Department of Basic Education on its Annual Performance Plan, Deputy Minister present

Basic Education

03 May 2017
Chairperson: Ms N Gina (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Deputy Minister of Basic Education told the Committee he anticipated that by the end of the current administration, learning and teaching would be information technology (IT) based. The biggest challenge would be connectivity. Giving an overview of his Department’s portfolio, he outlined the infrastructure initiatives, the rationalisation and merger of facilities, particularly in the Eastern Cape, and the focus on the establishment of teacher resource centres and self-assessment applications for all teachers. Among the challenges faced by the Department was the problem of attracting and retaining maths and science teachers, and dealing with the impact of protest action on learners in areas like Vuwani.

The Committee raised a number of issues arising from the presentation of the Department’s annual performance plan (APP). Why had the budget for maths, science and technology been reduced at a time when the country urgently needed young people to be skilled in these areas? What were the reasons for the high dropout of learners in the higher grades? In the light of the recent tragedies, what was the Department doing about ensuring learners had access to safe transport? Members also asked questions about the poor performance of learners, the training of teachers, inclusive education for learners who had special needs, the production of Braille learner material, digitized learning material, unregistered schools and the introduction of incentives to motivate teachers. The Committee also made comments and recommendations on the National Strategy for Learners Attainment (NSLA), and the Department’s programme planning and monitoring. 

Meeting report

Deputy Minister’s overview

Mr Enver Surty, Deputy Minister, Department of Basic Education (DBE) apologised for being late and on behalf of the Minister, who could not make it to the meeting as she had to attend another meeting.  

He said his input would be brief, following the nature of the discourse and the discussions that had taken place on the previous day. He understood that the presentation had been made, and understood that there were concerns that had arisen out of the of the Vuwani programme.

He agreed that infrastructure was critical and was glad that it had been raised. It was important to indicate to the Committee that the Minister and the Deputy Minister were not just watching the process but were part of it -- for instance, the two key factors that contributed to the poor performance of the programme.

The first was in the Eastern Cape with regard to the rationalisation taking place. It had not made sense at the time to simply establish schools where resources would not be viable. The observation of this Committee had been that in the rural areas there were high levels of migration. Making a huge investment in these areas would lead to infrastructure not being utilised. Thus the DBE should be investing more resources in the urban areas to which people migrated. The Department had established a team to set up guidelines for rationalisation and mergers, and according to his experience, these were very basic in terms of the manner in which mergers took place. These guidelines had been set out for the benefit of all provinces, and although it contributed directly to the Eastern Cape, he was of the view that the Department had benefited from it.

The second phenomenon, and a key factor that had contributed to the problem, had been the Independent Development Trust (IDT) itself. The Director General (DG) would share with the Committee the outcome of two meetings with the Deputy Minister of Public Works, where the matter had been discussed. The Department would take away work from the IDT in areas that they were inefficient, and allow the IDT to retain it in those areas that were doing well. It had been a mutual agreement. He had reasonable confidence that the Department would be able to reach or exceed the target and would generally comply with their undertaking because of the system that had been put in place, not just for the building of schools, but also  for the provision of water and sanitation. 

This was a challenge in the financial year, and positive steps had been taken. Not only would the Department be involved in the monitoring, but it would also be involved in the process. He added that there were ongoing discussions with the Ministry of Public Works in relation to these realities.

Mr Surty said that another area of concern related to the general curricula programme. The DG had already provided an explanation and indicated the steps taken by the Department in relation to appointing an independent company to do the forensics. This programme was coming to an end and the focus was now on a second chance to improve on the situation.

He would not discuss the achievements, but rather the challenges. He pointed out that the Department had done well generally. The three important areas that were worth noting in the last two years of the current administration had been:

  • To improve, enhance and expand on information communication technology (ICT). This was a shared responsibility, such as working with the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications to assist with connectivity infrastructure. There had also been the development of digitised content of material for learners in Grades 11 and 12. The DBE would require digitisation for all subjects, which would be available and could be downloaded, in all provinces. It was the Department’s desire to ensure that the reality of ICT in the schools was achievable in the next few years, with particular attention to the rural areas.
  • Unless there were professional educators who were able to facilitate learning, it would not be possible to change the outcomes and the quality of education. The Department had done well, as 143 teacher resource centres had been established of across the country. These centres had all the data necessary to enable teachers to conduct continuous professional development. There were ongoing engagements on the accreditation of the programs to be run at the centres. The management staff at these resource centres had been trained and there was availability of ICT services. The Department was impressed with the coordination. He was of the view that the future lay in the resource centres.
  • The DG had directed that the Department develop self-assessment applications for all teachers to check their ability and improve on deficits. This would result in a change of mind-set and approach to education, as it was linked to many areas of development.  

