The Committee met with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to discuss its progress report on the preparations for the 2017 National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations, and to gain insight into the Department’s intervention plan to support Vuwani schools affected by the September strike.
The DBE said it had taken note that the protest action in Vuwani was beyond the Department’s control in terms of bringing it to an end, and its intervention was based on the assumption that the issues in contention would be addressed sooner rather than later. As soon as normalcy returned, three issues would have to be immediately addressed -- School Based Assessment (SBA) moderation, completion of trial/term three assessments for all grades, and catch-up to cover any subject content that could not be covered. If the DBE was not able to administer preliminary examinations, then the exam would not form part of the learner’s SBA and the DBE would apply policy.
Members asked what politicians were doing to ensure urgency in finding a solution to the situation. What plans did the DBE have for learners who were not top achievers, because the shutdown affected all learners? How had the DBE motivated the teachers to make sure that they kept the support programme running? The DBE could not say that the strike was not related to education when it had a huge effect on learners, and no contingency plan had been put in place to ensure that the riots did not spill over to other communities, even when the DBE was aware that there was such a possibility. The strike was not related to education, but involved other departments, and if the other stakeholders could not see this, there would be no solution. A joint meeting of Portfolio Committees needed to be held as soon as possible.
The Department provided extensive details of the preparations for the 2017 NSC examinations, covering the readiness of the system to conduct the examinations, and the interventions to ensure that learners were fully prepared. Progress on the system readiness included the setting and moderation of the examination papers, the registration of exam centres and candidates, the appointment of markers, ensuring security with the printing and storage of question papers, and establishing criteria for the enrolment of progressed learners. The Department had implemented learner support programmes in each province, such as extra weekend, morning and afternoon classes, with winter schools being a major intervention. Learners were also able to benefit from educational programmes flighted on television channels, while teachers were being assisted with development programmes. The DBE assured the Committee that based on the profile of the 2017 learner cohort, and the support and interventions provided in the system, the National Senior Certificate results for 2017 should improve, despite some changes in the subjects.
Members asked why there had been a 37 838 decline in the number of enrolments in 2017, compared to last year. Had the drop in the number of progressed learners been because of the new criteria introduced? Although security had been tightened regarding the printing, storing and distribution of question papers, how would the DBE ensure that there was adequate monitoring? How many exam irregularities or weaknesses from 2016 had been identified, and what had been done to attend to them? They pointed out that one of the reasons that monitoring was constrained in the Eastern Cape was because some monitors found it difficult to reach the examination centres due to a lack of resources, such as adequate vehicles and poor road infrastructure. They asked if any support had been provided to learners at the Northern Cape school, where learners had been impregnated by teachers.
The Chairperson invited the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to speak on the intervention plans to support the situation in Vuwani. The Committee was disheartened to learn that Vuwani had gone back to what it was last year which affects school children and it was in their interest to be informed of the situation.
Intervention Plan to Support Vuwani
Mr Hubert Mweli, Director General, DBE, said the Department had been battling to get the latest update on the developments in Vuwani. The shutdown in Vuwani had started again this year, and was happening at the time the education sector was busy with preparations for Grade 12 preliminary examinations. Schools in Vuwani had been affected by the shut-down from 4 September to date, resulting in the loss of six days of writing trial examinations, teaching and learning across the grades. This period had been dedicated to the writing of third term formal assessment tasks, so not much teaching and learning had been lost.
There were 26 secondary schools and 52 primary schools, collectively accommodating 29 066 learners, 1 657 of which were grade 12 learners. The schools were mainly in Vhuronga 1 and 2 circuits, with six schools in Hlanganani South and North circuits. It was also noted with concern that Grade 12 learners would be starting with year-end examinations from 16 October, with Computer Applications Technology (CAT), and the rest on 24 October. There was a possibility that the strike could move to the Malamulele community.
There were 12 Grade 12 examination papers that were affected by the shutdown. These were: Agricultural Science P2, Tshivenda HL P1, Xitsonga HL P1, Economics P2, Business Studies, Geography P1 and 2, Life Orientation P1, Physical Science P2, Afrikaans V1, English HL and First Additional Language (FAL) P1, Life Sciences P1 and P2 and lastly Tourism. Learners would still have to sit for the missed examinations if the opportunity avails itself.
