European Parliamentarians: visit by delegation

Basic Education

24 February 2003
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Meeting report

EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
25 February 2003
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENTARIANS: VISIT BY DELEGATION


Chairperson: Prof S M Mayatula

Documents handed out:
Education in South Africa - Achievements Since 1994

SUMMARY
This was an informal meeting between Members of the South African Parliament and Members of the European Parliament. The European Parliamentarians stressed that the European countries are interested in support and friendship with South Africa. Members of the SA Parliament acknowledged that the AIDS pandemic, nutrition, sanitation, teacher redeployment, resources, quality of education, school fees, overcrowding and curriculum reform are some of the more pressing issues the Department has to redress. They noted that South Africa has one of the highest rates of education investment in the world.

MINUTES
Mr R Van den Heever (ANC) highlighted the achievements made in this sector since 1994. He said that educational reform is a major part of the government's Reconstruction and Development Program (RDP) and that this process of life-long learning is driven by the systematic reform of the sector since the collapse of apartheid and segregated educational systems.

The establishment of one national body that is more equitable and financially viable is one of the many challenges. The AIDS pandemic, nutrition, sanitation, teacher redeployment, resources, quality of education, school fees, overcrowding and curriculum reform are some of the more pressing issues the Department has to redress.

South Africa has one of the highest rates of education investment in the world, with 20% of the budget being allocated for the Department of Education. This is approximately 6% of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In 2000, R51 billion was spent on education, compared to R31 billion in 1994. The poorest 40% of schools are allocated 60% of the budget.

There is a policy of free education in the public school system and private schools are allowed to levy their own fees. There is a level of government subsidy, but it is not yet enough to get all schools on an equal footing.

There are signs, however, of a steady improvement:
-There is a 68% improvement in sanitation and water supply since 1994 while 16% of schools are needy of these facilities.
-The number of learners per classroom has decreased from 43 to 35 since 1994 but 57 490 classrooms are still needed.
-Electricity, telephones, libraries and sports facilities have been upgraded and progress is being made.

Incorporated into the recently introduced outcomes-based education policy is a Higher Education Transformation Plan. This plan aims to achieve academic freedom, public accountability, curriculum reform and socio-economic development. The former Model C school system of the past has been split into two levels:
-Level 1 (Grade 1 to 9), which is compulsory. Here the focus is on getting the learner literate, numerate, critical and active. The development of the mother tongue is an important criteria at this early stage.
-Level 2 (Grade 10 to 12) sees the focus shifting towards the preparation of learners for institutions of higher learning. It is a fundamental departure from the past as specific work skills are nurtured.

Discussion
Mr Claude Moraes, Member of the European Parliament: United Kingdom, praised the success of the matric pass rate. He wanted to know what impact health is making on education, as well as how outcomes success is measured.

Ms Avril Doyle (MEP: Ireland) mentioned South Africa's tremendous strides so far. She said there needs to be a critical breakthrough in unrestricted access and resources. She recommended that although no country can really afford free education, on the second level it is recommended as the return on investment will work is way back into the monetary system.

Questions about the success of the black and coloured populations, language mediums and the teacher/student ratio were also raised.

Ms P Mnandi (ANC) responded that for so long the black schools had minor subjects. Due to the apartheid regime, the high rate of unemployment is inherited because of this improper and inferior level of education.

Ms Nzimande (ANC) referred to the amendment of the South African Schools Act in 2002. The Act implies that all teachers entering work for the first time should be employed by the Department of Education. They are also working on teacher development programs so that teachers can be re-skilled and that the terrible legacy of non-viable subjects can now be amended and addressed.

Mr C Aucamp (AEB) noted that the percentage statistics should be based on numbers of people not on numbers of schools. There are many small schools in rural areas as opposed to large capacity schools in the urban areas.

Mr R Ntuli (DP) thought that success is a transforming entity and depend on factors such as the child's background, stimulation, input from home. Teachers are still grappling with the hierarchical legacy, though there are teacher unions for these complex issues. The tide is turning and quality is steadily improving.

Mr Abrahams (UDM) said that free education is not viable given South Africa's socio-economic conditions. It seems that the developed world is failing SA. SA is calling for help, not hand-outs. Investors are needed in rural and poor communities. He noted that the Department of Education is taking over the nutrition scheme, which is in a dire state.

Mr Van den Heever (ANC) explained that there is a renewed focus on skills development for Grade 10 to 12 learners. From next year the starting age of Grade 1 learners would be six years of age.

Mr Mpontshane (IFP) noted that the mother tongue is important for developmental purposes. English is the language of the real world and many indigenous languages have not been developed to include all the terminology for subjects such as Mathematics or Science.

Mr I Vadi (ANC) criticised the fact that although a child cannot be denied access to a public school, it so often turns out that many public schools are still too expensive for the impoverished.
A special task team has been set up to investigate these issues. The subject of a Grade R is a voluntary initiative for those parents who deem it necessary.

Mr Vadi mentioned a few obstacles:
-The staff composition which is seldom reflective of the pupil demographic.
-The racial imbalance.
-There are 360 000 teachers; last year 1200 died of HIV/AIDS.

Mr Vadi could foresee matric outcomes stabilising over the next decade. The emphasis rests on quality.

Mr Molewa (ANC) talked about the injustices of Bantu education and how township schools hardly taught anything that was not culturally biased or localised. He declared that all people should learn the same things and that languages should be developed to an extent where any subject could be taught in any language.

Ms Mentor (ANC) discussed the Outcomes Based Education Program (OBE). It is split into specific academic outcomes and critical cross-field outcomes. Learners are assessed continuously by standard generating bodies, which are registered and monitored. Numerous funds are to be made available for youth development and learners are encouraged to give feedback in these groups. These initiatives are especially useful for the harnessing and affirmation of skills and credits for entry into higher education institutions.

She also called for one entry and exit point for teacher training, as well as uniform salaries.

The European delegation noted that they were impressed at the South African governments' seriousness and intent at improving the standard of education. There is a deep commitment to an issue which clearly contains many challenges. The AIDS issue was deemed a national crisis. The future therefore depends on the quality and development of the South African people.

The meeting was adjourned.

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