School Safety / Violence & Bullying in Schools; Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign (QLTC) Implementation: progress report

Basic Education

04 August 2015
Chairperson: Ms N Gina (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) said that safety and non-violence were critical requirements for the achievement of educational outcomes. School violence was not unique to South African schools, but was a common phenomenon throughout the world.

Effective strategies to address school violence included:

  • having manageable class sizes;
  • training teachers to identify aggressive learners;
  • building relationships with the communities within which schools were located (relationships with the parents, the learners and the broader community);
  • having access to school counsellors or social workers, which was important in providing psycho-social support;
  • having accountable school management;
  • giving learners a voice, as learners had to be part of the solution;
  • involving the local community within very defined roles and responsibilities;
  • building transparency and trust, as it had been discovered that schools with a high level of violence also had high levels of distrust among staff, among learners and staff, and among the community and the school;
  • building a human rights culture in schools to make everyone feel welcome.

Surveys had shown that the levels of violence in South African schools had stabilised at around 20%. Figures showed that a fifth of all learners had experienced violence at school, 12.2% had been threatened with violence by someone at school, 6.3% had been assaulted, 4.7% had been sexually assaulted or raped, 4.5% had been robbed at school, and 20% of learners had experienced cyber bullying. There were more chances of violence occurring at schools located within communities with high levels of crime and violence, and the bulk of the violence identified occurred in the classrooms. The provinces with consistently high levels of violence were the Western Cape, Limpopo and Free State. Any attempt to curb violence occurring in schools had to extend beyond the school itself. Parental and community support, including prevention and early intervention, were the most reliable and cost-effective ways to support school safety.

A manual for schools on cyber-bullying had been developed by DBE and circulated across schools. It was currently working with a range of social partners to develop a behaviour change communications campaign to create awareness among the public. A national strategy for the prevention and management of alcohol and drug use had been developed and approved by the Council of Education Ministers..

Road safety was another issue confronting schools. Almost 70% of South African children walked to school, and the leading cause of death for South African children under the age of 14 years was pedestrian accidents, so there was a need to ensure that children were safe as they walked to school.

Members asked questions on the current pupil-teacher ratio at secondary and primary schools in determining manageable class sizes; the types of violence educators were exposed to; how the safety of farm learners would be ensured; how zero tolerance to drugs did not work as a deterrent to curb school violence; why the South African Council of Educators’ (SACE) list of training did not contain any effective strategy to deal with violence at schools; how SA compared internationally in the statistics on learners and teachers who had been exposed to school violence; how the presence of school resource officers eroded educator-learner relationships; how to ensure parental and community support for learners, having identified it as the most reliable and cost-effective way to support school safety; reconsideration of the 500-meter restriction on the location of taverns near school premises; the benefit of adequate school infrastructure in helping to curb school violence; whether departmental policy covered the protection of lesbian, gay and bisexual learners from all forms of discrimination and violence; safety in boarding facilities and special schools; the regulation of vendors within and around school premises to curb the sale of drugs; the cause of the violence identified in the three leading provinces; efforts by the Department to ensure access to social workers and counsellors at schools; and the frustrations faced by the Department in dealing with school violence.

The presentation on the Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign (QLTC) described it as a platform to elevate the issue of education from being a departmental concern to a broader societal matter. Its major task was to provide a platform for communities and societies at large to ensure an active engagement around the common principles that would contribute to the improvement of learning and teaching. QLTC also had the task of focusing on a ten-point plan to actualise the roadmap for education in South Africa.

The pillars underpinning community mobilisation were identified as participation, collaboration, partnership, equity, and quality. Tremendous growth had been recorded since the inception of the campaign in 2009. QLTC had been launched in all the nine provinces, and had made a clear impact at the national level. The key challenges facing its implementation included the location of the structures, the unequal functioning of all stakeholders in the campaign, the funding formula for the campaign, and the absence of dedicated resources for its operation. Recommendations had been put forward by the Department to the QLTC team to strengthen its functionality across provinces, reconsider the regulatory measures guiding its activities, locating the QLTC in more Member of Executive Council (MEC) offices to ensure that its impact was felt across the system, and also to ensure that adequate resources were allocated for its effective implementation and response.

Members raised questions about the poor interest directed towards rural and farm schools by the district officers; how the Department would ensure that there was no bias in its interactions with faith-based institutions; the lack of sufficient monitoring and support to help with the effectiveness of QLTC; the need for measurable targets to assess the QLTC’s effectiveness; the involvement of special schools in QLTC; how awareness was being created within the communities on the forthcoming campaigns of the QLTC; measures put in place to address the unevenness noticed in the effectiveness of QLTC across the provinces; the continual support of partners and stakeholders; and the hindrances facing the Department in ensuring its effectiveness.