The Department had not been ignorant of the challenges, and had taken note of feedback and advice taken from stakeholders at meetings. The issue of migration was a phenomenon that should be recognised, as it was both the learners and the educators that were migrating. The ability to retain quality educators, particularly for maths and science, was a huge challenge. The DBE had a dedicated branch to look at rural education. If this had not been done, there would be quality education in the urban setting and not in the rural areas -- not because of the capability and competencies of learners, but simply because there would be no skilled educators to provide it.

Mr Surty said that the manner in which the Portfolio Committee had conducted these discussions showed they were just about education, and not politics. The issues discussed were supported by all political parties. He urged the Committee to support the Department, as it recognised professional management, and the leadership of an institution depended largely on its functionality. Therefore, when the legislation came before it, the Committee should support the Department and help in ensuring that it was soon turned into reality.

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The Chairperson asked the Deputy Minister, for the benefit of the Committee, to give a picture of an ideal teachers’ resource centre. The Committee had visited these centres, but had not been pleased with its findings, for instance, in Gauteng. The Department should point out which of the resource centres in the provinces was ideal, as the Committee would be keen to visit it and see how it operated.

Mr G. Davis (DA) asked the Deputy Minister the name of the legislation that was being referred to. He asked about the need for performance contracts for principals leading the schools. He was aware that the Department’s efforts had been frustrated over the years due to the teacher unions, as discussed in the previous meeting on performance contracts. When did the Department expect to introduce the legislation?

Ms N Tarabella Marchesi (DA) asked whether the issue concerning the learners at Vuwani was a political matter or not, and why it was an issue that appeared to be being ignored. She said that according to the Equal Education Report, there were some schools in the Eastern Cape that had inadequate infrastructure, and some were not listed with the DBE. The information given by the DBE appeared to be inaccurate, or else the data provided in the Report was inaccurate. Why had inaccurate data been provided?

Mr Surty responded that an ideal teacher’s resource centre should have infrastructure that was accessible, available and have ICT connection. The centres were for the community, not just for teachers -- for example, as seen in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape. The second requirement was to ensure the necessary database for learners to be able to download school material. More importantly, there had to be sound governance of the centres, and the staff had to understand and monitor what was happening. It was a developing system, and as they grew with the use of ICT, they might achieve their goals sooner. He was ready to provide a list of centres in respective provinces, and advised the Committee to visit one either announced or unannounced.

He told Mr Davis that the legislation was the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill, which had been advertised for public comment. It had been tabled in Parliament and was currently waiting for Cabinet’s approval. He anticipated that the Bill would be approved by the end of June 2017, or sooner.

The Deputy Minister said the issue of Vuwani could not be ignored, and that there was an inter-ministerial committee that was looking into the matter. The Department had drawn the attention of the inter-ministerial committee to the consequences of not resolving the matter sooner rather than later. Part of the consequences, unfortunately, was that children were being used as pawns, and being kept away from school. There was a need for a solution, and that would basically require recognising the problem and figuring out how to resolve it. The DBE’s duty was to ensure that children were kept in school, and if this was not done there would be consequences for the Department, such as disruptions, suspensions, etc. Even though there were discussions at a particular level, the Department had continued to engage with traditional authorities to ensure a private commitment to get the children back to school. He shared the concerns raised regarding the learners at Vuwani, and was of the belief that government had the responsibility to ensure the learners were at school and the issue was resolved.

Mr Surty said he was not in a position to verify the data in the Equal Education Report. As regards the provincial data, the Department relied on the reports from the provinces. Data was available for the furniture required.

The Deputy Minister clarified that the BELA Bill did not cover the performance contracts. It dealt with the competencies of educators and the manner in which principals were going to be appointed. In terms of the current law, if a union had agreed and they had not signed, the law could still be enforced whether the union liked it or not or not. However, the Department would like to do this simultaneously with the correlation of the competencies and the performance.

Ms C Majeke (UDM) apologised for missing the previous meeting, due to her flight schedules. She asked for the meaning of walk-in teachers. 