The reasons for the strike had nothing to do with education, but involved the municipality which had been created there, and education authorities were to a very large extent constrained from meaningfully intervening.
The DBE had taken note that the protest action was beyond the Department’s control in terms of bringing it to an end and its intervention was based on the assumption that sooner rather than later, the issues in contention would be addressed. As soon as normalcy returned, three issues would have to be immediately addressed -- namely School Based Assessment (SBA) moderation, completion of trial/term three assessments for all grades, and catch-up to cover any subject content that could not be covered. If the DBE was not able to administer preliminary examinations, then the exam would not form part of the learner’s SBA and the DBE would apply policy. Circuit managers would hold meetings with school principals to discuss catch-up for the circuit, to be adopted by each school. A stakeholder meeting involving Unions, sister departments and community members would be conducted.
As soon as the situation returned to normal, the district and province had already planned to finalise the school-based assessment (SBA) intervention for learners across all grades and would also prioritise the completion of preparatory examinations. A catch-up programme to cover the curriculum for all grades would also be run after the strike ended. If the DBE did not get the opportunity to do what had been planned for the Grade 12 learners and other learners, it would have to discard the SBA and work with the marks the learners would have obtained either from internal exams or external exams.
All interventions would be done within the schools, since there was no budget to secure other venues and to pay teachers for extra tuition. The DBE did not get funding to organise special camps to afford learners an opportunity to write examinations. Schools would be assisted to draw a compacted timetable to cover ground lost in teaching and learning. A timetable for trial examinations and other third term formal assessment tasks would be drawn up for all grades. Implementation would have to be monitored and support provided on site. All activities relating to school-based assessment and moderation that could not be done during the shut-down would be covered. All dates indicated on the schedule were tentative and would be controlled by events on the ground.
Since Friday, there had been some glimmer of hope that the shutdown could be lifted, but it still had not happened. The DBE’s proposed plan involved a curriculum catch-up programme, support for Grade 12 top performing learners in Vuwani, the district to develop a trial examination timetable starting from 9 to 13 October 2017, and subject advisors would conduct a catch-up staggered sampling and moderation programme for SBA.
It was imperative for the DBE to offer examination services to candidates in an environment that was conducive for writing. All schools would be writing final examinations during the month of October and November. The DBE would provide a Provincial Joint Operational Centre (ProvJoc), constituted by the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the intelligence community, in order to monitor and be visible in all the 26 secondary schools for security purposes. Police would escort question papers in transit from the storage centre to schools, and also escort scripts after writing. The storage points for the three circuits would be moved to Makwerela offices, which may affect the normal time for delivery.
Mr D Khosa (ANC) said the strike was not related to education, but involved other Departments. If the other stakeholders could not see this, there would be no solution. He was not happy with the fact that time had been lost, even if it was just one day, and the DBE needed to be frank and honest about that.
Ms N Tarabella-Marchesi (DA) said that the Department had not taken any steps to ensure that learners were protected, even though the Department was aware that the community of Vuwani was having meetings regarding the possibility of a shut down. It was unfair to the learners who would not be fully assessed. The SAPS was not doing its job. The Department had to make sure that SAPS was doing its job.
The DBE could not say that the strike was not related to education when it had a huge effect on learners, and there was no contingency plan put in place to ensure that the riots did not spill over to other communities even when the DBE was aware that there was such a possibility.
The Acting Chairperson asked the Committee to not reprimand the DBE for not planning properly and apportioning blame, but to help provide assistance. She understands that the Department was frustrated and was trying to do its job.
Ms H Boshoff (DA) said the Committee could not sit and allow the Department to sweet talk them, because they were aware of the problems in the community and knew that the riots might happen again.
What was worrisome was that the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) report said that there must be a contingency plan, and a plan had not been tabled at the meeting. She asked how the Committee could support the Department if they did not bring reports to the Committee.
The National DBE spokesperson and the Limpopo provincial education department spokesperson had said that they could not make plans to assist learners to write exams until the shutdown was over. She asked what plan had been given to learners, because at the end of the day the Committee was here to ensure that there was teaching, not to make the Department look good. She asked how was it possible that the DBE and the Department of Limpopo could not find plans to assist the learners.
