Schools 2018 Re-opening: status report: National Senior Certificate Exam 2017 outcomes and evaluation

Basic Education

13 February 2018
Chairperson: Ms N Gina (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) met with the Committee to present on school readiness monitoring for the 2018 academic year and the outcomes of the National Senior Certificate (NSC) examination. The presentation focused on learner admissions and registration, undocumented learners, teacher provisioning, Learning and Teaching Support Materials (LTSM ), basic infrastructure, the incremental introduction of African languages (IIAL), and the incremental implementation of the South African Sign Language Curriculum and Assessment Policy (SASL CAPS).

Members expressed their concern about the unplaced learners’ statistics that were presented to them, particularly the inconsistencies with the Western Cape and Gauteng figures. They also asked about the methodology the DBE was using to sample and monitor schools, and questioned the efficiency of the sampling. They identified a few schools that were still in need of adequate infrastructure and sanitation, and were still awaiting textbooks. They requested greater attention be given to the high drop-out rates at schools, suggesting this might be related to “gate-keeping” aimed at enhancing pass rates.

The DBE said that the Western Cape’s unplaced learner figures were higher than other provinces, but gave an assurance that the province would have the learners placed by the end of February. The delegation admitted that misrepresentations in terms of figures were possible, but they had to rely on the information given to them by the provinces. They committed to following-up on the problems at schools highlighted by Members, but also reported that some of these schools had been given funds and had clearly misused them.

Reporting on the outcomes of the 2017 NSC examinations, the DBE said the highest performing province had an 86% pass rate, and the lowest performing province had 65% of its candidates passing. Even with provinces that were high performing, there had been a small drop in performance. Provinces that had been targeted by the DBE, such as the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and KZN, had improved.

The subjects that the DBE was targeting were accounting, agricultural sciences and business studies. The NDP targets on maths and physical science stated that 50% of the learners should be scoring a minimum of 50% in the examination by 2019, which in her opinion was a very high target. It was a cause of concern, because they were now at 26.9% for physical science and 22.2% for maths, and they had only two years to reach the target.

The focus on the new systematic evaluation model was to monitor performance levels and look at performance trends at the national and local level. They also looked at monitoring learners at each phase. The DBE believed that information from the evaluating model would refine current processes and identify issue areas. The model was three-pronged -- the DBE would be testing learners, evaluating schools and evaluating the support of districts.

A Member pointed out that the dropout rate, which was basically about 50% of the learners, had been left out of the presentation. There was no information regarding what was happening to these learners, and the 50% dropout rate was consistent year after year. What was the DBE doing about it?

Another Member asserted that “the elephant in the room” was not that there was a shortage of teachers, but rather that the vast majority of principals in South Africa did not have the skills to manage a school. The population of South Africa was getting bigger and there were immigrants from African countries, but in 2017 the NSC enrolment numbers had dropped. One could not have a growing population and fewer people enrolling. There were fewer people enrolling and a massive dropout rate, yet it had been called “a system on the rise” by the DBE, which it was not. Until the teaching quality improved and principals could manage complex schools, the pass rate would not improve.

Meeting report

School readiness monitoring

Ms Palesa Tyobeka, Deputy Director General: Planning and Delivery Oversight Unit, Department of Basic Education (DBE), said that she would first speak about the challenges. One challenge was the late application and registration by parents. Another common challenge was the migration of families, because most families were migrating to the cities and there was still the issue of a lack of documentation among the learners, although but the DBE was working with the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) to resolve that. Also, parents had particular schools of choice, while the DBE preferred the closest schools to the learners, and this often that did not align with the parents’ schools of choice. What happened in Gauteng, and also in some cases in the Western Cape, was that parents apply to a number of schools and once they get accepted they do not go back to the schools to say “ I have placement elsewhere and therefore take us off your list”. So sometimes the DBE thinks the schools are full, whereas learners were appearing on a number of school lists.

The Heads of Education Departments Committee (HEDCOM) had approved a strategy to refer all late admissions to district offices so that all late applications could be referred to schools that had vacancies. The DBE also guided a late admissions task team with district offices and a suitable venue where parents could voice their queries.

Before the end of the year, the DBE had already gone to HEDCOM to have them assist in strengthening preparations for 2019 admissions. This included advocacy for the admission of learners, which should start in February 2018. Also, the first day of registration should be the first day of the second term, which was in April, and registration should close by the end of August. The placement of learners should be completed by the end of September.