Meeting report

Department of Basic Education (DBE) on School Safety, Violence and Bullying

Dr Granville Whittle, Deputy Director General (DDG), Social Mobilisation and Support, said violence was a common phenomenon in South African schools. Safety and non-violence were critical requirements for the achievement of educational outcomes as learners learned best when they lived in, and attended, schools in safe conditions. Although the level may be high, school violence was not a unique South African problem. School violence was common throughout the world and had warranted various commissions of inquiry internationally, thereby providing an evidence base for South Africa to work on.

 

Based on the international experience, it had been proven that the following approaches did not work for school safety:

 

  • regular or prolonged presence of police in schools;
  • the presence of armed security guards in schools;
  • zero tolerance approaches to drugs, alcohol and violence, where learners were excluded or expelled if found in possession of any of the aforementioned;
  • metal detectors or infrastructural improvements such as fences;
  • investing in after-school programmes or only sport activities or extra-mural activities.

 

The effective strategies to address school violence included:

 

  • having manageable class sizes;
  • training teachers to identify aggressive learners;
  • building relationships with the communities within which schools were located (relationships with the parents, the learners and the broader community);
  • having access to school counsellors or social workers, which was important in providing psycho-social support;
  • having accountable school management;
  • giving learners a voice, as learners had to be part of the solution;
  • involving the local community within very defined roles and responsibilities;
  • building transparency and trust, as it had been discovered that schools with a high level of violence also had high levels of distrust among staff, among learners and staff, and among the community and the school;
  • building a human rights culture in schools to make everyone feel welcomed.

 

There was substantial evidence from the international experience to show that using these evidence-based approaches could curb violence in schools.

 

With regard to the data for South Africa on school violence, the DBE had worked with the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention (CJCP) and conducted two national surveys in 2008 and 2012. The surveys had shown that the levels of violence in South African schools had stabilised at around 20%. The total showed that a fifth of all learners had experienced violence at school, 12.2% had been threatened with violence by someone at school, 6.3% had been assaulted, 4.7% had been sexually assaulted or raped, 4.5% had been robbed at school, and 20% of learners had experienced cyber bullying.

Violence at schools was often not a single encounter, but was usually a repeated process. Violence was also not limited to incidents between learners. It was important to note that in all of the evidence, the classroom was noted as the primary site for violence at schools, and occurrences usually happened when the teachers were not present. Educators were also often victims of violence at schools – 52% of verbal abuse, 12% of physical violence and 3.3% of sexual violence was perpetrated by learners.

The 2012 survey, like the 2008 survey, had highlighted the extent to which family and community factors were related to the levels of violence that occurred at schools. There were more chances of high levels of violence at schools located in communities with high levels of crime and violence. In emphasising the point about the location of violence, the statistics showed that the bulk of the violence identified happened in the classroom. The amount of violence occurring at the school gate area, where the school intersected with the community, was low.  The playing fields were another area of violence, as were the corridors. Violence was less in the toilet facilities, and a bit more prevalent on other open ground. The issue of supervision and the presence of teachers would play an important role in terms of curbing school violence. The statistics also showed that the bulk of the violence perpetrated in schools was carried out by other learners.

A breakdown of the provinces where violence in schools was at a high level was highlighted. The provinces with consistently high levels of violence in schools were the Western Cape, Limpopo and Free State, and across the two surveys carried out, the three provinces continued to maintain such high levels. However, there was great concern over the Western Cape, because there had been an upsurge in violence over the past year, and some gang-related activities had also been noticed. The DBE was working with the South African Police Services (SAPS) and the Western Cape Education Department to develop an anti-gang strategy that would be implemented in schools, particularly in the Western Cape Province. School resource officers were present at some of the Western Cape schools, and although they were initially associated with reduced levels of fear of crime and increased perceptions of learner safety, after about 12 years of having these officers in schools, studies had shown an increase in resistance and anti-social behaviour among learners, as well as an erosion of educator-learner relationships.

School violence was underpinned by a myriad of individual, school, family and broader community-level risk factors which merged to create vulnerability to violence in schools. Any attempt to curb violence occurring in schools had to extend beyond the school itself. Parental and community support, including prevention and early intervention, were the most reliable and cost-effective ways to support school safety. The DBE was using a model which showed that the individual that perpetrated violence, or was the victim of violence, was usually influenced by issues such as relationships with the school, with the community and with society at large.

In 2006, the had DBE worked with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to create a safe and caring child-friendly schools programme. In 2008, the survey had revealed that most schools had similar safety and security challenges. These were grouped into issues around physical infrastructure and equipment; safety and security; management and governance; and partnerships. In considering the perpetrators of violence in schools, it had been discovered that the role of outsiders was 0%. Very few violent incidents were perpetrated by people coming on to the school property. The Department had worked with the CJCP to develop early warning system, as well a guide and management tool for principals, school management teams, school governing bodies, which was currently being rolled out to schools. The DBE had also signed a protocol with the South African Police Service (SAPS), the strategic objective of which fell under the care and support for a teaching and learning programme. The teaching and learning programme was a whole school intervention programme that South Africa had conducted with ten other Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries. It was a SADC initiative which included safety, but was generally broader than safety.