Mr Davis asked the Department whether it was obliged, in terms of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, to report fraud and corruption to the police. He was of the view that it was insufficient to deal with the matter in-house. He felt that the Department was legally obliged to report to the police in order to have criminal investigations. In the event that the Department did not report, the accounting officer – the Director General -- would be liable, as he was duty bound to report corrupt practices in the Department to the police.

He said that some of the interventions referred to at the previous day’s meeting were clearly not working, as evidenced by the 38 schools under-performing for the past five years. In terms of the South African Schools Act, one of the options available to the DG was to consider action against educators who demonstrated incapacity or poor performance. He asked whether action had ever been taken against an educator or principal at any of these schools for poor performance. How had the DG used his powers against these educators in schools that had been underperforming for the past five years?

Mr Davis said that the Department faced an interesting dilemma. On one hand, it had to give people opportunities and on the other, it could not have interns for too long. As the Department had said, some had overstayed on humanitarian grounds. Such a situation was problematic, in that it prevented another intern from getting into the Department.

He asked what the Department was doing to help interns with their career paths, preparing them for employment in the DBE. He said it appeared interns were not being earmarked for greater things. What was being done to assist them to develop and contribute to the Department?

Ms Tarabella-Marchesi asked how the government was going to handle the issue of poor contractor performance which resulted in the termination of contracts.

Ms J Basson (ANC) asked what plans the DBE had for districts that did not have special education schools to accommodate learners with disabilities.

Ms N Mokoto (ANC) raised an issue on the safeguarding of the infrastructure of the Department. Was the DBE insured, as it was clear a lot of money was being lost? There was also need to check the financial impact that had already been experienced with regard to the burning down of facilities, as there was a need to ensure this would not disadvantage those who had been waiting for educational facilities to be provided.

Mr Hubert Mweli, Director General: DBE responded on the issue of poor performance, and said that it was not related to tenders being accorded to contractors who did not have the requisite capacity, but the allocation may have been flawed in some way and this was attributable to the current problems being faced.  Tenders were advertised and allocated by implementers, and the role of the Department was to monitor that due process was followed. The Department had observed some of the issues pointed out by Members. The Department had strengthened its memorandum of agreement (MOA), which enhanced its ability to improve the penalties imposed on implementing agents.

In response to Ms  Mokoto, he apologised for not responding to her questions at the previous meeting because of time constraints. He said that the Government did not insure property, as it was not cost effective.

The DG said that he agreed with Mr Davis’s observation on criminal charges being referred to the Hawks. He would make an appointment with the new acting head of the Hawks to prioritize on the fraud cases.

He agreed partly with Mr Davis’s comments on under-performing schools, on the basis that it was like a ‘seesaw’ movement, with some coming in and others going out. He disagreed that there would be no improvement at all. Some of the reasons of under-performance were in the design -- for instance, a small and unviable school, where there was an expectation of under-performance because of the quality of education, and the only remedy would be closure. As committed at the previous day’s meeting, it would be worthwhile to give the Committee details of each school, as opposed to just looking at the numbers, and to deal with issues on a case by case basis

On the issue of capacity, he corrected Mr  Davis, saying that the relevant legislation was not the South African Schools Act in terms of the responsibilities of government and management, but in respect of the incapacity of educators it was the Employment of Educators Act, and the employer in this regard was not the DG. The employer was the superintendent referred to in the relevant legislation, and Head of Department (HOD), who were empowered by that legislation to deal with incapacity relating to underperformance of any kind.

On internships, he agreed that perhaps humanitarianism sometimes undermined the rationale behind the internship programme. He accepted that this was a weakness, and the DBE had decided to stick to the specified policy.

Responding to the question as to how the Department was dealing with poor infrastructure leading to under-performance, he said it now had meetings regularly to evaluate the situation, but these could not be as frequent as weekly meetings due to other responsibilities that needed to be handled. It was evaluating and following up on plans and ensuring the Department avoided the problems it had picked up.

In response to Ms Basson, on inclusive education, he said that in the last presentation to the council of education, this had been included, and Gauteng had been applauded for putting up a number of schools to cater for those learners with special needs. In other provinces, there was need to follow Gauteng’s example, so they addressed the needs of learners with disabilities, or special education needs which were not in the education system. The DBE was also following up and monitoring other provinces on learners with special needs with respect to infrastructure. He submitted that it might not be feasible for each district to provide the necessary infrastructure cost effectively, but where there was a need the DBE would take advice on considering setting up infrastructure to make the service more available.