On the issue of undocumented learners, the DBE had an agreement with the Department of Home Affairs, so the numbers had gone down. There were still a number of learners throughout the year who came from different borders, so the issue of undocumented learners was not only about South Africans. There were still some challenges in highly popular provinces such as Gauteng and Kwa-Zulu Natal (KZN). She emphasised that not only South African learners who were involved, but also learners from outside of the country.

Ms Tyobeka said she did not believe that teacher provision was perfect, but they had made progress. Of the 678 of the 723 schools visited, 93.8% had received their post establishments for 2018. During monitoring, some issues had been picked up, such as the fact that Afrikaans was a problem in the Eastern Cape. Working with the DBE in the Eastern Cape, her team had identified for them Funza Lushaka graduates who had majored in Afrikaans. If the graduates were not absorbed by the provinces of their choice, the DBE would send them to the Eastern Cape. The DBE had also looked at the database of unemployed teachers, and had found Afrikaans teachers there.

There was an emerging problem in KZN of unemployed, qualified teachers. The problem was that there were no vacancies for them, so the DBE was identifying where they could go, as well as looking at the profiles of those teachers.

With school planning management, the area the DBE was trying to strengthen was that School Improvement Plans (SIPs) were linked to school self-evaluation. They had found that about 56.4% of the schools visited had a self-evaluation report for 2017. The DBE had also looked at the issue of feeding, especially amongst poorer schools, and had found that 78% of the schools were ready to serve meals for learners on day one of schooling.

She did not go in detail with respect to the Learner Teacher Support Material (LTSM) sector plan, as it had been presented to the Committee before. 98% of schools had received DBE workbooks for all grades. In Xhariep, they had picked up poor stationery being delivered, such as pens not writing. 83% of the schools had an LTSM inventory and textbook retrieval policy. It was pleasing for the DBE to see that districts were working with schools and monitoring what schools had retrieved.

The challenge with respect to the LTSM Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) 2 was the delay with government printing works, which were supposed to deliver by November 2017 at the latest. The three provinces that had absolutely no problem in this area were Gauteng, Free State and the Western Cape, where the delivery was at 100%.

There had been an Incremental Introduction of African Languages (IIAL) strategy sector plan for 2018 to 2029. In this particular year, the DBE was particularly focused on phase one of the strategy, which was the Foundation phase. In their findings during monitoring, 56 out of 87 schools monitored were implementing IALL.

On basic infrastructure, what the DBE had focused on was that all schools had safe, clean and usable ablution facilities and that within the perimeters of the schools, there was a reliable source of water supply. It had not looked at the sufficiency of toilet seats, what they had looked at on a basic level was whether there were toilets that were clean and usable for boys, girls and teachers. The DBE had found relative improvement. Any problems of cleanliness clearly indicated challenges of leadership, management and perhaps governance.

The issue of maintenance came up during monitoring. A condition had been set for all provincial educational departments to allocate at least 20% of the total Education Infrastructure Grant (EIG) to maintenance projects.

The Department was doing a review of the learner transport programme, as not all the learners who should be transported were being transported. It was seeing movement, but it was not movement that was completely satisfactory because of financial constraints.

The DBE was following up with schools to ensure that individual schools had all the resources they needed. Updates on the various schools were provided, and most of the issues had been resolved.

In conclusion, she believed that there was some movement that had been noted by the Department. With the help of the public and a concerted effort, further improvements could be made. She added that the DBE had noted that Members had done their own oversight, and thus welcomed the names of any schools which required follow-ups on outstanding issues.


The Chairperson thanked Ms Tyobeka for the update and her evidence-based reports. The DBE and the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education complemented each other when they both went out on the field and compiled reports to give a clearer picture of what was happening on the ground. The written reports that came from the provinces, without apportioning any blame, sometimes contained information that was not founded.

With regard to the follow ups on the schools in KZN concerning the teachers that were not employed, and the march that had taken place the day before, she said it was very disturbing. She urged the DBE to follow up on the march. In the presentation, it was stated that there were no vacancies in KZN and that there were under-qualified teachers, yet what the DBE had failed to mention was that in KZN they did not employ teachers.

Mr X Ngwezi (IFP) agreed with the Chairperson that report was very nice, but on the ground, things were different. During the previous week, he had seen a Facebook post where his friend had complained about Encotsheni school that had been closed in 2016, was not in operation in 2017, and had now been re-opened. He had gone to the school the day before the meeting and discovered that there were 205 learners in classes where no one could stay for even five minutes. For a start, there was a very bad smell because goats were staying there, there was no furniture, no books, and there were only three teachers employed by the Department because they had been relocated to other schools when this school had closed down. The problems at that school were huge -- even in the school yard one could expect a snake to come out. This school had been re-opened through the instructions of the DBE -- it had not been voluntary. Even the admissions had been done by the parents themselves, whereas this should be done by parents, together with the Department. He was therefore appealing that the school be prioritised.

