Department of Basic Education on its 2016 Strategic and Annual Performance Plans, with Deputy Minister

Basic Education

05 April 2016
Chairperson: Ms N Mokoto (ANC) (Acting)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Basic Education briefed the Committee on its 2016 Strategic and Annual Performance Plans. Beforehand, the Deputy Minister gave an overview of the school envioronment and mentioned the following achievements:

  • Grade R participation had improved phenomenally and currently more than 95% of learners were in Grade R, and this should be close to being offered universally to all learners by next year.
  • Participation of learners in the ages 7-13 was phenomenally high and certainly the best on the Continent and amongst the leading nations of the world. There was a 99% retention rate, and clearly the problem was with the FET band. The Department must look closely at why we lose so many of our learners in Grades 10, 11 and 12 and this was something that the Committee may want to reflect on at another time.
  • Important but often neglected were the wonderful strides made in gender participation. Girl learners participated in larger numbers than boy learners, the retention rate was higher and overall girl learners were surpassing boy learners in terms of achievement. This was quite remarkable in the background of our young democracy.
  • The Department had always identified that inclusive education was important and issues of disability were something it had to continually perpetually confront with a lot of courage and gusto. Sign language was part of the curriculum, and the sector was doing reasonably well with Braille and the training of deaf or sign teachers. He personally believed that much more needed to be done but significant, tangible steps had been taken and the Department constantly reminded its counterparts in the province to pay particular attention to issues of disability.
  • The Department had done extremely well with regard to school fees and 8 out of 10 learners attended no-fee schools and those that attended fee-paying schools but were indigent were exempt from paying fees. So technically we had a free education system, which was something to be celebrated.
  • The school nutrition programme was cause for celebration. Of about 12,6 million learners, the Department could feed daily 9,3 million learners. Some schools were creative and went beyond the one meal and provided breakfast as well, which was something the Department could look at. The Eastern Cape was an example of turning disaster into triumph for their nutrition system had collapsed a few years ago. Now it was decentralised, it was community based and thousands of women had been empowered with training. Utensils and kitchen facilities were provided. The Eastern Cape ran one of the more efficient nutrition systems and many lessons could be learnt.
  • The Department had prepared the draft bill concerning the South African Schools Act and dealing with various issues. Certain areas required some type of engagement, amongst which was the appointment of principals. There was broad agreement that the appointment of principals and deputy principals should not solely be in the purview of governing bodies. There should be certain requirements for competencies, achievements and qualifications. The Department had a draft and once there was agreement it could be introduced.
  • With regard to the Annual National Assessments, the Department believed that the new model should be finalised sooner rather later and engaged with all unions in this regard but the decision would be by the Department, which would then engage with all stakeholders. This was not something to only finalise in the third term, but should hopefully finalise within the next six weeks.

During its briefing, the Department admitted that it had not met the objective of every child owning a textbook for every subject in every grade. The Departmenton rural schools and this directorate covered multigrade schools. It was looking at resourcing the Directorate even more and making it more functional. 2016/2017 was the last financial year for the Kha Ri Gude project. Currently 4,2 million learners were covered from a target of 4,7 million. The fact that Treasury had started reducing the funding for Kha Ri Gude might potentially undermine the aim of reaching 4,7 million. The project was struggling to cover 500 000 learners in this financial year. On teacher recruitment and deployment, the Department was looking to ensure that the Funza Lushaka bursaries were not compromised by the challenges experienced. On teacher development and professionalism, the Department’s focus in the past two years, and going forward, was to increase the number of teachers enrolled in professional development programmes, particular with regard to learners with special needs. The Department and five teacher unions all agreed that the Annual National Assessment must be administered, but the Department was currently reviewing the frequency and the instrument that would be used.

