gauteng, where Head Office was located) to have provincial offices within the MTEF period. For the rented offices, SACE only spent money in purchasing computer equipments and furniture. Personnel had already been employed to start working in those offices on 1 July, and the Council was currently running tests for the systems to begin operating.

Ms Tsedi Dipholo, Chief Operating Officer (COO), SACE, said that the Council’s purpose was to register qualified educators and create sub-registers for special categories, to maintain and update its educator database, to enhance the quality of registration of teachers by introducing standards, and validate all current and new registrations. Its key functions thus included considering applications for registration, keeping a register of the names of all those registered provisionally, determining the form and content for registers and certificates and the validity periods, particularly for provisional registration which was done annually, and verification of qualifications and standing.

The Council planned to register 20 000 new / first time educators for 2015/16. The figure would include students graduating from the university, and those who were currently teaching but still needed to be registered. All the students who graduated in 2014 and all foreign educators who would be registering for the first time in the schools would also be registered. Many would be coming to register from independent schools. The second target was to register 30 000 of those who had been provisionally registered. She explained that the provisional register included foreigners, who got a maximum of five years registration,  and those who were registered on an annual basis, as well as a category of conditional registration which was for people employed without professional qualification. Most independent schools would employ people with academic qualifications, who would usually get a maximum of five years' registration depending on the school requirements.

The Council also would vet and verify qualifications. It had previously had issues with fraudulent qualifications, leading to the move for it to verify all qualifications, for both local and foreign educators. This would be done in collaboration with the DBE and other higher institutions in the country, and meetings had already been held to plan how this should run. Another reason for vetting was to answer the concern around the number of people registered and around the quality of educators that had been employed, especially those with prior cases such as sexual harassment. The Council would be having a round-table discussion with the DBE and the Departments of Social Development and of Justice and Constitutional Development, to ensure that SACE had access to the Sexual Offenders and Child Protection registers, for verification and vetting of the educators prior to their being employed in the schools.

With regard to the 80 000 target for vetting and verification of registered educators for 2015/16 (see attached document), the Council would not only be verifying and vetting those coming in to register for the first time, but it would also begin to work on its database to ensure that it was updated. SACE anticipated that 60% of the 20 000 target would fall within the provisional register because they would be second year BEd students and educators employed without formal teaching qualifications. 2% would be foreign educators and 30 0000 provisional registers.

SACE further acted to promote ethical conduct among educators, through the development and enforcement of the Code of ethics, and by facilitating interventions and support for schools, educators and school communities on ethical matters. SACE’s key function was to uphold the image of the teaching profession by reviewing the code of professional ethics periodically. It did this last year and was hoping the July council meeting would endorse the updated Code for this year. SACE also investigated complaints of improper conduct against educators, instituted disciplinary hearings on behalf of the Council where evidence of breach of code had been established, and rendered legal advice to the Council.

SACE’s main focus for the next five years was to ensure that it organized a lot of workshops to create awareness of the code of conduct and the breaches amongst all stakeholders – the teachers, the parents and the learners. For 2015/16, SACE was targeting 15 000 stakeholders of the school and would increase the number for the following years. It had also targeted dealing with approximately 700 cases for the current year, which would include the 222 cases carried over from 2014. It was expected that 720 (80%) of the cases would be finalised before the end of next year. The breakdown of the 15 000 targeted stakeholders per quarter and the number of cases that would be opened and treated per term were highlighted. (See page 25 of attached document).

The main function of the ethics division was to promote ethical conduct amongst educators. SACE also facilitated interventions in schools and supported stakeholders on ethical matters, and was hoping to deal with 15 000 in this year. SACE and DBE had developed a programme where practical and relevant information for teachers would be shared. It was hoping to start the workshops in August. It was expecting 720 cases for this year. The Council would be training more panelists, investigators, prosecutors and presiding officers to assist in finalizing the targeted 80% of the complaints received.

SACE had developed memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with Provincial Departments of Education (PDEs), in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and Eastern Cape, and was in the process of developing one for Gauteng and Free State, in order to coherently work together and share information with the departments.
All the names of teachers struck off the roll were forwarded to the Department of Social Development (DSD) to update the Child Protection Register. The Council also ensured that employers and schools’ School Governing Bodies (SGBs) could access the list of the struck off educators by contacting SACE, before employing such educators.

Ms Ella Mokgalane, Senior Manager: Professional Development and Research, SACE, said that SACE had three different programmes within the professional development (PD) division. The first programme was the CPTD system for teachers,managed by SACE. The main goal for the next five years was to improve participation in CPTD to ensure quality teaching and learning within the system. The strategic objective was to promote career-long quality CPTD for all school-based educators, and a target of 85% had been set for school-based educators that would participate in the CPTD management system.

