Western Cape Appropriation Bill: Education

Education (WCPP)

13 March 2018
Chairperson: Mr B Kivedo (DA)
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Meeting Summary

The Western Cape Department of Education, said that the goals they had been working on over the past years had not changed, only now they had less money and more children. There were 25 000 more learners in the current year, and this was putting the Department on the back foot. The Department had been presented with two awards recently, which showed how hardworking and committed they were. The Department had been making presentations on the budget cuts to the Provincial Treasury (PT), and they were grateful for the response so far. Their main problems were related to school accommodation and safety issues. They had adopted the national anti-gang strategy and were in constant meetings to deal with the situation.

The Department was not receiving enough of the equitable share, and this was the reason for the the funding problem. Providing a quality education required a huge effort, since the budget was not keeping up with the needs arising from the increasing growth. The Department was going backwards with regard to class sizes, the pupil teacher ratio and infrastructure. They had the best performance in matric, and they were proud of this. The standards were maintained because they had the best teachers, but the conditions under which they were teaching were not the best

The Linge School Governing Board (SGB) put forward a proposal for a multipurpose hall for the Nyanga Arts Development Centre to keep students involved in after-school programmes in order to reduce the crime and unruly behaviour students engaged in outside the school arena due to massive gang-related activity and idleness in Nyanga.

Members raised concerns on how the Department planned to proceed in the event of the drought leading to “Day Zero,” and what measures had been put in place to ensure the pupil teacher ratio was reduced. They also wanted the Department to ensure that school dropouts had a chance of becoming economically active. They asked for information on plans to use solar panels to help with the power supply in schools.

The Department made mention of the significant progress they were making, the commitment to its goals, as well as making sure students in the Western Cape received a good quality education.

Meeting report

Ms Debbie Schafer, Minister of Education: Western Cape, said that the goals they had been working on in the past years had not changed, only now they had less money and more children. There were 25 000 more learners in the current year, and the Department had been on the back foot every year. The Department had received two awards recently, and it showed how hardworking and committed they were. They had been making presentations on the budget cuts to the Provincial Treasury (PT), and were grateful for the response so far. Their main problems were with regard to school space and safety issues. They had absorbed the national anti-gang strategy and they were in constant meetings working on this agenda. The MEC concluded that they were not getting enough of the equitable share, and this was the problem in funding

Mr Brian Schreuder, Head of Department (HOD): Western Cape Education Department (WCED), said providing quality education required a huge effort, since the budget was not keeping up with the increasing growth. The Department was going backwards in class sizes, pupil teacher ratios and infrastructure. The Department had had the best performance in matric, and they were proud of this. They had good benchmark assessments for Grade 6 to maintain quality standards, and this had come at a great cost. The performance had been maintained because they had best teachers, but the conditions they were teaching in were not the best. There was a lot impacting on delivery. The 2018/19 funding had not been reduced as planned, so they were grateful to the Provincial Treasury, but the real regression due to the growth in learner numbers was a challenge. More ought to be done about this. The drought impact on the education facilities budget had been significant, as they had had to redirect funding to make schools self-sufficient. They were concerned about the outcome of a potential wage increase that had not been put into the budget, and the national negotiating council did not provide funding to absorb this cost.

Mr C Dugmore (ANC) raised a procedural issue to make sure members of the governing body from Nyanga School raised their concerns.


Mr T Olivier (ANC) asked for an explanation of the errata document, and what the major changes were.

The HOD said these were not significantly substantive issues, but they had come about due to changes in the infrastructure budgets. He said clarification would be provided when a question came up.

Mr Dugmore asked if the difference in the figures for the enrolment in public schools for 2017 and 2018 was not an error as well, since it was not captured in the errata.

Mr C Abrahams, Chief Director (CD): WCED said the 2017 figures referred to public ordinary learners and the 2018 was the number of independent learners. The latest set of figures would be provided, as the indicated ones had not been cleaned up. There had not been a change in measurement parameters, but for the ratio calculation they had used the public ordinary learner figures, so there had been an error in the capturing parameters for that particular section.

Mr Olivier asked for detail on the cohort that had decreased, and the retention rate of 64.3%. He asked what was being done about the remaining percentage.

Ms L Botha (DA) asked about the learners who fell out in Grade 7 and did not even qualify for technical schools. Where did they fit in the cluster of progress in order to get to the level of being economically viable?

Mr F Christians (ACDP) asked what was being done about accommodating learners who could not be placed because of the rising numbers. How was the Department dealing with the pupil teacher ratio?

Mr Dugmore said one of the areas of redress was the white-only schools in rural areas that were now being attended by farm workers’ children, but which still remained paying schools. He asked what choices the province made in regard to the equitable share fund. What were the anticipated pupil teacher ratios in high school and primary school?  He asked about the conduct of the treasurer and principal at Grove Primary School on budgeting information, following the investigation that was being conducted. How many schools would be provided with WIFI connectivity? What was the total number of classrooms they had, and how many “smart” classrooms were available? He asked for the actual financial allocation in the budget for the schools. 


Ms Schafer said that the reduction in numbers of students taking maths and science was only relative, but the percentages indicated that there were many taking maths and science. There was a lot of emphasis on technical and vocational training and a lot of support was being provided to ensure economic productivity. People who had not gone to high school had an option to go to skill training schools, and there were 20 of them, but they were expensive to run. They also catered for special skills.