Earlier this year, the Council of Education Ministers had approved the national school safety framework (NSSF), which was currently being rolled out. The framework would provide minimum standards for safety at schools; provide for safety committees to be established at schools and give guidance to schools on how to develop their school safety plans. Schools were currently being trained throughout the country and the monitoring and evaluation system was built on the South African SA-SAMS monitoring and reporting framework.

The DBE had signed a protocol with SAPS for the last five or six years, and through that process 16 406 schools had been linked to police stations. Schools with experience of violence and safety issues had been primarily linked to police officers. The DBE was currently discussing with the police how to strengthen the protocol and partnership to ensure that principals of schools could get an immediate response from the police when they reported incidents occurring at their schools. For example, there had been instances in Gauteng where the police had worked closely with schools to combat the use of alcohol and illegal substances. The usual plan was to get principals to work with the station commander and they would agree on when searches could be conducted in schools. This could curb the spread of illegal substances in schools if searches were conducted often. There had also been complaints from the communities on the location of taverns and liquor outlets around schools. Under the law, these outlets could not be located within 500 metres of school premises, but there were instances where the local communities had granted permits to the owners of the outlets. The DBE therefore wanted to work with the local communities, the government and the police to ensure that such outlets were closed down.

The DBE had developed a manual for schools on cyber bullying and had received support from the Information Communication Technology (ICT) community, including Microsoft South Africa and Intel. A booklet had been developed and circulated to all schools. The booklet was currently being updated to take into account the new social platforms that had emerged. The DBE also had an institutional systemic programme to address bullying in schools. 3 743 provincial master trainers had been trained in this regard, and they had also gone out to train teachers in 12 354 schools. The DBE was currently working with a range of its social partners to develop a behaviour change communications campaign, in order to put out key messages to the public. One of the emerging issues was that school management teams did not regard bullying as a problem in schools, but rather saw it as a normal phenomenon that children would experience and outgrow. The campaign would therefore create awareness about bullying being a part of violence in school, and should not be tolerated. A manual on homophobic bullying had also been developed.

A national strategy for the prevention and management of alcohol and drug use had been developed by the DBE last year and had been approved by the Council of Education Ministers. This had been collaboration with the Department of Social Development, as well as with the Department of Health. The Department was in the process of signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the South African Institute for Drug Free Sport in order to address situations where learners who participated in sports enhanced their performance through the use of drugs.

The DBE had regulations for safety measures at all public schools which had been passed in 2001. The Department was, however, working with its legal services to update the regulations. Some of the issues that would be built into the new regulations would include the mandatory implementation of the NSSF by schools; schools would be compelled to do a safety risk assessment twice a year to check for other safety issues that were not necessarily violence-related; every school would need to have an emergency plan and a disaster management plan; learners should be supervised throughout the school day and after school hours, especially when schools went on excursions; and also, that pesticides and hazardous substances must be kept away or not used at all in schools.

Another issue confronting schools was road safety. Almost 70% of South African children walked to school. There was therefore a need to ensure that these children were safe. The leading cause of death for South African children under the age of 14 years was pedestrian accidents. The DBE was therefore working closely with the Department of Transport and the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) to address these issues. The DBE also had a partnership with Imperial Holdings through their partner, Active Education, and in collaboration with them, the DBE had established 550 scholar patrols in areas where road safety had been identified as a serious problem.

School safety and violence in schools were long-term problems that required long-term solutions. There was a need for the Department to work closely with local communities and build the necessary partnerships to ensure that learners were educated in safe environments.

Discussion
Ms J Basson (ANC) wanted to know what the current pupil-teacher ratio at secondary and primary schools was for determining what a manageable class size would be; the types of violence educators were exposed to in schools and to what extent learners bullied teachers; and how to ensure that farm learners who walked more than two kilometers to pick-up points were safe and provided with scholar transport.

Ms A Lovemore (DA) expressed the hope that teacher aids and teacher assistance would be considered in addition to smaller classes, especially in ‘difficult to teach’ areas, such as areas with high levels of drug use. She wanted to know why zero tolerance to drugs was not working as a deterrent; why the South African Council for Educators (SACE) list of training did not contain any effective strategy to deal with violence at schools; on how the statistics showing that 20% of learners had been exposed to school violence, and 12.4% of teachers had been exposed to physical violence, could be compared internationally; how the presence of school resource officers eroded educator-learner relationships; how to ensure parental and community support for learners, since this had been identified as the most reliable and cost-effective way to support school safety, even though the reality was that most learners had neither parental nor community support. She asked if the DBE had extended its training to the higher education institutions so that student-teachers could be trained on the identification of, and dealing with, vulnerable children. With regard to the regulations for safety measures at all public schools, it was noted that all the issues to which the DBE had committed to give special attention should ordinarily be covered by the Occupational Health and Safety Act, which in actual fact required an inspection to be conducted more than twice in a year. There was uncertainty about the implementation of these regulations in schools, and the Department was advised to look into compliance.