The Council started phasing in the CPTD management system in 2013/14 financial year by dividing teachers into three different cohorts. The first cohort included principals and deputy principals. In 2013/14, 88.8% of principals and deputy principals signed up for participation in the CPTD management system. In 2014/15, it continued with the first cohort of principals and deputy principals who began to uptake various professional activities. Some of the challenges included the low level of professional development uptake by the senior management teams within the schools, as well as the low level of culture of continuing professional development, which had to be worked upon. In 2014/15, the Council also conducted a survey by running questionnaires on the principals' and deputy principals’ needs, and these were outlined (see page 29 of attached document). SACE also started a process of orientating and signing up heads of departments (HODs) in 2014/15 so that they could begin to participate within their first three-year cycle this year. The breakdown with regard to participation of principals and deputy principals was highlighted. Nationally, the Council was at 88.80%. In terms of the HODs, the Council was at 67.92% but the breakdown for each province was outlined (see page 31 of attached document).

SACE was also dealing with provider approval. All providers offering professional development had to apply to SACE for approval status before they could begin to provide. Currently, SACE had three categories of providers, mostly private. Most of the providers were located in Gauteng, Western Cape and KZN, so SACE was working hard to encourage providers in other provinces to come on board, but it still thus had limited capacity for offering PD in other provinces. Five provinces had SACE approval status, including the DBE, and it was working closely with the remaining provinces to ensure that they fast-tracked that process. SACE also endorsed all PD activities before they could be offered. The criteria used included fitness of purpose, fitness for purpose, and quality issues. The catalogue of all endorsed activities that the Council currently had was outlined on page 38.

The projection for the next five years was to sign up and orientate 310 000 post-level one educators. This would be done in three categories; secondary and combined school teachers, primary and special-needs education  teachers, and student educators. SACE needed to approve more providers, endorse more activities and also monitor the participation of teachers in taking more PD programmes.

For the 2015/16 financial year, the first indicator would be to look at the number of educators signed up and orientated for participation in the CPTD system during this financial year. SACE had projected 110  000 secondary and combined school educators and had also considered 70 00 final year student teachers. It would also consider the uptake of PD by principals, deputy principals and HODs, and it had targeted 55% of these officers. SACE would produce a national report on the uptake. It was also hoping to endorse 200 providers and 500 activities .

The post-level one sign-ups for participation in the CPTD system was highlighted. (See page 42 of the attached document).

The second programme being considered by SACE was a completely new programme on professional standards. The aim of this programme was to enhance teaching professionalisation. The target for the five year period was to have 70% of the educators practicing in line with the approved professional standards that would be put in place. This would be done through conceptualisation and approved research reporting on the professional standards and implementation plan. There would be a need for wide consultation within the profession before the Council could come up with standards for initial professional education for teachers (IPET), as well as standards for CPTD. SACE would also make sure that 50% of the teachers practised in line with the set standards.

The National Qualification Framework (NQF) Act required that all professional councils must be recognised by the South African qualifications authority (SAQA), and SACE was working towards having recognition status. However, there was a need to develop the professional designations for teachers. In the coming five years, SACE was hoping to not only acquire the recognition status, but to develop designations, register them on the NQF and make sure that 50% to 70% of its newly qualified educators were awarded with the designation.

The targets for the 2015/16 financial year were to set and implement the professional standards earlier mentioned, and also to ensure that a number of qualified educators were awarded professional designation status. SACE would develop a research report and an implementation plan approved by the Council for the two targets. By the end of the financial year, SACE would make sure it had been awarded recognition status by SAQA.

The model that would be followed in implementing the new programme was outlined (see page 48 of the attached document). SACE would consider the standards for admission into IPET, which it did not have in previous times. It would also look into graduates with SACE provisional registration and grant these graduates full registration with CPTD after employers had inducted them. Periodic registrations would also be brought in.

The third programme focused on policy and research. The strategic goal was to have improved research production to advise and inform the teaching profession, and also to influence national policy and initiatives through evidence-based research and advice. The five year target for the programme was 60% of produced research which would be utilized to inform policy and advice the Minister, Council and the teaching profession.

SACE was targeting that six research reports should be produced for the 2015/16 financial year. It would produce a national report on utilisation of the SACE research by internal and external stakeholders. SACE would also produce two professional magazines or journals.

She concluded that SACE would be working closely with all the stakeholders within the profession, that is, DBE and the nine provincial departments, so as to work together to move the sector forward.

Mr H Groenewald (DA; North West) wanted to know the cities where the SACE offices were located in South Africa. Clarification was also requested on the figures of 31 000 students per annum and 310 000 students at the end of the five year term going through the system.

The Chairperson wanted to know if the objectives of SACE, both in its five year strategic plan and the annual performance plan (APP) were SMART compliant, as required by the National Treasury. She asked why the strategic plan and the APP were not signed  by the relevant persons if they were not drafts. She asked if all teachers were committed to following a code of ethics. She asked for a summary of what  CPTD entailed, what the impact of the training was and if there was evaluation; and if there was a link between the strategic plan and the APP.

