Department of Basic Education on education and gender

Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities

21 February 2017
Chairperson: Ms T Memela (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of basic Education presented its report on its strategies towards improving the quality of education for all South African children, especially for the girl learners. Females (girls and women) are highly prioritised in the Department. 

Activities of the Department are structured into five programmes; Administration, Curriculum policy, support and monitoring, Teachers, education human resources and institutional development, Planning information and assessment, and educational enrichment services.

It was emphasised that policies in the Department are formulated to prioritise gender issues. The recruitment process, succession plan and leadership development are all harnessed towards achieving gender equity.  Though the present number of women in the Senior Management Staff is only 28, while men are 45, the Department is consistently working towards increasing the number of women by giving preference to women during recruitment. The Department also reported 2.28% of people with disabilities among its employees and explained that the number is low because people with disabilities shy away from indicating it on their Curriculum vitae because of fear of rejection and sometime lack of competence among the disabled applicants.

About 25% of services were procured from women owned companies; the reason given for this was that there are not many women owned companies in South Africa.

One of the problems faced by learners was dealing with teenage pregnancy; the Department had discovered that the most likely causes of learner pregnancy are poor academic performance and dysfunctional schools.  In its effort to curb the plague of learners’ pregnancy it had drafted the Learner Pregnancy Policy and public consultations on the draft are in process. The report stipulated dismissal as a consequence for any staff member found guilty of sexual offence. However, the Department does not have access to records on the number of criminal charges laid against teachers and their outcomes because they did not have access to the National Protection Register for Sex offenders.

The Department is reaching out to the needs of girl learners through different programmes. One of the programmes was the Keeping Girls in School, which has about four services: the Career Jamboree, Health education, Peer education, and Homework assistance which had benefited about 42,863 learners. The Keeping Girls in School programme was carried out in schools in Kwazulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, and Mpumalanga, where HIV, learners’ pregnancy and orphaned and vulnerable children are prevalent. The Programme is designed to curb these vices among learners.

Another programme was the Kha Ri Gude mass Literacy programme.  It recorded 4,212,817 Million beneficiaries and 326247 volunteers, between 2008 and 2016, of which 280368 are women. The Kha Ri Gude mass literacy programme is designed to enable adults above the age of 15years to become literate and numerate in one of eleven South African languages.

Other efforts mentioned by the Department were the second chance matric, programmes to reduce the rate of dropouts from high schools, and programmes to encourage girl learners’ participation in mathematics and technology.

Concerns raised by the Committee were: why was it impossible for the Department to have access to the National Child Register for sex offenders, what is the intervention of the Department to sexual abuse by teachers, why was there a discrepancy between the figure provided for the number of disabled employees for two Committees, why had the Department not implemented the President’s call for supply of sanitary pads to learners, is the Department ready to support the call for national inspectorate and teachers’ college, had the Department considered bringing back boarding schools, what the yardstick for reporting that there are few Women owned companies in South Africa was, why there are more women in the lower cadres yet fewer in the Senior Management Staff, and what the Department is doing about overhauling the curriculum to meet the present need of learners.

Meeting report

Department of Basic Education (DBE) Briefing

Dr Faith Kumalo, Chief Director: Care and Support in Schools, DBE, introduced her team and asked Dr Pillay to start with the presentation.

Dr M Pillay, Human Resource Management and Development, DBE, began by quoting Late President Nelson Mandela, ‘As long as the nation refuse to acknowledge the equal role of more than half of itself it is doomed to fail’.
The mandate of the DBE is to provide quality basic education through Schools in South Africa. The activities of the Department had been captured into five Programmes, Administration, Curriculum Policy, Support and Monitoring, Teachers Education Human Resources and Institutional Development, Planning Information Assessment and Educational Enrichment Services.

The relevant legislative imperatives to DBE are those of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, South Africa School Act (SASA), 1996, which promote equity, eliminate discrimination, and ensure gender parity, the Sexual Offences and Related Matters Amended Act (2007), Employment of Educators No 31 of 2000, Disciplinary Code and Procedure for Public Service (Resolution 2/99), Domestic Violence Act 1998 and the Children’s Act, 2005.

The international obligations and treaties are; the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW); the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC); the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC)

Gender was mainstreamed through the DBE’s policy and programmes that were formulated, such that gender issues are taken into consideration with policies all inclusive. Mainstreaming was discussed. Preference was given to women in the recruitment of Senior Management Staff (SMS) so as to achieve the 50% target of women employees at SMS level and succession planning Programme also targeted women in middle management.

