The National School Nutrition Programme report was in response to a petition submitted by Limpopo residents about the nutrition at their schools. The meals that are served at schools are not always healthy, and storage of such food, especially fresh produce, is poor. The petition also discussed the tenders and MP van der Walt who had received the petition stated that what was a concern was that sometimes the people who get these tenders are not from the community, are merely enriching themselves, or who are somehow related to the staff.
The Department emphasized the importance of monitoring in all districts and expressed its plans to intensify this monitoring process. In 2015, the province has advertised a new tender for the NSNP that closed on 2 July 2015. The contracts for the current wholesalers were extended to 31 December 2015. The process of awarding new tenders is underway. The DBE is monitoring the procurement process and it, in conjunction with the provincial Treasury, will ensure that all prospective bidders are vetted before contracts are awarded
Ms Palesa Tyobeka, Deputy-Director General: Planning and Delivery Oversight, presented on School Readiness for 2016. The Education Sector has, over the year, strengthened its monitoring of system readiness to ensure an effective start to the academic year. Monitoring was split into two parts – monitoring ahead of the closure of the academic year and monitoring at the beginning of the academic year. The monitoring is common amongst all provinces and this has been agreed upon by the provincial departments. Also, the Department requires the registration of all learners into the system by September of the preceding year. This assists the Department to prepare for the upcoming year by establishing which schools have a larger than normal number of applications as well as those that have had an outmigration of learners.
The National Education Evaluation Development Unit (NEEDU) Deputy CEO explained that the purpose of NEEDU was to assist in the creation of a quality basic education system through the establishment of a countrywide credible, sustainable and holistic performance review system which focuses systemically on the state of teaching and learning in classrooms, on monitoring, administration and support functions at the school, provincial and national levels. There are two main reasons NEEDU was established. The institution is independent of all institutions responsible for the delivery of schooling, and thus has more space to be objective in its judgments. It is also better placed to evaluate all four levels of schooling, from national DBE, through the provinces and districts, down to individual schools.
The Chairperson pointed out that the first briefing was the result of a petition from Limpopo residents introduced by Ms D van der Walt (DA) on nutritional issues in schools. The meals that are served at schools are not always healthy, and storage of such food is poor. She also referred to tenders that were given to family members of school officials. She invited Ms van der Walt to introduce the issue at hand.
Ms van der Walt decribed her visit to Limpopo where the temperature was about 34 degrees in the early morning hours. Most schools do not have proper storage for food such as refrigerators. It is not healthy to keep fresh food for weeks, or even months, in such temperatures without proper storage to keep them fresh. Sometimes the food is so hard that the people preparing the food cannot even cut through it and, as a result, have to throw it away. Also, the Department needs to set proper criteria for tenders. She is bothered by the fact that sometimes the people who get these tenders tend to be people that are from out of the community, and are just enriching themselves or are somehow related to the staff. She gave an example of a staff member’s daughter getting a contract even though she lives in the Free State. How on earth does that happen? How can one provide daily food supplies for children in the Limpopo province all the way from the Free State? The Government needs to take steps to ensure that this does not happen. And when asking for statistics, Ms van der Walt said that the government could not trust the Limpopo Department of Education.
The Chairperson reminded Members that the petition is not saying that food is not supplied. The issue is about the quality of food and contracts given. She then turned to the Department for its response on the petition.
National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) briefing
Ms Neo Rakwena, NSNP Director, gave information about the current feeding status in the Limpopo province. The Department of Basic Education (DBE) conducted a monitoring of the programme in September, 2015 and found that it was well implemented. Eleven contracts were extended through to December, for wholesalers who deliver food to the schools. There is current research by the Department of Planning Monitoring and Evaluation, which will confirm the status of the programme in Limpopo and other provinces. The Department emphasized the importance of monitoring the programme. They have collaborated with the Department of Health (DoH) through environmental health practitioners for monitoring of preparation areas and training on food safety, health, and hygiene. Ms Rakwena explained that this was a strategic move as this is an area that the DoH specializes in. In addition, the Department had piloted an electronic monitoring solution, with help from Vodacom, to help in this process of increasing monitoring capacity.
