The Department of Basic Education (DBE) briefed the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education on the progress it had made in the implementation of the Education White Paper 6 on Inclusive Education. The presentation included progress made in improving access to education for special needs learners, improving quality education and support, the performance of special schools in the National Senior Certificate, progress made in the development of skills and vocational qualification and learning programmes, a progress report on the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) for South African Sign Language (SASL) implementation, progress made in the strengthening of full service schools, challenges experienced by the DBE and progress made in the radical and urgent steps which needed to be taken to realise inclusive education by 2019.
South Africa currently had 116 888 learners with special needs, spread across 453 special needs schools. Gauteng had the highest number of special schools (136) and the Northern Cape had the least number (11). With regard to learners with disabilities, intellectual disability in various forms constituted the majority of special needs learners in the system. Blindness counted among the lowest statistically, yet it received the most attention. To strengthen special schools, 285 schools had been allocated a budget of R1.6 million between 2012 and 2014.
The draft General Education and Training Certificate (GETC): Skills and Vocational Education and Training, had been completed, and 26 draft learning programmes had been developed. The learning programmes had been developed according to moderate, severe or profound intellectual disability. A draft policy framework for children and youth with profound intellectual disability had been developed.
The progress report on the strengthening of full service schools indicated that by February 2015, 791 full service schools had been designated, from which 137 had been physically upgraded for accessibility. However, very little progress had been made in the Northern Cape and Limpopo. The DBE had allocated R5.7 billion to special schools in the 2014/15 financial year, while R400 million had been allocated for strengthening full service schools. Also, assistive devices worth R11.2 million had been provided to full service schools. Radical and urgent steps had to be taken by the DBE to realise inclusive education by 2019.
Rural education was a huge part of South Africa’s history and in recognizing the progress the country had made, not enough attention had been given to rural education and this needed to change. There were two areas in which the DBE had begun to place high priority -- inclusive education and rural education. South Africa was facing immense inequalities and socio-economic challenges which were the effect of the country’s history of segregation and land dispossession. These inequalities were most intense in the rural areas. The majority of rural communities had poor socio-economic backgrounds which were characterised by, among others, poor housing, poverty and lack of fiscal power. These challenges translated into rural schools, which experienced vast inequalities, and were confronted with problems such as poor infrastructure, inadequate resources and a shortage of qualified teachers. The DBE was committed to developing and co-ordinating a multi-disciplinary approach for improving the quality of rural education, and subsequently learner performance, in rural schools.
Members asked whether all the provinces were taking issues around inclusive education seriously? Why were deaf learners not being prioritized for e-learning? What was the maximum capacity for learners with special needs in a classroom? Were there enough qualified teachers to cater to pupils with special needs -- were there any statistics on this and the training they had received? Why were 116 out of 400 schools participating in the Annual National Assessment (ANA), and was participation optional? Why was the DBE not making enough strides in providing training? Why did learners in special schools perform better than those in ordinary schools? When would a curriculum for blind schools be adopted? How was it possible that a person could get appointed as a sign language teacher even though they did not know sign language? What training was made available for teachers who would be using assistive devices? Could a list of the full service schools be provided? What was the teacher to pupil ratio? How much did the DBE allocate to each school, and how much did the DBE spend on each learner? What plans did the DBE have in place to close the gap between rural and urban schools?
Briefing by Department of Basic Education (DBE) on Progress Report on Inclusive Education and Special Schools
Mr Hubert Mweli, Deputy Director General: Curriculum, Policy & Support, Department of Basic Education (DBE) introduced the team from the DBE who would be assisting with the presentations.
Dr Moses Simelane, Director, DBE said there were four concepts by which to measure whether an education system was inclusive:
- Presence – a child needed to be in school;
- Acceptance – each learner must be accepted irrespective of any differences they brought to the classroom;
- Participation – each learner needed to participate effectively in development and learning;
- Achievement – each learner must be supported so they could achieve according to their potential.
The purpose of the meeting was to brief the Committee on the progress made by the DBE on the progress made in the implementation of the Education White Paper 6 on Inclusive Education. The presentation would include progress made on improving access to education for special needs learners, improving quality education and support, the performance of special schools in the National Senior Certificate, progress made on the development of skills and vocational qualification and learning programmes, a progress report on the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) for South African Sign Language (SASL) implementation, progress made in the strengthening of full service schools, challenges experienced by the DBE and progress made in the radical and urgent steps to be taken to realise inclusive education by 2019.