The information that there were no vacancies in KZN was completely false. When he was applying for his two children at an Empangeni preparatory school last year, the principal had told him that he qualified for three teachers, but the district had brought one teacher to her. The numbers that were at the schools and the numbers that were at the DBE did not match, which meant that when the district was submitting numbers, they cut the numbers to cater for the budget in the Department. He suspected that there was no money in the DBE. Money had been used in other ways, and so what they did was cut the numbers.

If one went to the schools, the number of learners actually there did not tally with the number of learners on paper. It was not true that there were no posts. Principals were suffering.

There was a circular signed by Dr Nzama on 24 October 2017. It read: “All principals in schools are expected to ensure that the learner enrolment remains manageable”. He reiterated that principals must manage enrolment.

The problem in KZN was bigger than what the officials were reporting. There was no money to fund the posts. It was not only the DBE -- it was also an issue in the Department of Social Development. Social workers who were qualified in 2014 were unemployed. He said that he had the list with him.

The Chairperson interjected and requested that he stuck to education issues.

Mr Ngwezi said he was just substantiating that there was a problem of money in KZN. Money for norms and standards had not been paid to schools. Principals were managing schools with money out of their own pockets. One of the principals he had spoken to that morning had said that he had to go to a loan shark to borrow money so he could pay for electricity.

Last year, schools were paid in August and what was paid was 50% or less. He had just heard from a school governing body (SGB) member about Langalibovu High School in King Cetshwayo District Municipality, where there were almost 170 grade 12 learners, yet only 15 books had arrived at the school. The report presented by the DBE could give a person at the meeting the impression that things were okay, but on the ground it was not the case. He appealed to the Members that they should collectively attend to these matters.

Ms N Mokoto (ANC) appreciated the fact that there was progress in making the system work, and the efforts the DBE was trying to make to ensure that there was further efficiency in the system. There were a lot of improvements which she thought were commendable, like the task teams that were established to attend to late admissions. She further commended the fact that most of the schools had opened on time this year.

She agreed that there were many challenges that the DBE was facing which could be easily eradicated through reinforcing monitoring and support. Her greatest worry was the contact time the schools had with the District support, which was something that the Minister of the DBE had prioritised. The DBE should continue to add more energy in that area. Most of the anomalies that happened within the system were found in the area of District support and monitoring.

The online registration that was taking place in the Western Cape, where people could start applying as early as April, was a good move from the Department’s side. She asked when the DBE would start encouraging other provinces to adapt to this model of online registration. If the provinces could not afford it, why was the Department not helping them to go that route?

The Department could be saving money through the retrieval of textbooks. A lot of money could be lost, because it was not focussing on that function.

She asked what the progress was being made in helping schools to repair storm damage and carry out maintenance. Mpumalanga was a province with a great shortage of teachers and key staff. KZN had the same problem, and there was a reliance on foreign teachers.

Mr M Tshwaku (EFF) said that hearing that there were 5 000 posts that were vacant in KZN made him think that the Department should not take Members for granted, because it was irritating to think they were perhaps being misled. Facts should rather be shared, and the truth should be spoken. He wanted to know what steps were being taken to fill those posts. He asked how many schools there were nationally. When oversight was done by the DBE, what sample did they use? What statistical analysis was used to attain a sample? For example, the presentation had outlined that over 700 schools were sampled -- how did one get to that number? He disagreed with the notion that “all was well” because in the Eastern Cape there was a problem with sanitation, a basic requirement of the constitution.

How many schools were still mud schools, especially in the Eastern Cape? What did the DBE do when schools did not admit children based on language -- for instance, the recent issue with the Afrikaans school? When that saga was happening, the Department had remained quiet, and there was no statement. It was quiet when there were racist schools that did not want to admit children who were staying in the area. This meant that children were having to attend schools that were further away, which consumed the DBE’s budget.

The Chairperson interrupted and said it would be helpful if Mr Tshwaku would substantiate his statements with real examples.

Mr Tshwaku said that before he joined the Committee, he was doing oversight and there were hidden schools in rural areas after passing Mthatha. He had forgotten the names, but they were in the areas next to Alice and Queenstown. There was a school called Sikhululiwe High School, where apparently there had been no teachers for the past two months, and the children were doing self-studying.