Mr M Khawula (IFP; KwaZulu-Natal) was interested in the issue of professional development for the teaching profession. The general assumption from communities was that the damage done to the profession was serious, so it was a good innovation for SACE to bring back the nobility of the teaching profession. He wanted to know what the intensity of the professional development was. He also asked about the link between the SACE and school governing bodies (SGBs) and how were SGBs empowered to handle teachers who were not performing their duties, thereby assisting SACE in curbing wrong activities. He noted that SGBs could request the names of  teachers that had been struck off the roll, but he opined that the roll should be readily available, and not on request only, as many SGBs may not think to request such information from SACE.

The Acting Chairperson said it would have assisted if SACE had highlighted its key strategic objectives at the beginning of its presentation, instead of the different strategic objectives for different sections. The Committee would like to know how SACE had been performing in terms of its audit outcomes, as there was no reference to the past financial years in the presentation. She commented that SACE was saddled with an enormous task, especially because all professions would have to go through educators, and if things went wrong at the educator level, it would affect every other profession, so SACE had to be particularly strong in carrying out its task. The Committee was expecting a report on how the country was faring in terms of the professionalism of its educators.

The Acting Chairperson asked why SACE registered unqualified educators, how SACE used the register to inform the country’s educator supply and demand, why there were no offices in other provinces, if SACE had capacity to attend to all the cases from the various provinces without having offices in them; and how SACE monitored activities in other provinces.

Ms Gaylin Bowles, Chairperson: Registration, SACE, answered the question on unqualified and conditional registrations. SACE only gave full registration to people who had teaching degrees, but it encouraged other people with professional degrees or subjects taken within education by giving them conditional registrations for a short period. These people were often employed within the private sector. The system also included the skills schools where there were welders, sport coaches and other professionals, who were qualified within their professions but not did not have teaching degrees. The same applied for Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres where the qualifications had not been finalised, but conditional registrations were given to these teachers since they were working with children. The teachers given conditional registrations could only teach within certain schools for a certain period of time.

Ms Veronica Hofmeester, Chairperson of Council, SACE, responded on the issue of teachers that were struck off the roll. Responsibility lay on the person applying for a post-back to have a valid SACE certificate. DBE was responsible for training SGBs and should therefore ensure that SGBs knew that the validity of SACE certificates should be checked. SACE could be contacted on any person who applied for a post, for SACE was serious about not wanting offenders to act as educators for learners.

Mr Magope Maphila, Advocacy Chairperson, SACE, said that SACE’s national office was located in Gauteng, while two others would be opened in KZN, Durban and Bloemfontein. It was the Council’s wish to open offices in all provinces. However, he pointed out that SACE was solely funded by the teachers' levies. There was no entry point where DBE financially assisted SACE, except for the R8.9 million on CPTD, and it had been explained earlier that SACE only managed the CPTD system and was not responsible for professional development, which remained the responsibility of DBE through its provincial departments.

SACE’s mandates focused on registration of educators, ethical issues, PD and research; and was therefore limited in what it could do. For instance, SACE could not capacitate the SGBs. It was DBE’s responsibility to train and capacitate SGBs, since the Department had a budget for that purpose. SACE would appreciate assistance from the Committee in supporting funding requests so that it could open offices in other provinces.

He wanted to know how other professional councils that appeared before Portfolio and Select Committees were funded in comparison with SACE that depended solely on the turnaround of teachers.

Ms Mokgalane said that SACE got its mandate to manage a CPTD system from the SACE Act itself, as amended by the Basic Education Laws Amendment Act of 2011, which stipulated that SACE must manage a CPTD system for all teachers. The second mandate came from the National Policy Framework on Teacher Education and Development, 2007, which had a whole section that explained how the system should be managed. Linked to this was the integrated strategic primary framework on teacher education and development by DBE and Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) which also gave SACE a mandate to manage the system and included quality assurance of programmes that were offered. Chapter 9 of the National Development Plan (NDP), under the education section, spoke to the role that should be played in terms of promoting standards, as well as making sure that other providers were quality assured to offer PD; and also to ensure that programmes were endorsed. At the end of the day, teachers had to be awarded PD points once they had completed the CPTD system. SACE therefore managed a system by recognizing all PD done by teachers, through approval of the providers of teacher development, as well as endorsing the programmes of approved providers. Teachers were awarded points for participating in all the programmes, and they had to report to SACE so that it could manage and monitor the uptake of the teachers’ professional development.

Mr Mapindani said the Strategic Plan and APP had been approved by Council and the Minister of Education. He apologized for bringing the unsigned copies, as the signed copies had been filed with DBE and within the office. The error took place in the process of running copies for the Members. As regards the audit outcome, SACE had been receiving unqualified audit reports, although there were a few matters of emphasis raised on some areas of performance for the past two years. These included areas where SACE performed unsatisfactorily on cases, and research.

