The Department of Basic Education and the Department of Transport briefed the Committee on progress made thus far with the provision of learner transport. The Deputy Minister of Basic Education was in attendance. The key objective of the policy being presented to the Committee was to achieve a proper safe mode of transport for learners.
Members question the numbers of learners in need of transport in the different provinces because there were disparities between the need and those who were actually transported. It was explained the accuracy of the data was not in question because figures were directly informed by erratic patterns of migration of learners. The reason why the policy was as prescriptive as Members desired was because a lack of a lobbying instrument as prescribed by the Constitution and a higher level legal instrument required. The Committee asked to what extent the Department oversaw the transportation of learners, requested more information about norms and standards around learner transport and why School Governing Bodies were not considered a major stakeholder.
Members emphasised the importance of intergovernmental relations with regard to planning and maintenance of roads. The importance of monitoring the process of bidding for transportation work and then the swapping of vehicles once the tender had been won, was an area highlighted by Members as a matter of serious concern. The responsibility of the Department of Transport in provinces in the transport of learners was explained. The Committee was looking forward to the well-co-ordinated road safety programme that the Departments promised.
The Department of Basic Education then briefed the Committee on progress made with regard to the implementation of Operation Phakiso: ICT in Basic Education. In terms of whether human interaction between teachers and learners would be compromised with ICT, the Committee was reassured a balance would be maintained. The functions of the ICT Lab, as the planning arena for stakeholders in the process of creating a strong and necessary IT component in education, was also explained.
Members asked how homework teachers were going to be integrated into the ICT programme, how special needs learners were going to be assisted in becoming technologically savvy, whether ICT training could be included in the curriculum for teachers and why certain provinces did not have anyone being trained at an advanced level in the ICT programme. Members heard the Department was working with Vodacom and Microsoft around training Office Managers and educators at schools.
Apologies were submitted from the Minister of Basic Education, the Minister of Transport and the Director-General of the Department of Basic Education (DBE).
Chairperson Opening Remarks
The Chairperson, after welcoming the Deputy Minister of Basic Education, outlined a decision was taken to convene the meeting because there were road carnages all over the country and the Committee was worried about learners dying on the road. There could be many reasons why this was happening but the Committee felt responsibilities between the Department of Basic Education and the Department of Transport should be clearly spelt out.
Comments by the Deputy Minister of Basic Education
Mr Mohamed Enver Surty thanked the Chairperson for raising issues about education and transport which were critical to the education landscape. He was glad the Department of Transport was well represented because unless the Department of Basic Education and the Department of Transport worked closely together the outcomes each sought to achieve would not be realised in terms of safe transportation of learners to schools. What one would hear from the Department was firstly that realities differed from province to province. However the law, in terms of transportation, clearly defined the matter to be the responsibility of the Department of Transport. On the other hand, the DBE was working collaboratively with the Department of Transport to ensure safety standards and norms with regard to transportation of learners. The Departments should work closely together to ensure routes used for conveying of learners were appropriately and adequately planned. It should be ensured that when allocations were made with regard to the budget in terms of the division of revenue, that the allocations should be ring fenced. The difficulty was that insufficient money was allocated by the provincial departments to the DBE. The situation previously and the situation today certainly indicated a positive improvement in terms of transport.
The Departments had not overcome the entire challenge but, in terms of expenditure in most instances, a 100% target was achieved in terms of transporting of learners. This occurred in terms of accumulated debts that occurred in provincial departments with regard to payment of those who conveyed learners.
The key critical challenge was, one, better planning and co-ordination, and, two, improved efficiency of the budget. For this there had to be a conversation between the DBE, Department of Transport and National Treasury where transportation should be an amount ring fenced as was the case with the National Nutrition Schemes. This would also involve MEC’s of the nine provinces in order to achieve some kind of consensus. Also required was a strong argument from the Portfolio Committee that special consideration be given to this particular request.
