Department Annual Report 2001/2; Budget:briefing

Basic Education

10 March 2003
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Meeting report

EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
11 March 2003
ANNUAL REPORT 2001/2; BUDGET VOTE: BRIEFING

Chairperson:
Mr S Mayatula (ANC); Acting Chairperson: Mr I Vadi (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Presentation of Annual Report 2001/2
Presentation on Budget Vote 14

SUMMARY
The Department of Education presented an overview of the Department's Annual Report 2001/2. In 2001/2002, there was increased emphasis on creating equity and improving the quality of learning conditions, improving standards and learner outcomes, and deepening reform of institutional processes in all nodal areas. The Budget Vote was also presented. They noted that in the Education budgets from 1997/98 to 2004/05, an increase in real terms had taken place only from 2001. Originally, the Department was not an implementation agency but it had grown from 200 to 800 posts.

MINUTES
Mr Thami Mseleku: Director-General, Department of Education, presented an overview of the Department's Annual Report for 2001/2, the second year of Tirisano. He noted that all the Department's activities should be looked at against the background of Tirisano and its programmes:
-HIV/AIDS.
-Infrastructure.
-Access of disadvantaged and girls to gateway subjects.
-Maths and Science Strategy (102 schools).
-Values and anti racism in education.
-Language in Education implementation programme.
-Implementation of White Paper 5 (Early Childhood Development) and adult literacy.
-Implementation of Higher Education Plans.
-Rationalisation of technical colleges.

In the first year of Tirisano (2000/2001) the Department deepened systemic reform through policies which were targeted and prioritized. In 2001/2002, there was increased emphasis on creating equity and improving the quality of learning conditions, improving standards and learner outcomes, and deepening reform of institutional processes in all nodal areas.

Analysing the Department's performance, Mr Mseleku mentioned restructuring the FET system as particularly positive - the process of rationalising 152 technical colleges into 50 multi-campus Further Education and Training (FET) colleges was almost complete. Other positive accomplishments included the following:
-In the area of higher education (HE).
-Curriculum Implementation.
-Revised National Curriculum Statements (RNCS).
-Process of NCS for FET started.
-Unit Standards for Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET).
-Improvement in learner achievement.
-Improved participation in Mathematics and Science.
-Improved Infrastructure delivery and planning to meet President's injunction, for "no learning under trees".
-Reducing the number of under-qualified and unqualified teachers.

Mr Mseleku said that more attention needed to be paid to HIV/AIDS, but Life Skills has been integrated into the new curriculum. National and provincial co-ordinators and financial managers have been employed and provincial spending has increased. The absence of reliable statistics on supply and demand, lack of capacity (provincial and national) and absence of integrated planning were challenges in dealing with the pandemic.

Other areas needing improvement were in literacy, although partnerships with NGOs and universities had been established and volunteers had been mobilised and trained. The organisational form of the South African National Literacy Initiative (SANLI) needed to be clarified and there was also a need to re-focus it and define "volunteers" in the South African context.

In the area of Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET), attention needed to be paid to the registration of Unit Standards and simplifying the ABET Act. Existing programmes are too formalised and there is a need for creative implementation and partnerships, inter-departmental cooperation (between the Departments of Labour, Agriculture, Correctional Services, Local Government and Education) and more recognition of prior learning (RPL).

Also needing improvement were the areas of race and values in education, although a manifesto on values, education and democracy was launched after the 2001 conference of the same name. Projects aimed at instilling the values captured in the manifesto into the policies and practices of the Department. Increased incidents of racism in schools were a challenge. SA schools should reflect the ethos and values of the manifesto.

Nodal area interventions, the sites identified as being best for delivering of services to schools, were very varied in terms of their resources and infrastructure. Minimum standards for district offices would need to be determined, and there was a lack of integrated planning and delivery as well as some confusion about geographical areas.

National and Provincial organisational effectiveness needed improvement but backlogs in staff records were cleared. Mr Mseleku said that poor documentation created an opportunity for crime such as fraud and he singled out the Eastern Cape in this regard. There has been an improvement in Learner Support Material (LSM) delivery but there should be more integrated planning between national and provincial levels.

In the area of finance, Mr Mseleku said that, for the first time, the auditors had given a Qualified Audit Report, because of loans to HE institutions in the 1960s. The auditors' report had also mentioned under-spending of R118 million (1.44%) because of PFMA and Conditional Grants. Internal audit and internal controls should be strengthened. Mr Mseleku said that there was an anomaly in that the Department was to monitor provincial spending by scrutinizing the provinces' reports. In general, though, under-spending was due mostly to staff appointments being delayed because of restructuring.

In conclusion, Mr Mseleku said that the quality of learning conditions, standards and learning outcomes had improved and that the Department was deepening the reform of institutional processes.

Discussion
All questions were answered successively upon completion of questioning.
Ms Mentoor (ANC) said that physical infrastructure still needed much improvement, particularly in maintenance of existing building.

She also said that statutory bodies such as the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), were not moving very fast, especially with respect to recognition of prior learning (RPL). She suggested an indaba on assessment.

