Scholar Transport Policy: Dept of Transport & DBE; Education Collaboration Framework: National Education Collaboration Trust update

Basic Education

08 September 2015
Chairperson: Ms N Gina (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT) is the implementing agent of the Education Collaboration Framework (ECF) mandated to work with an initial number of eight districts in five provinces, comprising 4 362 schools, 66 000 teachers and nearly 2 million learners. Progress on the ECF themes is as follows:
▪ Professionalisation of teaching
Teachers are being supported to ensure full curriculum coverage and sustained learner achievements. The approach is enabling teachers to develop and refine the practical skills and routine tasks that are required for them to undertake their responsibilities effectively. A total of 13 898 support units have been provided to teachers (3, 8 days per school) since January 2015.
▪ Promotion of courageous and effective leadership
Aims to offer support to school principals and their subject heads to take more effective control and responsibility for the performance of schools. A total of 8 000 support units were provided to School Management Teams.
▪ Support to the capacity of the state
The NECT has organised additional capacity from the private sector to support Operation Phakisa which support involves investigation and implementing technology solutions in education.
▪ Improved parent and community involvement
The multi-stakeholder District Steering Committees set up in 2013 are continuing to play a critical oversight, support and community mobilisation roles in the eight NECT target districts.
▪ Learner welfare
Aims to maximise the potential for the success of each learner. Over 372 000 units of learner resources including learner activity books, dictionaries and posters have been distributed to the Fresh Start Schools.

Comments and questions raised by Members referred to the positive results of the programme in the eight districts; the possibility of expanding the programme to other districts; review requested so that other schools can benefit from it.

The Department of Transport presented the approved National Learner Transport Policy and Implementation Plan. The learner transport policy development started a few years ago as a result of the need of students to get to schools; some of the challenges included precarious road conditions, unsafe and unsecure vehicles, uncoordinated services and unscrupulous operations. Right now the policy is at an implementation stage after having gone through a long process since 2012. The key elements of the policy are:
▪ Institutional Framework for the implementation of learner transport:
National government will oversee the implementation of the policy in consultation of relevant stakeholders including provinces, municipalities and school governing bodies.
▪ Learner transport planning:
A joint planning committee must be established between the representatives of the provincial department of transport and education and the municipalities.
▪ Learner transport safety and security:
Vehicles have to meet the safety requirements of the National Road Traffic Act No 93 of 1996.
▪ Criteria for learner transport beneficiaries:
Beneficiaries for subsidised learner transport must be for a needy learner from grade R to grade 12. Subsidised learner transport must take into account existing public transport services.
▪ Service design for learner transport:
Taking into consideration roads infrastructure, pick-up/drop off points/stops and signage for the safe transportation of the learner.
▪ Procurement of learner transport services:
Only authorised operators with approved modes of transport shall be contracted.
▪ Remuneration of learner transport operator:
A standardised measure of remuneration for subsidised learner transport shall be based on total kilometres travelled. Factors such as road conditions shall be considered.
▪ Funding:
Shall be funded through provincial treasuries budget allocations.
▪ Modal integration:
Promote all modes in the transportation of learners, including cycling, walking. Must ensure that all modes are integrated and complement each other.
▪ Universal Design:
Vehicles transporting learners mush adhere to the requirements of universal design, especially those transporting learners with disabilities.
▪ Law enforcement:
Provincial Departments of transport and municipalities shall ensure that there is sufficient and efficient law enforcement to monitor the operations.
▪ Monitoring and evaluation:
An independent assessment shall be undertaken every three years on the impact of implementation.

Members were disappointed that the policy had been adopted without first coming to Parliament as requested. It also believed that DBE should be in charge of the implementation not the Department of Transport. There was concern that local government would have to implement this as it could not manage to provide even basic service delivery. There was much concern about the conditions of rural roads. Members pointed out that the Department of Transport (DOT) policy failed to include the many factors raised by Members as essential to plan around. However DOT explained they are still trying to coordinate aspects of the policy to ensure safety in the transportation of learners. The Basic Education Director General appealed to Members not to focus only on the constraints of the policy but to look also at the positive aspects and the impact that the policy can have. There are many difficult issues that DOT is trying to address, so give them some time to resolve these.