Mr D Mnguni (ANC) said he remembered sitting at a meeting last year where Committee Members had asked if there were any plans in place to ensure that schooling was not affected in the event that riots happened again. Schools were being used as pawns in these riots, and there needed to be inter-ministerial involvement to solve the issue. He asked who should push for the inter-ministerial involvement. What were politicians doing to ensure the urgency in finding a solution to the situation in Vuwani?
Mr X Ngwezi (IFP) said that South Africans now understood that if you want to get attention from the government, one had to attack soft targets. With the riots in Vuwani, the soft target became the Department of Education and even the timing of the riots had been considered. It was important for the Department to know how much they were failing, because the DBE may not be related to the riots, but it needed to mobilise and organise meetings with other departments affected by the riots, to come together and come up with a solution, because this would happen again next year.
The Chairperson asked what plans the DBE had for learners who were not top achievers since they planned to have a support programme for grade 12 top learners in Vuwani, while the shutdown affected all learners.
When the Portfolio Committee had visited Vuwani after the riots last year, they had learned about the ‘crunching’ of the curriculum, which was a bit of a problem. How had the DBE motivated the teachers to make sure that they kept the programme running, because there were only talks of subject advisors in the presentation and nothing about support for teachers?
It rested on the Portfolio Committee to write to the Office of the Speaker to check if the inter-ministerial arrangements had been made.
The Director General replied that the Portfolio Committee had every right to be angry, and he appreciated the sentiments shared by the Committee. It had every right to convene a joint Portfolio Committee meeting. Blaming the DBE would not help, but jointly coming up with solutions might. The DBE was indeed affected by the riots and this had created undue pressure on students. He said that Mr Ngwezi had been right -- when South Africans were angry, they used their children to fight their battles over poor service delivery. He was pleased by the observations made by the Committee, where they had said that the Committee also had a role to play. He suggested that the Committee should organise a joint meeting with other committees and departments involved.
At the last meeting that the DG had with the Minister, where they had dealt with the report from the Human Rights Commission (HRC), the Minister had said that she did not have the authority by law to preside over a ministerial task team, as that rested on the authority accorded to the President. The report from the HRC was being processed in Government and was going to other committees involved.
Regarding the Contingency plan, the support was differentiated -- the support was for all learners, not just the top learners. The contingency plan was there, and it was part of the report. If parents decided to keep their children at home, what authority did the DBE have to take the children to school by force? He was struggling to understand what Ms Tarabella-Marchesi meant when she said that the DBE had failed to protect learners when it was the parents who kept their children at home. The DBE could not be turned into the SAPS, as this was a broader civil society matter. When there was no crime being committed, what were the SAPS expected to do?
He said that there was no allocation of funds for unforeseen events and future riots in the public service of South Africa -- the South African public finance management did not provide for that.
What triggered the developments of the riot was not something that had originated from the DBE, but the DBE was affected by the riots and the Minister was in Limpopo having meetings and trying to mitigate the matter. The DBE wanted the learners to be released and for school to go back to normal.
Ms Boshoff said that it was clear that the DBE was reactive, rather than proactive, because not once had a finger been pointed at the DBE to say that they were solely responsible for the Vuwani riots. The DG must not put words in their mouths.
Ms Tarabella-Marchesi asked if it was indeed the parents of the 1 657 learners who were preventing the learners from writing preliminary exams, because she could not believe that the parents would say that.
Mr Khosa said that there was a challenge in the Portfolio Committee because they were not united and this would make it difficult to have other Committee involved. The Portfolio Committee needed to be proactive.
Mr Ngwezi said that it made sense for parents to keep learners at home. What would help was holding a joint Portfolio Committee meeting, and this needed to be held as soon as possible.
Mr Mnguni said that he wanted to see practicality on these issues, the first being to ensure peace. If the right committees met, peace could be achieved. If one could walk in the shoes of the parents of learners in Vuwani, one would understand that the parents were concerned for the learners’ safety.
The Acting Chairperson said that there was a need for the Portfolio Committee to conduct follow-ups on what they had reported to Parliament. The Secretariat would identify all relevant departments affected by the riots and would arrange a joint meeting. The DBE should communicate with relevant stakeholders on any developments, so that there was no confusion.