He asked why Cape Town had the highest number of unplaced students. It correlated with what had been picked up on the ground, which was that many schools were refusing to admit learners. How many undocumented learners were coming from South Africa and Africa? He expressed the view that educational institutions should get used to the trend of walk-ins, and should not be too strict or rigid. Walk-ins must be allowed. In his opinion, the Member of the Executive Council (MEC) in Gauteng managed it very well.

The DBE must start to build new schools. In some areas around Soweto, there were a lot of cases where they had 60 children to one teacher. He did not understand why in some areas there were instances of schools closing down when there were unplaced learners.

The Chairperson said that she liked the point of building, instead of closing, schools. It was a topic that needed to be looked at in future.

Mr D Khosa (ANC) asked what happened to the 17% of the schools that did not have a retrieval policy. 17% was quite a large number of schools. Did they have principals? What was the timeframe? The establishment of posts and placement of educators went back to policy implementation, because during the Committee’s oversight at Mathematics, Science and Technology (MST) schools they had found that principals were reluctant to release teachers who were found to be irrelevant. These were teachers that the principals wanted to keep. Maybe they were relatives or friends of the principals, but either way those schools did not belong to the principals. Next thing, these schools would state that they did not have maths teachers, but the DBE would say: “How do you expect to have maths teachers when you do not remove those teachers that were supposed to be removed?”

He felt that the Department had improved very much on providing ablution facilities at schools but the challenge was that they were not user friendly and they were not clean. He was also concerned about the general workers at these schools, who were just sleeping at work. Did the DBE have numbers regarding furniture requirements at schools? What were the timeframes for addressing such issues? How were they managing the backlog?

Ms N Tarabella-Marchesi (DA) said that she was not happy with the reporting on the school readiness. For example, when students were writing exams, the papers arrived at the schools at 8 am and the process went smoothly, like a machine. When it came to January, when learners were supposed to get textbooks, the Department went and did sampling even though it was known that there were 26 000 schools. For example, Xhariep, which was a district that was performing very well, had been sampled. Why was the DBE sampling? The taxpayers were paying a lot of money for the DBE, and yet they were not getting results purely because of the sampling process.

There was a slide that was the same as the presentation from 30 November 2017 with regard to African languages, with small changes here and there. It was known which schools were struggling. There was no political will to achieve what needed to be achieved. In 2017, the DBE had spent R27 billion on infrastructure. With that, she expected the DBE to say: “We have 26 000 schools and we have built a certain number of schools and were able to place learners in all of these schools”.

South Africa was not a first world country, and it could not be sampling. One sampled only when one had done well, and to see what the performance was. The DBE needed to reach each and every school to check that they were getting their resources.

Mr D Mnguni (ANC) said that he saw some improvement here and there because of the intervention of the DBE and the Committee. How did the DBE do its sampling? Did it let the provinces do their own sampling? Also, does the Department take into consideration the issue of quintiling? There were so many people doing oversight that he questioned whether the DBE had control of the oversight process, because one could find five political parties at one school, which caused a disturbance.

Has the DBE looked at the link between the school-based assessment and the workbook usage? How effective was it?

In the presentation, the Department had stated that some schools did not have personal growth plans, school improvement plans and self-evaluation reports. He asked what the reasons were behind schools not having these plans.

Cleanliness and maintenance was said to be a governance issue, but one finds that principals do not have the financial and physical resources. What strategy did the DBE have with the provinces to help principals have clean schools? Most secondary schools were very dirty, and this would have an impact on the learners when they grow up.

At Khanyisile Primary School in Barberton, Mpumulanga, there were 90-plus learners in one class. That school had been built by the private sector. There had not been any Departmental intervention, except for human resources and provision of other materials. At Barberton Primary School, the classes were built with asbestos. Barberton Secondary was a double storey building which was cracking, as was Red Hill Primary.

Ms H Boshoff (DA) said that every now and then the Members reported on schools and the DBE would state that they would follow up and report back, but nothing changes. In the villages in the Mpumalanga area, the toilets were disgusting. She appealed to the delegation from the DBE to not only do desktop exercises, but to see these conditions for themselves. She had given the DBE the names of the schools and would not be doing so again.

In Mashishing, Mpumulanga, there was a huge problem. The Department was now going to build a farm school and closing three schools with a total of about 1 000 learners from all three schools. In Mashishing High, there were about 80 to 90 learners in one class. Why did the DBE not consult and just decide on a mega-farm school, whereas a school was very necessary in a very urban area?