Regarding access, she said that rates had improved but that attention now should be paid to retention of learners.

She asked what would happen to the unspent funds referred to. She asked that more attention be paid to the area of sexism in values in education.

A Member (ANC) said that he personally saw more teenagers than adults at adult education centers. While he was pleased about this development, he wondered what had become of the adults in need of literacy training.

He mentioned that he had also had experience of personnel files being lost. In 1999, his personnel file was not to be found and neither was his superior's.

He said that he had heard that contractors sometimes supplied Department learner support material (LSM) to private schools.

Mr Moonsamy (ANC) said that more attention should be paid to AIDS and values. He asked what kinds of schools incidents of racism took place in. Was it in former model C or disadvantaged schools? He expressed concern at the long distances rural learners were walking. He asked for a report on the functioning of School Governing Bodies (SGBs) and for figures rather than percentages on the number of un- and under-qualified teachers.

Ms Nana Mnandi (ANC) wondered whether racial incidents occurred because staff rooms were often not representative of the South African population while the learner enrolments were a true reflection of the nation.

She also asked whether school and higher education drop-outs were mostly girls.

Mr Mseleku agreed that maintenance of infrastructure was a challenge. Some provinces had not made sufficient provision for that item but the problem was being dealt with.

He felt that the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) did not need review or an indaba because SAQA had been reviewed by consultants appointed by the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). The Department was engaging with the problems this review identified, e.g. in NSBs, Standards- Generating Bodies etc. Labour and Education Departments would respond to the review.

He said that Mr Soobryan would comment on student retention in schools and higher education but that it was not an option to write off student debt. The universities of Fort Hare and the North had succeeded in reducing theirs, which showed that it could be done. Higher education was not free but those who were unable to pay would be subsidised.

Unspent money could not automatically be redirected; the Department had to apply for a rollover to the next financial year. Sometimes this was refused and the money went back to the central government. (Being automatically allowed to keep it would encourage under-spending.)

With regard to the plea for more attention to be paid to sexism, he said that there were programmes to combat racism, sexism and to promote school effectiveness and that Ms Gugu Nxumalo had recently been appointed to oversee these programmes. Integrating gender awareness in the curriculum meant that 'many other things' should be in place, and some provinces didn't even have a person in charge of the HIV programme. He was confident that concrete programmes would be in place in 2003/4.

He said that the first group of Adult Basic Education and Training Level 4 learners had recently been produced. The Department would look at the capacity of adult education centres as adults needed different kinds of training to general education. There was much adult training in the workplace though, which was contextualised and the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) had figures which reflected this.

He acknowledged that missing personnel files was a growing problem which was being investigated with the aim of breaking a crime syndicate.

He said that the problems in delivering Learner Support Material (LSM) was that the supply chain of identification, procurement and delivery had insufficient supervisory capacity which had been corrected. Also SMMEs had been allocated tenders for the supply of these goods but lacked creditworthiness with publishers and banks so they had problems in delivering. In remote areas, problems existed with infrastructure and corruption. In some cases, parents were asked to pay for books that had been supplied for free.

School Goberning Bodies had been reviewed and the findings would be made known this year.

The number of un- and under-qualified teachers had dropped from 120 000 to 65 000 between 1996 and 2002. Another 24 000 were currently registered for further education.

Mr Mseleku agreed that the demographics of staff rooms was a challenge but he did not expect to see massive changes because there were not many vacancies in the education sector. Change would happen through natural attrition and School Governing Bodies, when filling posts should do so in line with representation.

He said that throughputs in higher education were about 50% and an increase was needed. Academic Development Programmes were now financed by the fiscus.

Mr Bobby Soobryan said that infrastructure maintenance had three problems - infrastructure, planning and delivery. Provinces should allocate 10% of their budgets on maintenance but were reluctant to do so, and wanted to spend all on new buildings. In some cases schools were classified as adequate but were actually so degraded that it was a waste of money to maintain them and they should be replaced. Maintenance was not differentiated in the budget and fixing a leaking tap fell into the same category as building a new roof, creating another problem.

He said that retention related to gender, grade and area. Boys dropped out earlier than girls but the reasons for this were not known and were being investigated.

Retaining Learner Support Material was both a systems and a consciousness problem. Those who misappropriated resources should be aware that they would be caught and punished. Books were now classified as capital items and not consumables. Asset registers were also being improved.

Walking long distances to schools was affected by the fact that transport subsidies had declined in 1997/8 but were now increasing. Transport subsidies and hostels should be a solution to the problem. Although adequate budgets existed for these resources, they were not converted into resources because the bureaucracy was inadequate. The Department was determined to fix it because if they did not spend the budget, it would be reduced in future, further decreasing capacity.

In closing Mr Soobryan said that a number of factors had come into play and transformation had reached 'critical mass'. He expected to see vast improvements in the next few years.