She asked for clarity on the policy application regarding the results of learners, because the Department should not rush to apply policy.
The DG said that the community of Vuwani had taken a position to shut down, and even parents who wanted to take their children to school were concerned about their safety right now. The policy provided that when learners were unable to write or present a portfolio school-based assessment not owing to reasons of their own, then the Department must discard the SBA from their overall subject mark. That was what the DBE was referring to when they talked of policy application. He reminded the Portfolio Committee that it was their right to convene a joint Portfolio Committee meeting, because the Department could not do that.
The Chairperson said that she hoped that the Committee and the DBE would avail themselves for the joint meetings, even after the term had ended.
Preparations for 2017 NSC examinations
Exam system readiness
Ms Priscilla Ogubanjo, Director: Public Examinations, DBE, led the Committee through the first part of the presentation, which dealt with the exam system readiness to administer the 2017 National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations.
There were about 40 days to the beginning of the NSC examinations. What was imperative was that the 2017 NSC examinations were of the appropriate standard, error free and irregularity free. The DBE focused on learner readiness and exam system readiness. Various systems had been adopted, besides the normal teaching and learning programme, to ensure learner readiness. Registration of exam centres and candidates had been completed and final verification of candidate registration was currently in progress. Examination question papers for the 2017 November examination had been set and externally moderated by Umalusi. The DBE had completed the moderation of the 2017 preparatory exams in nine key subjects. It had concluded the first phase of the quality assurance of the School-Based Assessment (SBA) in two districts across all Provincial Education Departments (PEDs). It was currently busy with storage point audits, exam centre audits, marker appointments and district exam systems. The final state of readiness visits to all PEDs would commence on 18 September 2017, and conclude on 6 October 2017.
There were 636 814 full-time learners, and 161 475 part-time candidates, who were enrolled to write the 2017 NSC examinations. This was a decrease of 37 838 in total, compared to 2016. 101 360 progressed learners would be writing, which was 7 382 fewer than last year.
The examining panel had carried out a review session on 2016 examination papers that had been problematic, and the findings by Universities South Africa (USAf) had been used in the finalisation of the 2017 question papers. Examination panels had also been reviewed and the contracts of only the competent examiners had been extended for a year. Two experienced experts had been appointed and had completed the review of the 2017 papers, where 33 of the 130 question papers were reviewed. The high stakes question papers would undergo a pre-writing process to ensure that they were of the appropriate standard and to identify questions that may be ambiguous. All 132 November 2017 question papers had been approved by Umalusi.
The principle of ‘just in time’ printing was being adopted to reduce the risk of storing printed question papers for too long in the provinces. Question papers had been handed over to PEDs in consignments from 10 August, based on an approved printing plan. In addition, 60 non-official language question papers sourced from the Independent Examination Board (IEB) would also be handed to PEDs as part of these consignments.
Subsequent to the leakage of the mathematics question paper in 2016, an independent auditing company had been commissioned to conduct an audit of the processes, from the setting to the printing of the question papers at the Government Printing Works (GPW). A number of weaknesses had been identified, particularly at the GPW, which had since been attended to. More intensive monitoring of the printing and packing of the question papers by Limpopo and the DBE would be conducted. 212 storage points across the country, excluding the Western Cape, had been audited in 2016 to ensure they complied with the minimum security standards. A large number had been conditionally approved. Peer evaluation of the entire distribution chain had been conducted by exam heads, DBE officials and DBE monitors. An audit of exam centres had been conducted, and centres were classified as having been high, medium and low risk centres in 2016. High risk centres had been the focus of the audit that was currently conducted. Specific focus would also be on independent centres and centres at which irregularities had been detected previously.
The DBE had distributed a detailed statistical report in 2016, and again in 2017, to all PEDs that compared the SBA marks to the examination marks. The PEDs had been provided with a list of schools where marks had been rejected and marks were inflated, and this had served as a basis for SBA improvement. Reports had been successful in raising awareness of the standard of SBA marks. A sample of preparatory question papers across each of the PEDs had been moderated by DBE moderators. A follow-up from the moderation had culminated in a face to face support session to finalise question papers. Moderation of the SBA had taken place in two districts per province and in a sample of between four to six subjects, and there had been much improvement in terms of the assessment tasks designed by teachers. Alternative assessment tasks, such as research projects, were still a cause for concern.