In response to the petition, Ms Rakwena focused on each of the claims made. The first was the claim that in October 2014, two learners passed away after allegedly ingesting contaminated food provided by the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) in the Sekhukhune district. The Director explained that in November 2014, the DBE and the Limpopo Department of Education had conducted monitoring of 45 schools in the province. The allegations of a learner who died at Kwena Chuene Primary School were found to be untrue. The Principal did confirm that four learners were hospitalized but there were no deaths. The allegation of a learner who died at Makgane Primary due to food poisoning linked to the NSNP was also found to be untrue. While at a meeting organized by the School Governing Body, to discuss non-feeding, the child’s parent refuted this allegation.
The second allegation was that 1600 learners, from six separate reported incidents, got sick after consuming contaminated school food since October 2014. Ms Rakwena reported that the learners who had been affected were taken to the local hospital, treated and released with no serious consequences. The affected schools were advised to remove all contaminated food products. Training workshops were held for volunteer food handlers in the Sekhukhune district. This intervention by the DBE and DoH assisted the programme to resume in schools.
The third allegation was that between October and December of 2014, in Vhembe and Mopani district, 38 034 learners did not receive their food due to the non-delivery of foodstuffs by the Department suppliers. The Department reported that they were not aware of the non-delivery of food and that no reports had been filed about it either. During a monitoring of the wholesalers by the Department, it was discovered that delivery was consistent, ensuring that feeding continues with no interruptions. In October 2014, the services of two of the thirteen wholesalers were terminated in the Sekhukhune district due to the sub-standard food products found at some schools during monitoring. The other 11 were requested to extend their services to the affected schools so as to not to disrupt feeding.
The fourth allegation was in relation to the Capricorn and Sekhukhune districts where from January to March 2014, 14 006 learners had not benefited from the NSNP. Meanwhile, the Department had underspent by R59 264 000 in the 2013/14 financial year. The Department reported that the non-feeding in the Sekhukhune district was due to the food poisoning that had been addressed earlier. In Capricorn, the service provider had failed to deliver the foodstuff and had, consequently, received warning letters. The Department is, of course, aware of the under-expenditure of the province due to delays in submission of invoices by some service providers and challenges with the BAS accounting system.
Finally, the Auditor-General report had highlighted failings in NSNP that included rotten fruit and vegetables unfit for human consumption, potentially expired food items being delivered to schools with expiry dates not visible on food products and no proof of monitoring of food handlers was found. The DBE said that work is in progress with the Limpopo Department of Education to address the findings the Auditor-General report. The new technology based monitoring solution seeks to address the gaps in monitoring such as expiry dates.
In terms of facilities, Ms Rakwena said that they have been working hard to ensure that this is addressed. They have analyzed the issue and it is going to be difficult to get all the schools up to par. There is no additional budget that the DBE is anticipating. The Department wants to involve the business sector in the process of getting equipment like mobile kitchens and proper storage. Some businesses have come on board. Game has committed to giving the department ten mobile kitchens annually. Currently, only one kitchen has been provided. This is an ongoing matter however.
The Department reemphasized the importance of monitoring in all districts and expressed its plans to intensify this monitoring process. In 2015, the province has advertised a new tender for the NSNP that closed on 2 July 2015. The contracts for the current wholesalers were extended to 31 December 2015. The process of awarding new tenders is underway. The DBE is monitoring the procurement process. DBE, in conjunction with the provincial Treasury, will ensure that all prospective bidders are vetted before contracts are awarded.
The Chairperson Ms Rakwena for the responses to the petition. She noted that the province was doing a lot to ensure that the children were fed and said that was something to be proud of. That did not mean they were forgetting the issues at hand, however, which were a concern. She was glad that they emphasized monitoring because that is very important. Before Ms van der Walt responded, she asked DBE to explain how the electronic monitoring pilot in Limpopo works and how successful it had been so far.