Afternoon session
Briefing on Budget Vote 15
Mr Thami Mseleku, Director General of the Department of Education, conducted the presentation with the following explanatory remarks:
-Regarding the graph headed "Education budgets from 1997/98 to 2004/05, he said that an increase in real terms had taken place only from 2001.
-Most of the budgets in the graph of the "National Education Department's budget from 1997/98 to 2005/06" comprised transfers to Higher Education (HE) institutions.
-The marked decline in 2004//05 in the "National Department's budget excluding HE and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS)" was because of conditional grant funding ending.
-The same applied to "Conditional Grants and Earmarked Funds: 1997/98-2005/06" and "operational Budget: 1997/98 - 2005/06".
-The increase in the "Personnel Budget: 1997/98 - 2005/06" was due to a review of the structure. He explained that, originally, the Department was not an implementation agency but it had grown from 200 to 800 posts.

He highlighted some of the increases in the budget by programme:
-Programme 1: (Administration) R 16 195 000.
-Programme 2: (Planning and Monitoring) R 37 146 000.
-Programme 3: (General Education) R 37 695 000.
-Programme 4: (Further Education and Training) R 26 237 000.
-Programme 5: (Higher Education) R961 928 000.

Discussion
A Member (ANC) asked for clarity about school funding for orphans and children in distress.

Mr Mseleku said that, with respect to school funding norms, rural fees were so low that rural schools had no funds to uplift their schools. Most AIDS orphans were in rural schools and were exempt from paying fees. The principals of these schools, however, often approached the funders for school fees, and funders, understanding the difficulties of such schools, found it hard to refuse.

Mr Moonsamy (ANC) asked about special services.

A Member (ANC) asked how people would access information on the funds administered to victims of apartheid as defined the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Mr Mseleku said that the interim recommendations of the TRC were that the victims should be given access to housing, education and health care. School principals were not familiar with the recommendations of the TRC and would not be able to respond. There was therefore a need for a nationally co-ordinated programme, partly to gather data on victims and, for example, what they meant by "education". It could mean anything from skills training for adults so that they could find employment or primary education for their offspring.

Ms Mentoor (ANC) asked that future budgets account better for inclusive education. She also asked if it was possible that HE institutions were manipulating enrolment figures to increase subsidies. She felt that the presentation had failed to address the issue of policy impact.

Mr Mseleku said that HE institutions were compelled to report annually on their student numbers and profiles and it would be very difficult to manipulate these figures as monitoring was adequate.

Ms N Mnandi (ANC) asked for more information on Fulbright scholars, for example, their age, gender, urban/rural location and so forth.

He said that the Fulbright scholarship commission had looked for students of a particular calibre but now necessary skills, race, gender and geography would be selection criteria. Further details would be provided in the course of the year. There were other programmes focussing on particular groups, such as the Carnegie Foundation, which focused on women.

Mr I Vadi (ANC) asked whether a breakdown of provincial allocations was available.

Mr Mseleku said that provincial budgets and allocations would be difficult to present now. If the Equitable Share Formula was used, it would show what allocations should be, but provinces used discretion in their allocations. Only two or three had prepared their budgets but as soon as the remainder were prepared, he would arrange for it to be collated and circulated to the Committee.

The Chief Financial officer for the Department gave additional input to Mr Mseleku's answers. He said that 'special services" were defined as anything for which there was not in-house capacity, e.g. photocopy repairs, research, ECD kits and so forth. Regarding the breakdown of provincial budgets, he said that budget formats had just been standardized, to make comparisons easier.

Transfer payments were made in cash to provincial education departments for their conditional grants. They were ruled by the PFMA and controls were strict, comprising quarterly reports, auditor's reports, annual reports, payments in tranches and so forth.

A Member asked if there could be a toll-free number for TRC victims to access information on reparations. Another ANC speaker asked if more psychologists and counselors could be employed.

Mr Mseleku said that, with respect to TRC reparations, they were looking at outreach mechanisms and were preparing to implement them.

He said that a White Paper, which had been concerned with the provision of school counselors and psychologists, had been written some time ago. In the meantime, AIDS had taken up the Department's attention but they were returning to its recommendations.

Ms Mentoor asked what happened to a school when a farm was sold and the Department had an agreement with the previous owner.

Mr Mseleku said that the agreement between the provincial Education Department (PED) and the farmer was supposed to pass from owner to owner but new owners sometimes resisted this in practice. Some provinces had opted for public schools only and some for hostels.

He said that discriminating against learners whose home language was not English required the intervention of the PED.

Mr Vadi asked what happened to school building funds that were held over. Was the Department on course with the building of schools?

Mr Mseleku said that the school building programme was on track and the under-spending in 2001 would show improvement in 2002. The Thuba Makote Project piloted the construction of nine multifunctional school but delivery had been slow because of the consultation with grassroots communities. Delays had also been due to a lack of con-ordination between public works departments, PEDs and the Treasury.

Ms Mentoor asked if the Department got what it asked for in terms of outcomes-based education.

Mr Mseleku said he thought that Ms Mentoor had over-simplified the question about curriculum implementation and OBE but he would be able to answer her after another review. At the moment, he thought that resources were adequate.

The Chairperson reminded Members that the budget just discussed would be voted on in May, so they had plenty of time to scrutinize it.

The meeting was adjourned.

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