Members raised concerns on the issue of competency of principals. Was there a plan to assist those principals already in the system? Would there be assistance for those deemed incompetent? What was the time frame for the introduction of the performance contract for principals? Was the delivery of textbooks in accordance with the court ruling achievable? Members were concerned about replacement of unsafe schools and the sanitation, water and electricity targets; and that the Departments in Provinces were guilty of unnecessarily closing schools, which put an additional burden on dignity and family, and community values. Such neglect was the fault of the Department, not the learners or their families. Was home language teaching for grades 1 to 6 compulsory or a choice for the parents or child? How would it be implemented? The performance indicators on financial matters in the report were very concerning. Both the financial statements of this year and the prior year, and the compliance to legislation figures were very concerning. The Acting Chairperson was very worried about the Early Childhood Development programme. The programme would cease to exist in the next financial year but, according to the documents, National Treasury was saying that some of the programmes would continue to run within the Departmental budget. One of the issues with Early Childhood Development was getting the capacity within the provinces to run these programmes. Were people going to lose jobs? Were any jobs going to be affected with the decrease of the allocation of personnel because that was also worrying?
 

Meeting report

Election of Acting Chairperson
Mr Llewellyn Brown, Committee Secretary, welcomed the Deputy Minister and officials of the Department of Basic Education. The Chairperson, Ms N Gina (ANC), had tendered apologies and Mr Brown called for nominations for an acting chairperson.

Ms N Mokoto (ANC) was elected Acting Chairperson.

Opening Remarks

The Acting Chairperson explained that it would be a short meeting because a lot of developments would be taking place in Parliament that day. This was unfortunate for the Committee, but if issues were not addressed thoroughly Members should propose a second leg of this meeting to deal with outstanding matters.

Ms D Van Der Walt (DA) complained that as an expensive briefing meeting; it was not value for money.

The Acting Chairperson thanked the Deputy Minister for joining the Committee and suggested that he begin the presentation with opening remarks before handing over to the Director-General of the Department. The meeting would be limited to two hours but she was confident that the Department would be able to complete the presentation within that time.

Overview by Deputy Minister

Mr Mohamed Surty, Deputy Minister of the Department of Basic Education (DOE), tendered apologies for the Minister, who was unable to attend due to being abroad at a conference in the United Arab Emirates. She had requested that he convey her best wishes to the Committee. He also thanked the Committee for the hard work it did, particularly in regard to oversight. Although this kept the Department busy with requests from the Committee it was important to have a link between public representatives and the people on the ground, and the Committee was an important conduit. The Director-General, Mr Mathanzima Mweli, and the Chief Financial Officer, Ms Ntsetsa Molalekoa, would give the presentation on the Annual Performance Plan (APP) and the budget process. The Department had aligned its programmes with the National Development Plan (NDP) as well as the Medium Term Strategic Framework and the non-negotiables that the governing party had adopted at the outset, all of which were part of the action plan and set out in detail in the NDP. So this alignment had taken place. He briefly reflected for the Committee how they had proceeded as a sector in order to summarise whether they were progressing or regressing. He highlighted certain elements within the schooling system that may have some significance:

