Department Strategic Plan for 2003: briefing

Basic Education

19 February 2003
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


19 February 2003

Prof S M Mayatula

Documents handed out:
Department of Education Strategic Plan

Director-General of Education presented an overview of the department's strategic plans for 2003/4. Detailed plans would be tabled after the budget speech. The plans were in line with the broad government agenda.

Specific plans include the HIV/AIDS programme which would be broadened to address educators. Rural and urban nodes already identified for delivery would be better resourced. Learners in distress will take high priority. Focus will be aimed at the unemployed. Increased means of ensuring delivery from further education training colleges were discussed.

The Forum of African Parliamentarians for Education had invited Prof Mayatula to join; the committee should advise him. He reminded them of the UNESCO invitation to the Stockholm meeting that he Mr Ntuli and another would attend. The University of Cape Town's Education Department had invited the committee to participate in their colloquium on 10 & 11 June. European Union Parliamentarians would attend the meeting of 25 February to discuss educational issues in South Africa.

Strategic Plan 2003-2004
The director-general of Education, Mr TG Mseluku briefed the meeting on the Department's plans for 2003/4. His presentation provided a very broad view of the plan. In formal process terms, the strategic programme of action should be formally approved fifteen days after 26 March, when it was to be formally submitted. This input would provide only a brief indication of the general direction of the Department.

Mr Mseluku's presentation included what informed plans; broad themes; critical areas and challenges for implementation. Please refer to presentation for further details.

Government Agenda
The programme of action for the last four or five years had been underpinned by the Tirisano Project. This year would conclude it and it was being examined within broader government priorities. These include pushing back the frontiers of poverty and addressing social needs; Ensuring that all (including the unskilled and those with low levels of education) benefit from whatever the economy offers and working with local government to provide services. A comprehensive response to HIV/AIDS; the creation of multi skilled development workers and mainstreaming gender issues on development and government eradication were also discussed.

The programme of action for the last four or five years had been underpinned by the Tirisano Project. This year it would be concluded and it was being examined within broader government priorities. Issues such as increased focus on rural and urban nodes, social infrastructure and the creation of multi-skilled development workers were discussed.

The Tirisano programmes included HIV/AIDS focussing on strategies for prevention, management, support and counselling. Previously this programme had focused almost exclusively on learners. Matters of educator absenteeism and appointments had brought the issue of educator infection to the fore.

The Department would engage with teacher unions on a joint programme of action for educators and this would be the main focus with educators and their unions for the year.

In 2002 the Department had focused on geographical areas as points for nodes of delivery. Now that the sites had been identified, best practice needed to be brought to them. Some also needed improved infrastructure.

Dysfunctional schools would be defined not only by the pass rate but by criteria such as racism, violence, drug abuse. A specific turn-around strategy for a specific school was needed. Children in distress included orphans, children in child-headed households, abused children, children awaiting trial, street children etc. An integrated approach to these children was needed.

The literacy project would be shown to have borne fruit in its annual report. Unit standards for a literacy trainers' qualification, for community workers and others identified as appropriate trainers, would be developed.

In 2003 the focus would be on skills and the acceleration of skills acquisition for youth and the unemployed so that they could respond to the challenges of the economy. For new graduates without jobs, internships would be designed. For matriculants and other school leavers, a programme of learnerships had recently been announced. It would be necessary for public institutions to lead them.

National and provincial planning alignment was discussed. Planned integrated approaches were beginning to mature but should be aligned to provincial approaches. To some extent, this alignment had happened but the process needed to be formalised.

Regarding the district definition as recommended by HEDCOM, differences in capacity between different districts were vast. The question of minimum requirements for a district should be decided.

On the role of the local government in education, the Constitution was silent and local authorities were not responsible for education, e.g. schools were charged for service delivery at the same rate as business. This would be addressed.

In discussing race and values in the NCS made certain values explicit in learning programmes. The Department's challenge was to find ways to ensure that teachers were a living example of these values.

The responsibility for competitive sport had been identified as being the responsibility of the DACST and legislation in this regard would be enacted.

Ongoing Mandate
The ongoing mandate for the department included addressing the cost of education.

Minister Asmal would hold a press conference on this matter on 4 March 2003. His announcement would be informed by three months' research into the issues of fees, uniforms and transport for poor learners. This conference will not be about funding norms but about addressing the fact that schools' income came partly from fees, which poor parents could not pay. Alternate sources of funding should be found. The recommendations of the research team would be announced and public comment invited.

FET act concerned governance of schools and there were questions about whether technical high schools should be considered part of this sector.

Most secondary schools had been built for absurd reasons and logical planning was needed. It was not unusual to find a good school across the road from a dysfunctional one but the reasons for this should be clarified. Regarding the infrastructure backlog, Mr Mseluku said that the calculation was misleading in that schools in Soweto might be empty while Soweto learners went to school in Lenasia..