With regard to unplaced learners being finalised between October and November of each year, she said this would never materialise until the Department built the schools that were necessary in the country. What was being done about teacher provisioning where there were critical posts, to ensure that the learners had good catch-up programmes?

On the topic of South African Sign Language (SASL), CAPS was not a new curriculum, it was only an amendment to the new curriculum statement from grade R to grade 12. She would like to see the DBE giving more attention to deaf learners to a point where they could have their own curriculum. Teachers in this field had no formal qualification. Those teachers teaching SASL were not appropriately skilled in teaching methodologies. Deaf training required basic skills. There were no posts for SASL subject advisors -- they were either literacy or language specialists without knowledge of deaf education.

Mr I Ollis (DA) said that there were four basic things that needed to happen in January every year. These were getting teachers, infrastructure, sorting out unplaced learners and textbooks. What he got from the presentation was that the state of readiness in all of these important categories was in the 70th percentile. For example, it was 75% of this, or 74% of that. In other words, one quarter of the children did not have all four of those basic things, yet the DBE claimed that this year was better than the previous year. He argued that 75% was not good enough, and asked what the DBE planned to do to get to 95%. At 95% he would back off and say that the DBE was doing a great job.

The reason the presentation showed that the Western Cape’s numbers for unplaced learners were so high was not because they were racist, but because they were telling the truth. He did not believe the Gauteng figure of 499 unplaced learners in February, or the 19 482 figure as at 15 December 2017 either, as it had been reported in the media that the figure was 33 000, which was a massive difference.

The Western Cape and Gauteng suffered from a massive influx of learners from other areas. The DBE must have better preparation for this. While the DBE may respond to this by saying that they could not anticipate where the learners would pitch up, in December 2017 it had said they had portable classrooms and would shift them around. He felt that the process was not happening quickly enough. There was a massive problem in Gauteng, and the MEC in Gauteng was a good politician so he knew how to talk to the media. The Gauteng figures were incorrect. He believed that they were closing a case before it was actually resolved, so the learner was not placed even though the system says they were placed. How much auditing of the numbers was being done? He believed that there were a lot more learners that were unplaced, particularly in Gauteng.

Mrs J Basson (ANC) asked what plans the DBE had in place to prioritise sanitation. How did the DBE assist the provinces to be able to deliver on that front? She referred to the point raised by Mr Ngwezi about a school that had 170 learners and was using only 15 books. Where were the books and how effective was the retrieval policy? How many learners did they have in previous years? How did the DBE get to the number of 723 schools that were sampled? On the learner admissions slide, there were 4 660 unplaced learners in the Western Cape, which was a high number. How could that be possible in the month of February?

In the Eastern Cape, she had come across the fact that undocumented learners do not get allocated school nutrition. She asked how the DBE could assist the Eastern Cape to solve this matter because in some cases these undocumented learners were staying with grandmothers and did not have birth certificates.

The Chairperson stated that she was very interested in slide dealing with unplaced learners. She understood that the DBE receives its information from provinces, but with the example of Gauteng, where it was reported that there were 35 000 unplaced learners, the slide did not reflect this. Why was the Northern Cape highlighted in red -- was the DBE questioning those numbers? The Department could not do away with sampling, but it could not rely on the information that came from the provinces. She appealed to the DBE to tighten up on how it received information from the provinces.

The Education Infrastructure Grant (EIG) grant was not being used the way it was supposed to be. It was impossible for a school to get 15 books -- it was because the books were not being looked after, which was a management issue. These kinds of managerial issues made the learners suffer.

She requested a clearer picture on the issue of the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS 2). How many schools were piloting this year? It was reported in the presentation that a school had run out of funds so they did not get stationery, which was a crime. The stationery fund was solely for stationery. If a principal stated that they had not ordered stationery because they had run out of funds, then that principal was a criminal. Where had those funds gone to?

DBE’s response

Ms Tyobeka stated that she would start by clarifying the unplaced learners issue. The information as at 15 December was still split in terms of grade 1 unplaced learners and grade 8 unplaced learners. So the number that Mr Ollis was referring to was actually a combination, which was over 40 000 and so the media was right -- but they were talking about the combination. There may be some misrepresentations, but at some point they had to take what they were given.

Mr Ollis asked whether there had been an audit.

Ms Tyobeka said there had not been an audit.

The Northern Cape had been highlighted in red because it was the only province where the combination of unplaced learners had gone up. Their explanation was that these learners were unplaced because there was suddenly a flood to schools that did well in the metropolitan areas, so many of these were around Kimberley. The Western Cape, in terms of placement, had gone much slower but she had been assured that they would have the learners placed by the end of February.

