Matric 2015 results in Limpopo and strategies to improve 2016 results

NCOP Education and Technology, Sports, Arts and Culture

24 February 2016
Chairperson: Ms L Zwane (ANC, KwaZulu-Natal)
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Meeting Summary

The Chairperson raising some points she wanted the MEC of Education for Limpopo to respond to in the presentation since the Committee is worried about the decline in the Matric marks. Were more teachers employed since the Limpopo student population had increased drastically and were teachers adequately trained to teach the curriculum? She asked about the absenteeism of teachers and if unions are involved in this as found in other provinces. Was there a problem with teaching materials not being delivered and exam paper leakage?

The Limpopo Acting Head of Department presented the briefing on the 2015 Grade 12 results and the strategies to improve performance in 2016, providing an analysis of learner performance in 2015, factors affecting learner performance as well as interventions to improve this and a detailed action plan for 2016. The action plan was put together by different stakeholders to distribute responsibility and is followed according to deadlines.

The Committee commented on the need for a good principal who knows how to effectively manage the school and teaching, building good relationships between the department and its employees to ensure that unions do not take over, employing teachers who are passionate about children and education and coming up with creative ways to solve funding challenges such as asking the local mines to contribute instead of outsourcing. Their questions included what is being done about those responsible for the leaked exam papers, security in schools, the three schools which achieved 0% pass rate in 2014, underperforming circuits, and sanitation in Limpopo schools.

Meeting report

Opening Remarks
The Chairperson noted that the Select Committee is worried about the performance of some provinces including Limpopo which has shown a decline in its Matric results. She said the Committee is aware that the Limpopo student population increased drastically but it is not known whether the number of teachers also increased because that should have been taken care of. Further, the Committee is aware the MEC has just assumed duty and that he has unfortunately inherited the liabilities of the Department. The Committee also observes that the current HOD is acting.

The Chairperson said there would be many factors contributing to the decline of Matric results starting with the quality of the teachers, due to inadequate training and a lack of understanding of the content. Limpopo had problems with LTSM (Learning and Teaching Support Materials), and that books were not distributed and were later found in a storehouse. There were exam papers that were leaked. She requested an explanation about that. There is also the matter of teachers being absent, the MEC should explain to the Committee if it is because of unions. In other provinces the Committee has visited there is an issue of unions co-managing education with the Department so the Committee wants to know if the MEC is in charge in Limpopo. Yes, unions are a partner when it comes to labour but administratively it cannot take responsibility for everything that happens in the province. The non-negotiables are whether teachers are adequately prepared to handle the curriculum. In provinces that were visited, there were stories of teachers being absent especially on payday and Fridays. There are stories of teachers going to memorial services of union members and leaving students unattended. It used to happen in our days but we would send one representative from the school to the memorial service so as not to shut down the school because we knew it was illegal. Are trial exams still written?

The Chairperson said that dealing with all these issues would help in improving marks. On curriculum coverage, when drawing up the timetable, do circuit managers ensure each subject is given an adequate number of hours? If Maths is to be taught for eight hours, is it given eight hours or five or ten? The drawing up of an inadequate timetable causes a challenge with teachers not being able to cover the curriculum. She referred to the problem of the School Based Assessments which had inflated marks in some provinces. Do teachers have any integrity to submit such inflated marks? There are principals who are not performing for three years in succession, producing dismal results, but these principals are still in the system. Is this the case in Limpopo or are principals who are performing badly taken out of the system? These issues are raised so the MEC can touch on these in the presentation.

Comments by Limpopo MEC for Education
The Limpopo MEC for Education, Dr Ishmael Kgetjepe, said that their presentation will not necessarily cover all the issues the Chairperson had raised. They might have to come back to reply to some of the issues raised as the presentation focuses on the 2015 results and what they are doing this year. Some of the issues they are engaged with so they will reply to these when the presentation is done. The Minister was in Limpopo yesterday and they were dealing with some of the issues that were raised by the Chairperson. They do have challenges here and there but there are programs being put in place. The MEC handed over to the Acting HOD for the presentation and thereafter they could engage.