Mr Mweli agreed with Mr Davis that interns should not just be trained, but should also be given an opportunity to work, with mentorship and coaching within the Department. He endorsed the recommendation from Mr Davis, based on his practical experience

He said that, the Department engaged with the Treasury regarding funding for infrastructure while it was collaborating with the Ministry of Public Works. Contractors were also invited to the meetings, with their lawyers. Fortunately, the Department had trained in-house lawyers who could manage the situation. It did not get involved in the process of tendering, but once the task had been completed and work had started, it made a point of engaging with the contractors. The DM would ask the team working on the project for reports -- not just a narrative, but a visual manifestation of the work in progress -- and it had made a remarkable difference. In its quarterly report, the Department would also include visuals for the portfolio to appreciate what was happening, and the progress being made.

Lastly on the issue of Vuwani, on how to ensure that resources for infrastructure were not being taken away from other schools to deal with the Vuwani situation, he said that after engagement with the provincial department, they did not want a situation where resources and materials designated for a particular place were diverted to Vuwani. A balance had to be maintained, and it needed to be overseen in order to ensure there were no distortions in the province.

The DG referred to the issue of absorbing interns, and said the DBE could provide a database of interns who were on fixed term contracts, and on a permanent basis as well. There were a number of interns who were trained and had eventually been employed in departments other than the DBE. 

The Chairperson added that there were many interns in the provinces, and she thought that the provinces could assist in supplying the numbers of the interns.

 

DBE’s Annual Performance Plan and Budget: 2017/2018

Ms Nthaleleni Muntsu Ms Nthambeleni Mutsu, Director for Strategic Planning, said the plan displayed the DBE’s prioritisation for efficiency and improved institutional performance. It showed the challenges faced in the country. It also acknowledged the factors around the learners’ dropout rate, the challenges faced in the school environment and disruptions in the community. It also covered the indicators that displayed improvements and the targets the DBE sought to achieve over a specified period. (See attached document).

Dr Mamiki Maboyo, Deputy Director General: Curriculum Policy,Support and Monitoring, presented on the budget allocated to the Department for the 2017/18 financial year. The budget indicated the previous allocation and the current allocation. It also displayed the reprioritisation baseline and the approved baseline reductions that had been approved by the Cabinet. The presentation also covered the reasons for the deviation on the programmes and reasons for the deviation in the economic classifications. The detailed allocations for year were given. (See attached document).

Discussion

Ms Tarabella-Marchesi, referred to page 9 of the Equal Education Report on the infrastructure, and asked what the status on sanitation, water and electricity was. On the issue of the curriculum on page 12, on learners that were repeating, it showed that within Grades 2 to 8 the learners were doing well, but from Grades 9 to 10 the rate of learners repeating was higher. The foundation phase was very weak regarding the content, whereas from Grade 9 there was more content, hence the repeating and dropouts. She asked if there was any way in the syllabus the content could be evenly distributed so that there was a build-up of the content from the lower grades to the upper grades, and it did not come as a shock to learners at Grade 9.

She commented on the fact that the mathematics grants had been reduced countrywide, despite the fact that the country was not doing well.  She asked why there had been the reduction on maths, science and technology due to the under-spending on annual basis.

Ms Basson said the 2016/17 report on the annual performance plan tackled the issue of inclusive education, but now in 2017/18 she did not see anything on the matter. In April the Committee had recommended that this should be included in future and the Department had indicated that it was developing policies and funding for inclusive education. She asked how far the Department was on the general training certificate for vocational skills, and for the time frame, to appreciate the progress and targets on inclusive education.  

She wanted know why there was a high rate of under-performance and under-spending on maths, science and technology, and said that the reduction of R63 million over the medium term expenditure framework (MTEF) period was too much.

She also asked whether the post provisioning models (PPMs) accommodated Grade R learners and whether there was a limitation of the number of Grade R learners to be allocated to public schools. She said that on PPM2, there were there were a number of learners that were not accommodated because some schools claimed that they were allowed to accommodate only a certain number of learners. How many learners were allocated to a classroom for grade R?  

Ms Majeke said that the government was spending a great deal of money on infrastructure to ensure students were at school. Even so, many children dropped out of school when they reached the upper grades. How could it be ensured that children stayed in school till tertiary education? She was of the view there was no balance between the money invested in education and the outcome. She asked whether the government had a standard form of transport for children to be safely transported.