  • 0-4 years’ old: although this was an area of the Department of Social Development, due to the Department’s responsibility of early childhood development it was important to note that in 2002 only 8% of learners were participating in ECD facilities, and in 2014 this had risen to 48% and was currently sitting at around 60%.
  • Grade R participation had improved phenomenally and currently more than 95% of learners were in Grade R, and this should be close to being offered universally to all learners by next year.
  • Participation of learners in the ages 7-13 is phenomenally high and certainly the best on the Continent and amongst the leading nations of the world. There was a 99% retention rate, and clearly the problem was with the FET band. Clearly we have to look very closely at why we lose so many of our learners in Grades 10, 11 and 12 and this was something that the Committee may want to reflect on at another time.
  • With regard to the FET band, we at least have the alternative the TVET colleges and, from this year, a vocational stream and next year would be introducing an occupational stream. This was an important element due to the artisan skills the DOE wanted to introduce and had taken the bold step of introducing technical mathematics and science.
  • What were important but often neglected were the wonderful strides made in gender participation. Girl learners participated in larger numbers than boy learners, the retention rate was higher and overall girl learners were surpassing boy learners in terms of achievement. This was quite remarkable in the background of our young democracy.
  • The Department had always identified that inclusive education was important and issues of disability were something we had to continually perpetually confront with a lot of courage and gusto. At least we had sign language as part of the curriculum, and were doing reasonably well with Braille and the training of deaf or sign teachers. He personally believed that much more needed to be done but significant, tangible steps had been taken and the Department constantly reminded its counterparts in the province to pay particular attention to issues of disability.
  • With regard to complaints, it was quite incredible that, according to a survey conducted, complaints by the public concerning education, with access in particular had dropped significantly. While there might be problems with schools in particular areas with overcrowding et cetera, the general concern has dropped significantly.
  • The Department had done extremely well with regard to school fees and 8 out of 10 learners attended no-fee schools and those that attended fee-paying schools but were indigent were exempt from paying fees. So technically we had a free education system, which was something to be celebrated.
  • The Department made strides with regard to infrastructure and the ECD programme had helped significantly. The Committee would remember the difficulties the DOE had in the beginning but it developed capacity in the Department, ensured that service providers did their job more adequately and with better planning were able to deliver almost a new school a week. The Western Cape had so far received at least 16 schools, and there was another six on the cards. He invited Members to visit one or two of these ECD schools to get a sense of the quality of the infrastructure, which far exceeded the norms and standards that the DOE adopted.
  • There had been a bit of a lull with regard to the ECD programme. In the Eastern Cape they had merged 193 schools, and there were another 204 schools that would have been gazetted for closure. These had been effectively closed but not legally. The Department was looking at another 2000 schools. This would certainly improve the PP and post-provisioning norms, better money for infrastructure, transport, the quality of education and a range of things. Sadly an application was received for four schools to say that they were opposed to the schools being closed. The first had three learners, the second ten, the third 11, and the fourth 23 learners. This defied reason and logic to basically go to court to keep these schools open to litigate in this regard without following the normal process. The Eastern Cape had become a litigant’s paradise; everything that goes wrong was an opportunity for lawyers to milk the system. Although the litigation had been reduced significantly as a result of interventions, the Department had sent two dedicated lawyers to the Eastern Cape to deal with matters and they liaised with stakeholders and had made a huge dent in terms of the high frequency of litigation.
  • The school nutrition programme was cause for celebration. Of about 12,6 million learners, the Department could feed daily 9,3 million learners. Some schools were creative and went beyond the one meal and provided breakfast as well, which was something the Department could look at. The Eastern Cape was an example of turning disaster into triumph for their nutrition system had collapsed a few years ago. Now it was decentralised, it was community based and thousands of women had been empowered with training. Utensils and kitchen facilities were provided. The Eastern Cape ran one of the more efficient nutrition systems and many lessons could be learnt.
  • In terms of curriculum reform, the Director-General would expand on the three-stream model. In the near future changes would be happening with regard to ICT. The Department had the rapid result programme, Operation Phakisa, which dealt with several areas: infrastructure, connectivity, devices, professional development and curriculum content. All the experts and stakeholders put their minds together and in the near future there would be a digital textbook per subject per grade across the system. The DOE was beyond 50% in digitising content. The Department arranged with private service providers to host the DOE e-cloud on their system and the data downloaded would be free of charge. This was unique to the world. Telkom together with Pearsons were working very hard with the DOE to make that happen. This would mean the ability to download curriculum content on your smart phone, laptop, IPad, and computer. With connectivity, which was aimed for 2019, every child at school would be connected and the entire education landscape would change dramatically.
  • For the first time in recent years, the Committee would receive a report from the South African Council of Educators (SACE) regarding the continuous professional development programme. They started off quite well but it was quite limited as it started with principals and deputy principals. This has now expanded to include all educators and this mass participation with constant engagement with professional teacher development could only improve the quality of education. SACE did wonderful work and there were now 143 teacher resource centres across the country, 72 of which were connected with highly sophisticated connectivity. All personnel have been trained, which was remarkable.
  • The DOE had already prepared the draft bill concerning the South African Schools Act and dealing with various issues. Certain areas required some type of engagement, amongst which was the appointment of principals. There was broad agreement that the appointment of principals and deputy principals should not solely be in the purview of governing bodies. There should be certain requirements for competencies, achievements and qualifications. The Department had a draft and once there was agreement it could be introduced.
  • Although participation had increased in Mathematics, Science and Technology more needed to be done in promoting these subjects. There was a dedicated branch in the Department to address this issue. Dedicated funds were also available to all provinces. Unfortunately provinces had not been utilising these resources effectively in the past, but they had shown some significant improvement. All provinces, including the Western Cape quite surprisingly, were not utilising these resources but have now shown improvement. The 4+1, and in some cases the 8+1, had worked extremely well in preparation for educators.
  • With regard to the annual national assessments (ANA), the Department believed that the new model should be finalised sooner rather later. The DOE engaged with all unions in this regard but the decision would be by the Department, which would then engage with all stakeholders. This is not something we should only finalise in the third term, but should hopefully finalise within the next six weeks.
  • Our schools had done really well in the moot court competitions. South Africa won the international moot court competition, defeating the Americans. The South African finalists appeared before the Constitutional Court. The Committee would be interested in the problem statement of this year which basically reflected on the occurrence of the 40th celebration of the Soweto Uprising and whether indeed the picture of Hector Peterson should be displayed. This raised issues of language and freedom of expression getting learners to look at their basic rights in a relevant way and looking at how they could relate to the 40th anniversary in a way that had meaning, purpose and value for them. The Department had the benefit of retired Constitutional Court Judge van der Westhuizen who was willing to help the process and guide it. The Department was grateful that he had made himself available to assist with grading the essays and providing training. A team of people was assisting with training. This was an important achievement. This was also the 20th year of the Constitution and the Department had placed the Preamble to the Constitution in all workbooks so every learner had a copy of it. This was important to raise as 54 million Preambles have been distributed to all learners. It was critical to recognise the value of our Constitution because we are a Constitutional Democracy. The Constitution is the supreme law and indeed we are committed to the rule of law.
  • The Department’s health programme was going reasonably well.
  • The Kha Ri Gude programme yielded positive results and the programme should come to an end, but 4 million adults were beneficiaries.
  • Funza Lushaka did extremely well. Some 13 000 young educators were recipients of this programme.