Limpopo Department of Education briefing
Acting Head of Department (HOD), Ms Beauty Mutheiwana, stated there was a decline in their 2015 performance, which they as a province are also not happy about, but they will not dwell on the failures but on how to pick up the pieces to ensure that come October / November when the exam process happens again, we have learners that are ready to give us our target which is 80% in our Limpopo Development Plan. The HOD covered the following in the presentation (see document for detail):

2015 Analysis of Grade 12 results
An overall 7% decline was suffered as compared to 2014. She compared the performance of each district on page eight of the presentation. As pointed out by the Chairperson, the number of students who wrote increased to 101 575 which contributed to the decline.

Summary of Circuit Performance
On circuit performance, when it says they have ‘performed’ it means they have achieved 60% and above. There is an increase in the number of circuits that did not perform in 2015.

Performance in selected subjects
She went through the performance per subject. In almost all the subjects there was a decline except in Economics and History where they registered an improvement. They also had progressed learners in the system and only 26.8% of these passed.

Factors that affect learner performance
Some of this information they received here was from markers and chief markers who identified what some of the problems were so that they can put programs in place.

Interventions to improve Learner Improvement
She noted that the previous day they had a presentation from the Gauteng Department of Education who shared some of their methods for monitoring and supporting schools.

Action Plan to Improve 2016 NSC Results
She gave an overview of a detailed action plan put together by the District Directors, the Curriculum Branch and Corporate Services who were ach asked what their contribution would be to improve learner performance. Come the next quarter an assessment will be taken of the action plan and each objective has a timeline.

The Limpopo MEC, Dr Kgetjepe, concluded that the key thing is what is being done about the leaked exam papers. They have been looking at where the leak happened and how it happened. A part issue is the delivery of exam papers at the centres.  It also has to do with the security over exam papers at the head office since there are renovations. We are looking at how we can learn from Mpumalanga and looking at the exam centres so that we do not have a repeat of this. Due to the number of vacancies especially in curriculum management which is because of the financial difficulties since 2011, there might not have been a focus on curriculum management and circuit managers. However, a number of vacancies have been filled, and we try to ensure the right people are in the right places. There is a lot of catch up that needs to be done from infrastructure to financial turnaround. They will be working with provincial treasury to see how they can get resources to do that. However a lot has been done.

The Chairperson said that the action plan is detailed and clear.

Mr M Khawula (IFP, KwaZulu-Natal) commented that with education what is important is the principal. You can have a bad MEC, you can have a bad district director, you can have a bad circuit manager but as long as you have schools properly managed, you have classrooms effectively managed in terms of teaching and learning, you do not have problems. What he wants to find out since KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Limpopo are the most rural provinces, the upward mobility does to a certain degree affect what happens in the classroom. Your best principal becomes your circuit manager, your best HOD becomes your principal, your best teacher becomes your HOD now you struggle to find someone to replace that good teacher who is no longer in the classroom as much, to what extent does that affect schools? One other thing is the timing, at what point do you advertise posts to ensure upward mobility does not have a negative effect. In fact this thing of subject advisor is new, for me it is not a priority; the priority is getting a good principal. Another important aspect is relationships, with the department and their employees. The relationship with unions who must deal with their interests in the right time and the right forum, so we do not have an issue of unions taking over as in some districts where unions say they are taking over. It is all a matter of relationships.

Mr S Mabusela Acting Deputy Director: Limpopo agreed that having a good supply of committed managers is fundaemental. There are many instances of upward mobility. As long as the principal is committed, and the HOD is also important. The HOD is the real day to day subject advisor. The Limpopo Department is committed to advertising posts in the province for principals and deputy principals and for the HOD.         