Mr D Mnguni (ANC) said he was impressed with the APP because most of the targets could be achieved. He was thrilled that there was an upward movement with the Funza Lushaka bursary scheme, and asked whether there were plans in line with maths, science, technology and indigenous languages. On the National Strategy for Learner Attainment (NSLA), he had seen the objectives and the pillars, but there had been no emphasis and time allocated on sports. He asked when the Integrated Quality Management System (IQMS) would change to QMS, as there had been talks on changing it to QMS for a long time, and it was about time it changed.

He noticed that there was monitoring of registered schools, but what about unregistered schools set up by foreigners? What was being done about the situation, as it was wrong? He asked when would there be a national strategy for teacher attainment, especially newly-recruited teachers who did not have accommodation, even principals. When the Auditor General was here, indicators had been addressed and these had not been included in the APP. He asked how these indicators would be included in the APP.

The budget had been reduced on employees’ compensation, and goods and services, and grants for maths and science had been reduced. He asked about the impact of these reductions. It was claimed that there was a lack of teachers for maths and science, but the grants had been reduced.  

Mr Davis said that the presentation contained targets, but not the previous performances. It would have been easier to have the two documents at the meeting to enable the Members to view each table on the indicators, performance and the targets, and reconcile them. He asked the Chairperson whether it was statutorily correct or not. The AG’s findings had been that there were several indicators not included in the APP. Would they be included in the final version of the APP?

He said the striking statistic in the APP was the 23.4% of learners who had to walk for more than 30 minutes to school in KZN, and there others that walked for longer than that. The figure of one in four learners that walked to school should be a cause for thought. Under such conditions, it was hard for the learners to concentrate at school, He could not find anything related to transport for learners in the presentation. What was the Department doing to reduce this statistic and help children that walked long distances to get to school?

On teacher development and recruitment, he was pleased that there was an action plan to attract and motivate younger teachers. He asked the Department if it could provide insight into the action plan, such as the incentives being given. Would it be looking at performance-related pay? What would the Department introduce to attract new talent into the teaching profession?

The maths and science results were the worst, according to national statistics, because of the quality of teaching and the shortage of teachers in the field. It was often found that some schools, where there were foreign educators in these subjects, generally performed better than schools where there were South African teachers. It was a comment that was hard to ignore, as it often came up. What was the Department doing to ensure that there were talented teachers, specifically for maths and science, to teach in South African schools?

On the quality of teachers, he pointed out that if new teachers did not have the practical knowledge, they were not able to apply the theoretical subject matter in the classroom. A frustrating thing for the country was that initial teachers’ education was important, and it was up to the Department to resolve this problem. What was it doing to improve the performance of new graduates?

Ms Boshoff referred to the feeding scheme, and said that the budget review of the MTEF period indicated that there was an increase of R390 million. She wanted to know why the number of schools benefiting from the feeding scheme was not increasing.

She asked why there was no development regarding the printing in Braille for blind learners. In addition, there was no training for people to assist blind learners.

Regarding oversight conducted to ensure special intervention and ensure learners’ performance, how many of these interventions had borne fruit to ensure that learners were correctly placed. Often a learner was placed at a special needs school because of a shortage of space in a mainstream school. This was unacceptable to the learner.

She referred to Early Childhood Development (ECD), and said the budget review indicated there was an amount of R1.3 billion over the MTEF period. If all schools had received their Grade R workbooks, a report would be great. Last year, the Department had said that it was going reach 100 % incorporation of Grade R learners into the public system, and if this had been done, a report was needed. Last year the Department had spoken of the implementation of a two-year pre-Grade R programme, and if this was on track a report  be appreciated.

Regarding the curriculum differentiation to reduce the learner dropout, she said that the only way to ensure this, as the Deputy Minister had said earlier, was to ensure that the teachers’ resource centres were up and running to capacitate all teachers and the subjects they taught. On oversight, it had been found that teachers were incapable of teaching curriculum differentiation.

She said that should teachers’ packages increase, it would place a strain on the provincial education departments’ budgets, but this had to be done. There was a need to ensure that the teachers were appropriately trained.

The Funza Lushaka bursaries must be made available to students to give them opportunities to obtain national senior certificates in sign language and Braille, as well other forms of remedial training.