Improving access to education for special needs learners
According to the presentation, 43.7% of children between the ages of 0-4 years with disabilities were attending Early Childhood Development (ECD) in the year 2013, 85.2% of 5-year-old children with disabilities were in ECD’s, and 92.5% of 7to 15-year-old children with disabilities were attending educational institutions in 2013. South Africa currently had 116 888 learners with special needs, spread across 453 special needs schools. Gauteng had the highest number of special schools (136) and the Northern Cape had the least number (11). With regard to learners with disabilities, intellectual disability in various forms constituted the majority of special needs learners in the system. Blindness counted among the lowest statistically, yet it received the most attention. For visual impairment, the DBE adopted workbooks into Braille and these were distributed to all schools for the blind, covering grades 1 to 6.
123 418 special needs learners were enrolled in ordinary schools in 2012 -- 1% of the total percentage of learners in ordinary schools. To strengthen special schools, 285 schools had been allocated a budget of R1.6 million between 2012 and 2014. KwaZulu Natal had received the highest allocation (R1.3 million), and the Western Cape had received the lowest allocation (more than R215 million). No information was available on Limpopo. A total of 80 special schools had been converted to resource centres, with a budget of over R516 000. The DBE’s allocation for Programme 4 for the 2014/15 financial year was R5.6 million and the DBE’s allocation for the expansion of Integrated Education for the same financial year was R394 359. On teacher training, there would be training of school-based support teams (SBSTs) in the implementation of the Screening Identification Assessment & Support (SIAS) Policy. Ongoing training on SASL would be given to teachers in schools for the deaf to improve their sign language capacity. Training in Braille and in the use of assistive technology would also take place for teachers in the area of visual impairment. This would be done specifically in the centres that had been equipped by Vodacom.
Performance of Special Schools in the Annual National Assessments (ANA)
Mr Mweli said that there were currently 453 special schools nationally. Of these, 116 had participated in the ANA in 2014. The national average mark of Grade 3 learners in their home languages was 52.4% and the national average for performance in mathematics was 52.8%. With regard to the performance of special schools in the National Senior Certificate (NSC), a total of 874 learners had written their NSC in 2013. 342 had qualified to pursue their Bachelors degrees, 272 had achieved dploma status, 61 had achieved a Higher Certificate status, 119 had been endorsed for their NSC and 79 had not achieved at all. In 2014, a total of 1 320 special needs learners had written their NSC examinations. Of this total, 308 had achieved Bachelor status, 637 had gained their Diplomas, 104 had achieved Higher Education status, while 154 had been endorsed for their NSC’s.
Progress Report on Development of Skills and Vocational Qualification and Learning Programmes
Mr Mweli said that the draft General Education and Training Certificate (GETC): Skills and Vocational Education and Training, had been completed, and 26 draft learning programmes had been developed. The learning programmes had been developed according to moderate, severe or profound intellectual disability. A draft policy framework for children and youth with profound intellectual disability had been developed.
With regard to the progress made by the DBE in the implementation of CAPS and SASL, he said 250 foundation phase and Grade 9 teachers and deaf teaching assistants had been trained in October 2014, and 24 home language subject advisors had been oriented into CAPS for SASL. 38 schools had been implementing CAPS for SASL with 159 teachers, and 2 277 learners had been offered CAPS for SASL at the foundation phase.
The progress report on the strengthening of full service schools indicated that by February 2015, 791 full service schools had been designated, from which 137 had been physically upgraded for accessibility. However, very little progress had been made in the Northern Cape and Limpopo. The DBE had allocated R5.7 billion to special schools in the 2014/15 financial year, while R400 million had been allocated for strengthening full service schools. Also, assistive devices worth R11.2 million had been provided to full service schools. Radical and urgent steps had to be taken by the DBE to realise inclusive education by 2019, these would include:
- Implementation of the policy on Screening, Identification, Assessment and Support (SIAS) to scale;
- Development of a Skills and Vocational Exit Qualification and Learning Programme;
- Institutionalisation of curriculum differentiation to scale;
- Implementation of CAPS for SASL Grades R-12;
- Finalisation and implementation of funding and post provisioning norms for an inclusive education and training system;
- Strengthening of full service schools.
Some of the challenges experienced by the DBE were a lack of collaboration between the curriculum and integrated education regarding the implementation of CAPS and SASL, lack of resources at both the DBE and provincial level, unavailability and/or non-utilisdation of the expansion of inclusive education budget, while a lack of a budget from DBE retards the progress in the development of the Skills and Vocational Qualifications and Learning Programmes, among others. As a way forward, Provincial Education Departments (PEDs) would submit quarterly reports to the DBE on progress made in the strengthening of full service schools and the implementation of CAPS for SASL. PEDs would set aside budgets for travelling and accommodation of teachers. All curriculum writers identified from PEDs for the development of Skills and Vocational Qualification and Learning Programmes would be released for the next session.