Ms T Mpambo-Sibhukwana (DA, Western Cape) said that they are involved in a strategy to restore the dignity of the learner and the basic right of education in Limpopo. She said what was found in other provinces was language teachers who were bursary beneficiaries were put in charge of maths classes.  They were not put in their right learning areas. She asked the MEC what is being done about the culprits who leaked exam papers in order to hold them accountable. The presentation did not refer to nutrition. Where do they cook, is it cooked in the right place and timeously, what are they eating, is it a nutritional diet or just starch, as this is important for learner performance, to keep them active in class. Also she did not hear the HOD talk about security in schools. Perhaps they could reply in writing. She is asking these question based on their findings in other provinces. Are there any computer centres where learners can look for Matric exam papers? How is the textbook delivery programme because it is always said the books are delivered on time but when you engage with learners you find three learners sharing a textbook. Were the right textbooks delivered? Are there enough because you find that learners stay far from each other and that causes fights and affects performance? Does the department do exit interviews? On the damage caused by storms, has there been community involvement because in other provinces there is community involvement? Do they experience water shortages as in other provinces and if they do, do they have boreholes?

The Limpopo Education MEC replied that water is a national issue now. With the drought, boreholes are drying up and the schools are affected. They are working with municipalities to resolve these challenges and provide water tankers. They do build cooking centres as they develop infrastructure. Different schools are at different levels where cooking is concerned. There are areas where cooking takes place in better facilities. Some areas have built nutrition centres donated by businesses; but they still have a long way to go based on their infrastructure.

Ms Onnica Dederen, Limpopo Deputy Director General: Curriculum Development, replied that with the leakage of the Life Science question paper, it is not known where the leakage happened as the investigation is still underway. There are two learners who were arrested and have to appear in court with regard to leakages. In terms of internal investigation, all officials who work at distribution points were interviewed and they will interview officials who did packaging at provincial level. Investigations are on and no officials are implicated.

Ms Cecilia Makondo, Limpopo Deputy Director General: District Coordination, replied about nutrition saying that they have adopted and circulated the safety tips and have trained the food handlers. The safety tips deal with the storage place and preparatory area and involves learners washing hands. They have been circulated to all schools. The menu has variances based on the preference of the provinces so that is what has been agreed on and they are using the menu strictly. They do serve on time but according to school timetables they need to be extended. They ensure all learners are fed by 11am

The Chairperson apologised but said that she had to leave. She asked Ms Mampuru to take over as chair. She said she has received a good sense of what is happening, and as a province they have not performed that bad collectively. She is worried about infrastructure especially the schools that were destroyed – she does not know if the Limpopo government has made provision for this, as this will affect performance again. The Committee will make a plan to visit Limpopo next quarter to have a clear picture. She appreciated the strides the MEC was making to correct the administration disaster. The problem with this country is that we all focus on Grade 12 when the problem is in the middle. She was happy when the HOD said they are paying as much attention to Grade R as to Grade 12. Some of the questions at the level of Grade 12 is work covered in Grade 10. What systems are in place to ensure teachers cover the syllabus because if the syllabus is not covered in those phases from Grade 8, then they will not have good performance? During our time as principals, you used to do curriculum management yourself as a principal: year plans, quarterly plans, asking for exercise books and observing teachers as they teach. She noted that the HOD is acting, she does not know when they will confirm the appointment of a permanent HOD because that affects the extent to which one can stand on authority. If you are acting, you are not taken seriously as when you are permanent. You may be able to answer some of the questions. Those answers that are not readily available now, you may provide a written response but there is a deadline for next Friday.

The Limpopo Education MEC replied that HOD is acting because the previous HOD was suspended and now they are in the process of appointed a permanent HOD. They have conducted interviews and are now doing due diligence.

Ms Makondo replied that on systems for curriculum coverage, we take it all educators are there to teach learners and all circuit managers must ensure that teacher is doing quality teaching during monitoring. There are accountability sessions with circuit managers in the district with district managers.