Briefing by Department of Basic Education
Mr Mathanzima Mweli, Director-General of the Department, presented the Department’s Strategic and Annual Performance Plans.

Mr Mweli noted that reading, one of the merged priorities from the aligned mandates remained extremely important in the light of the DOE’s performance. The Department was waiting for the results of the SACMEQ, the regional study, and more tests were administered toward the end of 2015. It would take about four or five years for these results to come out. The LTSM programme was doing well and universal coverage was over 90%. However there were still schools in some provinces that experienced challenges with the provision of LTSM. The Department had not met the objective of every child owning a textbook for every subject in every grade. He reminded the Committee that in the SACMEQ results of 2007, the result coverage for Maths and Science was between 36-38% but that had drastically changed and was now over 90% coverage.

The Department now had a directorate focused on rural schools and this directorate covered multigrade schools. The DOE was looking at resourcing the Directorate even more and making it more functional. 2016/2017 was the last financial year for the Kha Ri Gude project. Currently 4,2 million learners were covered from a target of 4,7 million. The fact that Treasury had started reducing the funding for Kha Ri Gude might potentially undermine the aim of reaching 4,7 million. The project was struggling to cover 500 000 learners in this financial year.

Arts and Culture and Languages remained a focal point, and the Department was working with the Department of Arts and Culture in providing the equipment, training and teachers, and making sure that learner participation in these subjects increased. The National Senior Certificate results of 2015 showed increased learner participation in the Arts subjects. In Maths, Science and Technology, the Department was implementing a grant and intended to increase the participation rate of schools offering these subjects. .

On teacher recruitment and deployment, the Department was looking to ensure that the Funza Lushaka bursaries were not compromised by the challenges experienced. On teacher development and professionalism, the Department’s focus in the past two years, and going forward, was to increase the number of teachers enrolled in professional development programmes, particular with regard to learners with special needs.

The issue of competency of principals went beyond a competency assessment for principals and school management teams. In terms of infrastructure, it was a matter of concern that there was no firm commitment or decision between the Department and Treasury for the two outer years, ECD in particular. It should be matter for concern and the Committee should reflect on this. The likelihood that the ECD allocation would be decentralised to Provinces was a concern.

The Department and five teacher unions all agreed that the Annual National Assessment (ANA) must be administered, but the Department was currently reviewing the frequency and the instrument that would be used.