Ms Boshoff referred to learner wellness, and said the Department should strengthen the psychological and social support programmes. If the full cycle was done throughout the schools, there were not enough psychologists or speech therapists. There was need for oversight in the special needs schools, as well as the general schools.

With regard to transport, she said that learners had lost their lives because the Department had not consulted with the Department of Public Works to provide departmental transport. As result, they had been transported in a taxi. There was urgent need to address this, otherwise there were risks for the learners.

Mr H Khosa (ANC) supported the point raised about the better performance in the lower grades and the poor performance in the higher grades. He said that this could be attributed to the fact that the attitude of the schools had not been addressed. Teachers tended to treat the content of the lower grades ‘cheaply’, hence the learners did not have a concrete foundation. It was an issue of attitude. Commitment from the educators was needed, to create a suitable condition for learners to have concrete foundation.

The cuts in funding for maths, science and technology implied that they were less important. Most schools were gearing up to offer maths and science, so he expected that there would be an increase to strengthen it, and a shift from learners picking only those subjects that they felt they were able to pass.

Ms Mokoto commended the efforts of the Department on the new grant included for learners with intellectual disabilities in the budget. It was beneficial, as it went a long way and was aligned with the objectives of freedom and the constitution. She said that 42 m had been allocated to Operation Phakisa, and wanted to know which areas would be covered. Specific areas related to Phakisa focused on ICT, but there was no attention given to that area in the document, except for minor areas. When one asked the Department about the issue, there was no convincing feedback as it was referred to the Department of Telecommunications. She said ICT was a matter of development, even in the rural areas, and the DBE had to start reprioritizing its attention to ICT issues. It did not help to universalise ICT in urban schools, as it also affected development even in the rural areas, and this should be budgeted for.

She said that on the issue of Learner Teacher Support Material (LTSM), there seemed to be a problem around textbook delivery. She urged the Department to budget for books e-learning, and said that ICT should be dealt in the LTSM.

On the issue of diagnostic tests by all teachers, the target was very low. She proposed that there must be a higher target. Some of the targets in the APP were also very low, and there was a need for those to be higher as well. She proposed that there should be incentives to attract the participation of teachers.

She asked how far the recommendations that had been pointed out in the previous meeting on the findings of the AG had been incorporated by the Department.

She asked why there was a reduction in the budget for the compensation of employees and how he Department was dealing with that. She said that that there were disparities in the provinces on the amounts allocated, and there was a need for it to be on a par. Had the Department considered a salary increase for the teachers in the event they asked for an increase?

Department’s response

Mr Mweli said that the APP had been tabled in Parliament and had been adopted. Secondly, he clarified that this was the DBE’s APP, and the expectations implied that the DBE had been merged with the provincial education departments (PEDs), but the two had separate APPs.

The Deputy Minister said an assessment had been done in the Eastern Cape on the number of schools that needed to be replaced, and the province had gone through mergers and rationalisations. To his knowledge, they had developed at least 134 state-of-the-art schools.

The Department had also observed that too much attention was paid from Grade 10, and that schools would place their best teachers in Grades 11 and 12, and pay less attention to the earlier grades. This resulted in demotivation and repetition, so the Department had set a focused strategy to invest in planning, and to direct provinces to focus on earlier classes. He was of the view that there had been a change, as it had strengthened the capacity of learners on skills such as literacy and numeracy.

The qualification of Grade R teachers was essential, as an unqualified practitioner at Grade R would create a poor foundation. Indeed, a poor foundation and inadequate resources at the early stage affected the learner at a higher level.

Mr Mweli commended Ms  Basson and Ms Boshoff for their commitment to inclusive education. It was often neglected. The Department had incorporated the use of Braille, including work books, although it could be better. One of the difficulties was that it was not easy to find service providers that produced Braille resources.

On the issue of curriculum differentiation, he was of the view that the universities in the country were not doing enough in this regard.  People did not understand how hard it was to teach, because previously there had been a homogenous environment – for instance, Afrikaans in the same environment, culture and race – but now the teaching environment had changed to accommodate different cultures and races. The important question to ask was whether universities were providing adequate training for the educators.

The APP did not include fourth quarter report, which had not been submitted and approved, and the timeline did not include the data that had not been submitted yet or approved. The Department apologises for not including the information Mr Davis was requesting to be included. He agreed it would be useful for it to be captured in the APP.