Dr Granville Whittle, DDG: Social Mobilization and Support Services, explained that the Department approached the Vodacom Foundation to ask for a mechanism that would allow the Department to monitor in real time, remotely. The Foundation has donated programmes to a total of 27 schools which are currently participating. The devices are mobile phones which the principals can use to take a picture of a child sitting down with a plate of food. The devices have a time and date stamp so that a picture cannot be sent more than once. The picture is then uploaded onto a server that the local and national departments can see. Nearly 90% of principals upload pictures every day. The few issues that the Department has had with this was that some schools in the Sekhukhune district could not get a regular signal. But Vodacom is putting R36 million into enhancing their services in this area. This programme is good because then they monitor that the schools are serving food on time. Currently, the system is just working on a paper basis. The Department wants to have an mobile resource management (MRM) system so that if the school is late say three days in a row, the district monitor gets a red alert to tell her that a certain school needs help. Dr Whittle emphasized the importance of the district manager working as a help and not an enforcer. If there are issues, the district monitor would then work with the school to ensure that they resolve the issue instead of going out and pointing figures. Volunteers do not always know how to measure the amount of food to cook and so would need help more than reprimand. In terms of infrastructure, Limpopo is different. Officials say that Limpopo people prefer to cook outside. In a lot of schools they say they do not want a proper kitchen and would need to get this communicated to the authorities.
Ms van der Walt replied that her comment about not trusting the province was not personally directed at Ms Rakwena, but about the provincial officials as a whole. She also wanted to clarify that her complaint was not about schools not having kitchens, but the actual storage of produce. She used Mesina School as an example which she says has six gas plates in a small room. This is also where they put their vegetables and you cannot just store them in there for weeks. It is no good. But, she does not think there is anything wrong about cooking outside. She also complained about warehouses which were not always sanitary and get all sorts of funny things in the mealie meal. And she has seen this. She said the quotes on the statistics about the number of children was not part of her petition. It was from a memorandum. Her petition talked about the march that was held, the signatures and prescribed menu. In her petition she never referred to any numbers. But, she wants to know where that comes from. She does not dispute what was said. She is disappointed because she never got an answer from the Limpopo school district about the two tenders even though it says in the petition that the response was needed at that specific meeting. She told the Department that she will absolutely follow up on any answers that involved “we’re working on” or anything like that. She also wants to see the list of the 27 schools where there is monitoring in progress so that the Committee can go see for themselves.
To Ms van der Walt, the Chairperson said that she thought that the Department had responded well to the petition. They had broken it down and went over the details requested. She asked the Committee to focus on the issues at hand – wholesalers, food storage – and not about the tenders. That is a separate issue.
Ms van der Walt said that she agreed with the Chairperson but that in the end, the Committee just needed to go out there to see for themselves. You cannot say that requests have to stop where they are launched because sometimes they do not get answered. She explained that she had written a few letters to the Minister which had still not been answered. But, also, they now have a plan for tenders going out. What happened to the senior person who was giving out tenders? Is she facing any punishment? Because, if not, the Department has to take action.
Ms H Boshoff (DA) referred to page five of the presentation where they talk about intervention and the thirteen wholesalers that were engaged. Were the wholesalers forewarned about the visits? On page six, it is indicated that the Department is aware of the under expenditure - but still they want to centralize the provision of food. This is a clear indication that something is wrong in the Department. She also referred to how the Department had said they were going to intensify monitoring. The Department had also complained about the lack of human capacity. How are they going to monitor without humans?
Mr D Mguni (ANC) said that he appreciates what the department is doing. The basic idea is to ensure that children have food. The issue being discussed is the capacity of the programme and strengthening the programme. He wanted to know if the programme was allowing teachers and food handlers to taste the food before feeding it to the learners. This would be a good way to prevent feeding children unhealthy food.
Ms C Majeke (UDM) was concerned about the water situation in the schools. She asked if this was also checked. Could this, not the food, be the problem some children were getting sick? Is the water from tanks or taps? For example, in some schools in the Eastern Cape the children get water from the river and ordinary wells that is used for cooking. She asked the Department to check the water situation at schools. She referred to the issue that had been raised about decentralizing the programme. She hoped there would be a way the Department could monitor whoever was actually doing the feeding. Sometimes the principals do the shopping and cooking themselves with the help of family members. This programme was meant to empower communities. She accepted it would be a challenge but one needed to keep an eye on it.
Mr H Khosa (ANC) said that he welcomes the response from the Department and the Democratic Alliance and Ms Van de Walt for coming up with the petition. He thought it was important to welcome and accept their response as they are indicating that out of their findings, the food was not the cause of the illness. He also wanted to double check with Dr Whittle whether the decentralizing is a decision or a proposal? If proposal, what steps are being taken? He expressed concern with the storage facilities and said that fixing them was an urgent issue. Does the Department have a timeframe for that?