Ms Vivienne Carelse, Deputy Director General of the Department of Basic Education, continued the presentation to focus on the five programmes that made up the key focus areas. Under the Strategic Objectives and Indicators section of programme three, she noted that one of the challenges with the Funza Lushaka programme was the placement of new graduates.

Ms Ntsetsa Molalekoa, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the Department presented the financials. The R50 million allocated to the Kha Ri Gude programme had been shifted to the Second Chance programme. Funds were shifted away from the Department as requested by National Treasury through Cabinet. The total amount to be taken away in the current MTEF was R1, 025 million.

Discussion
Mr H Khosa (ANC) referred to slide 12 of the presentation on the issue of competency of principals. Was there a plan to assist those principals already in the system? Would there be assistance for those deemed incompetent? What was the time frame for the introduction of the performance contract for principals?

The Deputy Minister replied that the competency of principals should be applied equally to those in the system and those who intended to become principals. As per usual in the legislation there would be a transitional period for qualifications to be acquired. This would have to be a reasonable period of time. In the Western Cape and Gauteng, principals already signed performance contracts. The Department was currently waiting for the signature of one union before performance contracts were agreed to. But there was no reason why provinces could not already make performance contracts a requirement.

Mr D Mnguni (ANC) referred to the statement that 97-100% of textbooks would be delivered to schools. This was to comply with the court ruling, but was this delivery of textbooks achievable?

The Deputy Minister responded that the Department was often embarrassed by the non-performance of certain provinces to deliver textbooks. However there was a difference between central and regional (province-based) procurement. Workbooks were centrally procured, which was more economical, and delivery rate also exceeded 99%. However, textbooks were not uniform among provinces and, given the reality of migration and the enormous investment in professional development, the time had come for a minimum requirement to be uniform. This did not prevent augmentation. The Department had experience of this with the Shuttleworth Foundation’s mathematics textbooks for Grades 10, 11 and 12. They were universally accepted across all nine provinces. When the hybrid textbook for Maths, Science and Technology textbook in Grades 4, 5 and 6 were introduced two provinces took the view that they had the right to choose. However the Department said they were getting this textbook for nothing, the quality was excellent, practitioners across the provinces had been responsible for creating it, and it was digitised. Interestingly, all provinces were now using these textbooks. There was closer movement toward having a uniform single textbook per subject per grade. Opposition to central procurement over regional procurement had almost disappeared, because provinces realised that this could still save money for provinces. The money stayed with the provinces and was not taken by the national department. For example, last year stationary was procured by several provinces centrally through the Treasury. There was huge potential and opportunity in this. In Model S 20 schools, the province procured on behalf of schools. Treasury already had a roundtable and workshop about this. In Model S 21 schools, the school could procure and if there were failure to do so then the fault lay with the governing body for not ordering in time. In terms of the court’s decision this was an infringement and violation of the constitutional rights of the child if he or she did not have a textbook. But the fault was not with the provincial department but with the governing body, which was something the Department needed to look into closely.

Mr Mnguni also asked about the replacement of unsafe schools and the sanitation, water and electricity targets. The ANA numbers were very good, but how many schools needed basic infrastructure?

The Deputy Minister replied that the list could be provided to the Committee. The ANA was currently being reviewed looking at the frequency, the model and the quality.

Mr Mnguni then commented that the AAP said that per year the Department would produce two annual reports but the Director General stated that they were still engaged on this, was the Committee expecting any change in the long run? He also referred to page 55 of the report (4.3.1, 4.3.4) and asked for a written response on which of these had been achieved.

Ms H Boshoff (DA) asked about the training of ECD practitioners – would these receive an equal salary? She suggested that the Department should look at this and put them on par with educators.

The Deputy Minister replied that there had been remarkable progress with the ECD programme. Six years ago, about half of practitioners were not adequately qualified. Now more than 95% were at least at level 4, more than 30% were at level 6 and at least 45-50% at level 5. So there was a move toward a minimum qualification of level 6. He believed that once practitioners reached the level 6 qualification the time would be ripe to integrate them as full-time employees. It would be inappropriate for a level 4 practitioner to have the same professional benefits as a teacher. The intention of the Department was to move swiftly toward integration. He was encouraged by the quality of the training taking place and the large numbers moving from level 4 to levels 5 and 6.