The Department built capacity of women through the mentoring, coaching, peer support programmes and professional development courses. The equity plan ensured that preferences of appointment were given to female candidates in SMS and candidates who are disabled.

DBE had taken measures to ensure that gender discrimination and bias is not evidenced within prescribed Text for learners. This was achieved by the establishment of an inter-ministerial task team for Learning and Teaching Support Material (LTSM) which ensures the LTSM is representative of constitutional values which is non-discriminatory but inclusive, review textbooks, identify discriminatory stereotypes and make corrective policy recommendations. All texts must be suitable to all learners and avoid gender stereotypes.

Considering gender parity, the total number of females in the Department are 28 (38.36%) while there are 45 (61.64%) male SMS members in the Department, another three females will be assuming duty on 1 April, which will bring the total number of female appointments to 31 (40%). Although females are under-represented in the senior management echelon, the equity plan of DBE addressed this; equity has been prioritised in the human resources plan and during senior management meetings. During 2016/17 Financial year the new DG focused on female appointments to the SMS echelon by employing eight females as against only one male. Tree SMS post that had been re-advertised because there were no female recommendations for the posts previously.

The Department employed 12 people with disabilities which amounted to 2.26% of the current staff composition of permanent employees. The reviewed policy on recruitment has taken into consideration people with disabilities, with a policy that provides guidelines on recruitment process and selection of people with disabilities to be appointed in the Department. The Department had communicated with organisations dealing with people with disabilities so as to get a database of people seeking employment and also encourage people with disabilities to apply for vacant positions by indicating this on its advertisement. The DBE is also sending advertisement to because messages to disability organisations are disseminated through this email address. A major challenge is that people with disabilities do not indicate this on their CVs for fear of not being shortlisted despite advertisement indicating preference will be given to them.

On the gender on numbers of teachers and principals he recounted that there are 63.0% (27,464) female and 37.0% (16,123) Heads of Department, 43.9% (5,184) Female and 56.1% (6,619) Male Deputy Principals, while 73.5% (215419) Females and 26.5% Males account for the teachers.

On Procurement of Services, the Department had 21 women owned companies out of the 84 utilised by the Department in 2016/17. A total of 82 transactions were carried out with the 21 Companies at a total of R2720675.33, which equals 25% in terms of procurement services. The reason for this was that there are not many women owned businesses in the country at the moment. Also, the PFMA elaborates on fair business which conflicts with the intention of the DBE to engage with Women businesses as cost are extremely high, especially at a time of cost cutting and austerity measures imposed by National Treasury.

On Sexual Harassment, the Department has a policy which mirrors the Sexual Harassment policy of the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA). The policy stipulates the process that should be followed by the victim of sexual harassment. The Department also appointed a Sexual Harassment advisor to deal with issues of sexual harassment. Victims can report the offence to the Director-General should they not be comfortable reporting it to the Sexual Harassment Advisor.

No case of Sexual Harassment was reported in the last three financial years. There are no designated funds for sexual harassment cases but the Directorate of Training and Social Responsibility will provide assistance to victims if there is a need. No officials were suspended on account of Sexual harassment and or sexual assault over the last three financial years. However, the South African Council for Educators (SACE) had suspended a total of 360 officials in the last 3years from various provinces.

The outcome of disciplinary proceedings for sexual offences against learners is always dismissal. Neither the DBE nor the Provincial Education Department have jurisdiction over criminal matters and have no access to records on the number of criminal charges laid against teachers and their outcomes. Provincial Education Departments have no access to the National Child Protection Register and the National Protection register for sexual offenders.

Educators found guilty of a sexual offence are charged with misconduct in terms of the Employment of Educators Act, No. 76 of 1998, disciplined in terms of Code of Good Conduct of the South African Council for Educators No 31 of 2000 and Employment of Educators Act, No. 76 of 1998, which is deregistration and dismissal. Recourse for learners who are sexually harassed are school based prevention and management of sexual violence and harassment in public schools (2008) and Domestic Violence Act 1998 and Children’s Act, 2005.

Dr Kumalo said the Department was asked to provide information to include sexuality on reproductive health. The department was in the process of finalising a Learner Pregnancy Policy (LPP) that looks at prevention and management of learners’ pregnancy.  The Department has implemented KGS over the last three years, the programme is funded by international donor funding.

The Programme emanated from research conducted on Learner’s Pregnancy which identified causes as poor academic performance, dysfunctional schools and age mixing (mixing young and older students).