In respect of progressed learners, following the introduction of pre-conditions for the determination of learners to be progressed, the following criteria had been promulgated in 2016 and had been implemented:
- the learners must pass four of the seven subjects;
- they must pass Language of Learning and Teaching (LoLT); and
- they must have attended school on a regular basis and must have complied with the SBA requirements.
From last year, the Minister of Basic Education had also promulgated the policy of Multiple Exam Opportunities (MEO) to give candidates the opportunity to modularise the NSC and write some of the subjects in one sitting, and the other in the second sitting. The criteria for MOE examinations included: the learner must be a progressed learner; must have completed all his or her SBA requirements in all seven subjects; must have attended school regularly and failed a minimum of three subjects; and must have written the Preparatory examination in all subjects.
In most provinces, a generic risk of human resource limitations had been reported. In KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) there had been no new appointments, and staff of a quality assessment directorate would be co-opted for the examinations. In the Eastern Cape, a new organogram had been approved, but no posts had been filled. No new appointments had been made in Limpopo, despite staff attrition, and the risk was considered to be high. Another high risk classification was the capacity to monitor examinations in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo Province. Government vehicles would be made available to exam units in the Eastern Cape. Across all PEDs, there was a low risk classification regarding the management of progressed learners, but the data was currently being verified for accuracy. The trustworthiness of exam centres across all PEDs was considered to be a moderate risk factor. A reduction in group copying had been noted, but it was not completely eradicated. PEDs had categorised centres in terms of their risk profile, and invigilation was based on the risk profile. Centres that had not been accredited by Umalusi were to be taken over by PEDs, as well as all centres with previous irregularities. Another high risk was the security levels at certain districts and storage points in all PEDs. A moderate risk of intermittent staff protests and community protest actions across all PEDs had been acknowledged. Community protest actions that resulted in exams not being written would disadvantage learners, as rewriting could not be organised.
Mr Suren Govender, Chief Director: Curriculum, DBE took the Committee through the second part of the DBE presentation which involved learner readiness for the 2017 NSC examination.
The DBE as a system had matured. The National Strategy for Learner Attainment (NSLA) was the Department’s overriding strategy that enabled it to plan interventions for all learners from Grade R to Grade 12 at both national and provincial level. Each province implemented its learner attainment improvement strategy. Provinces report progress to the DBE on a quarterly basis on the strategic activities identified in the NSLA. The reports were analysed and customised feedback was provided to provinces for improvement on a quarterly basis. Reports on provincial progress were presented to the Heads of Education Departments Committee (HEDCOM) and the Council of Education Ministers (CEM). The DBE went out twice a year on oversight visits, conducting system-wide audit visits.
All provinces had made progress in implementing the learner support plans shared in Quarter 1. Plans were in place to continue to support learners at the provincial, district and school level on weekends, afternoons and mornings. Previous question papers were being used to expose learners to best practices in responding to questions. All provinces had extensive ‘last push’ activities to assist learners until the last paper was written. Districts had to ensure that underperforming schools remained functional until the last day of the examinations. Language and history teachers were being supported through the first year of implementation of the new setwork and content.
The DBE had run a few teacher development programmes, such as teacher training in English First Additional Language (FAL); Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), Screening Identification Assessment and Support (SIAS) training, the Assessment for Learning (AfL) programme, managing and leading education with digital technologies, Library Information Services (LIS) and the Read to Learn campaign, and the induction of newly-appointed principals. There was very focused attention on maths and science training, and support had been given to all of the underperforming districts in the country.
The class of 2017 had benefited from a number of resources from the DBE. These resources were given not only to Grade 12 learners, but the support also began in Grade 8. The resources included mathematics workbooks (Grades 8 and 9), and Grades 10 and 11 mathematics and physical sciences Siyavula textbooks, in partnership with the Shuttleworth Foundation. CDs and DVDs with exemplars in all NSC subjects had been provided to subject advisors, and ‘Mind the Gap’ self-study guides for Grade 12 learners. The DBE had also provided information communication technology (ICT) support to provinces by providing digital content; digital state-owned textbooks; open education resources; content distribution through provincial teacher centres; content distribution through infrastructure and connectivity; broadcasting; Grade 12 broadcasts for exam revision on the DBE television channel; and DBE channels on various platforms.