Mr Brijraj confirmed that the APP and the strategic plans had been linked up and SACE had developed a method where it would work with DBE to ensure that it aligned itself to the national requirements of NDP regarding professionalism. Overall, he noted that teachers were very professional. In comparison with other councils and other professions, the misdemeanor of teachers was at a very low percentage, but because the number of teachers was on the high side, it seemed that there were many cases.  There might be more cases that did not get to SACE, but overall, SACE was very vigilant, and quite convinced that it had a good grip on the teachers' performance. Provinces were also very vigilant, as they followed up on cases and complaints. The Committee was assured that the teaching profession was not getting out of hand and that SACE also received good cooperation from the teacher unions that saw to it that teachers were not unnecessarily protected, as opposed to the assumption that the unions would protect the teachers from being disciplined.

Ms Dipholo said that most teachers had their Code of conduct. SACE had just reprinted about 500 000 copies of the code for distribution among teachers during the workshops that would be organised. Not all the teachers had signed the Code, but SACE was only making sure that all teachers understood what the Code entailed. Large charts would be made for the staff rooms, and individual copies would be provided to for educators, and the workshops would ensure that teachers understood the content of the Code, as well as what it meant to be in breach of the Code.

Although SACE was not responsible for training SGBs, it had spoken to the DBE and other stakeholders to assist in getting slots in their training sessions where SACE could talk to the SGBs about the role that they should play when transgressions came up at their schools, and the need to verify with SACE on the teachers that had been struck off, since SGBs usually made the first recommendation. They would therefore need to do the checking before making recommendations to the district director.

Mr Brijraj said, with regard to supply and demand, that SACE was conducting research with DBE. DBE was engaged in a huge project known as ‘the profiling of teachers’. Once SACE was able to get some information about the actual qualifications and experience of teachers, and how they were being placed, it would be able to make some recommendations to the Minister regarding supply and demand. The Council had also requested that SACE should give the Minister specific information.

The Acting Chairperson raised some more questions and urged SACE to include answers to them in the written responses that would be sent to the Committee.

The Chairperson wanted to know if there was a reasonable balance between professionalism and the rights of teachers; and the advice of SACE in this regard.

The Acting Chairperson said that the situation whereby most of the providers were from KZN, Western Cape and Gauteng was not fair. There should be service providers in all provinces and SACE was asked to look into changing that situation. She also suggested that it was unfair of SACE to ask that the Committee assist in getting budget to open offices in other provinces, and suggested that instead, SACE should raise the challenges it had been faced with in various provinces whenever it appeared before the Committee, so that the Committee could assist in any way it could in that regard. The Acting Chairperson noted the question on how other councils were funded, and recognised that SACE was accountable to DBE, and could be underfunded at times. However, the Committee would only be able to assist if SACE outlined the projects where it needed assistance in term of funding.

The Committee would still like to know the status of professionalism, the backlog of cases being handled by SACE, and the means by which SACE itself updated its professionalism.

Mr Khawula requested SACE to submit a report to the Committee on the funding models of other professional bodies, especially those in the Social Cluster, to assist with comparison.

The Chairperson said that a longer session would be organised so that the Committee could engage with SACE properly.

National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS)’s strategic plan 2015/16-2019/20 and Annual Performance Plan 2015/16
Mr Msulwa Daca, Chief Executive Officer, NSFAS began the presentation by referring to the mandate of National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) as stipulated by the NSFAS Act. It was to allocate funds for loans and bursaries to eligible students, to develop criteria, in consultation with the Minister, for granting of loans and bursaries, to raise funds and recover loans, and to maintain and analyse a database and undertake research for the better utilisation of financial resources. NSFAS was also to advise the Minister on matters relating to student financial aid; and perform other functions assigned to it by the Act or by the Minister.

NSFAS’s vision was to be a model public entity that would provide financial aid to all eligible public university and technical vocational education and training (TVET) college students from poor and working class backgrounds. NSFAS existed for three main purposes: to provide financial aid to eligible students at public TVET colleges and public universities; to identify eligible students, provide loans and bursaries and collect student loan repayments to replenish the funds available for future generations of students; and to support access to, and success in higher education and training for students from poor and working class families who would otherwise not be able to afford to study.

NSFAS had two sets of values:  which were external and internal values and these were more fully explained in the attached documents.