Deputy Minister Surty said a working relationship developed between the two Departments and there was a greater synergy now than ever before. What the DBE did in certain appropriate instances was to second its staff to assist the Department of Transport to give dedicated and focused attention to the issue of transport. Another challenge faced was closures, rationalisation and mergers of schools as a result of the realities. The Department could share with the Committee that this matter was addressed with the Council of Education Ministers. DBE then developed a guideline to assist all provinces. This guideline document very clearly and categorically spelt out the responsibility of ensuring transport was provided where a school was closed. One could not have closure of a school and then have that particular learner walk more than five kilometres to the merged school - and this was the reality.
This gave rise to unintended consequences in terms of planning – a dedicated team from the National Department to assist particular provinces like the Eastern Cape, and which was seized with the task of mergers, was established to ensure that when schools merged they did so with regard to issues of transport. The Departments believed this team could help significantly.
He thanked the Committee for providing this opportunity for interaction. He could say quite confidently that from where the DBE was previously located to where it was now, there was significant improvement even though all challenges were not overcome.
Department of Basic Education and Department of Transport Briefing on Learner Transport
Mr Elmon Maake, Director, Department of Transport, said the policy on learner transport aimed to achieve a proper safe mode of transport for learners.
Objectives of the policy included:
- improve access to quality education by providing safe, decent, effective, and integrated sustainable learner transport
- improve access to quality education through a coordinated and aligned transport system
- improve planning and implementation of an integrated learner transport service
- manage and oversee implementation of an integrated learner transport service
- ensure an effective management of learner transport system
- provide a safe and secure transport environment for learners through co-operation and collaboration with law enforcement authorities.
Desired outcomes included:
- Timeous delivery of service
- Rate of road accidents reduced
- Coordinated approach in relation to planning and implementation
- Learner transport operators that adhere to road traffic regulations
- Vehicle maintenance plan and technical support for emergencies
- Viable and sustainable operations
- Uniformity of services and tariff structure
- Coherent performance monitoring system.
Mr Solly Mafoko, Chief Director, DBE, said 96 000 learners were not being transported due to funding issues. The Standing Committee on Appropriations recommended an assessment of the Learner Transport Programme be conducted to see whether funding was sufficient, whether learners were transported safely and on time and how funding and expenditure impacted the programme.
Key challenges included:
- insufficient funding of learner transport
- provincial coverage of learner transport: there are 97 714 learners that would not have been transported in the 2017/18 financial year particularly in the Eastern Cape (29 314 learners), KZN (42 255 learners), North West (16 688 learners) and Limpopo (6 219 learners).
- road safety: this is particularly so in privately arranged learner transport where there is a contract between parents and operators - use of old un-roadworthy vehicles, unauthorised services and unqualified drivers
- implementation of Focused National Learner Transport Road Safety Programme - imperative in terms of awareness campaigns and enforcement
- rationalisation of schools: rationalisation/ closure of schools have an impact on increasing demand for learner transport
- lack of uniformity in contracting and remuneration
Current interventions included:
- Department of Transport engaged with different law enforcement agencies to address issues of overcrowding and un-roadworthy vehicles
- Joint intervention and monitoring teams at national, provincial and local level constituted
- Road safety programmes in conjunction with the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) including law enforcement and road safety awareness targeting operators, learners and parents
- Develop and enforce driver and learner code of conduct
Ms P Samka-Mququ (ANC, Eastern Cape) agreed with the Deputy Minister about rationalisation and how it has affected the Eastern Cape province (Alfred Ndzo District – the issue came up), because children are struggling and the issue of scholar transport has been raised several times but there is no definite solution to this problem. The policy is clear and good but the implementation stages are slacking. In some provinces scholar transport is handled by the Department of Transport whilst in other provinces by DBE, so the Committee needs to engage the former to ascertain on how they are handling this. The fitness of the transportation in the EC is not good because there are accidents year in and year out, because those buses are not monitored and then accidents happen. Perhaps, there should be some sort of agreement or partnering between the Department of Transport and DBE to establish how those transport services in rural areas in EC can be monitored.