He also agreed that it was about time the IQMS was changed to QMS. This had been agreed to three years ago. The issue was with the signing, as most unions had signed for the 0.5%. The Department had presented it to the Treasury, for it to be raised to QMS.

Regarding the accommodation of educators, he said that when new infrastructure was being developed there should be new additions for teachers to have decent accommodation.

The learner transport issue was problematic. Several issues needed to be taken into account, such as to what extent the Department could provide safe provincial transport, rather than unsafe taxis. Taxis could not be completely ruled out, but the Department should ensure the competency and roadworthiness of these taxis.

His response on the feeding scheme was that the numbers had not increased because of the increase in food prices, the impact of drought being one of the factors. However, schools were being creative, to allow breakfast with the resources allocated. The scheme had stabilised and was working so far, and poor performance had reduced.

He said that the delivery of Grade R workbooks was going well, with no problems so far. Sign language was a problem across the country, with few trained educators in sign language. Psychosocial support was an issue of concern. Support needed to be introduced at an early stage to correct the problems sooner rather than later. He said that there had been an improvement in the resources.

The Deputy Minister responded to Mr Khosa’s question on the issue of the practical elements, skills required and mentorship, and referred to an educational institution which had it had upgraded skills significantly. A good numbers of teachers and principals had been trained and their courses were available to all teachers. Regarding ICT, he anticipated by the end of the current administration, learning and teaching would be IT based. He added that the biggest challenge was connectivity.

He endorsed the views on the monitoring and evaluation.

The DG responded on the curriculum reforms and the quality of teaching in the lower grades, and said the annual national assessment (ANA) and national strategy for learner attainment (NSLA) helped the DBE to pick up on the system. South Africa was starting to do better now. Another key problem was the monitoring in the lower grades, as well as the quality of teachers at the lower grades.

The reason for the cut in the MST budget was because the resources were not being fully utilised. Treasury cuts the budget if an entity was not fully utilising the resources allocated to it.

His response to Ms Basson on inclusive education was that it was a work in progress and could not be put in the APP until it was finalised. It may be unable to meet the targets, and the Department was working with the Treasury.

He said that there was a limit per class of Grade R learners. These classes must have separate facilities.

The issue of transport was a joint responsibility of the Department with the Ministry of Transport, but monitoring at provincial level was problematic. There were standards in place.

He explained that walk-in teachers implied no learner should have no teacher. This was to ensure that if a teacher was available, he or she should teach the learners and the paperwork would be sorted out later.

Between 14% and 16% of learners were lost in the system, because they took too long to finish the system in a specified time. There should be a public exam with a certificate at Grade 9.

The Department had plans for improving the Funza Lushaka bursaries, and they continuously revised those plans. He pointed out that Programme 5 covered sports, music and extracurricular activities.

On the issue of IQMS to QMS, only one party had not signed. He pointed out the economic situation of the country, and said there was no new money from anywhere. Another option was to set up a unilateral declaration, although it could be a short term solution and a long term problem.

The Chairperson asked for background on the 0.5%, as it was being referred to. The DG responded that Ms Geyer would give a background on that.

On monitoring and evaluation, he said that it was a concurrent function to be conducted by the PED, but as a Department, they would exert pressure on them to monitor unregistered schools.

Mr Mnguni had been supporting a National Strategy for Teachers Attainment (NSTA), and the DG felt that Dr Maboyo would be the ideal person to address that. Hhe suggested that the two have a meeting on the issue.

On the issue of the recommendations from the Auditor General, he said that the Department would take the recommendations for the APP for the following year. Some indicators had unfinished business.

On the reduction of compensation of employees, he said that the baseline was no longer safe. It kept decreasing, and Treasury was responsible for that.

He added that on transport, the annual survey showed there had been an improvement, but he implored the Committee to keep monitoring the annual survey.

As regard to the incentives to motivate teachers, he responded that there was nothing new, apart from teaching awards. New teachers were also competing with other teachers, and were performing well.

He said that the Ministry of Education would work with the Ministry in Zimbabwe to stabilise the system for recruiting foreign teachers to offer their services in South Africa.

In response to Ms Boshoff, he said that the DBE was obligated to the feeding scheme, and it appeared that more schools were being fed. As for Braille materials, there was slow progress as had already been discussed, as development of the material took a long time. It was a matter of national concern. The DBE had been providing basic learning materials for blind adult learners.