NSFAS started as the Tertiary Education Fund for South Africa (TEFSA) in 1991. It became NSFAS in 1999 through the promulgation of the NSFAS Act by Parliament. In 1999, it disbursed R441 million to university students. In 2009, it dispensed R3.2 billion to assist 191 000 students at universities and TVET colleges. A review took place in 2011 on NSFAS’ operations and this then informed some of the changes took place in the entity. In 2012, NSFAS dispensed R7.2 billion to 383 000 students to both universities and TVET colleges. The amount increased to R8.7 billion in 2013 and in 2014, it had increased to about R8.9 billion. NSFAS also started the new student-centered model in 2013, where students would be able to apply to NSFAS directly, rather than through their universities. The new model started in 2014 and covered 15% of NSFAS students. The plan was to continue the project in 2015 and increase the population of students on the new model to 30%.

NSFAS had been able to provide access to higher education to students from poor and working class families. It had disbursed over R50 billion since inception, and had assisted more than 1.5 million students. At inception, NSFAS was only dispensing loans but it now had more bursaries than loans: 59% in bursaries and 41% in loans. These loans varied, based on how students passed. If students passed, 40% of the loans would be converted to bursaries. Once students passed in the final year, the full loan would be converted to bursaries at universities. At TVET colleges, students were awarded full bursaries.

NSFAS was in a transformation process from the old to the new student-centered model. It was also bringing in more state institutions to assist students through the NSFAS system. NSFAS had been fortunate to get an increased allocation from the national fiscus, even in the tough economic years post-2008.

NSFAS had learned that it needed critical partnerships that were active between itself and the universities, colleges and funders. It also had to improve its communication with stakeholders. There was an opportunity to provide strategic insights on the impact of public sector investment in education and its relevance to the NDP goals.

Some of the challenges NSFAS faced in 2014 included students with historic debt who could not register in the new year, and the inability of NSFAS to assist all students that required assistance. For instance, in 2014, NSFAS could only assist 414 000 students, not the full demand of about 500 000 students, based on the available resources at its disposal. NSFAS was also faced with the challenge of unfunded programmes such as B.Tech programmes. NSFAS only funded students who were doing a first qualification at universities. The B.Tech programme was not a first qualification programme but students saw it as a critical programme that should be done to secure employment. A policy discussion was going on around funding the B.Tech programme because it would mean that less students would be funded in the NSFAS diploma programme, due to limited pool of resources that were available.

The implementation of the new student-centered model had also faced its challenges but had been stabilised and was in its second year of implementation. NSFAS was also confronted by student protests at universities, due to challenges already mentioned .

NSFAS was still running the two models, and this was where issues of inefficiency arose. NSFAS still took money from various funders and allocated to universities and colleges after stating the criteria to be used in accepting applications from such students. It then paid allowances to those students in the universities and colleges. If a university refused to pay allowances to students promptly, students would blame NSFAS, and this was one of the challenges faced by NSFAS. However, NSFAS was in the process of changing the old model to the new one where it could deal directly with students and be able to take full accountability of every student. In the old model, the universities and colleges received the allocations from NSFAS, followed by an upfront payment from NSFAS. They then awarded loans, paid allowances and submitted claims to NSFAS, who only checked and paid the claims. All interactions with the students in the old model were done by the universities and the colleges. The old model was a university or college-managed day-to- day system. However, in the new model, NSFAS did the bulk of the work. It would take the application directly from students, rank the students, and get confirmation from the universities or colleges where the students were registered. This confirmation on registration was the only responsibility of the universities and colleges in the new model, and it was applicable to only 15% of the student population. Students signed their loan agreement form online, and NSFAS had promised to pay allowances within 48 hours after the agreements were signed. The new model was now working at 11 institutions (six universities and five TVET colleges) across the country. In the colleges, the new model was now working in South Cape College in the Western Cape, King Hinsta College in the Eastern Cape, Motheo TVET College in the Free State, Ekurhuleni East in Gauteng, and Umfolozi TVET College in KZN.

With regard to preparations by NSFAS at the beginning of each year, NSFAS usually offered upfront payments to universities and TVETs, due to the difference in the periods when academic and financial years started. The academic year began in January, whilst the financial year began in April. This posed a challenge to schools and necessitated the upfront payment to the institutions. An advance amount of money was therefore given to institutions; 30% to universities and 30% to TVET colleges, so that they could fund the students before NSFAS got its allocation from the fiscus. He explained that NSFAS was able to afford the upfront payments through monies recovered from former students, which were replaced after NSFAS received its allocation from the fiscus.

This year, NSFAS had made upfront payments of R966 million to universities to assist universities in advancing money to students before the start of the government's financial year. R661 million had also be paid upfront to TVET colleges. This was one of the interventions of NSFAS to prevent universities and TVET colleges from demanding upfront registration fees from students at the beginning of the year. NSFAS was working with DBE to ensure that upfront payments paid to institutions were used for the purposes for which it was intended, which was to assist students.

The maximum funding per university for 2015 was capped at R67 200. NSFAS also had dedicated funding for students with disabilities. About R70 million worth of bursary funding had been dedicated for students with disabilities. The advantage for having dedicated funding for these students was that it enabled NSFAS to purchase assistive devices, such as wheel chairs and special computers.