Ms Boshof said she was very happy to hear that Game was going to help with providing the kitchens. She wondered, however, if the Department would put money aside for their maintenance? They might just degenerate without care.
Ms J Basson (ANC) was impressed with the steps that have been taken to address the problem. This shows that the Department is working. In awarding tenders for the nutritional project, whose main purpose is to alleviate poverty, Ms Basson showed some concern. She said that the tenders go to wholesalers who she considers as the “haves”. Should not the programme be helping to empower the “have-nots”? Also she wanted to know if the wholesalers were trained on delivery. Do they know that the schools do not have good storage? That the schools cannot take too much if they cannot store it?
Mr Mguni asked who the wholesalers are and are they addressing the job opportunities of the unemployed youth and women?
The Chairperson said that the core of the whole programme was storing fresh fruit and vegetables. But the fundamental problem is that produce provided to learners should be fresh. What can the Department do to get to that point? The problem is not necessarily getting food to the learners anymore. The new challenge is making sure children do not eat food that has gone stale.
Dr Whittle replied that the major focus of the Department is to provide a nutritious meal every single day to the children. In Limpopo, wholesalers deliver fresh fruit and vegetables once a week. But, when these are already ripe when they are delivered, they are not going to last a week. The Department therefore needs to strengthen monitoring and training of food handlers. He wants to ensure that they do not spend all their money administering and monitoring this issue because it ironically takes away from the children. The Department also have any permanent employees in this area because they do not currently have the funds for it. The Department has done a national assessment on a national level to identify the 30 worst schools in the country in terms of storage. Some schools have gas inside their kitchens, which is a safety hazard.
In answer to Ms Boshof’s question, Dr Whittle explained that the visits to the wholesalers were unannounced. The question of centralizing or decentralizing depends on how well it works in each province. In Limpopo there was a proposal to decentralize but there are a lot of schools that said they could not handle a decentralized system. The issue of communities benefiting from the programme is being taken seriously by the Department. Dr Whittle said that they are trying to get young black farmers, who used to provide produce for Lesotho while the country had a drought, to now provide that same fresh produce to the NSNP. But, the Department is worried about intermittent supply. As much as they want to help the local communities, they also want to ensure that the children’s food supply is consistent. Sometimes using local people may affect the reliability of the delivery.
The Chairperson thanked Dr Whittle for his explanation. The part of the petition relating to tenders was not touched on at all and she asked the Department to get more information on it. She suggested having the response sent to her in writing and she would circulate it instead of holding a meeting because, officially, this is the last committee meeting of the year.
Dr Whittle said they could do that. He said that they are still waiting to hear back from Limpopo.
The agreement was that the Department would report back in writing in seven days. The Committee would finalize their report at that time.
School Readiness for 2016: DBE presentation
Ms Palesa Tyobeka, Deputy-Director General: Planning and Delivery Oversight, explained that the Education Sector has, over the year, strengthened its monitoring of system readiness to ensure an effective start to the academic year. Monitoring was split into two parts – monitoring ahead of the closure of the academic year and monitoring at the beginning of the academic year. The monitoring is common amongst all provinces and this has been agreed upon by the provincial departments. Also, the Department requires the registration of all learners into the system by September of the preceding year. This assists the Department to prepare for the upcoming year by establishing which schools have a larger than normal number of applications as well as those that have had an outmigration of learners.
Different provinces have structured their admissions in their own unique way. The presentation shows different admission periods for each province (see document). Plus, each province has taken certain steps towards preparations for the new school year. The biggest challenges faced by the schools includes late registration, informal settlements, the influx to English medium schools, and insufficient schools. MsTyobeka said that this continues to be a problem. It usually results from parents’ ignorance or disregard of deadlines. The resettlement of many families during the school year also provides a challenge for the admission deadlines in schools. English medium schools are viewed as better schools and this ends up giving them a large number of students. These are just a few of the reasons for the challenges that the schools are facing in trying to prepare and hit deadlines for the upcoming school year.
The Department has not heard about when the Limpopo Education Department will be sending out management plans to schools. The deadline for most provinces was 30 September but the Department still had not heard back from the Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Eastern Cape provinces which had been disrupted by a labor union. The letters have been sent out in Mpumalanga now. This information was not included in the handout as the Department just heard back.