The Chairperson Gina said the Committee had seen the strides which the DBE had made to improve issues around inclusive education and the implementation of White Paper 6. There were, however, still a number of challenges prevalent, such as those around Limpopo. Were all the provinces taking issues around inclusive education seriously? The Committee would commit to making Limpopo a special project. In the first week after recess, the Committee would be going to Limpopo on an oversight visit.
Ms D van der Walt (DA) said in the last five years, a school offering education in sign language and for deaf and blind learners in Limpopo still had no equipment, and all the learners with different needs were in one classroom. She had written to the DBE a number of times but the response had been that the Department had not received any information from the province regarding the school. The Committee believed in the separation of powers, but the Minister was the custodian of basic education in the country, so if a provincial department did not want to provide information the Minister needed to take the matter into her own hands, paying unannounced visits to these schools.
On e-learning, she asked why deaf learners were not prioritised in this regard. All the provinces which had provided no information for the report were a serious concern. The DBE needed to have partnerships with FET colleges so that when learners needed schools they had access to the training for whatever jobs they wanted to pursue. There was also the issue of no security at hostels, as there was also not enough trained staff to look after children with special needs. What was the maximum capacity for learners with special needs in a classroom? Most of the classrooms were overcrowded, with few qualified teachers. Did the DBE have the statistics on this?
Mr D Mnguni (ANC) indicated that the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and Mpumalanga did not provide any information on the conversion of special schools. What was the explanation for this? With regard to the ANA, he said about 116 schools had participated out of 400 -- why were the numbers so low? Was it not compulsory for schools to attend? On SIAS and its budgetary constraints, when would implementation take place? The Committee needed this information for the purpose of oversight. How long did it take to approve a full service school? Were these schools provided with enough assistant teachers?
Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) said the biggest problem within the DBE was a lack of preparedness. The DBE was the only department where people were not trained, but rather oriented into a profession. Why was the DBE not making enough strides in providing training? What were the figures -- how many districts was the DBE working with and which were the districts involved? He reiterated the concern about the low participation of schools in the ANA. Was it optional for schools to participate because the numbers seemed to be going down every year. How long did it take for ordinary schools to be converted to full service schools?
Ms J Basson (ANC) said the White Paper had been around for a number of years, so why was it taking so long for the DBE to implement the policy? Why were only 15% of the schools being resourced? Why did learners in special schools perform better than those in ordinary schools?
Ms C Majeke (UDM) said the Eastern Cape was one of the provinces which was always lacking in providing information, yet it was the province with the most problematic schools. The DBE needed to engage these districts.
The Chairperson said that the questions being posed by Members showed that education was a matter which was being taken seriously, because it affected the whole society. Members took their constituency work very seriously.
Ms A Lovemore (DA) asked whether the report on inclusive education could be made available to the Committee. She said the averages which were reflected in the report were not accurate for understanding the designation of full service schools. There was no special school in the Graaff-Reinet district, and the full service school which was supposed to be there was still only on paper. She referred to a special school in Uitenhage which had no curriculum. When would a curriculum for blind schools be adopted? Also, when would the DBE address the fact that learners who left school in Grade 9 did not receive an exit certificate? Could the DBE provide more information on this? The three provinces which had not provided the DBE with information were a serious concern. The DBE had indicated that 2014 was the “year of inclusive education,” yet three provinces could not provide any information on the resource centres. How was it possible that a person could get appointed as a sign language teacher, yet they did not know sign language? What training was made available for teachers who would be using assistive devices? What were the timeframes for the “urgent and radical steps” which the DBE would be taking as a way forward? What was an endorsed national senior certificate -- how was it different from a normal senior certificate qualification and how did a pupil qualify for it?
The Chairperson said there were about 791 full service schools across the country, and asked where they were. Could the DBE provide the Committee with a list of these, together with the DBE’s allocations to them? Could a list of the special schools also be provided?
Mr Mweli said the information provided should be looked at against the backdrop of where the DBE had come from. Some of the information provided had been extremely difficult for the DBE to obtain in the past. Even though the DBE was not where it should be in terms of performance, the Committee could also not deny the fact that much progress had been made in terms of access, redress and inequity within the sector. The fact that the DBE had shared its weaknesses with the Committee without even being asked about them should be appreciated, because many other departments hid this information.