NSFAS was planning to disburse R9.5 billion in 2015, which would be sourced from various entities. The breakdown of the sources was highlighted. (See page 15 of attached document).

The DHET allocations by province for universities and TVET colleges were also highlighted. (See page 16 of attached document).  The universities in Mpumalanga and Northern Cape would receive a lower amount because the universities were still new and were admitting less students. The total allocation was about R5 billion for universities and R2.2 billion for TVET colleges.

The key strategic consideration of NSFAS for the next five years were set out. It aimed to improve internal efficiencies as an entity, and to ensure timely and accurate disbursements of funds to eligible students. He repeated that NSFAS was now rolling out the student-centered model where it would play a more active role in the disbursement of funding to students, instead of relying on third parties. More focus would also be placed on fund raising for the ‘missing middle’. The ‘missing middle’ referred to the category of students that came from families that were not poor but were also not rich; they were in-between as they could not afford to pay school fees. NSFAS was also considering private sector partnerships and was also discussing with public sector entities that were already offering bursaries since it was an opportunity to build efficiency in the system. NSFAS was also focusing on recoveries as well as elimination of financial leakages due to fraud in the system.

NSFAS would focus on four key areas under fund raising, which were identification of new public and private sector funders; identification of new funders for students not currently eligible for NSFAS funding, (that is the ‘missing middle’), consolidation of existing public sector funding for student loans and bursaries, and improving loan collections, as this would assist in increasing the number of students that would be funded.

There had been a decline in the trend of the recoveries. Part of the impact on NSFAS was the compliance requirement with the National Credit Act. In the previous version of the NSFAS collection strategy, NSFAS was empowered to write directly to employers for them to make deductions from the salaries of the beneficiaries. This had been found to be non-compliant with the National Credit Act and a new methodology for collection of money now existed. NSFAS would be bringing in assistance from the private sector in terms of the collection space.

With regard to the strategy for recoveries, NSFAS had begun communications to ensure that it reached all debtors that were yet to pay. It was also putting in dedicated collected resources; and focusing on monthly payroll deductions, which it did by sifting through data from SA Revenue Services (SARS) to be able to contact employers and their employees who had formerly borrowed from NSFAS, in order to commence payroll deductions. SARS had given NSFAS data that had linked up R13 billion worth of debt that was owed to the entity, and so NSFAS was now aware of where these debtors were working. NSFAS was also working with employers through ‘employer debt buy back’, which was a situation where employers bought the debt of their employees that were funded by NSFAS, and then paid NSFAS directly.

Mr Lerato Nege, Chief Financial Officer, NSFAS, said that the administration budget for 2015/16 was R65 million in respect of the operations of NSFAS. The budget for the student centered model for 2015/16 was R8.8 billion, while the budget for the core operations was R115 million. The budget that was utilised for the operations of NSFAS amounted to 2% of the total allocation.

Statements in support of the strategic goals, and the outcomes to measure were set out (see attached presentation). The strategic objective for programme 1 which focused on student-centered financial aid was to improve the disbursements of funds and allowances to students. The objective was to progressively improve the efficiency of payments of tuition residence fees allowances and claims to students and institutions. This had been broken into four indicators which were highlighted. (See page 25 of attached document).

NSFAS’ strategic objective 2 was to provide policy inputs on student financial aid. The objective statement was to provide policy inputs on student financial aid by conducting research programmes and publishing outcomes. The performance indicators showed that NSFAS was targeting the production of five research reports for 2015/16 financial year. It intended to publish one research project and produce one policy brief.

The strategic objective 3 was to improve key external stakeholder satisfaction. NSFAS had already started to measure itself with its peers and stakeholders. The objective statement was to improve stakeholder satisfaction by improving stakeholder relations and communication for the stakeholders identified in section 6.2 of the strategic plan. The indicator was to increase the percentage of satisfied stakeholders and the target for the current financial year was 65%.

Strategic objective 4 focused on improving loan collections. The objective statement was to improve loan collections incrementally each year. NSFAS was aiming for R373 million for the current financial year, from the baseline of R338 million.

Strategic objective 5 focused on increasing funding raised, and its objective statement was to increase the pool of funding that was available to eligible student loans and bursaries incrementally each year through various fund raising mechanisms. The indicators showed that NSFAS had targeted five new additional funders from the baseline of 14 for the current financial year. It had also targeted R105 million increased funding that would be raised from current funders for the current financial year.

With regard to Programme 2, which focused on administration, strategic objective 6 was to roll out the new-centered model, while the objective was to roll out the new student-centered model by increasing the percentage of students on the model. From the base of 15% which was 65 000 students, NSFAS was planning to add 30% of students to the new model for the current financial year.