Ms Tyobeka went on to explain that planning within schools was also monitored. After the closure of admissions, schools begin with a number of planning processes which need to be in place ahead of schools closing at the end of the academic year. These include developing class lists in relation to how much space the schools have, compiling learner profiles for each of the learners, and putting in place the Screening, Identification, Assessment and Support (SIAS) implementation plan.
A sector plan is developed by the DBE and the provinces just align their plans with this provisioning. According to the sector plan, delivery of materials to the district/provincial warehouses should be during the period of September to October 2015. The Eastern Cape has not prioritized top-ups but have assigned a managing agent to ensure the plans are approved. The Eastern Cape is running a month behind and has not placed stationery orders. The explanation is that they are having budgetary challenges. Ms Tyobeka says that the Department is working really closely with the provinces and will continue to report to the Committee on their performance. Free State, Gauteng and the Western Cape have had no issues. KZN is not part of the central procurement plan that has been proposed but the province is still working towards an end of October deadline. Limpopo is working with the sector plan and the DBE hopes they will meet the deadline. Mpumalanga and Northern Cape are working fairly well and will probably meet the end of October deadline. In North West there is a bit of a challenge but they are hoping that by end of November, their books will be in place. The DBE is monitoring that closely as well.
The central procurement programme, as proposed in 2015 by the DBE and National Treasury was accepted by provinces and currently they have three provinces – Free State, Gauteng and the Northern Cape province - participating in it for the supply and distribution of school stationery. The Gauteng, Limpopo, Northern Cape and Western Cape provinces are participating in the distribution of school textbooks. After due consultation the DBE has decided that the procurement plan should implemented in 2016 for Grade 11, 2017 for grade 12 and 2018 for grade 10.It is believed that implementation of grade 11s in 2016 will adequately prepare learners for implementation of grade 12 in 2017 as this will be the cohort of learners who will be sitting for the 2017 National Senior Certificate. Procurement of the Grade R pack started in the second term and all catalogues for South African Sign Language will be finalised by the end of the year.
The Chairperson expressed skepticism about the number that were provided. She wishes the percentages presented on the slide on retention and retrieval were true.
Ms van der Walt noted about furniture that the President had said, in 2014, that 800 schools in the Eastern Cape would have furniture. That furniture is not there. In Limpopo, R34 million budgeted for furniture for the current financial year has not been spent. A large number of students are sharing chairs, desks or sitting on the floor. Even in Gauteng, which has been used as a great example, schools have horrible furniture. In her visit to KZN, she noticed there were not enough desks for every child. How is this possible?
Her second question was about braille. Tomorrow is exactly 100 days since this Committee went to Limpopo's Setotolwane Secondary special needs school and nothing has changed. She is going there again tomorrow and expressed heartbreak at their immense needs.
She drew attention to page 11 of the handout where they talk about central procurement of stationery. At the bottom it says certain provinces are participating in the distribution of school textbooks. It is now October and this was supposed to be done by end of September. She points out that although it says that the books should be delivered by the end of October, she is skeptical about the delivery actually happening. She asked whether the province is going to be awarding the tender at the end of September when another part of the presentation says they just ordered. Can the Committee get a list of where the Department will store the books and stationery?
Mr Khosa wanted to know how often the findings of the year are used to inform the readiness of the schools. Sometimes there is dilapidated infrastructure that only needs maintenance. Why is the Department so focused on new buildings and not maintenance? He also said that according to the sector plan, the Department had indicated it should be done by September. What is the situation now?
Mr G Davis (DA) address enrollment. He said that the deadline was noted as September at the beginning of the presentation. Was there a list, by province, of the schools who had missed the deadline for registration? He then addressed textbooks. Most provinces say that they can meet the October deadline, and the Committee will just have to give them the benefit of the doubt on that. However, Mr Davis wanted to hear if the Department could give a guarantee that all learners will have school books by the beginning of the 2016 school year. Curriculum planning was next. He was concerned at the lack of statistics when it comes to this. There are statistics about whether the targets were met not. Where are the statistics? Have targets been met? For example, how many schools have an assessment plan that is ready for next year? He said that if they could not measure it, they could not manage it. He also wanted to know why the training programme was different in each province – how come it was not uniform? Have all school governing bodies received the training? Is there an assessment to see whether this training is actually making an impact?