The Deputy Minister said the Member raised the issue of whether what was provided in relation to transport in the Eastern Cape - specifically to Alfred Nzo - was indeed adequate. If one looked at the presentation it showed the need was far greater than the target. The MEC for Education in the province would have to be engaged. He shared the experience of the situation that not long ago the old transport system in the Eastern Cape collapsed completely. It then improved to 30 000, 53 000 two or three years ago and now it exceeded 75 000. This meant there was an improvement. He raised this in the context of monitoring that had taken place. In the Eastern Cape rationalisation and mergers took place more than in any other province.
Mr M Khawula (UDM, KwaZulu-Natal), referring to key elements of the policy and criteria for learner transport beneficiaries, highlighted that the presentation showed Gauteng had 109 618 learners in need of transport and KZN had 90 000 learners in need of transport. The presentation also pointed out that while there was a need of 90 000 in KZN, in actual fact 47 747 learners were transported – if the criteria was distance, then someone was taking the Department for a ride. How could it be possible that for the same distance a need amounted to 109 618 in Gauteng and on the same basis the need was 90 000 in KZN? This was just impossible. He said with certainty that the need for learner transport in KZN was not 90 000 learners. He disputed this and wanted it corrected. The people of KZN were being taken for a ride if this was what the DBE was saying about it because this left 42 253 learners without transport in KZN. He wanted to assume the numbers were actually determined by what the province could afford. Out of the 90 000, when one had to transport only half of the need, how did one then determine which half would be satisfied and which half would not be satisfied?
Mr C Hattingh (DA, North West) said that from the Deputy Minister’s input it was clear many meetings were held over many years, yet one could see the executing function was still migrating between the two Departments - there had to be an ideal solution and the Departments had not arrived there yet. What he failed to understand was that much emphasis was put on ‘rural-ness’. Rural-ness referred to KZN and the Eastern Cape where learners lived very far apart. What then did not make sense was where one had a highly urbanised province like Gauteng, getting the biggest slice of the cake when there were really no large distances to travel in comparison to KZN, the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and North West provinces – this did not make sense.
The Deputy Minister responded that with regard to validity, reliability and accuracy of data, Gauteng particularly, as well as in the Western Cape and to some extent in the metropolitan areas of KZN, migration contributed to impossible challenges in terms of planning. This year alone in Gauteng for grade 1s and Grade 8s, 40 000 places had to be found for learners whose parents had not applied earlier – this was a direct result of migration. Places had to be found for these learners and they had to be transported because classes were already overcrowded. What might seem to be a huge distortion was a reflection of the reality of life because the Gauteng figures were directly informed as a result of migration. The Deputy Minister was as sceptical as Mr Khawula about the figures – the figures needed to be reviewed. The next presentation in terms of ICT, the administrative arm of the Learner Unit Record Information and Tracking System (LURITS), sought to ensure it was recorded how far the learner was from school. District directors, by the end of the year, would need to check the data with regard to learner transport.
Mr Khawula, looking at was being budgeted for in accordance with what the province could afford, saw the budget for KZN was minimal.
Mr Hattingh said if one looked at cost per learner it was significant that the North West and Mpumalanga had the highest cost for transport per learner. He would have expected that with the vast distances in KZN and the Eastern Cape. Mpumalanga was almost R7 500 per annum per learner and this was on the top of the list. The second province was North West with R7 282. If one compared this to a province in its vastness, the Northern Cape, with R3 500 per learner, then the figures just did not add up. Why would the most urbanised province (Gauteng) spend R6 200, while the Free State, which was fairly rural, spent only R4200 per learner? It was clearly not only safety of learners that had to be addressed, it was also funding of this. There were too many questions and too many discrepancies in what was presented to the Committee today.
Ms L Dlamini (ANC, Mpumalanga) asked what determined the price of transport per learner and who determined the price – the Department of Education or the Department of Transport. She asked this because if one looked at the three provinces that Mr Hattingh referred to, two were using the Department of Transport while Gauteng was using the Department of Education. Why did the policy not prescribe who should be responsible for scholar transport? Why was it open? Why was it flexible?