She said that she would explain the DBE’s process. It usually came at various times to present various themes to the Committee, such as “inclusive education” and “teacher provisioning”, so some themes did not find expression in a readiness report. Those were separate presentations. The readiness report was led by her branch because her responsibility was planning and delivery. How the process was structured was that in the DBE, the branches give her their sector plans, and her role was to verify. She could not go to all schools, but the key branches do that throughout the year and they report. Then her branch organises.

This year, she had pulled a team of 40 together, as well as using telephonic follow-ups. She had omitted to say that she had contact people in each of the provinces, and these people worked with issues that had been raised with the DBE through the Presidential hotline, as well as the call centre.

In terms of readiness monitoring, the process also includes the expectations which were sent out to all districts and provinces. Schools reported on whether they had received LTSM, teachers and all the areas that had been prioritised. Districts and provinces do their own verification. Her team was obligated to go and verify and do the sampling.

Their sampling was not statistical -- it was to prioritise quintiles one to three schools. They took two circuits per district before closure, and another two circuits when schools opened. Even well performing districts like Xhariep experience challenges -- the Department had found that stationery was not delivered in Xhariep.

The DBE was not attempting to pull the wool over the Committee’s eyes, because it would not do them any good. One would find gaps, but the process was set up in a way that everyone in the system was meant to be doing their own monitoring, and they tried not to overlap. She accepted that there were some areas in their work that needed strengthening such as timelines, and the issues in KZN which Members had identified. In the last two years, the DBE had supported KZN, Limpopo, the Eastern Cape and the Free State with their finances, and they had seen movement.

Mr James Ndlebe, Director: Education Management and Governance Ddevelopment, DBE, said the problem with the Western Cape’s unplaced learners was a shortage of classrooms. There was an order for 25 mobile classrooms. By the end of the February, all those learners would be placed. Ms Tyobeka had touched on the Northern Cape, but the matter was still under investigation.

On the admission of children at Afrikaans schools, it was a matter of the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill, which was a policy issue. The matter was still being deliberated as to who determined the language policy, the school or the DBE.

Regarding the undocumented learners in the Eastern Cape who were not receiving school nutrition, in some cases it was found that schools tended to inflate the number of undocumented learners, so what was required was for the schools to prove that the learners were indeed there before those funds were released.

In most cases there were unplaced learners, but in other cases there was duplication where parents had applied at several schools, so the clean-up process took time.

Mr Ramasedi Mafoko, Director: Infrastructure, DBE, reported on the progress with regard to the storm damage in KZN, where 324 schools had been affected. R133 million had been allocated to those schools, and mobile classrooms had been provided to all the schools that were affected.

The issue of sanitation in the Eastern Cape, both in terms of the EIG and the city programme, was a priority for the DBE. There were 585 sanitation projects that were being implemented in the provinces. He could not provide details on the furniture backlogs and timeframes, but the main issue with furniture was funding.

He had noted the schools that Mr Mnguni had provided and would follow-up on them as well as the school in Mashishing mentioned by Ms Boshoff. The EIG was not disbursed to schools -- the day-to-day maintenance at schools was funded by the norms and standards for school funding which should be used for maintenance.

To deal with the issue of overcrowding, the immediate response from an infrastructure point of view was to provide mobile classrooms. What the DBE was trying to do was to work on a transversal tender with National Treasury for the provision of mobile classrooms. However, following the comment that Gauteng was not bringing mobile classrooms in fast enough, the truth of the matter was that there were 11 companies providing them, and currently Gauteng was in the process of cancelling contracts with four of those contractors for orders that were placed in the last financial year.

With the current budget cuts, the DBE was going to have even more serious challenges. There had been a R7.6 billion cut in the infrastructure budget. This financial year, there was a R450 million cut, and over the medium term expenditure framework (MTEF) period there would be R3.5 billion cut from EIG. The DBE was heading for a difficult time, and he asked the Committee to indulge the DBE with their assistance.

Mr Allan Subban, Director: LTSM, DBE, said there were systems in place for monitoring LTSM. There was an interface with provinces which provided the DBE with information on the challenges. He wanted to make available the contact numbers of LTSM people in the provinces so that when Members visited schools, they could phone someone when they discovered issues.