In terms of inclusive education and the identification of learners with disabilities, Ms Boshoff noted that the Committee was aware that the SIAS policy was not being implemented everywhere and because of this learners problems were not identified at an early stage. She requested that this should be looked at. In special needs schools and full service schools, she had noted that the deployment of educators was not looked at. Any educator was redeployed without the necessary training and this left learners at a disadvantage.

The Deputy Minister agreed with Ms Boshoff’s comment. It was the view of the Department that identification of disabilities should occur at the earliest years. Grades R and 1 were the key grades otherwise the child was at a serious disadvantage moving forward.

In terms of oversight over physical education, Ms Boshoff noted that many schools did not have the resources, the necessary sporting grounds, and had to transport children to a school they twinned with, which was an extra burden on the parents. The school was not able to bear the cost as it was a no-fee school. How did the Department plan to implement sports and physical education?

The Deputy Minister replied that all new schools, ECD schools, had sporting amenities available. The question was how to deal with those other schools that did not. He was encouraged by the twinning that was taking place. The Motsepe Foundation had entered into a contract with the Department to promote soccer and netball, which the he believed would yield some benefits. The Department was trying to mobilise resources in every quarter to promote sport. However, he commented that PE (physical education) was much easier and should become part and parcel of the curriculum. Every educator must be able to do PE, which would make them versatile. He reminisced that nearly every teacher used to be able to teach PE when he was at school. Why had this changed? Why was a dedicated PE teacher required? A school might require a sports co-ordinator or trainer. This was something the Department must look at.

In terms of improving learner retention by supporting matriculants through the Second Chance programme, Ms Boshoff suggested that perhaps the focus should be on the lower grades where many learners were not able to make it to Matric. She suggested that a possible programme should be implemented to address this issue and assist them.

The Deputy Minister responded that it was the view of the Department that the concern was not only Grade 12, but interventions must be made in the various phases. The Department identified the gap in Grades 7, 8 and 9. This was a sad part and was why the Department wanted the ECD to be written at this age so they could determine precisely where the gaps were. Otherwise there will be dropouts, and mechanical progression without intervention. So there was a comprehensive solution that straddled all phases.

Mr Mweli commented in terms of dealing with the failure rate and repetition rate, the focus was now not only on Grades 11 and 12 but on the whole system. The Free State and Western Cape, at the workshop, gave a comprehensive presentation on how they were monitoring performance from Grade R to Grade 12, to avoid only focusing on Grades 11 and 12.

Mr T Khoza (ANC) was concerned about resistance by certain communities that were unwilling to get rid of unviable, small schools. He suggested that the communities should be educated in order that the learners can be assisted.

The Deputy Minister replied that this was a very sad matter. When dealing with closures and merges the Department had to identify where there were alternatives, what transport arrangements needed to be made and if a hostel was required did it exist. Alternatives for learners must be addressed. There needed to be a thorough consulting process with the educators, learners and parents to comply with the law. There must also be a rational basis for the closure or merger. In the Eastern Cape, the Department had gone beyond this for all closures and mergers must be accompanied by an assessment of an infrastructure team to determine whether indeed the right choice was being made.

Mr Khoza also raised the issue of learner welfare. It was high time that the Department thought widely of how to differentiate between learners in the classroom situation, for some learners came from different backgrounds (such as child-headed families) but were treated the same. It is high time that we looked at a programme to encourage educators to look a bit deeper and try to educate communities. Neighbours of such children should inform schools in order that the school could take care of such learners who did not have anyone to look after them.

The Deputy Minister replied that there was a project that involved more than 200 schools which was associated with the caring and support of learners at school.

The Director-General responded that some work was done on curriculum differentiation. The three-stream model was about affording diversity in the system. In addition, the Department developed a manual to re-ignite the abilities of teachers for curriculum differentiation. All teachers should be trained on curriculum differentiation. The classroom was a heterogeneous environment and learners were at different levels of cognitive advancement. This had been put together as part of teacher development programmes.