Ms H Boshoff (DA) said that the safety of educators had to be looked into. She wanted to know how many cases of violence had been reported to SAPS, and how educators would be assisted in data base management through the South Africa school administration and management system (SA-SAMS), as it had been indicated that SA-SAMS was yet to be implemented in most schools due to the shortage of support staff. The closure of taverns would require not only the involvement of SAPS, but the involvement of the municipalities as well. She asked if the provinces had discussed the e-safety guidelines with the schools, and sought clarification on the contradiction between the protocol signed between the DBE and SAPS to reduce crime and violence in schools and peace, while security guards had not been seen to work.  What measures had been put in place to ensure safety in boarding facilities, and who would take responsibility for the lack of support staff in boarding schools?  

Mr T Khoza (ANC) said that the specification of a 500-meter distance from schools for taverns was minimal, and should be reconsidered. It was important to involve the community -- churches, community leaders and so on -- in issues of school safety in order to come up with immediate solutions to the problem. In other words, greater emphasis should be placed on community involvement.

Mr D Mnguni (ANC) noted that the title ‘approaches that do not work’ on page 2 of the attached document seemed inappropriate, since continuous efforts were still being made to ensure that violence in schools could be curbed. He wanted to know if school infrastructure could be a factor that should be addressed in tackling school violence, especially with regard to schools without fences. What comment could be made by the Department on the current disciplinary measures meted out in schools to curb bullying?

Ms D van der Walt (DA), supporting an earlier point raised on safety in school hostels, said that there were no house mothers and fathers in special schools any more, and the effectiveness of the prefect system could not be ascertained. She also wanted to know if the Department’s policy covered the protection of lesbian, gay, and bisexual learners from all forms of attacks and discrimination based on their sexual orientation. She pointed out that a national intervention by the Department of Justice on protecting the lesbian, gay, and bisexual learners, in collaboration with the South African Human Rights Commission, had discovered through a study that more attacks of violence against these groups of children had been identified. The Human Rights Commission had explicitly frowned on the discrimination of children based on their sexual orientation and had provided for equal education rights for all learners.

The Chairperson wanted to know what could be done about the prevalence of vendors at schools who had been identified as being a source of the spread of drugs in schools; the cause of the violence identified in the three leading provinces, according to the Department’s statistics; what some of the frustrations of the Department in curbing school violence and dealing with school safety were; and which ten SADC countries South Africa was collaborating with in dealing with school violence, as well as the lessons and good practices that had been learnt from these countries.

Department’s response
Dr Whittle responded that zero tolerance to drugs was the major part of a broader programme of support within schools. It was about how support was provided to learners, as part of that initiative. There were approaches in some countries across the world, where children were summarily expelled after being caught with dangerous weapons. However, it had been found that to expel merely on the basis of being caught with dangerous weapons or drugs at school did not work.

The 20% violence in South African schools was high by international standards. There were, however, a few countries like Jamaica that struggled with a higher level of violence at schools, but South Africa was higher than the rest of the world by about 20 or 30%, even though there were no records of gun violence, like the United States of America. Comparatively, South Africa also did not have the number of deaths recorded in school violence, as well as murders of teachers, as found in some other societies, like the United States of America. The Department was committed to preparing an international comparison that would show where South Africa was in terms of school violence, and would then submit that document to the Committee. The Department would also make available to the Committee the study done by the CJCP on the resource officers in the Western Cape that indicated an erosion of educator-learner relationships.

The DBE had started a discussion with the higher education institutions. This was an area of work that concerned the DBE, as there were very few higher education institutions at the moment that were training teachers on the values of the Constitution, the human rights framework, or the kind of strategies required to deal with young people. A lot of work had to be done with the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) to ensure that these areas received the priority attention they required.

The Department could not say for sure how many cases of violence at schools had been reported to SAPS, but could provide figures at a later date to the Committee.

The DBE had added the item on school safety to the SA-SAMS programme.

With regard to the closing of taverns, some of the frustrations facing the Department included the granting of licences by the local municipalities to these taverns, and sometimes the tavern could be positioned directly opposite the school gates. Often the tavern owners also appealed to the Department of Trade and Industry, and met their licensing conditions on such a basis. There was a need for a broader discussion within the government and the relevant departments to address these issues.

With regard to the contradiction raised on the protocol between the SAPS and the DBE and the withdrawal of police from the schools, the presentation had mentioned a ‘prolonged presence of police’, which meant that although there were instances where the situation in schools had to be stabilised, securing the school environment during a gang warfare and then withdrawing the police presence, as well as weapons, would be effective. Interaction with the local community -- school parents or community members -- to safeguard the perimeter of the school and to search learners as they came into the school, would be an effective mechanism.