He said managing concurrent functions still remained a challenge for the DBE. Members of the Executive Council (MECs) did not report to the Minister, they were colleagues. Section 3 and 4 of the National Education Act gave the Minister some avenues on how to deal with challenges of this nature -- one was to develop norms and standards, and the other was to develop mechanism to monitor the implementation, by working together with the National Council of Provinces to hold provinces accountable. However, there was still a lot of work to do. Holding provinces accountable was a real challenge. The Constitution of the country stipulated that every sphere was distinct, interdependent and interrelated. No sphere of government was subordinate to another. MECs reported to the Premier, not to the Minister. Therefore the proper legislative framework needed to be followed.
Dr Simelane indicated that in his response, he might not address each question separately. On the questions around Limpopo, he said he had paid visits to the province and therefore had a good idea of what the conditions were like. In order for a system of education to be inclusive, different programmes were required to come together to identify each niche regarding its roles and responsibilities. Inclusive education could not be driven successfully from just one unit in the DBE, because there were issues of competencies. For example, the school mentioned by the Member had experienced serious infrastructure and human resource problems. The DBE had met with an infrastructure planner in Limpopo. The infrastructure budget for special schools was no longer allocated to Programme 4, but was now allocated to Programme 8.
With regard to schools participating in the ANA, he said last year only 116 out of 453 special schools had participated. The challenge had been that of gaps within policy. The DBE had come from a past where there had not been learning programmes to be implemented across the schools. The Minister was responsible for developing policy. However, a process had started about a year ago to address this gap. Teachers were doing their own adaptation of the curriculum, because a national curriculum for special schools had not been adopted. The DBE had made some progress in this regard and the process would be completed before the end of the year. Every school would participate in the ANA in future.
With regard to the implementation of SIAS, he said the plan was to start with the training of officials across districts in all provinces, but due to budgetary constraints, the DBE had had to move this. The plan now was to start this training in July 2015. The implementation of the SIAS policy would be done through a phased approach. The intention of the policy was to totally transform the education sector, but transformation took time. Between 2005 and 2008 there had been a process called “field testing of White Paper 6.” In essence, this meant that the approach was to develop an inclusive system, implementing the policy in a careful way.
Dr Simelane responded to the question around why special schools were performing relatively better than mainstream schools. The majority of special schools had remedial action in place, such as therapists, psychologists and other disciplines, who came together in intervening and ensuring that learners learned better than schools in the mainstream, because there were very few remedial teachers in mainstream schools. Mainstream schools which had remedial teachers were only the former Model C schools, because they had been running special classes over the years. Therefore the existence of these resources in special schools accounted for why their education seemed to be of a slightly better quality than in mainstream schools.
On the question around how long it took to approve full service schools, he explained that the provincial departments, especially at district level, needed to identify schools which were ready to become full service schools. Once these had been identified, they would be submitted to the provincial office where a plan would be drawn up to indicate the number of schools which would be trained in other strategies to improve teaching and learning. The list of these schools would then be submitted to infrastructure planners, especially for learners with disabilities. The actual process of converting a full service school into being an inclusive school was a long process because of the developments which were needed around infrastructure and teacher development. The identification of the schools, however, was not a lengthy process.
The endorsed National Senior Certificate (NSC) was a qualification which had five subjects, usually with one language. It was endorsed because it did not meet the full requirements of the NSC, which had six or more subjects. Over the years, learners who were deaf had been offered only one language throughout their schooling years, for example.
Mr Mweli said the DBE would provide a breakdown of the numbers of schools at both provincial and district level so that the Committee could assess them for themselves. The DBE would continue to pay close attention to schools in Limpopo, especially the school mentioned by Ms Van der Walt. He said the issue of learners attending schools where they did not receive any certificates afterwards was a concern, and it would be addressed. The Minister had appointed a task team to deal with the matter, to make sure that the learners were absorbed into the labour market after their schooling.
On hostels and overcrowding in classrooms, he reassured the Committee that these were also matters the DBE was working on. He said that orientation meant that people were already suitably qualified as teachers, but when curriculum changes were introduced the teachers were oriented around areas of the changes because they already had the fundamentals of teaching and learning. With regard to participation in the ANA, he said participation was not optional. At first, schools had not been participating, but this was improving over the years. The report on inclusive education would be provided to the Committee.