Meeting report

Implementation of Education Collaboration Framework (ECF): Progress Report
Mr Godwin Khosa, CEO of the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT), noted that the National Development Plan (NDP) vision is to see 90% of the learners achieving over 50% in Mathematics and Science by 2030. ECF responds to the NDP call for greater collaboration amongst social partners in improving education outcomes. The ECF provides a framework for collaboration involving government, business, labour and civil society. NECT is the implementing agent of ECF mandated to work with an initial number of eight districts in five provinces, comprising 4 362 schools, 66 000 teachers and nearly 2 million learners. Progress on the ECF Themes is as follows:

▪ Professionalisation of teaching
Teachers are being supported to ensure full curriculum coverage and sustained learner achievements. The approach is enabling teachers to develop and refine the practical skills and routine tasks that are required for them to undertake their responsibilities effectively. A total of 13 898 support units have been provided to teachers (3, 8 days per school) since January 2015. The Learning Programmes comprise lesson plans, and basic material such as posters and curriculum trackers that help to integrate materials in the classroom as well as structure the pitching and pacing of the curriculum creating a set of Standard Operating Procedures that districts, school management and teachers are expected to follow in order to bridge the gap between curriculum expectation and class practices. It has already been introduced in 1 536 schools à 35% of the NECT schools. Five stakeholder dialogues have been organised since last year on “teacher professionalism”. These dialogues have created an avenue for structured conversations among stakeholders representing government, business, labour and civil society. Over 5 900 stakeholders on the NECT/ Department of Basic Education (DBE) database have been kept informed about the teacher professionalisation programme and over 390 000 people reached through print and electronic media.

▪ Promotion of courageous and effective leadership
Aims to offer support to school principals and their subject heads to take more effective control and responsibility for the performance of schools. A total of 8 000 support units were provided to School Management Teams. As a result, there are confirmed reports of school functionality improvements in terms of an increased number of schools days being utilised for teaching and learning, and an increasing role of principals and heads of departments in the management of curriculum delivery.

▪ Support to the capacity of the state
The NECT has organised additional capacity from the private sector to support Operation Phakisa which involves investigation and implementing technology solutions in education. An advisory committee comprising senior private sector and government experts has been established to advise the Minister on this. DBE/NECT is working to establish technical requirements for revamping the school administration system (SA-SAMS). The Zenex Foundation is funding the research of User Requirements. In addition, the DBE/NECT is working on the consolidation of school ICT blueprints.

▪ Improved parent and community involvement
The multi-stakeholder District Steering Committees (DSCs) set up in 2013 are continuing to play a critical oversight, support and community mobilisation roles in the eight NECT target districts. The DSCs have been meeting every quarter and in some cases more frequently. The DSCs have prioritised mobilising stakeholders on: Attendance and punctuality, School performance (Annual National Assessment and National Senior Certificate), Support to the National School Nutrition Programme (School gardens), Psycho-social issues, Reading and homework.

▪ Learner welfare
Aims to maximise the potential for the success of each learner. Over 372 000 units of learner resources including learner activity books, dictionaries and posters have been distributed to the Fresh Start Schools. A new screening instrument targeting learners and teacher was produced by the University of South Africa as part of the pilot and is being tested in the NECT target districts.

In regards to NECT governance, a total of six Board meetings and three EXCO meetings were held since the last quarter of 2014. NECT Operations in 2013/14 were primarily funded by 24 organisations and the total funding was R116 628 169. Consequently,  NECT is demonstrating a model for partnership as called for by the NDP. DBE is coordinating the inputs of business, labour and civil society in a more effective way in pursuance of the vision of the NDP. Partners at national and provincial levels of the NECT remain committed to working with the DBE in this collaboration.

Discussion
The Chairperson commented on the positive results of the programme and was happy to see such good improvements and development in the eight districts. There is hope for the basic education system and he wished that the programme could expand and gather more districts so that more learners can achieve over 50% in Mathematics and Science by 2030.

Ms J Basson (ANC) commented on the possibility of doing a follow-up or having an effective oversight looking at and describing the differences in the practices of the eight school districts, to establish the positive achievements, so that other schools can benefit from it.

Mr D Mnguni (ANC) referred to the possibility of expanding the programme beyond the current eight districts so that more learners can benefit. He asked about the people that are being left behind to monitor and implement the programme as a result of the training of teachers as curriculum implementers.

Mr C Msimang (IFP) congratulated the NECT for the wonderful initiative. However, how long it is going to take to involve more districts into the programme since a wide number of districts are being left behind? He commented on the ICT solutions as part of solutions in education and the contributions from Eskom. How much are the districts getting from them in terms of supply?