Ms Angeline Nchabeleng, Chief Director, Department of Transport, replied that a number of consultations happened and decisions were made through various provincial and ministerial structures - it concluded there had to be lobbying in terms of having a legal instrument to talk to Section 137 of the Constitution. This was the reason who was responsible was not included in the policy - a higher level legal instrument was required to effect this.
Ms Dlamini was also concerned about implementation of the policy - she heard there was a good relationship between the two Departments and meetings were taking place. Her concern was more about matters that took place at a local level. The involvement of municipalities was mentioned, but according to her, this was not happening. In her municipality in Mpumalanga, there was no awareness about scholar transport. Roads in farm areas were the responsibility of district municipalities/councils - to what extent were they involved? Municipalities did not even know what was happening with scholar transport.
Mr Mafoko said effectiveness of the Inter-Departmental Committee on provincial level was being monitored. He could give an example of a case in KZN where the committee at provincial level was not functioning effectively and the Department intervened - that intervention assisted the situation. The same intervention was done in the Northern Cape and Western Cape. It was part of the role of the National Inter-Departmental Committee to assess if there were any hiccups at provincial level.
The Deputy Minister explained if one had nearly a quarter of the population transported daily, certainly the metropolitan services and city councils, in terms of the traffic department, had a particular responsibility to ensure that vulnerable groups were protected and that oversight was placed in a much more meaningful way. With regard to the fitness and quality of vehicles, this was the responsibility of the Department of Transport - the Department of Transport had to be involved at a provincial level. Departments had to work together to ensure synergy existed between education and transport. There therefore had to be a dedicated forum within provinces where this synergy could happen.
Ms Dlamini asked about norms and standards around learner transport.
The Deputy Minister replied the norm according to learner transportation in terms of school policy was that if a learner had to travel more than 5 km to get to school, that learner had to be provided with transport. Provinces were expected to abide by this. Unfortunately the need was greater than resources available. One of the challenges highlighted was the national norm, related to the stipend, allocation, remuneration or reward, which had to be provided for those transported.
Ms Dlamini said that when the presentation spoke to funds allocated for scholar transport, the words ‘good’ and ‘bad’ were used. An example in KZN was used where it was said the funds were ‘good’ because there was no overspending as the province got money from other programs which performed poorly – this was very bad and showed poor planning.
The Deputy Minister said one could not only look at distance - one had to look at the vehicle being used and state of the road. What should be agreed upon was a minimum stipend/threshold in all provinces. There should be a move towards a minimum norm which was informed by the realities. Part of the strategic plan should be inspection of vehicles that transported learners. One should argue part of the Integrated Development Plan (IDP) of council include a safety measure which involved inspection of vehicles for learners both at metropolitan and provincial level.
Ms Dlamini said KZN, Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape had many farms so the provinces had boarding schools which meant there were long distances involved for transport. In terms of a study happening now, she did not see anything about School Governing Bodies (SGBs), because for her, the Bodies were supposed to be the first stakeholders considered. Additionally, scholar transport was happening at school level and SGBs knew more about scholar transport.
Mr Mafoko replied the issue of SGBs was an omission - schools should involve principals, SGBs and learners so it was an all-encompassing effort. SGBs should however be the first port of call.
The Deputy Minister said one could not only look at distance - one had to look at the vehicle being used and state of the road. There should be an agreement on a minimum stipend/threshold in all provinces. This would allow a minimum norm which was informed by the realities. Part of the strategic plan should be inspection of vehicles that transported learners. One should argue that part of the IDP of the Council had to include a safety measure which involved an inspection of vehicles for learners both at metropolitan and provincial level.
Ms T Mpambo-Sibhukwana (DA) stated that there has been a lot of accidents reported in the news about scholar transport that are not up to standard, but what punitive measures according to the law have been taken by the relevant department regarding the drivers who continue doing this without drivers licenses. In the Western Cape there was a lot of people who were doing the same thing but measures were taken by the department to bring those drivers to justice. Lastly, with regards to what the Deputy Minister said in terms of migrating, what are the time frames and is it an on-going process.