The Chairperson agreed that education would always remain a complex issue. With regard to the endorsed NSC, she asked where these learners were going to work. She said there was still a lot which the DBE could not celebrate. Was the DBE assisting these learners to enter higher education and training?
Ms N Mashabela (EFF) reiterated the concerns around Limpopo. It seemed as though the DBE did not take the issues of inclusive education in Limpopo seriously. Most of the teachers who were teaching learners with special education needs had not been trained adequately.
Ms H Boshoff (DA) said that children with special needs were something very close to her heart, because she came from such a teaching background. If a parent had a disabled child, they had to go to the district office to try and get the child registered by a psychologist, but not every parent was able to get their child there. Therefore a number of these disabled learners were denied an opportunity to learn. According to the presentation, blind learners received an R11.2 million budget from the DBE for assistive devices, but many of these schools still did not have access to these devices and teaching aids. She also spoke about boarding facilities which did not have the adequate support staff. What was the DBE doing to correct these imbalances? In many cases, one house mother, with two support staff, was found to be taking care of more than 50 disabled children. With regard to multiple disabilities, what other provinces had enrolments for multiple disabilities, other than the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal? Could a list of the full service schools be provided?
Mr D Khosa (ANC) said there were a number of private special schools, but admission was very limited. How was the DBE assisting these schools? There were about 740 officials who were trained to assist full service schools -- how did the DBE ensure that these officials were visible and were assisting where they were needed? What was the teacher to pupil ratio? These learners needed a lot of special attention.
Ms N Mokoto (ANC) said many improvements had been made by the DBE, for which it needed to be commended. She raised concerns around advocacy programmes, of which the DBE had made no mention. The role of parents, together with their communities, could not be undermined in the pursuit of inclusive education. Traditional elements within the country should also be considered, especially in rural areas. Stigmatisation was still a very serious problem, denying many children the right to go to school. Parents needed to take an active role in assisting the process going forward. Another area of concern was around the shortage of funding. Inclusive education was a transversal issue -- each school needed to cater for inclusive education. How much did the DBE allocate to each school, and how much did it spend on each learner? How was the DBE influencing new teachers -- was it focusing only on those already in the field?
Mr T Khoza (ANC) said the DBE needed to prioritise teachers who were interested in pursuing a career in early childhood development. With regard to spending patterns indicated in the presentation, he said that some provinces were overspending -- did they account for this overspending?
The Chairperson asked about when the vocational skills certificates would be coming into implementation. There had been huge complaints about the standardisation of sign language teaching. She asked how the DBE was addressing this.
Ms Van der Walt asked about e-learning for deaf learners. Many provinces were not complying with norms and standards. There needed to be punitive measures in place for provinces which were not using their allocations appropriately. There should be no politics in education.
Mr Mpontshane said the issue of no qualified teachers was a serious challenge. How many teachers was the DBE intending to train in the next four years for the purpose of inclusive education?
Dr Simelane responded to the question on the support professionals allocated to these schools. He said the DBE was addressing the disparities which were in place regarding inclusive education. The financial differences between urban and rural areas could not be ignored. The new norms and standards which had were recently been legislated sought to address these disparities. He agreed that some parents could not afford some of the support which the children needed. The zero to four-year-old children were still the responsibility of the Department of Social Development -- the DBE’s role was to develop the education programmes. However, the DBE’s partnerships with the Department of Social Development and the Department of Health needed to be strengthened to raise awareness and to increase access to education for these age groups.
With regard to the question around the DBE’s role in monitoring, he said the DBE was implementing a national strategy for learner attainment, which provided clear responsibilities for every level of the education. On the teacher-learner ratio, he said in average disabilities were weighted differently. For example, the ratio for learners with autism was six learners to one teacher. However, on average the national ratio was at twelve learners to one teacher. On the information on multi-disabilities, he said information on disabilities varied from year to year because there were challenges with defining a disability and assessing the disability. Therefore, the DBE did not have an effective mechanism to assess disabilities, and finding one would be a joint venture between the DBE, the Department of Social Development and the Department of Health -- these two departments were already doing assessments on disabilities. He admitted that the DBE had not worked closely enough with the Department of Health.
The Chairperson thanked the DBE for the presentation, and said the Committee was committed to working with the DBE in building the Department and coming up with solutions together.
Progress report on Rural Education: Department of Basic Education (DBE)
Mr Mweli said rural education was a huge part of South Africa’s history and in recognizing the progress the country had made, not enough attention had been given to rural education and this needed to change. There were two areas in which the DBE had begun to place high priority -- inclusive education and rural education.