Ms H Boshoff (DA) commented on the similarities in tasks of the Professionalisation of Teaching and Learner Welfare. Where is NECT drawing a line? There are cases of violence and sexual abuse that nobody is addressing and it seems the two ECF Themes overlap and result in a duplication of roles. Now, when talking about Operation Phakisa, why was the last meeting with the Deputy President and Minister cancelled? In regards to SA-SAMS, we had a presentation not long ago saying that it is up and running, then why does the presentation speak of it as being a revamp? Finally, why is the expenditure comparatively lower in the North West and Mpumalanga?

Mr T Khoza (ANC) congratulated the department for the professionalisation of teachers and talked about the possibility of getting behind the ideas of the programme and implementing them in other schools. He asked what is the exact role of NECT.

Ms D Van Der Walt (DA) commented on the monitoring and evaluation programme and asked NECT to elaborate on how they are trying to fix the heightening sensitivity about teaching in one's mother tongue, the base line is as low as 90 days per year instead of 170 days of peer teaching. She referred to the 93% of expenditure for the first half of the year, and asked about the remaining budget for the six upcoming months.

The Chairperson asked how they are maintaining the ICT infrastructure, and what is the total cost of that? What are the lessons learned from the eight districts? How is the curriculum coverage in the eight districts?

The CEO replied that in 2012 there was a meeting with various stakeholders and one of the big challenges of the dialogues was the need to have a better organisation of the stakeholders’ activities, otherwise it could result in unintended consequences in the system. They agreed that a better framework was needed for better organisation and coordination, and as a result of that, the ECT was born. ECT becomes a baby owned by the stakeholders with the responsibility to better coordinate the activities of the non-governmental organisations in collaboration with the DBE; nonetheless, the work with government continues.  The Department is working in all the districts; however, it focuses in eight districts with a key to test approaches than can later be implemented in other districts. The idea was highly palatable to the private sector as they see their work as divergent from government. He called the Committee to let the collaboration with the private sector develop and flow and keep informing the system before trying to expand the programme to other districts.

The CEO added that the training and certification of teachers was a result of constructive conversations that were held with stakeholders. In regards to the ICT, this is the area that keeps changing the most and the fastest. The engagement with the private sector has emphasised to always take advantage of the new technologies and there is current research taking place on how to improve and implement those technologies. In terms of the North West and Mpumalanga expenditure, the programme allowed the two districts to join later (September – October 2014) so that is the reason the expenditure is comparatively lower to the other districts. School calendars are very clear and have adopted an optimal utilisation of time and sometimes they can use the extra time to focus on extracurricular activates and the 93% expenditure refers to the first half of the budget. As promised to the stakeholder schools and districts, they are getting a bigger portion, thus, the remaining 7% is being used for technical capacity provided at the provincial and national level. The budget expenditure is such that NECT runs a very small office and is committed to remaining small using the already existing capacity in the sector to ensure improvement along with the help of DBE and districts.

Mr Mathanzima Hubert Mweli, DBE Director General, replied that SA-SAMS is working and that expansion is taking place, however there are some capacity issues especially when government is the one asking for the services. Most times, once government has an estimate of the cost, it ends up abandoning the initiative as a result of lack of funding. Working with the private sector ensures a faster and a more reliable result. Referring to the NDP and the role of NECT as a diversity of private and community based providers that should be supported to offer targeted work and training as well as community and youth development programmes. The NDP and NECT work together in providing quality education; yet, NECT does not do the work that the Department is supposed to do. NECT focuses on the eight districts to serve as seats of excellence. The mix of the eight districts is very important as one cannot draw lessons from only the districts that are underperforming, so it is a mix of districts that benefit from the intervention and that can yield better results. That is the reason why NECT cannot cover all districts, and that is  why NECT expects the sector (meaning DBE) to pick up on the lessons that are coming from the eight districts and implement them elsewhere - making sure that there is a complete coverage on all the areas of the original programme.

On duplication of roles in Professionalisation of Teaching and Learner Welfare, Mr Mweli commented that both NECT and the stakeholders carefully cover the themes and ensure this does not happen. Both parties are working towards repositioning the sector to respond more adequately to goals and objectives of the NDP. This is the reason there has been engagement with NGOs and the private sector to move things faster and have a greater impact than the government can itself. In regards to the cancellation of Operation Phakisa meeting, what was cancelled was the launch. Operation Phakisa on ICT Education will be launched in four weeks. NECT is looking forward to the Operation to be an affordable plan that leads to concrete actions.