An electronic system was being put in place so that schools could place orders for workbooks, stationery, textbooks etc, and orders could be tracked. Regarding the Encotsheni school, raised by Mr Ngwezi, this was a Section 21c school and an amount of R160 440 had been transferred to it on 8 December. The school had to procure these resources themselves. Also, with Langalibovu High School, an amount of R259 965.81 had been transferred to that school. He added that he would check personally what had happened to these funds. In terms of SASL, there would be a report on the training of the teachers.

Further Discussion

Mr Tshwaku requested the total number of schools nationally.

The Chairperson responded that there were about 26 000.

Mr Tshwaku asked how many unplaced learners were black and how many were white.

Ms Tyobeka responded that it was not an area that they had particularly focused on, but it was possible that some schools were gate-keeping.

Ms Tarabella-Marchesi said that when she had compared the examination process and the readiness of schools, she had not heard why the DBE was not as efficient when it came to readiness. Learners in Mpumalanga did not get textbooks as late as November, yet sampling was being done.

The Chairperson interjected that the issues of sampling had been widely discussed by the delegation from the DBE. She believed the issue of sampling had been responded to.

Ms Tarabella-Marchesi said her problem was that if the DBE was going to sample, they would again end up in January next year with learners without textbooks because of the sampling. Learners did not get any textbooks, and the sampling was not efficient. Even after sampling, there were learners that did not have desks, electricity and teachers. Sampling achieved nice figures, but when one went down on the ground, the picture was not the same. It was a futile exercise that was being done year after year.

Mr Mokoto proposed that what Ms Tarabella-Marchesi had raised should be taken as a point of advice for the DBE.

Mr Tshwaku said that the reason he had asked about the number of schools nationally was because 723 was a very small number. Statistically, that was about 3% of the total schools. Between 10% and 20% of the total schools would be more representative. He suggested that the Department use a bigger sample. There were also unemployed graduates who could do the sampling for the DBE and do the verification.

Outcomes of the 2017 NSC Examination

Ms P Ogunbanjo, Director of Exams, DBE, said the National Senior Certificate (NSC) examination was an important indicator of the performance of the system. In 2017, the highest performing province had an 86% pass rate, and the lowest performing province had 65% of its candidates passing. Even with provinces that were high performing, there had been a small drop in performance. Provinces that had been targeted by the DBE had improved, such as the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and KZN. KZN had had an 11% improvement.

There were 34011 progressed learners who had written all seven subjects. For the National Development Plan (NDP), by 2019 the DBE was targeting a 34% bachelor’s pass rate when it came to the NSC. By 2017, the country was already at 28.7%, which meant they were close to the target. There were also provinces which were performing above the target, which was commendable.

Referring to the subject breakdown, she said there were some subjects which went up and down like a yo-yo. The subjects that the DBE was targeting were accounting, agricultural sciences and business studies. The NDP targets on maths and physical science stated that 50% of the learners should be scoring a minimum of 50% in the examination by 2019, which in her opinion was a very high target. It was a cause of concern, because they were now at 26.9% for physical science and 22.2% for maths, and they had two years to reach the target.

In 2016, five provinces had been performing at a level of 50% or below. As of last year, there was no district performing at 50% or below. Boys were doing better than girls with regard to the percentage of boys that entered and passed. Essentially that was a percentage, but when looking at numbers, the girl numbers were higher.

In several subjects, the number of distinctions had dropped in 2017. Accounting had had a 0.2% drop and business studies had dropped by one percent.

Social grant recipients had performed well, and many of them had passed in a manner that would enable them to go on to higher education. Correctional Services was also worth mentioning, as in four prisons there had been a 100% pass rate.

The focus on the new systematic evaluation model was to monitor performance levels and look at performance trends at the national and local level. They also looked at monitoring learners at each phase. The DBE believed that information from the evaluating model would refine current processes and identify issue areas. The model was three-pronged -- the DBE would be testing learners, evaluating schools and evaluating the support of districts.


Mr Tshwaku referred to the evaluation model, and asked if it would be logical to track the child from grade R to grade 12? Had the DBE done such a study? If so, was there a paper on it? He asked if the DBE could explain the numbers in the slide dealing with the number of learners, educators and schools in the ordinary school sector by province in 2017. Were the 12.9 million learners a combination of primary and high school pupils? On the social grants, what were the criteria for people getting them? Regarding the education system in general, how many languages should a learner take, because people were forced to study Afrikaans? Why could they not just take Xhosa and English?

Based on the presentation, it seemed like the DBE was trying to find a way of evaluating the system, looking at the imperfections and learning, but 25 years done the lineit should have mastered it by now. Should processes not be standardised by now?