Dr Phumzile Langa, Director: Rural Education, indicated that South Africa was facing immense inequalities and socio-economic challenges which were the effect of the country’s history of segregation and land dispossession. These inequalities were most intense in the rural areas. The majority of rural communities had poor socio-economic backgrounds which were characterised by, among others, poor housing, poverty and lack of fiscal power. These challenges translated into rural schools, which experienced vast inequalities, and were confronted with problems such as poor infrastructure, inadequate resources and a shortage of qualified teachers. The DBE was committed to developing and co-ordinating a multi-disciplinary approach for improving the quality of rural education, and subsequently learner performance, in rural schools.
Defining rurality remained a contested area, and as an interim measure the DBE had adopted the following working definition: “Rural education is defined as the provision of quality education in schools in areas with tribal authorities, farming communities and densely populated settlements outside of urban areas”. This definition would be refined and finalised through the consultative process planned in the convening of the Rural Education Roundtable and the report that would emanate from the Ministerial Task Team on Rural Education. In total, South Africa had 11 252 schools in rural areas across the country and of these, 3 060 were secondary schools and 8 192 were primary schools. The majority of these schools were in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo. The country had a total of 5 153 multi-grade schools in the rural areas.
Establishment of the Rural Education Directorate
The DBE had established an Inter-Provincial Rural Education Committee (IPREC) with the purpose of strengthening intra and inter-sectoral collaboration by creating a forum for the DBE and PEDs to work together in identifying, developing and implementing the context-specific and sustainable strategies for rural school improvement. The functions of the IPREC were to provide strategic direction for the improvement of quality education in rural areas, and to make recommendations for the provision of quality education in rural schools, and to coordinate, monitor and support the implementation of programmes aimed at improving the quality of education in rural areas, facilitating links and ensuring on-going communication and consultation between and among relevant stakeholders and sectors, among others.
She said that the DBE had implemented a computer project for schools in the rural areas. The project would facilitate the roll-out of computers to rural schools through creating intra and inter-sectoral links to fast track access to information communication technology (ICT). The project was aimed to:
- Increase ICT access and utilization by learners and teachers in support of curriculum implementation for improved learning outcomes;
- Ensure that young people in rural areas were accessing, adapting and using computers to bridge the knowledge gap;
- Ensure that computers helped with the induction of rural learners to ICT practices of post-schooling.
A draft concept paper had been developed for the project and plans were under way to arrange the first Rural Education round table with the objectives of evaluating the progress made by government and the sector in supporting rural education, creating a platform to reflect on models that were working for rural education and to reaffirm the role of monitoring, evaluation and research in measuring the impact, tracking progress and informing best practice. The Rural Education Directorate was in the process of compiling a submission requesting the establishment of a Ministerial Task Team to conduct research and to make recommendations on issues related to improving the quality of education and learner performance in rural schools.
With regard to support given to multi-grade schools, she said a multi-grade sector plan had been developed which was comprised of curriculum implementation, teacher development, human resource provisioning and infrastructure. On the improvement of English in classrooms, a Learn English Audio Project (LEAP) had been developed. This project would make use of audio materials to improve the teaching and learning of English as an additional first language in multi-grade primary schools. The LEAP project had been piloted in KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and in the Eastern Cape. The project targeted 168 schools, 327 teachers and 24 subject advisors.
A multi-grade toolkit had been developed with the purpose of giving guidance to teachers on how to approach curriculum delivery in multi-grade settings, to strengthen curriculum implementation in multi-grade classes and to improve learner performance in all subjects. The toolkit had been packaged for the foundation phase, intermediate phase and senior phase for all subjects. In 2012/13, there had been 295 teachers and 27 subject advisors nationally. Subject advisors were trained in social sciences, economic management sciences, natural science and technology. The DBE would use R6.5 million to print and distribute 12 000 copies of the multi-grade toolkit and 1 000 copies of the multi-grade teacher training manual to all provinces. The 50 multi-grade schools that had been given mini libraries, flat screen television sets and DVD players in North West, Limpopo and Eastern Cape, had been provided with a broadcasting solution that would support and promote the teaching and learning of mathematics and science.
With regard to the rationalisation of non-viable schools, she indicated that a total of 474 schools had been gazetted for closure in all nine PEDs. To date, 240 schools had been closed and 178 schools had been merged. With regard to connectivity in rural schools, she said 30% of schools in rural areas had been connected, while over 51% of schools in urban areas had been connected.
The Chairperson said the numbers presented showed that the DBE had grown in merging and closing down some of these schools. Initially a lot of processes had not been followed, but provinces were now following the correct processes.