Ms Van Der Walt noted that as this meeting would be brief, Members would have to submit written questions again. She first referred to the closure of schools. The Committee had never been against the closure of schools, as long as the correct procedure was followed. However, she referred to the Mpepule Primary School at Overyssel in Lephalale, which was closed that week because children were sleeping in the school at night. Snakes were found in the school and it was closed at short notice. These learners were now being taken to school further away from their families. There were almost 200 learners in that school; it was not a school that should have been neglected to such an extent that it had to be closed. The Departments in Provinces were very guilty of unnecessarily closing schools, which put an additional burden on dignity and family, and community values. Such neglect was the fault of the Department, not the learners or their families.

The Deputy Minister said he was in agreement with her, and that a school would only be closed if it were less than 135 learners. The DOE would not encourage the closure of a school if there were more than 135 learners. There would have to be other reasons to close the school, and learners could not be placed in a worse situation. There had to be proper planning and the dignity of the learners must be taken into account.

The second issue Ms Van Der Walt raised was the comment by the CFO that ECD budgets may become the responsibility of provinces. She found this very concerning; unless we made Treasury ensure that these were conditional grants. The Department could not give unconditional grants to provincial education departments whose departments were in shatters. It was not the duty of the Committee to say it was not their job, it was their duty to go to Treasury and fight for it to be conditional. She illustrated this point with reference to oversight she had performed the previous day near Sekgopo village in Bolobedu, Limpopo. She visited a school built in the 1960s where the first two blocks were still built with mud bricks. The new blocks were built with ordinary bricks. This school was dilapidated and they were not even on an ECD programme, although they were promised new classrooms. They had a full classroom of computers that they could not use. Mud schools in any form were supposed to be part of the ECD programme. Any grants given to provinces must first be conditional, and secondly before any money was spent there must be a proper audit of every school that needed to be on the ECD programme. This list should be given to Treasury. If the Committee did not start holding people to account for spending money as they pleased, there must be a list of what the money must be spent on.

The Deputy Minister replied that, in terms of ECD, in the Eastern Cape, there was light at the end of the tunnel in terms of infrastructure as two competent young men were appointed to plan with the Department to ensure no duplication with regard to this matter. He agreed that ECD must be a conditional grant and it must not be passed on to provinces when they did not have the capacity. The Department supported the Chairperson and other Members who raised this issue.

The Director-General appreciated the comments by Members if the ECD budget was moved to the responsibility of provinces. Even if it could be converted to a conditional grant, the Department was worried about provinces’ ability to spend the money and spend it where it was needed most.

Ms Van Der Walt commented that in earlier years when she did oversight, the day before school returned from a holiday you would find teachers in the classrooms getting ready for the start of the term. She visited nine schools yesterday in Limpopo and found the occasional principal; however there were no teachers at the schools. She looked through the windows of the classrooms to discover whether the classrooms were ready for school to resume, but the classrooms were not ready, clean or in order. When the learners returned today the classrooms were not ready for them to teach. She found a brilliant principal at one primary school who was clearly hands on for he was on duty, workers were busy in the schoolyard and the food for the school nutrition programme had been delivered. But in the other villages no teachers were visible, apart from the occasional principal. She remarked that she found this very unfair for the learners, as teachers were not prepared to return to the school for a few hours to set up their classroom for the start of term.

The Deputy Minister responded that teachers should take pride in their profession. They should be in school the day before term starts to prepare. He declared that he would take this issue with the MEC and the HOD immediately. He asked Ms Van Der Walt for the names of the schools involved in order that he could follow up and report back to her.

Ms Basson referred to PPN and noted that the Eastern Cape was concerned with the Morkel Model and asked how this model affected the PPN in the Eastern Cape. How could it be popularised?

The Deputy Minister replied that the only province that raised the Morkel Model was the Eastern Cape. You did not hear of it being challenged anywhere else.

On Programme two, Ms Basson referred to home language teaching for grades 1 to 6. Was this compulsory or a choice for the parents or child? How would it be implemented?

The Director-General stated that all schools were obliged by the current policy to offer home languages. This was also recognised in terms of the Promotion and Progression policy.

On the support of School Governing Bodies as mentioned in the Director-General’s presentation, Ms Basson pointed out that SGBs often mismanaged school finances because they were not properly trained. SGBs came and went as they wished, not serving the full term. How could the Department attract parents to participate effectively in these forums? The Director-General noted that the Department was prioritising inclusive education, but the presentation was unclear on how the Department would support and monitor these full-service schools. The Committee noticed that there was a backlog on inclusive education – monitoring, support and infrastructure. The budget did not mention any funds to support full service schools or inclusive education.