National Learner Transport Policy and Implementation Plan
The Department of Transport presented the approved National Learner Transport Policy and Implementation Plan. Learner Transport policy development started a few years ago as a result of the needs of students to get to schools; some of the challenges included precarious road conditions, unsafe and unsecure vehicles, uncoordinated services and unscrupulous operations. Right now the policy is at an implementation stage after having gone through a long process since the year 2012. The Learner Transport is regulated by the National Land Transport Act of 2009 and its supporting regulations, as well as the National Road Traffic Act and s regulations. In terms of the current state of learners’ transport there are: Operational issues: un-authorised, un-roadworthy vehicles, learners walking long distances, insufficient services and non-standardised tariff formula.  Planning issues: un-coordinated transport planning, travel plans do not meet the transport needs. Capacity issues: insufficient management, monitoring and law enforcement. Thus, the policy aims to provide a reliable and punctual service, with regulated operations to reduce the number of accidents, a coordinated approach in relation to planning and implementation, well maintained vehicles, viable and sustainable operations, uniformity of services and tariff structure and effective monitoring. The beneficiaries of the policy will be learners from grade R to 12 including learners with disabilities as defined by the SA Schools Act.

The key elements of the policy are:
- Institutional Framework for the implementation of learner transport:
National government will oversee the implementation of the policy in consultation of relevant stakeholders including provinces, municipalities and School Governing Bodies.

- Learner transport planning:
A joint planning committee must be established between the representatives of the provincial department of transport and education and the municipalities.

- Learner transport safety and security:
Vehicles have to meet the safety requirements of the National Road Traffic Act No 93 of 1996.

- Criteria for learner transport beneficiaries:
Beneficiaries for subsidised learner transport must be for a needy learner from grade R to grade 12. Subsidised learner transport must take into account existing public transport services.

- Service design for learner transport:
Taking into consideration roads infrastructure, pick-up/drop off points/stops and signage for the safe transportation of the learner.

- Procurement of learner transport services:
Only authorised operator with approved modes of transport shall be contracted.

- Remuneration of learner transport operator:
A standardised measure of remuneration for subsidised learner transport shall be based on total kilometres travelled. Factors such as road conditions shall be considered.

- Funding:
It shall be funded through provincial treasuries budget allocations.

- Modal integration:
Promote all modes in the transportation of learners, including cycling, walking. Must ensure that all modes are integrated and complement each other.

- Universal Design:
Vehicles transporting learners mush adhere to the requirements of universal design, especially those transporting learners with disabilities.

- Law enforcement:
Provincial Departments of transport and municipalities shall ensure that there is sufficient and efficient law enforcement to monitor the operations.

- Monitoring and evaluation:
An independent assessment shall be undertaken every three years on the impact of implementation.

Discussion
Ms D van der Walt (DA) expressed unhappiness with the presentation. The Committee was promised a re-visit and they never got to discuss the final draft policy. To hear that it was already passed by Cabinet is unacceptable. The DA party cannot conceive that two departments are accountable for the policy, it has to be one, and it has to be the Department of Basic Education as the DBE is the one that looks after the needs of its learners. There is a need to acknowledge the needs of the learners such as overloading, traffic regulation, road-worthiness, rather than just enumerating the problems as that is not going to solve anything.  How is the Department of Transport planning to improve things? Where is the plan for how the department is going to address the issues? Where are the statistics on accidents of people transporting children? How is the Department of Transport planning to get Local Government involved? Has the Department spoken to them? Because Local Government cannot even provide water to people, so how are they going to provide a rural road for a bus to travel on with children? Where are the figures for funding and infrastructure? The Committee cannot support the policy as it is right now as it is not written with the needs of the learners in mind, just looking at the laws of the road is not all of it.

The Chairperson called on Members to differentiate between the operational issues and the issues of the policy itself.

Mr D Mnguni (ANC) commented on the roads issue. What is the plan for Local Government to assist on this matter? In regards to monitoring, what is the role played by the school? What is the plan/strategy to follow with disabled learners? Where do we put them in terms of transport as they need specialised vehicles? What is the plan/strategy to address the payment of service providers? The problem with this arena is that one day students get picked up but the next day they might have to walk. Is there going to be a workshop for service providers? The concern arises from the fact that sometimes drivers do not know about the special care/protocol that needs to be followed when transporting children. 

Mr D Khosa (ANC) referred to the policy as being well drafted. He commented on the role of the Department on the rules of the policy, and stated that it oversees the part of the implementation that deals with access; especially considering the transportation of learners for long distances. He called for closer ties with stakeholders for better results.             