Based on the research the Keeping Girls in School (KGS) Programme was developed. The Department has a package that supports Poor Performance, Peer education, Health Education, Homework Assistance and Career Counselling. A total of 286 Primary and Secondary schools were reached by the programme and a total of 42,863 girls had received various services included in the KGS package. Schools with high prevalence of HIV, learners’ pregnancy and orphaned and vulnerable children were selected from Kwazulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, and Mpumalanga. Other criteria for selection, were selecting one of the eight poorest performing school in the district, a no-fee-paying school, a National Programme school and a Scholar Transport School. Also, the districts covered were those with higher level of poverty and poor performing students.

Challenges faced by the Department had been limited funding and funding for the programme had currently ended. While the KGS programme focused on only girls, boys are also faced with various challenges such as poor performance, alcohol and drugs, which are not currently addressed by gender classification, because gender should not only be girl related. Dr Khumalo also spoke about the issue of gender expression and diversity, which implies that gender is no longer about girl and boys, there are lesbians, gays, bisexual and asexual. It is important that not to use a binary approach to gender so as to avoid exclusion of this group of learners.

Dr Pillay said a sexual abuse support mechanism had been established in all the provinces in South Africa. One of the mechanisms was Speak-Out which divulges the myth that learners cannot be violated by one another. Speak Out handbooks, Value in Action and Opening Our Eyes manual had been developed. Training of Master Trainers on the manuals and Prevent Violence in School training had been carried out by the Department.

Ms H Dululu, Programme Manager, DBE, said the Department has different support mechanisms for sexual violence in public schools. One intervention is the guideline for the management of sexual violence which had been made available in all provinces; it is useful for prevention and management of sexual violence. Another was the Speak Out programme designed to avoid the situation where learners violate one another. The Department had provided different manuals such as Value in Action, Open Our Eyes, and provided training at different capacity geared toward the prevention of violence.  There are about 349 beneficiaries of the Open Our Eyes training and 498 for Prevent Violence in Schools training.

Schools may not report learners’ pregnancies because it is disincentive to school. Some pregnancy may not be captured due to reasons such as lack of awareness of pregnancy that becomes noticeable within the holiday, after which students may dropout without the knowledge of the reason by the school. The correct data can be collected from the Department of Health (DoH), the DoH recorded the current number of pregnancies of girls under the age of 18 at 40,000, a component of which are most likely to be students. There is also a disincentive for schools to report pregnancy which may discourage correct reporting. The number of terminations was not counted and terminations were much higher than pregnancies because some learners’ use termination as a contraceptive by having repeated terminations.

Dr Kumalo said, under sexuality and reproductive health within the curriculum, the Department provides age appropriate information to learners. Though there is a misconception of teaching learner how to have sexual intimacy but sex education is about self-image, puberty, sexual behaviour and sexual health. Gender inequality is one the most critical problems associated with Learner Pregnancy; other problems are poor information, alcohol, drug abuse and poor performance by students and poverty. Most of LP is common among those located in areas with limited services and facilities such as sports, recreational facilities. The same behaviour that leads to teenage pregnancy causes HIV and while combating teenage pregnancy the latter is addressed. The DBE had approved a new policy on HIV, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and TB, which included a compulsory sexuality education. It had also put in place structural drivers for teenage pregnancy by implementing pro-poor policies that have a protective impact on keeping the girls in schools by focusing on prevention of Learner Pregnancy. The learners Pregnancy Programme is aligned to HIV and TB policies because they both go together. DBE had also developed content of curriculum so that the lessons are developed earlier and that teachers address lessons on sexual education so that teachers do not skip the lessons because they are uncomfortable with such discussions. Programme of HIV and sexual abuse are minimally funded. The Department had engaged social partners where they can be of support.

Ms Dululu said the Sanitary Dignity Campaign Programme was initiated by DBE officials but was not included in the strategic plan, thus it was not a funded mandate. The DBE officials collected donations for sanitary towels and distributed them to needy schools. Procter & Gamble (P&G) partnered directly with provinces. DBE has no indication of the scope of the problem. A skills development and training programme undertaken by DBE is aimed at providing employees with the necessary skills in order to assist the Department in achieving its strategic objectives. It also undertakes a skills audit aimed at identifying the skill gaps for female employees to reach their full potential. The Department also undertook mentoring and coaching, internship, learnership, bursary, employee health and wellness programmes all targeting women in the basic education system.  