Ms Basson referred to gate-keeping, and said that the enrolment of learners from grade 9 to 12 had become fewer and fewer. She asked whether modularisation would not stop the measures that were used at schools for gate-keeping the learners that were not going to do well. She commented that absenteeism was too high during examination time, and asked if they were not the learners that were being held back. Looking at the NSC results, she noticed that the immigrant candidates and the Correctional Services results were impressive, and asked what had contributed to that and why they were better than the public schools.

Ms Tarabella-Marchesi said that the dropout rate had been left out of the presentation. The drop-out rate was basically about 50% of the learners. There was no information regarding what was happening to the learners that had dropped out of the system. The 50% dropout rate was consistent year after year. What was the DBE doing about it?

Ms Mokoto asked what the view of labour was on the systemic evaluation model. Who was going to administer it, and was there a document that the Committee could access?

Mr Ollis stated that when one started digging into the numbers, one could see where the elephant in the room was. It was not that there was a shortage of teachers, but rather that the vast majority of principals in South Africa did not have the skills to manage a school. Schools were a complex entity to manage and if a principal did not know how to manage a school, then all these other things were going to fail.

The population of South Africa was getting bigger and there were immigrants from African countries, but in 2017 the NSC enrolment numbers had dropped. One could not have a growing population and fewer people enrolling. There were fewer people enrolling and a massive dropout rate, yet it had been called “a system on the rise” by the DBE. It was not “a system on the rise,” as it had been described. Until the teaching quality improved and principals could manage complex schools, the pass rate would not improve. The only thing that would be left was to push learners out of the system, and they were doing it in vast numbers when one looked at the drop-out rate. Learners were being pushed out to improve pass rates. He encouraged the DBE to keep the drop-out rate in front of their minds, because it was skewing the figures

In his opinion, school principals did not know how to manage. It was a different skill from standing in front of a classroom. Principals had to ensure that teachers arrived on time, textbooks were delivered, leaks were fixed, and disciplining learners who arrived with knives at school. The Department needed to train principals on how to manage complex schools.

Mr Mnguni said that the DBE needed to improve communication. He recalled that when modularisation was introduced, parents did not know what was happening. On gate-keeping, in terms of statistics, there were a lot of drop-outs in grade 10 and grade 11, yet the Department focuses on grade 12 and says “the results are improving”. The DBE should start helping from grade 10.

The Chairperson said that the inclusive basket should apply throughout the system. It was easier for a teacher to be accountable for each learner. It would be best for the DBE to introduce this concept in all the schools. How were special education papers marked? Where were they marked?

DBE’s response

Ms Ogunbanjo said the Department was not trying to hide drop-out figures. One could see from grade one the number of learners, and finally how many learners were coming out. Just because some learners had not made it to grade 12, it did not mean that they were not being retained. It was about retention and the throughput rate. The progression policy was also there to respond to the drop-out rate. The Department had come to realise that not all children would go into the academic stream, so they had vocational schools and other opportunities to branch out.

On Mr Tshwaku’s question, she said that the DBE had not tracked every child, but systems were in place to begin to do so. On whether the statistics were a combination of primary and high school, she confirmed that they were for the whole schooling system.

She could not answer the question on who got a social grant, as the Department of Social Development had the answers.

Regarding the number languages, she said that it was two languages -- one home language and one taught language. However, immigrant candidates were allowed to do one language. She offered a definition of an “immigrant,” which was any child that enters the school system after grade 7.

Responding on why the DBE was still testing the system, she said that every system needed to be evaluated against its indicators to see whether it was performing. Before grade 12 -- from grade one up to 11 -- there were no standardised tests. Also, it was not every school that would be tested, as it would be only a sample. It was not about evaluating a child, but was more holistic – it was about evaluating a system.

She had noted Mr Mnguni’s comment on advocacy, and agreed that the DBE would work on it strongly.

With regard to inclusive education, she said that the learners wrote the same examination. All they did with the blind and the deaf learners was to adapt the papers to accommodate their disability. A blind learner would get the same paper in Braille. For deaf learners, they used simple language to accommodate the learners. The DBE used teachers from the schools of the deaf and blind to adapt these papers. It centralised the marking for the deaf and blind in two provinces, Gauteng and the Western Cape.

She had noted Mr Ollis’s comments on the management skills of principals.

Mr Tshwaku asked if the Members would be getting a report back on the issues raised. The Western Cape had stated that they would be placing the unplaced learners by the end of February. Would there be a report for the Committee right after that?

The Chairperson said that she would be expecting a progress report on the issues that had been left hanging.

The meeting was adjourned.


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