Strategic objective 7 focused on improving governance. NSFAS would improve governance standards by maintaining an unqualified audit with zero material misstatements, and that was thus the target.

Strategic objective 8 was to strive for a high performance culture and improved working environment, while the objective was to strive for a high performance culture by improving productivity and increasing employee engagement. The indicator was to increase the percentage of productive employees, and NSFAS was targeting 60% of its employees with rating of 3 and above for the current financial year, since ‘3’ was the average. It had also targeted a 50% increase in the number of employees engaged in their work for the current financial year, and had conducted an employee survey to gauge the environment in the organisation.

NSFAS also had an IT system as well as the requirements to be met in relation to the IT system. Strategic objective 9 was to ensure information technology (IT) and organisational strategic alignment. The objective was to align organisational processes and IT by achieving corporate governance of information and communication technology assessment standard (CGICTAS) phase 3 status and maintaining the status. The target for 2015/16 financial year was to achieve CGICTAS level 3 at full conformance.

NSFAS recognised that there were quite a number of risks involved in carrying out its work. One of such risks was the number of deserving students that exceeded the available funding, which led to student protests. There was a need for NSFAS to disburse funds to students and institutions on a timely basis, and also raise additional funds. It needed still to  increase recoveries from a low base; and address the issue of data challenges where the data received from institutions were often not up to standard. With regard to the implementation of the new system, NSFAS had challenges around attracting and retaining skills because some of the skills were highly qualified, and therefore highly sought after. NSFAS also had to improve its turnaround time in responding to submissions from institutions.

The Acting Chairperson raised the issue of loans and bursaries given to unqualified students; and also the issue of fake documentation in applying for these loans and bursaries.

Mr Khawula wanted to know how historic debts occurred, and how it could be linked to the upfront payments now made by NSFAS to the institutions. He asked what steps would be taken by NSFAS if it discovered that the funds given to institutions were utilised for purposes other than funding the students. He asked what category of stakeholders would make up the 40% that NSFAS would not satisfy, apart from the deserving students who may not get funding, since it had targeted 60% of stakeholders that would be satisfied.

Mr D Stock (ANC; Northern Cape) said that there were strong perceptions regarding discrepancies and corruption within NSFAS, which had led to the denial of funding to many poor students. He wanted to know if the new student-centered model proposed by NSFAS would be able to address corruption and pick up discrepancies such as fake documentation. He asked what mechanisms would be put in place to monitor and evaluate the money allocated for the new student-centered model as well as the money allocated to universities to ensure that the beneficiaries received the funding. Finally, he asked how reliable the data that would be sourced from SARS was.

Mr Groenewald wanted to know how NSFAS controlled the information received from students at the point of enrolment. He asked for a further explanation on the difference between bursaries and allowances, and wanted to know if all the students received the same amount for bursaries or allowances and how the amounts were managed by NSFAS, He asked if NSFAS policies were in place and were now functional. He requested more information on how many people were involved in the ongoing fraud investigation, how many people had been found guilty and what had been done to those found guilty. He asked if foreigners qualified for bursaries and, if so, the basis for such qualification. He also asked for an indication of the success rate in recovery of debt.

The Chairperson wanted to know if the present APP had considered the need for the evaluation of the current financial aid system, and if NSFAS had considered employing its own staff in the light of the problems regarding its administration and if there was funding to do so. She also wanted to know who the objects of recoveries would be, or who would pay back the loan to NSFAS in a situation where a student did not obtain a qualification and his or her loan could not be converted to a bursary.

The Acting Chairperson said that the historical data had to be sorted out and NSFAS should come up with a proposal on how it would deal with the issue. She wanted to know the exact category of people being funded by NSFAS and in what area contributions were made to raise the socio-economic status of the country, through courses for which the students were being funded. She asked whether NSFAS was funding any eligible student, irrespective of courses, or whether it had a target in terms of professions for which people were being trained.

Mr Daca said that historic debts arose based on a number of reasons. The means test used to determine if a student qualified for funding was referred to as the ‘expected family contribution’ (EFC). If a family earned an income, NSFAS would expect that family to pay a certain amount while NSFAS would pay the bulk amount. However, if the university had refused or failed to collect the amount which the student’s family should be paying for that academic year, the funds paid by NSFAS would not cover that amount; even if it did, there would still be a gap which would keep recurring as historic debt. Historically, most universities allocated a particular sum as top-up funds for students because the funds were not enough but currently, most universities had assured NSFAS that they were funding students fully.

With regard to the upfront payments, NSFAS worked together with the universities since they were agents of NSFAS in terms of making upfront payments to students. NSFAS issued circulars and engaged one-on-one with the Vice-Chancellors, and was now more active in monitoring the issue of upfront payments. However, NSFAS was working together with DBE to set out punitive measures for universities that refused to pay bursaries and allowances to students.