The common support programmes for 2017 included afternoon classes and weekend classes. There were also vacation schools (autumn, winter and spring), boot camps and residential camps, radio broadcast lessons, ICT-based sessions such as telematics and internet broadcast programmes, and revision lessons in newspaper supplements. Focus subjects for learner support included accounting; agricultural sciences; business studies; economics; English FAL; geography; history; life sciences; mathematical literacy; mathematics; physical sciences and home languages. The basis of support to learners stemmed from the 2016 diagnostic report and the 2017 subject improvement framework; the 2016 NSC subject results; the item analysis of 2016 learners’ scripts and 2017 common examinations; internal moderators’ reports; and tracking learners’ performance from quarters one and two.
Winter school was a big phenomenon in the DBE. There was a definite need for winter schools, spring schools and extra classes. One of the rationales behind hosting the schools involved the socioeconomic factors which made it difficult for poor or unemployed parents to afford extra tuition for their children. Another reason was the width and the scope of the curriculum, which required more time for learners of varied cognitive levels. The winter school targeted participants who were progressed learners; learners achieving at levels 1-3; moderate and high achievers; teachers from underperforming schools; schools with new grade 12 teachers; and serial underperforming schools. Provinces, districts and schools had heightened their efforts to implement differentiated learner support programmes. The effect and impact of learner support programmes varied from one province to the other. Strategic partnerships with Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), the private sector and other government departments, were increasing. The role of the Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign (QLTC) in supporting learner support programmes needed to be enhanced. Walk-in camps required proper planning and management. Monitoring and support needed strengthening at all levels of the system.
The review session conducted by the DBE in each of the nine PEDs had confirmed that the PEDS were doing their best to give attention to the issues raised in previous reports. However, budgetary constraints were a limiting factor. Monitoring capacity in a number of PEDs was constrained by funding. Independent centres that were not accredited had to be managed by the PED, and this was placing a strain on some of them. The final state of readiness visits would establish whether identified risks were being appropriately managed. Provinces had successfully implemented interventions in the first two quarters to support the class of 2017, and had provided them with the best possible opportunity to conclude the year successfully. Implementation had started for the last push interventions in all provinces. Based on the profile of the 2017 learner cohort, and the support and interventions provided in the system, the National Senior Certificate results for 2017 should improve, despite some changes in the subjects.
Mr Khosa thanked the DBE for the comprehensive report, and asked what reasons there could be for learners not being ready for examinations. Sometimes one found that learners did not attend classes when they were approaching examination period, and some left early after examinations with the assumption that the school programme had ended. What could be the cause of the decline in the enrolment of candidates? Could it be the birth rate? He was happy with the criteria used for progressed learners and appealed for the criteria to be cascaded to lower grades. Had the security been tightened regarding the printing, storing and distribution of question papers? How would the DBE ensure that there was monitoring?
Ms Boshoff said she was concerned by the drop in the number of fulltime candidates in 2017. She asked if the DBE had any reasons for this. Why had there been a drop in the number of progressed learners -- was it because of the new criteria introduced? How many exam irregularities or weaknesses had been identified, and what had been done to attend to those weaknesses? The Committee kept on asking for a differentiation for learners with disabilities, but they never receive it from the DBE. It needed to know what had been done to assist the learners, and they could not keep asking for the report year after year.
Ms J Basson (ANC) said since audits have been done across the country on state readiness, except in the Western Cape. Why was it not audited? She asked for clarity on the high risk exam centres and for specific information so that the Portfolio Committee could do oversight visits where possible. One of the reasons that monitoring was constrained in the Eastern Cape was because some monitors found it difficult to reach the centres because of a lack of resources, such as adequate vehicles and poor road infrastructure. What happened to teachers, invigilators or centre managers in instances of exam irregularities, because all that one hears about was the learners, and never about the perpetrators. Had the appointment of markers been completed, and if so, was it a fair appointment? Why should parents pay for extra lessons and after-classes when it was the teacher’s job to ensure that the children were well informed?