The whole discussion on safety in schools was about how schools reached out to the members of the communities within which schools were located. It was more about schools working in partnership with their local environment. The DBE had therefore drawn up a directory of child services for schools, to educate schools on who the support structures within the communities were, as it was about reaching out to those structures and working in partnership with them to address violence in schools.

He admitted that the title ‘approaches that do not work’ might be incorrect, as these approaches did not work in isolation, and it was really about finding the right combination of approaches that would work for each school.

With regard to the effectiveness of school infrastructures in assisting with safety at schools, it was noted that infrastructures were only as effective as the interventions built around them. It was important for schools to have fences, and the Department had a duty to provide the physical infrastructure to make them as safe as possible. However, if the infrastructure was present but there was no supervision of teachers in class rooms, as well as other hotspot areas in the schools, the infrastructure would not help much in ensuring safety.

Special schools were treated as part of ordinary schools. The DBE would, however, discuss with the national department to see if separate measures would be required for their safety.

The prefect system was still present in some schools, but these schools had generally been merged into the Representative Council of Learners (RCL) at the moment.

The Department had encouraged teachers to ensure that they did not allow foundation-based learners to go to the toilets on their own. Foundation-based educators were to accompany such learners to the toilets or appoint an adult to accompany such learner to the bathroom when necessary.

The DBE had produced a booklet that dealt specifically with homophobic violence. It was currently working with the University of Western Cape (UWC), especially because this kind of violence was highly prevalent in Western Cape schools. Training had been introduced in the past year for in-service teachers to understand how to deal with this kind of violence.

The issue of vendors at schools was a perennial problem, and was quite difficult for the Department to monitor effectively. Part of what the Department encouraged was for schools to enter into relationships with the vendors at the school fences, and bring them on to the school property and regulate whatever goods were beings sold. It all boiled down to the interaction of the schools with their local communities. This was an issue of serious concern, and the Department was working closely with SAPS to develop interventions in this regard.

The Department had plans to conduct another survey next year to check if the levels of violence recorded in the three provinces with the highest levels of violence had been stabilised, as interventions were already being channeled to these provinces.

The school intervention programme conducted by the ten SADC countries included the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Swaziland, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Tanzania, and three others that could not be recollected immediately. The Department would send a list of the participants to the Committee. The programme in South Africa was coordinated by Media in Education Trust (MIET) Africa. It was sponsored by SADC itself, and the care and safety schools programme was currently integrated into the care and support programme, thus introducing a pillar on discrimination into the programme. The programme was strong in Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape, and was currently being extended to other provinces. Mpumalanga had integrated the programme into its curriculum responses, to ensure that any school that scored below 60% in its grade 12 examination came on to the programme in the following year. The programme was completely owned by the provinces -- they had district officials that were dedicated to support schools in this fashion. The programme was premised on building the education system around learners and their wellbeing.

Mr Paddy Padayachee, Acting DG, DBE, responded to the question on the class size. The pupil-teacher ratio in 2013 had been approximately 29.8. For primary schools, there should be a teacher-pupil ratio of 1 to 40, and for secondary schools, 1 to 35. In reality, however, the teacher-pupil ratio was 1 to 29.8, or approximately 1 to 30.  However, this did not necessarily mean one teacher to 30 learners, as it included people in offices. In regard to the class size itself, the ratio was 1 to 37. There were over 25% of schools which were micro schools -- that had less than 100 learners -- which would give a low average. In the context of the current discussion, however, what would be considered a manageable number for a class size would be a number between 30 and 40, but there could be exceptions of 45. With such manageable numbers in class size, as opposed to overcrowding, there could be a reduction in incidents of violence in the classrooms.

The issue of taverns and the 500-meter specification had been discussed in Cabinet in the past week, and the emphasis had been on bye-laws for businesses. For the DBE, the taverns opposite schools were of concern, especially because the bye-laws at local municipalities were not being enforced. There was a need for inter-departmental and inter-sphere cooperation in dealing with the issue.

With regard to school infrastructures, he said that inherited school structures had toilet facilities that were far away, with conditions that were not safe for learners, as diseases could be contracted from the use of such facilities.

By making reference to the community, the DBE was referring to the communities that were localised around the schools which their children attended. If parents and the communities in which those schools were located took over the ownership of those schools, incidents of school violence may be eliminated or reduced, because the communities took care of their children and their properties.

Ms Van der Walt asked if the school curriculum catered for curbing homophobic violence by teaching learners what bullying was all about, and the attendant consequences of bullying.

Ms Boshoff asked if a relationship had been built with the Department of Communications to assist in addressing cyber-bullying.

Ms Lovemore noted that most schools at the district level did not have access to social workers and counsellors, which had highlighted as one of the effective strategies to address school violence. She wanted to know how strong the push by the Department was to ensuring access to social workers.