The Deputy Minister, not quite sure of what Ms Mpambo-Sibhukwana had said as she spoke in isiXhosa, picked up the Member did mention migration – migration was not going to end and people migrated for different reasons mainly economic. Migration took place mainly from rural to urban areas, inter- provincially and would continue. In terms of how it impacted the infrastructure programme, KZN and the Eastern Cape was asked not to build bigger schools in rural areas because they became white elephants. It was recommended they planned better and increased capacity in urban schools to deal with migration better. This was a global trend and presented challenges in terms of planning.
Ms Dlamini said that in most bus companies there were inspectors – were there people checking the status of the buses as linked to quality of the buses? During bidding, some buses were borrowed but then the old buses were reverted to and these buses were often in a bad condition – this had to be monitored. There was a need to check to see if the buses used in the bidding process were the same buses used to transport children.
Ms Mpambo-Sibhuwana directed her question to the Department of Transport, she asked about the extent of the civil cases that are currently before the department that were initiated by aggrieved parents of children whose lives were lost on the roads as a result of the transport system that is not ideal.
Ms D Ngwenya (EFF, Gauteng) said that her input was not in relation to transport but wanted to ask the Deputy Minister a question while he was still present – in terms of safety in schools in the Mzwabantu municipality, she did not get joy in consultation with the MEC three months ago and she was hoping the Deputy Minister could assist - there was a high school in Mzwabantu called Mtolashi High School which did not have electricity for the last three months and was therefore connected to a nearby house for electricity. She tried engaging the MEC in KZN but to no avail. She asked if the Deputy Minister could take this matter up. It was winter now and without electricity students could not attend school.
The Deputy Minister replied the matter would be followed up immediately with the relevant authorities.
The Chairperson, in reference to the issue raised by Ms Samka-Mququ regarding the invitation to MECs, noted the issue raised by the Member did not necessarily involve a conditional grant but an amount predetermined by the province itself. The function was determined by the provinces in terms of the Constitution, which meant the province drew up the policy itself and spelt out norms and standards however not in a way that came into conflict with prescripts of the Constitution. This was why the Committee felt the issue of learner transport should be a conditional grant one.
The Deputy Minister said the Chairperson raised an important element regarding planning and infrastructure and how efficiently the Eastern Cape accomplished this. The province established a hostel for learners in a particular high school however, at the same time, the hostel accommodated learners from two or three schools in the vicinity. The hostel facilities were excellent. There was also a bus which travelled to those three schools every morning. For the primary schools the bus took the learners to the three different schools and then back to the hostel. The high school produced about a 95% pass rate with many distinctions. The annual national assessment of learners that attended these schools was excellent – this was a good model.
The Chairperson said her issue was about inter-governmental relations because planning around the state of roads was an inter-governmental one - as Ms Dlamini had said, municipalities had never been involved. It did not help for people to work in silos. Inter-governmental relations needed to be strengthened as it would then provide a good sense of direction and facilitate proper planning. She asked to what extent the Departments were looking into this issue insofar as planning and maintenance of roads were concerned.
The Deputy Minister, addressing the concern regarding inter-government relations and with who and where responsibility lay, said discussion about where the municipal role began and ended was a discussion Mr Hattingh could tell everyone about because he was involved with the legislature for a long time. The North West was seized with a bigger challenge with regard to quality of roads than any other province. In terms of inter-governmental relations it would mean finding out which authority one had to speak to in terms of clusters of schools within a particular location whether provincial transport, metropolitan or city transport. The city council itself had that responsibility because it had to conduct oversight. If indeed one was committed to ensuring children, who were the most vulnerable, were transported adequately, and one was assured about their safety and wellbeing, it meant that oversight had to be performed by the DBE.