Mr Mguni talked about how on their annual visits, the Committee usually comes across challenges with curriculum delivery. Most schools have no way to monitor whether the curriculum is being delivered correctly. Does the Department have a way to ensure that by the beginning of the school year, they can do this? There’s also a problem with HR. There is a big transfer of teachers who just take off mid-year – leaving the school unable to replace the teacher in the middle of the year. What is the Department doing about this? He also expressed concern that scholar transport also sometimes just gets cut off in the middle of the year. He calls their attention to page 9 of the handout which says that Gauteng is at 61% in the placing of stationery orders. Are they going to meet the target by the end of October?
Ms Boshoff also spoke about furniture. She said that many times school are closed and then the delivered furniture is just dumped there. Has the Department analyzed how many of these closed schools have old furniture that is just lying around? She asked if the children get registered timeously for exams. She had been surprised sometimes when talking to children who said that they did not have their exam timetables yet – two weeks before their exams. She also asked if all schools were up and running with the South African School Administration and Management System (SA-SAMS). How many monitors and markers does the Department have for marking and monitoring such as the delivery or books and such.
Ms Basson asked what is not being done in Limpopo and Western Cape that makes them always behind with compliance and in other areas? She also complimented them on retrieval but said it still needed help.
Mr Khoza said that officials flood the schools at the beginning of the year. She asked how far the Department is in vetting fraudulent qualifications. She said that this issue was not just with foreign teachers but that locals can falsify their qualifications. Does the Department have a way to verify these? He questioned the use of funds by the municipalities. There was no point in parents paying municipality fees when the schools did not have clean water and other such necessities. In terms of post establishment, is the lack of planning affecting students during the school year? He asked the Department if they could guarantee the quality of the furniture in the schools? Sometimes these are broken or stolen or so old that they break.
Ms Tyobeka responded by explaining that the presentation identifies areas that they will be focusing on when monitoring. So they are just checking to ensure that the schools are ready for the new year. The readiness assessment is done by DBE and the provinces. The Department has strengthened the power of the district directors because they are closer to these issues and are more credible than a more centralized national body. They have also strengthened the role of DBE by using Integrated Performance Management System (IPMS) coordinators. Retention and retrieval is a major area of focus when doing monitoring. DBE is asking questions to see what is happening as contrasted to what is being reported by the schools.
The Department is running an audit about furniture in the Eastern Cape currently. They have found, during monitoring, that some schools do not have tables and desks. A team of 24 is working on this in the Eastern Cape – 12 from DBE IPMS coordinators and the other 12 provided by districts in that province. The audit will focus on the list from the legal resource team that outlines the top schools with challenges in regard to furniture. They have a four month programme which will start on 4 November where they are looking at the availability of seats and working spaces against the number of enrolled learners, the amount of fixable furniture, and the amount of furniture that cannot fixed as well as excess furniture.
The Chairperson stopped Ms Tyobeka to say that she is afraid that they are missing the point of making the schools take responsibility for certain things. Broken furniture should not be the responsibility of DBE. Why cannot the schools just fix a broken piece of furniture? She is disappointed because the Department does not ever talk about the responsibility of the schools themselves.
Ms Tyobeka responded that thought this was true and said that the Department is trying to strengthen local accountability by district managers, circuit managers, and even principals in the schools. She agrees that principals can handle menial tasks like that.
On action taken about previous findings, she said that the DBE team has done really well in responding to issues and reassigning funds to appropriate areas when necessary. IPMS coordinators work with circuit managers to go to different schools to assist in areas where the schools had previously failed. In response to Mr Davis’ question about training, she said it is actually fairly standard in all districts. The only problem is that some districts may have not received it yet.
Ms Tyobeka could not say that all learners will have textbooks at the beginning of the year. She said that it was certainly the intention but there are some unavoidable issues such as some schools getting extra learners after the books have been ordered. In response to the question about HR, DBE had found that some districts are struggling with the constant renewal of contracts every three months. She would prefer to respond later in writing about markers and their readiness. Finally, on the apparent contradiction in the document about meeting deadlines, she said the presentation was sent the Committee before some reports were received. So, some provinces that were not ready then are ready now. This is why there was a contradiction.