Ms Basson asked for a follow-up on the discipline meted out in schools, noting that there were schools that tried to implement strict measures of discipline but had been discouraged through the available procedures to be followed in implementing these measures. Some of these cases had elapsed or been forgotten due to the long procedures in implementing these disciplinary measures. She also wanted to know what measures could be put in place for municipalities to curb the school violence contributed to by the situation of taverns around schools.

Dr Whittle, responding to the follow-up questions, said that the approach of the Department was to teach these measures in life orientation training. The problem with life orientation was its low status in schools. The DBE had approached the Council of Education Ministers to request the initiation of a series of measures to raise the status of life orientation. The Council had given its support and the Department was currently looking at upgrading the life orientation textbooks, which would be age appropriate and would teach the needed values. The plan was therefore to strengthen the textbooks and to ensure that teachers were available to teach the subject.

The DBE was working with the Department of Communication on curbing cyber-bullying, and consultations were currently ongoing to revise a booklet that was being produced in this regard.

The issue of social workers was a very difficult one, especially because of the budget. There were insufficient social workers and psychologists to go into every school. The DBE was considering the establishment of district-based teams that would provide services to schools.

The DBE had a responsibility to protect children. It had been discovered that there were more chances for a girl-child to fall pregnant within a year after being expelled from school. Schooling was protective and the measures that had been put in place were to protect learners in schools. There were instances, however, where better infrastructure or security measures were necessary to curb criminal activities in schools.

Mr Padayachee also noted that since the promulgation of the Constitution in 1994, even children were beginning to understand their rights, and were using the stipulated provisions. However, parenting was a serious factor as some of these values had to be taught from the home, but there were different circumstances at the homes from which the children came. For some children, the school was a place of safety. Some of these factors had to be borne in mind when subjecting children to harsh sentences.

The proposal for social workers had been put forward, but there was no funding for it yet. The Department was looking at how to implement it in a sustainable way, and was also considering reprioritisation of the budget to fund it.

The Chairperson, in summarising the session, said that the basic point was to place emphasis on the classrooms. It was a known fact that schools that performed better academically had fewer occurrences of violence.

Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign (QLTC)
Ms Vivienne Carelse, DDG,  DBE, said that the QLTC was considered at its inception to be a social mobilisation platform to elevate the issue of education from being a departmental concern to a broader societal matter, and it had come into context in 2009 when the government identified education as its apex priority, commonly known as Outcome 1. It was essentially seen as a quality learning and teaching campaign and not as an institutionalized location within the Department. A social compact had been formed between the education department and its provincial formations, with all stakeholders and communities. The QLTC endeavoured to promote accountability for all sectoral partners, which included the DBE and its officials, teachers and learners at the primary stages. Parents had been included at a later stage. In order to ensure the promotion of accountability, a set of pledges had been developed for each of the sectoral partners. It had also been necessary to strive towards building this accountability by adhering to the non-negotiables, such as the punctuality of teachers in classrooms, the availability of texts for learners to ensure fruitful curriculum interpretation and access to learning, as well as commitment to the delivery of tasks included the framework for conducive teaching and learning.

The major task of the QLTC was to provide a platform for communities and societies at large to ensure that there was active and constructive engagement around common principles which would contribute to an improvement in learning and teaching. The QLTC still remained a campaign in the form of a social compact between the Department and its social partners.

There had been no fixed programme for the QLTC at its inception, except that it was meant to identify what its key programmes would be and its deliverables in terms of the identified priorities. The major task of QLTC had been for it to be a catalytic agent with regard to the demands for quality improvements within each location. It also had the task of focusing on the ten-point plan to actualise the roadmap for education in South Africa, and it could be seen that this particular focus had been rolled out over the years of its existence.

With regard to the pillars underpinning community mobilization, participation had been identified as being central to the existence of QLTC, since it was intended to involve both communities and other stakeholders and partners, who were consulted regularly and therefore contributed to the required programme or intervention for improved learning and teaching. These interventions had been able to define and control the development within the identified contexts. It had also been intended that leadership would be consistently involved throughout the phases of the programme on an equal basis. On this basis of equality, the QLTC had been able to expand on the range of participants in the initial team of sectoral partners to include learner formations and other members of the education sector in the programme. Partnership had been another key pillar, based on a shared recognition that joint decision-making by all stakeholders was necessary for successful implementation. The pillar of equity had been based on the fact that it would not demand anything outside the provisions of the Constitution, which meant that the QLTC would be based on equity in society across gender, race, class, levels of literacy and health status. Quality was the biggest non-negotiable pillar that underpinned the efforts of the QLTC.

At the inception of QLTC in 2009, there had been a very narrow definition of its key functions. However, tremendous growth had been recorded to date across the provinces. It had been launched in all of the nine provinces, at different levels of capacity. It had become visible and there had been a clear impact in terms of the contributions made by its teams at the national level. Models of good practice had been demonstrated in the North West, Free State, Mpumalanga and the Qumbu district of the Eastern Cape, and it had also involved state, civil society and business partnerships in the education sector.