Mr Mafoko added that it was a fact that for the past few years, participation of education in the IDP processes was not as it was supposed to have been and it was something DBE tried to intervene in vigorously. The Department was seeing an improvement in some provinces in terms of officials participating in the IDP process to ensure there synergy in programmes and ensure they were part of provincial processes.
The Deputy Minister noted Ms Samka-Mququ and the Chairperson raised the issue of integration and the importance of integration in planning - DBE had a dedicated branch on rural education. The glaring lack of resources in rural areas in the Eastern Cape, KZN, Limpopo and Mpumalanga lead one to certainty about paying particular attention to the challenges of rural education.
The Chairperson asked if any survey was done to test/see the effectiveness of scholar transport in educational outcomes. The Committee conducted oversight in many provinces - rationalisation of schools meant building hostels which therefore reduced the expense of learner transport. She was not sure if this rational was applied to all provinces.
Mr Mafoko replied that it was the Department’s hope that evaluation currently on going was going to provide it with the kind of data that would assess the impact of what was being provided.
The Chairperson said the issue of selection of beneficiaries was raised - this was a concern in all the provinces as the amount allocated for learner transport was not enough. The better option was to lobby that this became a conditional grant.
The Deputy Minister thanked Members for enlightening questions and comments. One felt immediately that one was in the National Council of Provinces and not in the National Assembly because there was a good sense of the challenges from a co-operative governance perspective which meant that colleagues were fully aware of the constitutional context in which matters were discussed. He liked that issues regarding safety were raised particularly the important role played by SGBs. DBE would look at how SGBs could structure safety committees.
Ms Angeline Nchabeleng, Chief Director, Department of Transport, said policy implementation was still in the infancy stage as the policy was approved 14 months ago. There were teething problems still being undergone in implementation - part of those teething problems were institutional co-ordination but, through the national inter-departmental committee, there were certain things that would be factored in. The monitoring tool and the report needed to factor in issues of safety and quality of vehicles provinces were using. This would deal with the issue of a service provider bidding for a better vehicle and then changing it to a lower quality vehicle when the bid was secured. Safety and quality remained a priority to the Department - safety of vehicles and safety of users would be factored into the report as well as reflection of the extent and involvement of local municipalities to ensure more involvement and planning of the road and service by local municipalities. Information regarding timelines would be made available to the Committee.
The road co-ordination committee had a road co-ordinating body - this cut across all classes of roads i.e. district, municipal, national and provincial. This information will be incorporated into the reporting mechanism. The Road Construction Maintenance Programme assessment was done in 40 municipalities - this was funded to register conditions of rural roads and also to address the road management plan being finalised. This was targeted or scheduled in during maintenance of roads.
Mr Khawula said his question was not answered regarding the demand for transport for 90 000 learners but where provision was made for 47 000 - he asked how the Department arrived at a figure of 47 000.
Mr Maake replied the policy provided for special categories of learners who were a priority. One category was primary school children who walked long distances to school.
Mr Khawula said he would like the National Department to go down to the provinces to verify the numbers because he had different information which said there was an equitable division of resources to the districts but the Department was saying something else.
The Chairperson thanked the Departments and said issue would be taken up. Issues requiring escalation needed to be taken up by higher powers in the room. Ongoing issues would be taken up with the provinces. At some stage it would be important to invite MECs of Basic Education to discuss issues raised. The Committee would need to engage the MECs to get clarity on issues it could not hold DBE directly responsible for. As was heard, the Constitution prescribed a concurrent function and some of the issues could be best explained by provincial authorities. The Committee looked forward to hearing feedback on the well-co-ordinated road safety programme spoken of and which was being finalised to be rolled out very soon. The issue of vehicles that were supposed to take learners to and from schools was of critical importance - the Department of Transport could not let the Committee down on this one. The Department of Transport had to ensure that whatever was used to cart people was in good condition.
Department of Basic Education: Progress made with regard to Implementation of Operation Phakiso - ICT in Basic Education
The Deputy Minister outlined key characteristics of Operation Phakiso and progress made with regard to LURITS uploads. He reported that the Deputy Ministers of the Department of Basic Education and the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) completed oversight visits to the Eastern Cape, KZN, Northern Cape and North West provinces to determine progress made with implementation of Operation Phakisa ICT in education. The DBE was in the process of establishing a Project Management Unit to coordinate implementation of Operation Phakisa ICT in education nationally.