Dr Pillay said the Kha Ri Gude Mass Literacy Campaign was launched in February 2008 with the intention of enabling adults above the age of 15years to become literate and numerate in one of the eleven official South African languages. The programme had benefitted 4,212,817 million adults and changed the lives of 326247 volunteers of which 280,368 were women in the financial year 2008/09 to 2015/16.  The Kha Ri Gude Mass Literacy Campaign had won the following awards; the National Ubungcweti Award 2009, GCIS Award for the communicative teaching materials 2009, PANSALB Award for Khari Gude 11 official languages materials, Braille and South African Sign Languages, 2010, Expanded Public Work Programme Kamoso Awards, 2012, Adult Learners Week outstanding achievement Award, 2012, Department of Labour Youth employment, 2014 and UNESCO literacy prize 2016. The Second Chance Matric Programme provided different modalities of support which included; Face to face classes in selected district and venues, mainly in rural areas which will select 50 venues in 2017, Television and radio broadcast of lessons via community radio stations, an online and offline digital course and printed past question papers, textbooks and study guides.

The available data indicates that at least 30% more females enrolled in all of the subjects piloted. Females also produced more passes than their male counterparts, hence 30% more females than males receive support on the programme which had resulted in more females than males being successful.

Attention to national figures indicated that more girls entered grade 12 and finished than boys but boys perform better than girls. Records show that drop-out rate becomes significant from grade 9 and when students drop out at this grade, there is no evidence of schooling. When students drop out of school they become exposed to social vices and teenage pregnancies. The highest reason given by learners for dropping out of school was lack of money for fees, followed by poor academic performance and family commitment.

Dr Kumalo drew the Committee’s attention to the gender disparity between male and female, family responsibilities are committed to female more often than males.

The reason for about 13% dropout was not determined. Although financial constraints, gang involvement and family commitments play a role in the dropout rate, the major cause of dropout is weak learning foundation. DBE intervention was to make sure that learners leave the system with a qualification to improve the acquisition of foundational numeracy and literacy.

According to the table (see attached) more girls enrol for mathematics compared with boys, boys perform better than girls, 68218 (57%) of boys and 67830 (46.4%) of girls passed Mathematics in 2016.Thesame was the result for physical sciences, boys performed better that girls.

Dr Kumalo highlighted the strategy that the Department had implemented as a policy to increase the number of girls in Mathematics, Science and Technology (MST) fields at school level as follows: setting targets for participation and performance in MST, targeting support programmes for girl learners, promotion of girls participating in Olympiad and competitions and bursaries to high performing students.

The programme can significantly contribute towards motivating girls to take up Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) careers where women are under-represented so as to reduce poverty and gender disparity.


The Chairperson asked why there was no access to the National Child Register for sexual offenders. It can no longer be hidden that some kids are abused by teachers, the lack of serious responses from concerned authorities constitute reasons why communities take the law into their hands. She asked the Department when it would be prepared to take up these issues. The Department had failed the nation.

Ms D Robinson (DA) said there seemed to be a conspiracy of silence when there is a report of abuse. A teacher convicted of paedophilia in one school was sent to another school that happened to be a boarding which made it even worse.

Ms G Tseke (ANC) noted a discrepancy between presentations made earlier by the Department where the number of staff living with disability in the DBE was presented as 1.8% but which was presented as 2.2% at the meeting.  She asked if the Department was trying to impress the Committee and which was the correct information as this undermines the integrity of Parliament. It was an embarrassment and a disgrace that there is no access to the National Protection Register for sex offenders, a convicted offender can be employed in another province and why the Department cannot work with other Departments in order to achieve their mandate. The Department needs to finalise the policy on Learner Pregnancy. The President made a call in 2011 to prioritise the provision of sanitary towels to girls in need of them but the implementation had been haphazard. She submitted that the Department of Education had failed the President and the Nation. National Treasury said they had not received a request from any Department in respect to Sanitary towels.  Women were underrepresented in senior management staff. Though the female teacher accounts for 73% of the teaching staff yet there were only about 44% and 37% females among deputy principals and principals respectively. She questioned the excuse of the Department that there are no qualified women for the vacant position, by asking why it had not used the money allocated for training and development to push these women up the ladder?