Some of the critical achievements noted in the past five years included the launching of QLTC at the national level; the issuance of a QLTC guide to assist with the establishment of QLTC formations; the success of the QLTC collaboration with the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC); the dynamism and consequence of community involvement as well as the monitoring involvement of parents at basic levels, such as curbing the late-coming of learners and the bullying of learners in schools; the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) accord, which involved government, business, communities and individuals in the under-performing schools campaign; and significant relationships with the ELRC and the South African Council of Educators (SACE) in monitoring the code of conduct of SACE. The QLTC had also managed to collaborate with other departmental units, especially around monitoring and evaluation of the conduct of the Department. It had collaborated with the national examination and assessment directorate in monitoring the writing of NSC examinations, and also continued to support the school governing bodies (SGBs) within the Department, to assist with and enhance the functionality of SGBs at the school level.

The achievements of the QLTC in the past financial year included support of the Ministry of Education through its visit to Limpopo, as well as involvement in the Kha Ri Gude road shows. Significant work had been done in Mpumalanga to facilitate community meetings and stakeholder engagements in the Ministry. Areas with previous signs of instability were now stable and showed signs of improvement in the teaching and learning environment. The QLTC had been able to pay special attention to two troubled districts in the Eastern Cape – Sterkspruit and Fort Beaufort -- and there was ongoing work to ensure that the commitments undertaken in those communities continued. It had supported the education summit and the budget speech of the Member of Executive Council (MEC) in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). It had also supported the work of the Minister in resolving the crisis around the MEC in the Northern Cape. The QLTC structure had been institutionalized within the departmental structure in the North West. The Premier and the MEC were using the QLTC ward-based structures, and had been able to confront and deal with identified societal challenges such as youth drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, violence at schools, and so on. Gauteng had also opted for the ward-based model and through the work of an imbizo that was coordinated by the various QLTC partners, a successful contribution to the work being done for the Gauteng education summit had been noted. The QLTC had also been involved in the De Doorns farm areas in the Western Cape Province. It had been able to identify child labour on the farms, high levels of alcohol foetal syndrome, rising teenage pregnancy, and gang violence.

The key partners of the QTLC included SACE, through its regulatory measures to ensure professional conduct of educators, the ELRC, through its dispute resolution mechanisms, the NEDLAC basic education accord, the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT) where the QLTC structures were fully functional, non-government organizations (NGOs) within the education sector, various government departments, the business community, and faith-based communities.

Some key challenges facing the implementation of QLTC included its location in terms of areas of operation within the structures of government; all stakeholders that had pledged themselves to the objectives of the campaign were not equally involved or engaged in playing their roles to advance the aims and objectives of the campaign; the funding formula for the campaign required review due to the demands of some operational requirements; there were also no dedicated resources to administer QLTC’s operation in a majority of the districts and provinces, since it was a sub-committee of the SGB.

The QLTC had been included in some of the key campaigns of the Department. There was a need to ensure that the curricula programmes, such as the ‘drop all and read campaign’, mobilisation around the library project, and community awareness around the annual national assessments (ANA) and the NSC, were put in place. Community mobilisation, the roles of schools in curbing social ills, mobilisation for the support of adult literacy campaign and the Funza Lushaka programme were also embedded in the work of the QLTC officials. The relations between schools and communities around the SGBs of schools, engagement with the faith-based communities, as well as providing support for all the education summits in all the provinces, were part of the forthcoming campaigns of the QLTC.

The location of the QLTC structures in seven of the nine provinces were in the MEC’s offices, while the structures in Western Cape and Limpopo were located in the Superintendent General’s (SG’s) office.

In considering the strategic orientation of the QLTC, it was important to take cognisance of the transversal nature of the business in creating a conducive environment for learning and teaching. That was why consideration of the location of the QLTC structures was important. In noting the areas of discontent, there was a need to consider that there had been improvements in these areas. The political coordinating team and the provincial structures of the QLTC had a critical role to play in ensuring a focus on the strategic orientation of QLTC.

Recommendations that had been made included the strengthening of the QLTC, its functionality across provinces, and a consideration of the regulatory measures to guide its activities; the QLTC should be preferably be located in the offices of the MECs for its impact to be felt across the system; and adequate resources should be allocated for effective, timely interventions and responsiveness to critical developments on the ground. The ultimate goal of the QLTC was to make all schools centres of excellence.

Discussion
Mr Mnguni noted that the QLTC was a good structure but was not being utilized properly across the provinces. He asked for the effectiveness of the sectoral districts in giving reports.

Ms Boshoff noted that no interest had been given to rural and farm schools by the district officers and the Provincial Education Departments (PEDs), and it would be impossible to get everyone on board if interest was shown only to performing schools. She wanted to know how the Department would interact with the faith-based communities in a non-problematic way, since there were various denominations that had to be taken into consideration. How were schools without functional SGBs being supported in forming their SGBs?