The purpose of the ICT Interdepartmental Committee was to resolve interdepartmental challenges such as pre-service teacher training in ICTs and the slow rate of the SA Connect rollout. The Director-General approved the Terms of Reference and so far the Department of Higher Education and Training and Department of Communication nominated members.
In 2015, 12 279 (49%) schools were connected through various projects. Of the 12 279 connected schools in 2015, 3 704 (30%) were located in rural areas while 6 223 (51%) were in urban areas.
With regard to digital content, 60 state-owned digital textbooks, available in English and Afrikaans, were accessible offline/online. The DBE and ETDP SETA developed broadcasting content for key gateway subjects. A list of 111 educational apps was available on the DBE Cloud and DBE website/ 85 Content Access Points were procured for public libraries for Second Chance. The DBE was in the process of developing state-owned textbooks per subject per grade.
Ms Ngwenya asked whether the e-marking system expected customised answers from learners.
The Deputy Minister replied the e- assessment and examinations were not intended to replace the system. The Department had to report quarterly to Cabinet in terms of teacher competency and this could only be done if one had an instrument to do so. Reporting to Cabinet was actually reporting to the nation and all this information was available.
Ms Ngwenya asked if the human element of student interaction with teachers would be compromised.
Deputy Minister said this would not be the case - computers would not replace fundamental skills of reading, literacy and writing. At the heart of what the Department did was recognition, not withstanding that it was in the fourth industrial revolution, of the importance of literacy and numeracy including the ability to write, spell and re-collect given that technology could make one very lazy and take away skills required. Fundamentals of reading and writing were important and the Committee should feel assured the Department would maintain that particular balance.
Ms Ngwenya asked for clarity about what was called ‘The Lab’ - who were the stakeholders and what was happening there? She further asked which decision makers attended and what ‘The Lab’ was supposed to contribute to the educational system.
Mr Maake replied that the ICT Lab was actually like a workshop which ran for six weeks. 120 people attended to discuss issues of content, connectivity, hardware and so forth. People from different departments, like the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Department of Communications and Department of Science and Technology also attended. Everyone sat together to come up with one plan to roll out ICT to schools so that everyone there could provide input as to their part of the plan.
Ms Ngwenya asked about the Teacher Assessment Resources for Monitoring and Improving Instruction (TARMI), which provinces had been piloted, what the impact was, how it helped so far and how long the rollout was going to take before all teachers were going to access it.
Mr Maake said the TARMI was being piloted in Gauteng and North West provinces. Once the pilot was finished the report would be submitted, and after going through the report, one would know how to move forward. This was what the National Department was waiting for in terms of moving forward.
Ms Ngwenya said there were homework teachers who were supposed to provide support to learners after or during school hours. She asked if these teachers were given computer training so they were able to help learners in the ICT programme. Some children were assisted by their grandparents who might not be computer literate – would anything be done about this?
Mr Maake replied that the National Department was going to speak to the provinces because the provinces were going to be doing the training of teachers. The provinces would also be asked to include homework supervisors in their training plans.
Ms Ngwenya asked how special needs children were going to be helped to be technologically savvy.
The Deputy Minister said the Department was very proud of its efforts in making sure all its centres were provided with the appropriate applications for learners with special needs. The Department was working very closely with the Department of Social Development who felt it was important to this initiative because it dealt with disabled people as a matter of course. Hence the DBE was providing these resources in collaboration with the Department of Social Development.
Ms Dlamini was concerned about the pace of implementation because she felt the pace was faster than preparedness of teachers. At one of her oversight visits she found computers were not being used because students and teachers did not know how to use them. It was disappointing the computers were there but no one knew how to utilise them in schools. Perhaps more money had to be spent empowering teachers. Could ICT training be included in the curriculum or syllabus of teachers perhaps through collaboration with higher education and training?
