The Department of Basic Education (DBE) presented its third quarter performance report, and drew attention to the fat that it was under-performing in terms of meeting its strategic targets. A delay in the release of donor funding had caused deviations from the budget, but these had been explained in the expense report. The Department raised concern that there were 38 schools which were serial under-performers and reported that school governing bodies were not properly trained. The Department had scaled up targeted refresher training programme interventions, while the existence of poor reporting mechanisms was another challenge it had to address.
The Department reported that the Annual National Assessment (ANA) had been replaced by the National Integrated Assessment Framework (NIAF), and hailed the success of its partnership with Cell C to provide ICT infrastructure for 77 schools in the Northern Cape and 98 schools in the Eastern Cape.
Members raised concern at the number of under-performing schools and the disparity between urban and rural schools. They asked how the DBE was responding to reports of some girl learners suffering side effects from the HPV vaccination programme. While they commended the ICT roll out, they expected more to be done to increase accessibility to rural schools and lesser resourced provinces. Concern was also expressed over the 20% pass mark for mathematics set last year, and asked that this policy be reviewed.
The meeting concluded that while significant progress had been made, the DBE had to avoid and correct deviations from budget expenditure. It also needed to fast track skills training for teachers, management and school governing bodies, and to upscale the ICT roll out to lesser resourced provinces.
Department of Basic Education (DBE): Third Quarter Progress Report:
Mr Hubert Mweli, Director General: Department of Basic Education (DBE) said that the Department was under-performing in terms of meeting its targets. He was of the view that a delay in the release of donor funding caused deviations from the budget, but that such deviations had been explained in the expense report. He raised concern that there were 38 schools which were serial under-performers and reported that school governing bodies were not properly trained. The Department had scaled up targeted refresher training programme interventions.
The activities of the Department of Basic Education had been structured into five programmes, as elaborated in the Annual Performance Plan. (See presentation attached).
Programme 1: Administration
Ms Carol Deliwe, Chief Director: Strategic Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, DBE, reported that the Department had published a review of sector outcomes against key learner performance and attainment indicators, which was available on the DBE website. A second draft of the annual performance plan (APP) had been submitted to the Department of Monitoring & Evaluation and National Treasury in November 2016.
Programme 2: Curriculum Policy, Support & Monitoring
The policy for severe to profoundly intellectually disabled children had been published for public comment. In addition, the Department had obtained National Treasury approval of a conditional grant to the value of R477m to implement the policy and learning programme for Profoundly Intellectually Disabled (PID) children during the 2017 mid-term framework. A draft framework for the development of the rural education policy was presented to teacher unions for inputs in November 2016. Library books were procured and distributed to 573 schools. Information communication technology (ICT), including infrastructure, had been scaled up to 77 schools in the Northern Cape and 98 schools in the Eastern Cape.
Programme 3: Teachers, Education Human Resources & Institutional Development
The Department reported on the partnership with the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and the University of South Africa (UNISA) on the Teacher Development Centre, which was launched on 25 November 2016 at the Matthew Goniwe School of Leadership. The Teacher Education Programme evaluation committee had evaluated 42 teacher education programmes and produced a final report on the evaluation of the Ukufunda Virtual School platform.
Programme 4: Planning, Information and Assessment
The Department had successfully administered the November 2016 National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations, citing the leaking of the mathematics paper two, which was uncovered at Giyani School in the Limpopo Province as the only example of an administrative error. The Annual National Assessment (ANA) had been redesigned and had resulted in the development of the National Integrated Assessment Framework (NIAF).
Programme 5: Educational Enrichment Services
The Department had provided nutritious meals to 18 587 schools in the third quarter and expanded sexual and reproductive health for learners, reaching 7 988 educators across all provinces.
The Department concluded by reporting on the expenditure report, showing that the total budget for the 2016/17 financial year amounted to R22.269 billion. It explained deviations from the budget and committed to ensuring that progress was continuously reported on a quarterly basis. It would implement remedial strategies and strengthen collaboration within the sector for improved performance reporting.