Ms Lovemore expressed skepticism about the functionality of the QLTC. She wanted to know if there were any measurable targets for the QLTC by which the success or improvements at schools as a result of the QLTC could be measured. The Department was advised to partner with NGOs to assist with the effective functionality of the QLTC.

Ms Basson reiterated the fact that the QLTC was a good campaign, but it lacked monitoring and support. It should be monitored in such a way that it was made alive at schools, or in a way that people were situated in the districts and not in the MEC offices, to monitor the functionality of QLTC in schools. This would address the issue of dysfunctional SGBs. She wanted to know how the Department would ensure the functionality of QLTC in rural and farm schools, where there were no administrative clerks, how special schools would be accommodated in QLTC, and how districts without QLTC would be accommodated. QLTC should be spread across to accommodate all learners.

Mr Khoza said that it was important to strengthen the QLTC. Not much reliance should be put on the reports submitted by provinces -- the Department was advised to strengthen its monitoring system instead. Special schools had been overlooked for a while and needed the attention of the Department in campaigns like QLTC.

The Chairperson asked for an update on the translation of the QLTC guidelines into different languages; the hindrances facing the Department in ensuring the effectiveness of QLTC; if there was any difference between the QLTC structures located within the MEC offices and the SG’s office; how each province could learn from the good practices noted in other provinces; and how awareness was being created within the communities on the forthcoming campaigns of the QLTC.

Ms Carelse said that with regard to the oversights, and the consequent opportunities provided afterwards, the Department admitted the unevenness as there were huge challenges facing the small teams without support for the institutionalised programmes.

Mr Paul Sehlabelo, Chief of Staff, DBE, said that the criticism around the effectiveness of the QLTC was understood, and efforts were being made to ensure its vibrancy. However, there were temptations to visualise its the work in isolation from the work of the Ministry. The Minister and Deputy Minister visited communities on the platform of the QLTC. In response to how QLTC worked with faith-based institutions without creating a bias, he pointed out that it worked with all the bodies that represented different faiths, and not with a particular faith-based institution at the expense of others. There was appreciation that the work of QLTC was uneven in different provinces, but examples of good practice had been identified in provinces such as the Northern Cape and North West.

Mr Thula Nkomo, Director of QLTC, said that although the QLTC team had not established structures in schools, it had been able to mobilise stakeholders to play critical roles in turning around particular districts. He admitted that the effect of QLTC might not be visible in schools, and this was why the Department had established ward-based structures where everyone in a ward-based set-up would be accountable for teaching and learning in their different wards. Examples of accountability sessions had been noted in districts within the Free State and Mpumalanga.

Ms Carelse said that provincial quarterly reports had to include reports on the smallest unit of delivery, which meant that provinces had to give account of the institutions of functionality and quality improvement at the district level. All the reporting templates could, however, be improved upon. The challenges that had been faced would be extracted from the quarterly reports provided by the QLTC unit. It was agreed that there was a need to strengthen the monitoring system.

The QLTC unit would be asked to develop a written report on the evidence around whether it offered better functionality within the office of the MEC or the office of the SG, and this would be submitted to the Committee.

She said there was a need to elevate the reporting of the work and the findings of the teams during their advocacy campaign. The unevenness noticed in the effectiveness of the QLTC could be traced to the change of administration in the Department, but efforts were being made to ensure uniformity across all provinces.

The Chairperson asked if the variety of stakeholders and partners which had made commitments to support QLTC at its inception, were still on board at present.

Ms Carelse replied that all the partners were still on board, and the number of the pledges had been extended. There were now pledges for learners which had not been available at the inception. Only pledges for teachers, officials and parents had been available at inception.

Mr Padayachee said that the enthusiasm that had been shown at the inception of the QLTC was currently lacking and needed to be revived. It was clear that implementation was uneven. The Department therefore needed to do more in terms of implementation, and then show progress at its next meeting with the Committee on the efforts it had made to strengthen implementation.

Ms Lovemore wanted to know if the question she had raised for a ministerial response on the work of the NECT had been raised again.

Mr Padayachee said her question on the work of the NECT had been raised again.

Ms Boshoff asked for a response on the previous question raised about the SGBs.

Mr Padayachee replied that about 90% of SGB elections had been held, while there were a few SGB elections that were yet to be held. The Department would, however, need to look into any school without SGBs and intervene. Most of the provinces had successfully held SGB elections. A follow-up on the current happenings regarding the elections would be presented to the Committee at a later date.

The Chairperson summarised the core of the two presentations to be the involvement of the communities in ensuring that education was elevated to be a real societal issue.

Adoption of minutes

The minutes of the meeting held on 28 July 2015 were considered. Corrections were made, and their adoption was proposed by Ms Boshoff and seconded by Ms Basson.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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