Mr Maake ICT replied that when teachers were trained, training started with simple matters i.e. basic training. This involved tasks such as opening a file, how to switch on a computer and how to move a mouse. Some teachers were ahead and already knew how to conduct certain tasks – these teachers were identified as either intermediate or advanced. There were different categories to indicate different levels of experience. The Departments of Basic Education and Telecommunications and Postal Services were planning to roll out SA Connect - this was the policy through which internet connectivity was going to be rolled out.
Ms Dlamini was not sure of what certain figures in the presentation meant such as the heading ‘Advanced’ for Mpumalanga where the number was 25. With KZN, the total was 1 967 while the figure in the Western Cape was 0 – did this mean the Western Cape had 0 teachers in the advanced stage while Mpumalanga had 25?
Mr Maake explained where there was a zero it meant the province had not submitted any data for that category.
The Deputy Minister added the Western Cape definitely had advanced teachers as did Gauteng but the provinces did not provide the data required. Free State had 8 092 educators at the advanced level and its success last year was informed by utilisation of ICT – the province also worked very closely with the University of the Free State to develop advanced skills of teachers. In his experience with educators in Gauteng and the Western Cape there were many educators who were in the advance stage of ICT.
Ms Mpambo-Sibhukwana said her concern around this initiative was safety and security of the learners. On an oversight visit in the Eastern Cape, security was the main problem because the computer laboratory was not secured - 24 hour security was needed. There was a situation of consistent burglarising of school equipment.
The Deputy Minister replied that with regard to safety and security the process had to be managed – laptops could be stored away in a strong room. The issue of security was being taken care of. Devices had a tracking feature and could be locked - this was not a foolproof method but it would at least discourage predators from stealing. Blocking would be a feature of every single device provided to the Department.
Ms Mpambo-Sibhukwana expressed concern about safety of learners because in many instances they were targets. She asked what plans there were to ensure vulnerable learners were protected - protection of IT devices was a very good initiative but safety and security of learners was more important.
The Chairperson said older teachers needed to be capacitated - the prerequisite should be that teachers should be techno savvy and training institutions should ensure this. Many institutions had equipment but it remained unused.
The Deputy Minister agreed with the need for teachers to be techno savvy. If teachers did not hatch up they would be left behind. There were good possibilities for self-regulated learning with ICT however empowerment of educators was quite central to the process. The Department was working with Vodacom and Microsoft around training office managers and educators at schools. The challenge was to have leadership that was able to adapt and adjust. The curriculum itself was focusing on areas involving problem solving and analytical skills amongst learners.
The Chairperson then raised the issue of Teacher Resource Centres - the top 10 districts were data driven and this showed the importance of ICT. The few Teacher Resource Centres the Committee managed to visit showed those centres were used in the main as offices and one did not get the impression they were using ICT to prepare lessons or using it to entice learners to attend classes. The effective use of Teacher Resource Centres to promote the use of ICT should be looked into.
The Deputy Minister replied that Teacher Resource Centres were important because teachers who had not had the opportunity to use IT equipment could basically be trained within the Centres accessible to them. He supported the view that empowerment was necessary and this was about how to integrate ICT into the curriculum.
The Chairperson asked if there mechanisms in place that allowed students to only access information appropriate for their age.
Mr Maake said that when ICT was rolled out to schools and equipment was provided, it was ensured the sites learners could not visit sites where not accessible. It was also ensured that other predators could not access learners. There was a protection facility.
Adoption of Draft Committee Minutes Dated 7 June 2017
Ms Ngwenya felt meetings should be recorded so that one could refer to the recordings when there was uncertainty about the content.
The Chairperson said meetings were being recorded which explained why microphones were available in venues. She advised the support staff to use the recordings if and when there was uncertainty about anything said in the meeting.
Draft Committee Minutes dated 7 June 2017 was adopted with amendments.
The meeting was adjourned.
Download as PDF
You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.
See detailed instructions for your browser here.