Mr M Dirks (ANC) said it was clear from the report that the Department is found wanting. The purpose of the call was to know the radical transformation undertaken by the Department in favour of the girl child. The youths of South Africa had promised not to replace the ruling party but to replace the older generation if they do not do something radical to bring about transformation. Either the Department addresses the situation or the older generation of politicians are removed. According to the report PFMA is hindering the implementation of economic empowerment and we need to look at the legislation. The Department needs to Act now and be decisive; there is an urgent need to transform society. The Department must identify the blockages and present them to the Committee.

Ms T Stander (DA) said the Department is in a position to bring about the much-needed change in the education sector. Having about five services under the KGS Programme, she asked if it were not better for each child to receive a full package which includes all the services. She also asked if the Department would support the intervention of a National Inspectorate and teachers’ college. The Department must change the Curriculum because it is no longer relevant today and does not instruct young people on entrepreneurship and technology. The Department should give a date on the supply of sanitary towels to learners.

Ms P Bhengu (ANC) pointed out that there are still schools without watered toilets, many students still wake up early to walk for up to two hours to get taxis to school exposing them to dangers of abuse, which should have been done by the previous government but unfortunately the responsibility is borne by the present government. It was unacceptable that the Department claimed that there are not many women owned companies in South Africa, to have used 21 women owned companies out of a total of 84 companies was unacceptable. The schools chosen, for instance Queenstown, are in the townships, the Department should access poor schools in the remote areas. The Department should specify their support so far in making sure that students are retained in schools and they do not repeat grades. She asked the Department to state the rate of absenteeism of girls due to lack of sanitary towels?

Ms M Khawula (EFF) asked what could be done to keep the boarding schools in existence.  She asked what the Department is doing to add value to the educational system, pointing out that children no longer have respect for parents and run to social workers when parents try to reprimand them. The laws are loose and when children transgress in one school they run to another school.

Ms M Chueu (ANC) said the Department needed to bring about a system that aligns all the Provinces in the Nation, and to bring about a policy that ensured that students are in school. The DG of the Department should come top with a strategy to deliver sanitary towels to No-Fees-Schools and to provide transport for learners that walk long distances to get to school every morning. She asked if the Department considered bringing back the boarding schools, there are no longer afternoon classes for students in the RDP houses. Sport is not compulsory for students or the activities of these may depend on the province. What is the National Department doing and why are they maintaining the Status-quo? She noted the Department reported that schools that report learners’ pregnancy are penalised despite knowing that this will hinder them from reporting such. She asked the Department to present its strategy for reducing illiteracy. Although the report specified that women were trained t the officials were not elevated, which was evident in the number of women among the Principals, Vice Principals and the SMS. She also asked why the Department is maintaining the Apartheid status-quo where males were posted to head secondary schools and females were posted to head primary schools, and if the Department has information on the huge number of students with disability who are not in School.

Dr Pillay said in response to the number of women in the SMS, it will take time for the men currently in the system to reach the age of compulsory retirement, It will require the Department to initiate early retirements which implies an enormous financial burden. He promised that the Department would include the input made on the number of women in the SMS in their next report. He clarified that 2.2% is the disability figure in terms of permanent employees, while considering the total number of employee the figure is 1.8%. There were only three applications from disabled people during last year recruitment but they were not qualified and apologised for the different representations.

The Chairperson asked why the Department had not used the money allocated for training and development to uplift the disabled persons so that they can fit into the vacant positions.

Dr Pillay said the DBE would consider this in future and would review the legislation in terms of fair business practices.

Mr Enoch Rabotapi, Acting Chief Director: Human Resources, DBE, said the Department is currently working with professional counsels to look at vetting teachers, to make sure that teachers that are charged are blacklisted. Also, the Professional Council will have access to the sex offenders register from April 2017. The Department had looked at the possibility of using the inspectorate but opted against it because of the history of inspectorates. The Department had identified the management of schools as an issue that should be addressed and is currently looking at competence assessment in the employment of Principals and working with the legal Department to review policy of reassessment of Principals. Teacher training colleges would be rolled back but in a different way. There are a few colleges in shape which are working with universities to facilitate training of teachers. Boarding schools are seen as the Department as a tool for intervention in small and dysfunctional schools. Provinces had resulted in the amalgamation of this type of schools, while learners that are negatively affected can be provided with transport.

Ms Dululu responded to questions about overlooking rural areas and using townships during the implementation of the KGS Programme. Towns are used in the execution of the programmes but all the areas around these townships were covered.

The Chairperson said the Department should provide answers to the questions raised by the Committee in three days and include sincere information on the person who gave authority to the principal who threw the LGBT learners out of school.

The meeting was adjourned. 

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