Ms H Boshoff (DA) commented on regulating non-subsidised learners, how is the Department of Transport going to address that issue? What is going to happen with the buses that are not optimal for the transportation of children? Who is going to be liable for the insurance of the vehicles - the schools or parents? Who is going to perform visual inspections of the roads and the vehicles? What is the plan/strategy to designate the pick up/drop off points? Who is going to be liable for the maintenance of the buses and vans (including tires, seats, windows, seat-belts etc) because it is clear that the parents do not have money to do so? Is there going to be a contract between the learner and the service providers?

Ms J Basson (ANC) said to the Department of Transport who is going to address the challenges of the conditions of the roads? What is the plan/strategy when it is time to contract the service providers, as not all transportation companies might want to transport learners? Also the Department of Transport must ensure the optimal condition of the roads before giving a bicycle to children. What happens in the case that service providers do not comply? Who is going to verify that buses are not overloaded and that children are travelling in safe conditions?

Mr C Msimang (IFP) said that there is a greater chance of being involved in an accident if the distance travelled is longer; even higher if the roads are not in good shape. He suggested that monitoring should be done by the DBE. Paving the roads is not a sustainable operation, there is a need for further collaboration and funding.          

Mr T Khoza (ANC) asked who will be responsible for monitoring learner transport? Are operating licences going to be required? Is the policy going to be presented to parents?

The Chairperson asked about communication within provinces. How are they managing available resources? How are they working together to ensure learner transport? Who is going to decide and what is the screening process to pick the learners that are going to be beneficiaries of the system? How does one ensure everybody that needs transport, gets it? The Department of Transport needs to acknowledge that learners depend on the system to access school.

Response
The Department of Transport replied that the learners' needs are being taken into account; and the Children’s Act was included as part of the policy. In terms of the role of Local Government, the Department of Transport cannot ensure their collaboration because that is beyond DOT's jurisdiction to determine whether they can help or not. The Department of Transport has created a specific structure and delegated specific functions to implement things from DOT's side; DOT merely relies on its own job.


DOT is more than aware of the current situation of roads and other issues, and it is planning to address most of them in the most effective way it can through its structures. That is why it is working towards fixing the deteriorated roads to make those roads possible to grant children access to school. The Department just wants to make sure that it provide a good service. Thus, the intention of the policy is to guide it into improving the service, to make sure the learners have access to school.

The Department of Transport has not had an enabling environment, and there have been several challenges and lack of funding, however the Department is trying its best. Provinces are informing each other and trying to work together to improve the service for learners. As expressed before, the sustainability of the infrastructure is very hard to achieve that is why DOT is working towards further collaboration with outside stakeholders.

DOT  said that the training of drivers has already been put in the guidelines of the documents (operational guidelines), all part of the code of conduct that will apply to both sides - service providers and learners. The Code of Conduct will be given to parents to ensure the learners' acknowledgement.  On the matter of insurance and maintenance of vehicles, the Roads department handles those particular expenses.

In conclusion, DOT said everybody should be accountable for the safety of the learners, parents, teachers and schools should every day ensure the condition of the vehicles is good and inform if there is a malfunction.

Ms D van der Walt commented that it is not that the Committee does not want the policy, it is that we want to be part of the monitoring and implementing process to ensure everything is working properly. The Committee needs to ensure learners are safe. She referred to the statistics that were presented in the report and asked for the source as she could not believe this small percentage of students are the only ones requiring the service. What is the reason for the decreased funding in Limpopo and Mpumalanga?

 Ms H Boshoff spoke about the possibility of putting teachers on the buses during the morning and the afternoon trips to ensure the safety and security of the learners during the ride. Not only to ensure the conditions of the vehicle are good, but also to control the children’s behaviour and avoid any bullying. She asked about extramural activities transportation – who is responsible for the coordination of the service in such event?

The Department of Transport replied that with regards to extramural activities, the schools are responsible for arrangements with the service providers. In terms of the statistics, the Department said they get them directly from the provinces during the quarterly meetings.

Mr Mweli, DBE Director General, called on Committee Members not to focus only on the constraints of the policy but to also look at the positive aspects and the impact that this policy can have. There are a lot of difficult issues that the colleagues from the Department of Transport are trying to address, so let us give them some time to try to resolve them.

The Chairperson thanked both Departments and the Members for the discussion.

The meeting was adjourned.

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