NSFAS was measuring its stakeholder satisfaction for the first time, and even though it would like all its stakeholders to be satisfied, it had set a target of a minimum of 60% stakeholder satisfaction. The stakeholders would include the students, the funders, and the departments that NSFAS would be working with, as well as NSFAS employees.

Mr Daca dealt with the perceptions on corruption. NSFAS operated a difficult system that relied on affidavits signed in the police stations, and the available information sources in the country were not credible. NSFAS was therefore considering sourcing data from other databases for a large collection of information that would assist it in building the profile of students and verifying their documentation. It should be noted that this process might take a long time to complete but once NSFAS had successfully built the profiles of students, it would be able to measure the number of students that would be funded.

The difference between bursaries and allowances was explained as follows: A bursary was the full "package" awarded to students, and within that, tuition allowances were paid to the university. Allowances paid to students were for books or food. The package would either be a bursary or a loan or a combination of both. NSFAS paid tuition and accommodation allowance to universities directly.

The work NSFAS was doing in recovering debts was to sift through the data received from SARS and then go through the employers. NSFAS had started with the big employers of 2 000 or more of NSFAS debtors and would thereafter approach employers of smaller numbers of people. The first priority was to be able to deduct at source, directly from the salaries of these employees, instead of relying on payments from them.

NSFAS only funded South African students studying in South African public universities and public TVET colleges. Foreigners were not funded by NSFAS.

Mr Daca explained that the APP was based on the outcome of the Ministerial review which was a reevaluation of the NSFAS old model of carrying out its activities. Thus far, NSFAS had new institutions that were on the new model and was now dealing directly with students. NSFAS was, however, hoping to have a system in the nearest future that would not rely on affidavits. He requested that the Committee consider paying a visit to the NSFAS office, in order to engage more and also see the challenges facing the entity.

Ms Nomonde Rasmeni, Parliamentary Liaison Officer, DHET, spoke on the current forensic investigation ordered by the Minister and what the scope of the investigation would cover. The Department had finalised the procurement processes in terms of appointing a service provider and entities were awaiting approval from the Director General and the accounting officer. The scope of the investigation would include a sample from 26 public universities and 15 TVET colleges. One service provider would be appointed and the service provider would have to clearly indicate its capacity to conduct simultaneous investigations. Ten institutions, covering at least four provinces would be covered, being five universities and five TVET colleges, but the Department was yet to decide which particular universities and colleges would be chosen. The four provinces that were identified were Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KZN and Limpopo provinces. The investigations would be carried out simultaneously, and would be regarded as the first phase. The intention was to increase the scope to other institutions and provinces in the second phase.

With regard to the terms of reference, the service provider would have to conduct a comprehensive audit for the 2012, 2013 and 2014 academic years to determine the extent of misrepresentation and fraud committed by students who qualified and had received financial aid. This would include the parents, guardians, employees of universities and public TVET colleges, as well as employees at NSFAS head office. This therefore spoke to individuals who manipulated financial processes to commit fraud at NSFAS.

The Department would consider the following with regard to public information that might have been submitted fraudulently: applicants and members; family members and guardians who had knowingly provided false information; applicants who had intentionally misrepresented their family income; providing false information by the certification of affidavits in terms of section 9; as well as the validity of affidavits submitted and signed. The people who signed and approved those affidavits would also be investigated.

The Department had received allegations from certain individuals at universities who indicated that there was a cabal where a group of persons impersonated Commissioners of Oath in order to certify falsified documentations. The service provider would have to determine the extent of the validity of such allegations.

The service provider would have to come up with clear recommendations that would address the fraud risks identified with regard to the identification of the shortcoming and weaknesses in the NSFAS loan and bursary system, including the current NSFAS guidelines applicable to universities and public TVET colleges. DHET would work closely with NSFAS during and after the forensic investigation to address the issues discovered together.

The Committee would be guided by the Chairperson as to whether the Committee wanted to consider paying the NSFAS office a visit so as to carry out oversight functions.

The Acting Chairperson reiterated the issue of the historic debt and said that some families could still not afford to pay those debts. NSFAS should reconsider its means test, by taking into consideration the background of all students to prevent students from losing out from the NSFAS funds.

The Chairperson said that there was a need to engage further with NSFAS, but whether or not it could visit the offices would depend on the Committee's programme.

The Chairperson raised the issue of short courses that were offered in private universities, but not at  public universities and TVET colleges, and asked if a student from a poor background could be funded to pursue such programme.

Mr Daca replied that the only short courses funded by NSFAS were those offered in TVET colleges. There were exceptions with regard to cases where specific funders funded special courses, for instance, pilot training, which was not offered in public institutions, through NSFAS in private institutions, but this was usually based on the requirements of specific funders. Generally, NSFAS only funded students in public institutions.

Adoption of previous minutes
The Committee considered and adopted the minutes of the previous meeting, with minor corrections.

The meeting was adjourned.

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