Ms Tarabella-Marchesi asked why had there been no new staff appointments in Limpopo, KZN and the Eastern Cape? Why had the security risks in Limpopo and the Eastern Cape not been dealt with? She appreciated the interventions in Illembe, but the problem was that the learners were performing poorly in all subjects -- the maths and science interventions had been conducted, but what about the rest of the subjects? She was concerned about the school in the Northern Cape, where learners had been impregnated by school teachers, and asked whether any assistance had been provided for them. How far was South Africa with a policy on the prevention and management of learner pregnancy, because that policy also involved counselling? What progress had the DBE made regarding the investigations into the learners who were found to be cheating in KZN, and whose results were withheld? Would the results be released?
Mr Ngwezi said he was trying to make sense of the truth of the presentation and what was actually being reported on the ground, because there were rumours that the KZN department did not have funding. There was a need for teachers and the lack of funding would be a problem. The decrease in the enrolment of learners in mathematical literacy made sense. The idea was that the subject was easy, but because the examinations were administered in English, learners who struggled with English would not improve, which was why they now switched to mathematics. Was there any way that mathematical literacy could be taught in a vernacular language?
Mr Mnguni said he was happy that teachers held extra classes for their learners. How were the other schools that did not hold extra classes able to have learners who passed well? What was their strategy? Matric dances were now in season, and the problem was that learners held after-parties where they got involved in fights. He reminded the Committee that the learners were still children, and had no business holding after-parties where they ended up stabbing each other. People must learn to report something that was wrong. Adults must be responsible and not allow the country to get destroyed.
The Chairperson commended the DBE on the work they were doing to correct errors in the system, and agreed with the DBE that there was a need for uniformity and that could be achieved through working together. She asked what actions had been taken to ensure that the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and KZN did not perform poorly in 2017, as last year they had been reported to be the lowest achieving provinces. To what extent was the DBE assisting in ensuring that all schools had infrastructure? When the Committee conducted oversight visits in some rural schools, they found that learners were cramped up because there were no chairs or desks in the classrooms. Had the issue of lack of furniture been resolved? What happened to incompetent examiners, or examiners found to be incompetent? Was there a way to make sure that they fully complied with the system?
Ms Boshoff said that it had been alleged that a school principal and two teachers had sexually assaulted a learner in Esikhawini, Richards Bay. She was concerned that this allegation may affect the school’s readiness to write examinations.
Director General Mweli addressed the question of under-performing provinces and said that to the best of his recollection, KZN was the third or fourth of the most improved provinces. It used to be one with the most under-performing schools, but that had since changed, starting from last year. There was a new Acting Branch head who seemed to know what he was doing and understood the system, and had given the DBE the best presentation of all the provinces.
The former model C schools and private schools were the ones who ran extra classes, and they catered for parents who could afford to take learners to the schools. This was why the DBE had introduced extra classes for every learner, and not just for learners whose parents were in the middle class. Learner support would always be needed by children of the poor, unemployed and the working class.
Ms Ogubanjo addressed the question about the contribution to the decline in learner enrolment for 2017. The 2017 cohort had enrolled in Grade One in 2006, and from that tracking there were 47 000 fewer than the 2016 cohort. There were no details from the birth rate, so no detailed information could be provided. With the implementation of the Progression Policy, with the additional criteria promulgated last year, there had been a variation in the way in which provinces implemented the policy. Now that there were uniform criteria for all provinces, one would find that the numbers for enrolment would change, because there was a differentiation in the way that provinces implemented the policy.
The DBE had taken note of the recommendation to have the Progression Policy applied to lower grades, and not only the further education and training (FET) phase of schooling.
The DBE had conducted an audit of the distribution chain, from the level of production to the paper on the learner’s desk, and had looked at every province. In terms of monitoring, there had been classifications of centres so that there could be resident monitors at high risk centres, and temporary monitors at low risk centres.
With regard to the staff capacity in Limpopo, KZN and the Eastern Cape, the Eastern Cape and KZN had already started making appointments to the exams directorate, but the DBE acknowledged that the process could not happen overnight. The exam administration for 2017 would not be compromised by staff capacity.
Referring to the weaknesses identified in the audit of the printing of the exam papers, she said one of the issues was that Limpopo outsourced its printing and some of the printing sessions had not been monitored. There must be officials from the Government on site when printing takes place. The security section in Limpopo had come in this year, where there would be 24/7 monitoring and a full breakdown on any activity taking place the printing works.