Mr G Davis (DA) said that 19 volunteers had been found guilty of fraud, and that the money had been recovered. He questioned why, despite evidence of wrongdoing, the Department had not prosecuted any of the parties. He also raised concern about how interns had been appointed, and said he was aware of unhappiness within the Department. He wanted to know what remedial interventions would be implemented to address the 38 underperforming schools.
Mr Mweli replied that the Department had extended some of the contracts of interns to a one-year employment contract. The Department would consider the aspect of prosecution and report progress at the next meeting. He also reported that he had used the powers conferred in terms of Section 32 of the Basic Education Act, to write to the underperforming schools.
Professor C Msimang (IFP) commented that the best results were achieved by schools in urban settings, while the worst results were recorded at rural schools. He raised concern at the perceived bias toward urban schools, and wanted to know how the Department would level the playing field. Many schools, particularly those located in rural areas, did not have access to sport fields and therefore were not engaging in any sports activities. He asked how the Department aimed to address such historical inequalities. He commended the DBE’s commitment to mathematics and science, but objected to the 20% mathematics pass mark requirement, saying he considered it a huge error.
The Director General responded that the policy still required a 40% pass in mathematics. The 20% pass mark applied only to learners who had failed only mathematics. He added that the Department had implemented specific programmes to support under-performing schools and learners.
The Director General reported that the Department was looking at establishing a Directorate of Rural Education. In addition, the Phakisa Programme enabled rural schools to benefit from ICT support and enhanced learning, and the promotion of quality teaching. He concluded that it was difficult to attract better qualified teachers to rural schools.
Ms H Boshoff (DA) raised concern about the recent media reports that some girls were reporting adverse reactions after being administered the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine. She also wanted to know how the Department would assist learners who were food insecure in accessing adequate nutrition. She also asked how the Department aimed at ensuring that implementing agents were properly trained.
The Department responded that it was committed to investigate reports of the HPV vaccine’s adverse reactions, but it had no information at the time. There were known side effects and the benefits outweighed the risks. The HPV vaccine programme had been rolled out nationally, and the Department would continue to monitor progress. It further reported that approximately eight million learners had benefited from the provision of nutritious meals.
Ms J Basson (ANC) wanted to know why training programmes were implemented mainly in provinces that were well resourced, and asked what the plan was to scale up the ICT roll-out to other less resourced provinces. She also commended the Annual National Assessment (ANA), despite the position of trade unions, and asked what means of assessment would replace the ANA.
The Department replied that the Annual National Assessment (ANA) had been replaced by the National Integrated Assessment Framework (NIAF). It also stated that it had partnered with Cell C to provide ICT infrastructure for 77 schools in the Northern Cape and 98 schools in the Eastern Cape.
Mr D Mnguni (ANC) was of the view that mathematics and science should be prioritised over sport. He questioned the deviations from the budgeted expenditure, and asked how the Department aimed to ensure such deviations were avoided in future.
Mr Mweli answered that the deviations in expenditure were as a result of delays in the disbursement of donor funding. In addition, 8% may be moved between programmes, and this would explain at least some of the variances. He reported that physical education had been reintroduced at schools, but concurred that many rural schools did not have access to sporting facilities and implored the Committee to call for a joint sitting on the issue with the DHET.
Ms N Mokoto (ANC) requested an explanation on how to apply for funding for the development of a concept note in terms of the conditional grant application process. She also wanted to know if the ‘Adopt a School’ programme had been discontinued. She pointed out omissions such as communication infrastructure and the insurance of schools in the report.
The Director General explained that funds were secured and disbursed as a conditional grant when the business plan was sound.
He concluded that the Department had experienced operational challenges, including poor reporting on targets set. He also acknowledged a chronic shortage of skills and adequately trained teachers. The Department would direct its focus to the pertinent priorities.
The meeting was adjourned.