The 2017/18 learners had received workbooks for Grade R and the DBE was now waiting for the 2018/2019 delivery, which should be done later in the year. The Department would continue to provide the three areas of responsibility: stimulation programmes in the form of national frameworks for Grades 0 to 4; training for ECD practitioners; and conditions of service for ECD practitioners. It had acknowledged workbooks for social workers and needed to find out who it could reach out to for Grades R/0 to 4 which were not in the community centres.

He said that all teachers were being trained on curriculum differentiation. There was progress in working on the material that was being provided.

The DG said that the Department could not afford to place all psychosocial services in all schools, but only at the district level. However, such services would be made available in schools where the learners had profound disabilities and needed these services at the school.

On the issue of donor funding, he said European Union (EU) funding was for a specific time frame and currently they were taking precautionary measures, and it would be funded by the main budget. He said that  the mentorship programme, TeachSa, was working excellently to prepare teachers for the profession.

On the prioritization of ICT, he said that provincial executive of the Western Cape and Gauteng had prioritised ICT, hence its success in these provinces.

As regards Operation Phakisa, its priority was on utilising digital content development.

He responded on the issue of targets appearing low, saying this was because some areas were new. The DBE would continue to revisit them over time and empirical research was done. On self-diagnostic measures, putting the target too high may not be wise, given that it had been a battle the past few years. The Department was targeting six out of nine PEDs because three provinces were already leading -- the Free State, Gauteng and the Western Cape. The others would have to be supported. He was of the view that resources and time should be invested were it was really needed, while others just required monitoring. 

Ms Simone Geyer, ‎Chief Director: Education Human Resource Management, gave a historical background of the compensation of employees regarding the 0.5% which had been introduced by the Occupational Specific Dispensation (OSD). Its intention was to incentivise to retain teachers in the system. It was to reward teachers that were performing well, and they would get an increase in their salary. Other professions had signed this agreement, although each profession had a different dispensation and it was also dependent on the years of study, skills, etc. in the public sector.

Dr Maboya added that the Department was at 95% regarding the universalisation of Grade R. In terms of directives on Grade R, the Department had developed a plan with International Bureau of Education at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). It would be crafted properly in terms of personnel, infrastructure and all the other factors to be taken into consideration. As far as Grade R was concerned, the Department was making strides, such as the printing and delivery of 3.7 million work books. In that way it was trying to improve the quality of Grade R. She said that at least 33% of Grade R practitioners had a minimum of a National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level 6 qualification. It had established training on an online work base for all teachers, including foundation teachers.

Regarding the dropout rate, there were a number of factors that were attributable, including deliberate action by principals to keep learners in school in order to boost their matric results. The Department’s policy stated that no learner should be kept in high school for more than four years. Another factor could be the pass requirements, such as 40% for maths, but the policy had revised this.

On inclusive education, all materials from Grade R had been adopted to Braille, and so far the performance on that was going well.

On the issue of digitisation, she said that all state textbooks have been digitised, while others were still in process to satisfy intellectual property requirements.

The Chairperson commented that from the discussions, there was need to have a link with the provinces. She was of the view that the Committee had to have a day to look at the APP so as to create a seamless operation between the province and the Department. The issue of teacher development underpinned everything in these discussions, so there was need to unpack the existing problems on teacher development and find a solution.

On the issue of compulsory subjects, though this had been mentioned in the APP, she was unsure why there was not much emphasis. She was also concerned about the time frame for the ANA. It had helped, but there was a need for emphasis on monitoring which should not be ignored.

Ms Majeke said that during the break she had been invited to a meeting at which an NGO was establishing an early childhood development academy to train practitioners. An area had already been allocated, and it wanted clarity on DBE training on ECDs, and how it related to NGOs that would also train practitioners.

The DG said the issue would be the need for accreditation, and the DBE would be the beneficiary.

The Deputy Minister said that early childhood development (ECD) initially fell in the purview of the Department of Social Development.  The DBE would develop the curriculum content for Grade R.

He agreed that indigenous languages must be universal, and not pilots. From next year, there would not be any pilots. With regard to history, a team had been set up and were working on whether it should be part of life orientation, or a subject.

He shared with the Committee that Ms Tarabella-Marchesi, the Minister and the President were handling the issue of learners at Vuwani, and it appeared that all the learners would be back at school on the following Monday. A joint communication would be made by the President and the Minister.

The meeting was adjourned.

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