A more detailed and concrete framework for teacher development is needed - the consequences of not undergoing development training was discussed. There was clear policy that a teacher should undergo training but the range of options was too wide. Public comments had been received and the teams were now revising the implementation of RNCS. Minister Asmal would announce the outcomes of the teams' work at a later stage.

In regard to implementation of strategic interventions Mpumalanga, the Northern Cape and Limpopo were working on a policy for ICT but this would not be implemented in 2003.

The Dinaledi project, focusing on 102 maths and science schools was making progress as was the Masifunde project.

Ensuring that physical services are conducive to learning and basic services are provided,
there was a concrete plan to ensure that future learners would not learn under trees or in an inadequate physical environment.

The expansion and provision of Grade R would continue as expected. The education system was stabilising and no surprises were expected.

In conclusion, the Director-General asked how the committee would put its stamp on FET (colleges, not secondary schools) in the year devoted to it. South Africans wrote five national examinations annually (such as N1, N2 ) yet no questions were asked about them, or about technical colleges. This sector should be profiled.

The Director-General stated that only technical changes to existing legislation were planned. The chair also introduced the committee's new researcher. The Department was congratulated on the 2002 matric results.

Mr S Ntuli (ANC) asked what would be done about the matter of school governing bodies which were not functional, whether there were any particular plans for farm schools regarding transport, nutrition, poverty and whether there were any policy mechanisms regarding accountability of districts.

Professor S Ripinga (ANC) said that adult education and training were critical. Policy was not being implemented. He said that provinces should be compelled to implement the policy and initiatives should be co-ordinated.

Regarding dysfunctional schools, he said that enrolments at Grade 11 were volatile and that school results changed from year to year.

He said that curriculum meant different things to different people and asked about inset as a new curriculum could not be implemented without retraining teachers.

Mr Abrahams (UDM) expressed pleasure at the FET focus. He required answers to the questions about school governing bodies and asked about the plan for nutrition. He also asked whether school safety and security would also be a factor in the role of local governments mentioned earlier and how spending throughout the year would be monitored.

Mr K Moonsamy (ANC) saw pushing back the frontiers of poverty as the main task. Poor learners be given free schooling and textbooks and that an audit be conducted. He asked about the time frames to make the physical learning environment adequate, the number of under-qualified teachers and for more information on the programme for children in distress.

Mr Dudley (ACDP)asked about the priority of the nutrition programme and how teachers would be inculcate with values.

A woman speaker from the ANC suggested telecommunication links between all classrooms in the country, so that an educator in the Northern Cape, for instance could see what was happening in a classroom in Gauteng. She asked for an update on the University of the Transkei, on which the Minister was said to be going to give an update. She proposed strong links with the department of justice on children in distress.

A question about the posts about lecturing and administrative staff at FET institutions - would the intake of students be looked at when deciding? The same speaker asked about how schools in new residential areas were planned and the roles of the provincial authority, local government and education in this was asked.

Regarding the parallel medium schools in the Limpopo which were ovetstocked, a speaker asked for details on the policy; must a school adopt a particular medium of instruction according to public demand?

There was a request that the committee secretary should remind all members of the press conference of 4 March nearer to the time.

Mr Mseluku said that many of these questions would be answered in briefings.
New legislation on schools governing bodies would take six months to be discussed and researched, after which recommendations would be made. Farm schools related to the cost of education, which would be covered in the press conference.Nutrition was the responsibility of the health department until 2004 (although education departments in some provinces were already running it).

He said that there was a link between the departments of education, social welfare and justice regarding the issues of safety in school and learners in distress.The standard of incoming students was low, although the matric examination was a predictor of future performance. He wondered whether HEIs were prepared for students, rather than the other way round, as the question was very involved.

Regarding ABET, legislation and funding were being grappled with. It was not clear whether the funding available was for ABET or ABE. Did adults go to school for traditional teaching or did they want to learn schools. This question would be answered in the strategic plan. He agreed with the point about volatility of learner numbers in Grades 9-11 and said that benchmarks were needed.

Regarding the question of teacher training, OBE and the RNCS, he proposed a focus meeting.He said that the department had under-spent by R900m in the previous financial year and that conditional grant funding would address it and improve the figure.

Regarding Mr Moonsamy's question, he said that within three years, an integrated approach to remedying the inadequate physical structure of schools would be adopted. There are 85 000 under-qualified teachers, a decline due to teaches taking the ACE and NPED qualifications. Mechanisms for the recognition of prior learning would be designed this year.

Regarding the 50 FET colleges in the long term, the department was concerned with the question of how to make them deliver. Local government, the public works department and the department of education planned school buildings according to educational criteria, This so-operation was improved, because an ex-superintendent-general of education< Mr James Maseko, now worked in the public works department.

Policy provided for decisions about the medium of instruction, resourcing and post provisioning, including parallel schools. The example of schools in Soweto being empty while those in Lenasia were overfull could be because of Soweto learners voting with their feet because the Lenasia schools provided higher quality; this issue of quality was a management problem.

Meeting was adjourned.


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