A storage point was defined by DBE as a point where question papers had to be kept for at least five days. The Western Cape did not have a storage point, as the papers were delivered straight to the schools and that was why the province had been excluded. The DBE could not audit 450 schools, but the province had done so.
The DBE had not brought a list of high risk centres because the audit was still under way, but it would provide the list as soon as the audit had been completed.
During examinations, vehicles were hired specifically for the monitoring of the examinations by officials.
Regarding the investigations of the group copying, the investigations had been dealt with in the Eastern Cape, and some teachers had resigned even before the investigations had been conducted. The investigations depended on the cooperation of the learners, and that was why there had been a glitch in the investigation in KZN.
All provinces had selected markers, but had not finally appointed them. After the provinces had selected their markers, the DBE conducted an audit on the lists provided to check if the provinces had complied with the criteria during the selection of candidates. That process had just been completed, and the DBE was left with three provinces and the list of markers would be provided. In an instance where markers were not compliant or competent, the markers would be replaced by the province.
At a number of private centres, the provincial department appointed private invigilators and in public schools, teachers did the invigilating. Teachers were swapped, and they did not invigilate the subject that they taught. There were selected teachers who had been trained. There was also a risk with private invigilators in the case of non-compliance, as it was usually difficult to deal with the matter.
Teachers who were assisting learners during exams must be brought forward so that they could be disciplined.
The Acting Chairperson said she would not allow follow up questions because the venue had been booked and the meeting had gone past its scheduled time.
Mr Govender said the Department had noted the passion that Ms Boshoff had for special schools, and in the last round of provincial oversight visits the DBE had included early childhood development (ECD) centres and special schools, and had got provinces to give reports on special schools and ECD sites.
The DBE did not encourage payment for extra classes. Some teachers did not make full utilisation of the school day, and then wanted to use weekends and extra hours to compensate and expected stipends for it. The DBE did not support it, and supported the maximisation of the school day. Some provinces had set aside stipends for teachers who conducted extra classes, and the results proved to be positive.
The DBE’s focus had been particularly on language, mathematics and science, and one of the main reasons was that it was in response to the National Development Plan (NDP) targets. That did not mean that there were no support programmes for the other subjects, because those were done at the provincial level.
When there was a situation where funds were not given in time, there would be a negative impact on the schools.
The motivation of learners regarding extra classes varied from province to province and from school to school. One of the reasons that learners did not go to extra classes was that there was usually no structure or set plan, and learners were not motivated to attend.
The DBE did not take funds and make transfers to provinces when there was a lack of resources for PEDs, but where they could help they did so in terms of facilitation and what was available to the DBE.
The see-saw effect of results in schools was the reason why there had been the introduction of a support programme for high achieving schools, because a sole focus on under-achieving schools leads to a neglect of top achieving schools.
Mr Mweli said that Umalusi had indicated that the DBE was improving ever year, and they were in line with what Umalusi expected. Examiners who were incompetent did not come back to the system, as it was an extremely stringent system.
Maths literacy had increasingly become quite demanding for learners, and that was why learners switched to mathematics, which was good news for the DBE.
KZN was experiencing problems regarding cash flow, and the DBE was working with the province to come up with a solution.
With regard to learners in Northern Cape who were impregnated by teachers, disciplinary measures had been taken and the Member of the Executive Committee (MEC) was leading on the matter. The DG had to establish what kind of support had been provided to the learners affected, as well as to other learners at the school.
The policy on learner pregnancy had been approved. The only problem was that one stakeholder had put forward a dispute to the Minister, claiming that he had not been sufficiently consulted regarding the matter.
The DG said that although the Statistician General had stated that South Africa had reached a winter season in terms of birth rate, the birth rate alone would not account for the decline in enrolment.
The DBE had decided not to regulate the matric dance activities, but to leave it to the schools to manage. The issues that have been brought to the attention of the DBE were being dealt with by the provinces and districts.
The issue of languages still had a long way to go and Umalusi was dealing with the matter. Real social justice would happen when parents and learners were fully given the access to write in the language of their choice.
The meeting was adjourned.