Ms L Mathys (EFF, Gauteng) thanked the Provincial Department for their presentation and said she wants to give them a lecture but wants to keep it short. Education is so critical and sometimes they sit and make decisions and forget they are making decisions about children, the most vulnerable group in society. And if their children were in some of these schools that are falling apart, they would make a different decision. She encouraged the MEC to have members in his department who are passionate about education and children and it will show because when you have that drive it will show not just in Limpopo but in all provinces. There needs to be political will, they are the future of this country. The three schools in 2014 who received 0% pass rate, how did they perform? The thing about outsourcing equipment in schools, is you end up having interdicts and then children do not have desks at school. This is silly and it should not happen. Those are basic services, insource it. We must be more creative in solving our problems. Your presentation did not say how many schools still have pitched toilets and from her research it is 2 500. That is a lot and given that Limpopo is responsible for the death of a six year old in 2014 who went to his death because of those toilets, that should have changed. Limpopo is the host of a number of mining towns, they must maximise that. They cannot always go to National Treasury and make the excuse that there is not enough funding. Go put pressure on the mines. They steal our land, they take our water, our electricity, the water runs under our townships and people are suffering so go put pressure on them, say you want a school upgrade, when can we do it and how. We must start being creative; part of the mining charter is that they are supposed to be developing the communities where they are mining and most of them are not. We need to get more of them involved. There are basic things they can do like fix up classrooms and provide desks. You must do that since there are a lot of mining houses there and they would be happy as EFF to come help you mobilise companies to contribute. There is lack of political will. The Minister set a deadline for all provinces to submit their plans for norms and standards on 29 November 2014. None of the provinces had done so until June 2015. Limpopo, will you reach your deadline for 29 November 2016, if not why not.

The Limpopo Education MEC replied on political will, that the department did not have requisite capacity to submit that report. The issue is whether there are resources to implement that plan, sometimes they only get half of the budget that was allocated. In terms of storm damage, they have asked Basic Education to assist and they will be able to get some resources. When appointing people, you think they are passionate, they sell themselves but once on the job, they behave differently. He agrees that more passionate people are needed who can work beyond the call of duty in the sector. They want to remove the backlog on toilets. They were one of the provinces at the centre of that incident caused by poor sanitation. According to the Human Sciences Research Council they still have 1 000 as a backlog. Now that commodity prices are going down a lot of the mines in the communities are rationalising, some of them might be closing. The first place to suffer is their corporate social responsibility; but we do have mines and we must engage.

Ms Dederen replied about the three schools that got a 0% pass rate in 2014. What they did with these small schools was to move the Grade 12 candidates elsewhere. What was happening is that these schools had very few candidates, one school had nine candidates, the other seven and the third has\d three candidates. What they are doing is when they have small schools, we know performance will be low, so they are moved to schools with more candidates because the problem is that these learners do not have teachers who teach them the seven subjects they require because the enrolment is low. They do not qualify to get more staff so it is found that there are many subjects that are not taught and it is not good to have a teacher that is a jack of all trades. In 2015 these schools did not have matriculants as they were moved to other schools so that they are taught.

Ms T Mampuru (ANC, Limpopo) said the Committee is impressed and appreciative of the challenges the Limpopo Department has had to face and that they are also able to put measures in place to improve 2016 results. As one of the most rural provinces, they ought to be getting more budget because of the vastness of the area and the migration. So what is being done to ensure that when budget is being allocated, Limpopo is considered. What are they doing in terms of underperforming circuits? Last year the people who work for the Back to School programme were not allowed to enter a school there. The principal refused as the district director told him not to allow them in. The problem is that we hire people who are not passionate, as said, they are just happy to have a job. Educators are robbed by being placed into administrative roles. This creates the gap in vacancies. However, as mentioned, the Committee is coming to Limpopo and they would want the department to have a comprehensive report.

Ms Dederen replied on underperforming circuits, saying that in terms of curriculum they are supporting the districts. The analysis is already completed and we will support them in terms of subject content and training of educators.

The MEC thanked the Committee and agreed that there are areas they must work on and improve and they will provide a report upon the Committee’s visit.

Ms Mampuru said that they should not panic, Rome was not built in a day. They are a young democracy with challenges. One thing which is important is monitoring. We need to work together.

Meeting adjourned.

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