The Chairperson said that she would really prefer it if they had real, up to date information. The Department has to figure out a way to send updates and current information to the Committee so that they are all on the same page. She then asked to be excused from the meeting as she had a commitment she could not miss. She appointed Mr Khoza as Acting Chairperson.
Mr Davis asked to have the meeting not go later than 1pm as they all had commitments to attend.
National Education Evaluation Development Unit (NEEDU) presentation
Dr Sibusiso Sithole, NEEDU Chief Operational Officer and Deputy CEO, explained that the purpose of NEEDU was to assist in the creation of a quality basic education system through the establishment of a countrywide credible, sustainable and holistic performance review system which focuses systemically on the state of teaching and learning in classrooms, on monitoring, administration and support functions at the school, provincial and national levels. There are two main reasons NEEDU was established. The first is that the institution, which is independent of all institutions responsible for the delivery of schooling, has more space to be objective in its judgments. It is also better placed to evaluate all four levels of schooling, from the nation DBE, through the provinces and districts, down to individual schools.
NEEDU’s plan of evaluation involves investigating all phases of schooling and all districts over a five-year cycle. In the first semester of 2015, NEEDU followed up with a sample of 158 schools to see if they had followed recommendations made by the institution in 2012 and 2013. The results are still being compiled. Since its inception, NEEDU has presented 694 school reports to principals, 100 district reports to District Directors, 54 provincial reports to the provincial Heads of Department and, two national reports to the Minister. NEEDU prepares and presents annual reports to the Minister who publishes them at her own discretion. The Minister is however, required by the Constitution to present the NEEDU reports at the next Ministerial meeting, and where necessary, apply the provisions of section 8 of the National Education Policy Act, 1996. This Act stipulates that should the Minister find anything unconstitutional with any school, the school is required to provide a plan to remedy that problem. This needs to be done within 90 days of the ministerial notification. In the past, the Department has taken NEEDU recommendations very seriously. They have taken action to develop and implement the recommendations. Plans are currently in progress to set NEEDU up as a government component known as the Office of Standards and Compliance for Basic Education (OSCBE).
Mr Khosa asked about the plan to run investigations on a five-year cycle. What happens after the five years are up? How big is NEEDU’s staff and are they able to complete the tasks required of them? He also wanted to know the kind of relationship that NEEDU had with the provinces – do they take NEEDU serious? Are there any steps taken when provinces do not cooperate?
Mr Mguni asked if NEEDU had offices and coordinators in the provinces. He asked where NEEDU gets its funding and what kind of influence those funding it have on the operation of the entity.
Ms Basson inquired about the performance of the districts. Are they functional? Is the teaching and learning at the quality level it is expected to be at? What would NEEDU’s advice be on how to fix any problems observed throughout the country?
In answer to Mr Khosa’s questions, Dr Sithole explained that first cycle was focused on writing, arithmetic and improving mathematics. The second cycle was then going to be looking at the programmes that the Department is implementing and whether they are working or not.
To answer Mr Mguni's question, NEEDU does not intend to have provincial offices. They are trying to keep it as a small group. Currently they only have 28 people - Six are at the head office while the rest of the 22 are out in the field. The 22 out in the field have an idea of how the schools are doing and report back to the head office. Dr Sithole said that the focus of NEEDU is on the quality of teaching and learning. The districts do not have enough curriculum advisors. They recommended that the Heads of Departments at the school level needed to be strengthened and supported so they can, in turn, support the teachers. In terms of math and science, the content was missing a couple of years ago. The Department is pushing a programme called 1+4 to help train teachers in this area.
Mr Mguni wanted to know the best way to handle the transfer of teachers. The rules are that teachers have to stay in place for no less than three months. In reality however, teachers are free to move whenever they want. This is what hampers the quality of the education in schools.
The Chairperson said that this would be something that NEEDU would need to look into. He then thanked all in attendance for attending and the presenters for their preparatory work. He thanked the MPs for trying to keep shape to the Department.
- Report to Speaker of Parliament on Democratic Alliance (DA) Petition to Limpopo Department of Education on National School Nutrition Programme
- National School Nutrition Programme: Department of Basic Education presentation
- School Readiness 2016: Department of Basic Education presentation
- National Education Evaluation and Development Unit presentation