The Deputy Minister responded that there were induction programmes for all SGBs that were elected. Yet, the Department had to do more. Inclusive education informed a very important part of the Department’s goals and programmes.

The Director-General replied that the Department was trying to encourage parents to participate in the schooling of their children through meetings, workshops and so on. The Minister and Deputy Minister had also addressed meetings of school governing bodies.

The Acting Chairperson asked whether there was any plan for new legislation to be introduced this year.

The Deputy Minister replied that draft legislation was available and had been shared informally with some stakeholders. There were points of contention regarding the appointment of principals and heads of department. There was concern about it. Some SGBs had the capacity to do the tasks and some did not so the Department was trying to get a balance between the two and was discussing this with unions and stakeholders to find a solution. The broad principles had been agreed upon, it was just the question of the details. The legislation dealt with a range of gaps.

The Acting Chairperson referred to expenditures: were any roll-overs allowed by Treasury, in particular the R600 million in the Eastern Cape for infrastructure grants?

Mr Mweli replied that the CFO noted that there were areas, particularly with regard to conditional grants, where the Department would apply for rollovers. But the Department would be more specific on this when the books were closed toward the end of April.

The Acting Chairperson was very worried about the ECD programme. The programme would cease to exist in the next financial year but, according to the documents, National Treasury was saying that some of the programmes would continue to run within the Departmental budget. Could the Committee get a clear indication on the latest developments of this issue? One of the issues with ECD was getting the capacity within the provinces to run these programmes. The Department brought in expertise to beef up the capacity such as engineers. What would happen to this capacity? Was the Department planning to share services with the provinces? Were people going to lose jobs? Government stated that it would create jobs, and it would be very unfortunate if we shed jobs. Were any jobs going to be affected with the decrease of the allocation of personnel because that was also worrying? If you visit the schools, there are so many positions that needed to be filled from administration to security. There were so many people that the Department still needed to employ.

Mr Mweli replied that the current capacity that had been created was centralised, which was an issue. The Treasury had set up these new developments wanting decentralisation to provinces, which was a concern. The decrease in allocation for ECD would definitely affect jobs. In the first year, the budget would lose R30 million for compensation of employees, and the second would lose R48 million. This was likely to impact the Department’s ability to create jobs, and particularly for opportunities for interns and so forth. This would be really tough. The Department may have to consider cutting out some of the functions the Department was currently providing.

The Acting Chairperson asked for clarification on the targets for APP on page 68 which contradicted the targets on page 55.  Her last point related to the issue of Second Chance. According to the budget, about R50 million would go to the Second Chance programme. Was it possible for the Committee to get a breakdown for the Provinces? How would the provinces get access to the funds? Only two districts per province were implementing the programme – what did it cover? Most of the learners in public schools were using the scholar transport, and getting fed through the feeding scheme. Were these things captured in the allocation?

Mr Mweli replied that the target on page 55 was the target for 2016/17, while page 68 was cumulatively what had been covered. The breakdown of the allocation for the Second Chance programme would be provided, however it should be noted that the programme was not decentralised to provinces.

Ms Van Der Walt asked the Acting Chairperson when there would be a follow-up session on these issues. The performance indicators on financial matters in the report were very concerning. Both the financial statements of this year and the prior year, and the compliance to legislation figures were very concerning. She was in disbelief at how provinces did not take legislation seriously.

Mr Mweli replied that Ms Van Der Walt referred to the Office of the Auditor General’s dashboard report. He reminded the Acting Chairperson that he made an extensive presentation on this report at the workshop and that the provinces were there, and some provinces were able to respond and indicated what they were doing. He agreed with Ms Van Der Walt’s observations.

The Acting Chairperson thanked the Director-General. She noted that it was clear from what the Members raised that the Department had given a good report. In the coming days other entities would give presentations to the Committee and it should be hoped that they would present in the same manner that the Department presented, that the alignments were intact and all the targets, particularly SIAS that gave such problems in the last period.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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