Mr Mpontshane asked about when the provinces were likely to get computers? Had the DBE done away with quintile schools, or was it still in the process of doing so? A few weeks ago the Minister had published the guidelines for norms and standards in school infrastructure -- how would these be aligned with what the DBE had outlined in its presentations?
Mr H Khosa said the rural nature of schools was not permanent but temporary, just like indigent policies. By establishing a rural schools directorate, was the DBE not trying to make rural schools permanent? No one wanted to belong to a rural school, even though many people still came from rural areas. People no longer wanted to stay in rural areas and many people, even teachers, were moving from rural to urban areas. What plans did the DBE have in place to close the gap between rural and urban schools?
Mr T Khoza thanked the DBE for the work it had done in addressing the imbalances in rural education. He said that many pupils were now moving from urban areas back to rural areas, and asked whether this would not put any strain on the DBE’s already existing plans. Maintaining computers was a serious challenge in rural areas -- what plans were in place to support the rural schools in terms of connectivity to ICT?
Ms Majeke said the presentation had been an indication of the amount of work the DBE was doing in rural areas. It was important to note that the DBE was dealing with a huge infrastructure development backlog in rural areas. To deal with this backlog, she suggested that a joint meeting be held with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform and the Department of Public Works. Rural communities were still very congested in small land areas, and the Department of Land Reform was in charge of land distribution. This would also address the influx of pupils from urban to rural areas. What security measures were in place to protect the tablets and other ICT material which these schools would be receiving? She said there were still schools which were requesting administrators, with principals complaining that they ended up doing the administration work, leaving very little time to run the school efficiently.
Ms Boshoff spoke about the increase of ICT in rural areas. Many rural areas still did not have towers to provide connectivity. What partnerships would the DBE form with stakeholders such as Vodacom and MTN? On the concept document for the DBE’s computer project, she asked what kind of training would be available for teachers. Why were the pilot projects not being rolled out in rural areas where they were most needed, instead of in urban areas? How could there be one subject advisor to train teachers in all the nine provinces? When would the rest of the provinces be getting their trolley libraries? On the rationalisation and closing of schools, she raised a serious concern -- if the DBE decided to close these schools, issues around transport, space at the new schools and the uprooting of families needed to be looked at. Many of these children were looked after by their grandparents, who unfortunately had to use their grandchildren in the running of their homes. What happened to the infrastructure when a school had been closed down?
Ms J Basson (ANC) reiterated a concern that children as young as Grade 1 pupils were being forced to relocate far from their families, and were not able to take care of themselves. Had the DBE considered the consequences of closing down schools? Most of the rural schools were primary schools, therefore when these pupils needed to go to high school they mostly moved to urban areas. How had the DBE catered for such instances? Also, rural schools were compelled to have multi-grade classes because of the shortage of teachers and most schools did not have administrators. How was the DBE addressing this? Storage of computers and ICT infrastructure was a challenge in most cases.
Ms Lovemore said there had been a Rural Education Directorate within the DBE a number of years ago, but it had been shut down. Now another one had been established. A Ministerial Task Team to investigate rural education had also been established ten years ago, and it had recommended that a Directorate be established. According to the presentation, the DBE was asking for another investigation into rural education -- what would the new task team look at that the previous task team had not looked at? According to the presentation, “rural schools lagged behind their urban counterparts.” Could the DBE provide some idea of how much this difference was? By how much were these rural schools lagging? With regard to the availability of qualified teachers, sending teachers to rural areas was a problem. What was the vacancy rate like in rural schools? Were there enough teachers available? Free State schools had one-teacher schools for over 200 pupils -- was this still the case, or was it being addressed?
Ms Van der Walt asked whether the DBE had implemented any incentives to attract properly qualified teachers to the rural areas, especially for mathematics, science and languages. If so, did the DBE provide some kind of accommodation for these teachers? On the closure of schools, 240 of 474 schools had been closed, and 178 had been merged. What was the total number of schools which the DBE had intended to merge?
Ms Mokoto said the government had a responsibility to address the disparities between rural and urban areas. What developmental goals was the DBE trying to accelerate with the new Directorate? On multi-grade schools, she indicated that last year, the Minister had announced that the DBE would do away with multi-grade schools. If that was the case, why was the DBE still training teachers in this area?
The Chairperson said that the questions Members were posing, were about wanting to understand the plans of the DBE moving forward, and how the Department was changing. Security for those schools which would be getting the new computers was a matter for serious consideration. The new Directorate was not a new thing -- it had been there previously and it had collapsed. What were the reasons for this, and how would the new one be different? How was the DBE going to ensure that teachers were well trained? Multi-grade schools was one topic which needed further discussion, looking at the country’s realities. Could one say the country could do away with multi-schools at any stage in the near future?
Mr Mweli said doing away with multi-grade schools was not feasible, not only in South Africa but universally. A number of good lessons could be learned from multi-grade schools. There was a lot of incredibly interesting data on multi-grade schooling. Data from various studies taken had proved that learners from multi-grade schools performed better than learners from mono-grade schools, as learners in multi-grade schools got to hear about a topic more than once. Society needed to stop compartmentalising learning. Getting rid of multi-grade schools was not the DBE’s policy position. Rural areas were not a temporary feature, but were in fact a great part of South Africa’s history.
He agreed that there were still a number of gaps with the information the DBE was receiving from the provinces and the DBE was committed to addressing this and to narrowing the gaps. He reiterated that the provision of libraries and ICT services to schools was part of the DBE’s plans, which would be implemented quite aggressively. Multi-grade schools and rural schools were the primary target for ICT services and libraries. The Minister had made an announcement on this. The issues of safety had been taken into consideration -- safety features being embedded into gadgets was one option the DBE was looking into, as these would enable for the devices to be tracked down should they be lost or stolen.
The DBE had incentives for difficult-to-teach areas for teachers. The policy was in place and just needed to be reviewed. He said children in rural areas needed to work ten times harder than their urban counterparts in order to succeed. He agreed that many teachers and subject advisors needed to be encouraged more to teach and to visit rural areas, and the DBE was committed to ensuring that this happened. With regard to the role of the new Ministerial Task Team, he said it was tasked with strengthening and sharpening policy.
The DBE was also committed to providing more administrators to schools. Mega-farm schools were a model for the country through the merging of schools -- the DBE had learned from, and perfected, the model found in the Free State. Six mega-farm schools had been built to date and about 600 small farm schools which were not viable had been merged in the North West. Rural schools were leading in performance. He agreed that placing young children in hostels could have dire consequences if they were separated too young from their parents. These concerns had been taken into consideration.
Comprehensive data would be provided to the Committee to indicate which schools had received trolley libraries. The DBE had picked up that some schools had computers they were not using, and this was being addressed through partnering with other role players, especially around Operation Phakisa. He welcomed the joint meeting between DBE and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. The DBE had a plan which stretched to 2019, to close the gap between rural and urban schools, but the plan was not to address the gap completely. He indicated that school infrastructure would be rolled out according to the norms and standards set out by the Minister.
Dr Langa responded to the questions around the Ministerial Task Team. She agreed that the DBE had had a task team in 2005 and a lot had happened since then. The new task team would have a focused approach to rural schooling policy, learning from countries such as the United States, Canada, Kenya and Uganda, which took into consideration the rural context when planning around schooling policy. The DBE wanted to have a clear policy on rural schooling, refining the already existing definition. Rural areas were diverse and they needed to be classified. On the comments around the influx of pupils from urban to rural areas, she said the DBE wanted to ensure that the geographic condition of an area did not determine the socio-economic conditions. People needed to have choices. Teaching people to leave rural areas was a disadvantage.
Mr Mweli said China’s ten-point plan, which was issued at the beginning of 2015 by the Chinese government, had a specific focus on addressing rural development and rural education.
The Chairperson said it was a concern that the DBE was not talking much about the training of teachers to use ICT. The DBE’s plans for the rollouts were clear, but very few plans seemed to be in place for the training aspect.
Mr Mweli said the DBE would like to come back to the Committee with information regarding the number of teachers the DBE had trained to far on ICT, and the levels of training involved. However, Operation Phakisa addressed such aspects.
The Chairperson thanked the DBE for the presentations and said a strategic workshop needed to be organized with the DBE present.
Adoption of Committee Minutes
Ms Basson moved the adoption of minutes of 9 June, 2015.
Ms Majeke seconded the adoption.
The meeting was adjourned.
- Committee Report on a Visit to Inclusive Education South Africa (IESA) Offices followed by visits to two Full Service School in Cape Town
- Progress Report on Inclusive Education and Special Schools presentation
- Portfolio Committee Report Rural Education
- Multi-Grade Strategy and Basic Education Sector Plan
- Guidelines on the School Rationalisation Process Draft
- Terms of Reference for Inter-Provincial Rural Education Committee (IPREC)