The MEC said she had asked for a change in the quintile system, and they had been good in complying with the national government. She had taken the matter up with the national Minister of Education, and the national Department was doing an investigation into the quintile system.

She said she would love to make redress possible, but there were no funds for it. The real reduction in the equitable share meant that keeping up with modern school systems was hard. The safe schools budget was not only what to look at, but also infrastructure.

Mr Schreuder said that sometimes the Department was punished for inefficiencies that did not reflect in its overall performance. The WCED had the best retention rate of all the provinces, but this pressurised their resources in trying to be the best. The dropout rate was a societal problem, and not necessarily an educational one. The Department was doing a lot to improve the quality of learning, with a lot of strategies being implemented. He said there was the second chance matric project to help as well. The Department was pushing for enrolment by March so that they could have a better indication of numbers, but this was a challenge.

The Department had made mobile classes available, but this was also limited by funding. Schools could apply for a fee exemption, or to be non-paying, which was for schools which had learners from poor circumstances, but the schools were not applying sufficiently. Every district was focusing more on poor learners than rich learners to ensure proper redress. It was hard to balance the provision of access for poor children to global learning and keeping up with improving standards, but that balance was their goal. The number of schools not connected to WIFI was 191. They were mostly in small and remote rural schools with signal problems, which was why they had huge targets in that space for the year.

Mr L Ely, Chief Financial Officer (CFO): WCED, said the provincial average for the pupil teacher ratio was 1 to 36.9, and they needed funding to reduce this. The E-learning rollout was taking place, and they planned that more than a third of the schools would have WIFI laboratories by end of the following year. Many parents did not apply for the fee exemptions, and the Department encouraged them to apply.


Mr Dugmore asked for an update on drought issue in schools due to the shifting of “Day Zero.”

The Chairperson asked if there were representatives from the Department’s disaster task team, and how “Day Zero” may be averted in the schools.

Mr Archie Lewis, Deputy Director General (DDG): Planning, WCED said that the drought initiative had started in September/October last year. Water use had been restricted and smart meters were installed in schools to get a sense of the costs for the 1 500 schools. They had discovered that about 750 schools already had boreholes, and had gone to make sure these were operational. They were planning to further these interventions and had redirected R300m to make sure schools had tanks based on the number of learners. They were connecting into the treated water reticulation system in the Metro, and this was putting water back into the ablution systems of the schools. The water issue also presented a fire hazard, so they were supplying fire extinguishers as well. It was an expensive exercise and the Department was looking for added budget for this.

Ms Botha (DA) asked what the Department proposed a school should do and where teachers would go in the event of a school closure.

The HOD said if there was no water for an extended period they would have to find options, but plans had been devised to make sure the situation did not become dire. Schools were working on water saving and also water augmentation. Learning did not have to stop, and that was why digital learning was also an option.

Mr Olivier asked what the plan was, going forward, due to the reduction in the infrastructure grant.

Mr Dugmore asked for clarity on the summary of payment increases for human resources (HR) and corporate services. He asked if these were new projects, or expanding on current programmes. He also asked about the allocation of graduate tutors, and for an estimate or updated number of unplaced learners.

Mr Lewis said the infrastructure had been in crisis for years, and the capacity of the sector to provide infrastructure that satisfied the need had not been met. They had been looking at alternative infrastructure and not what had been inherited historically. The biggest risk was the condition of some of existing schools that needed to be replaced, but there was no money as they also had to deal with the increasing number of learners.

The increase in corporate services was for the conditions of service, and the HR increase was for training and additional resources made available for it in terms of public service. They would have fewer than 800 unplaced learners, and all would be accommodated in the mobile classrooms.

Mr Olivier asked if there was a catch up plan for the unplaced learners. He asked why the refurbishment for facilities of after-school games were being done by the Department, and not the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sports.

The HOD said the learners had registered late, and there were catch up opportunities and some of them were already being taught but had not been placed on a register. The equipment and resources in the facilities belonged to the Department, so they needed to be refurbished, but they were doing it together with Cultural Affairs

Mr Dugmore asked if the R300m for drought was for 2018/19, and if it was a moving target due to shift in “Day Zero.” Had there been any proposals received from the private sector for the provision of solar panels in schools. He sought clarity on salary level movements and the number of personnel.

Mr Olivier (ANC) asked if the vacancy rate was a normal percentage, as there seemed to be many vacancies.

Mr Lewis said R77.5m had been granted by the national Department of Education, but the R300m was the amount to be used for the year in the drought plan. Their decision had been not to slow down due to the shift of “Day Zero”, because despite going into the future with uncertainty, they needed strategies to be put in place anyway. There had not been formal proposals, but it was being dealt with in the Department of the Premier.

Linge School Governing Board (SGB) – Nyanga Forum

Mr M Mbiko, former SGB Chairperson, asked for clarity on the training for school governing bodies indicated in the annual performance plan (APP).

Mr Tau Matseliso, DDG: WCED said the Department would train all newly elected SGBs, and they would be assisted by the stakeholders. Financial management was included, and training would begin in April

Mr David Tshambula, Chairman: SGB, requested a multipurpose hall for the Nyanga Arts Development Centre to keep students involved in after school programmes, in order to reduce the crime and unruly behaviour students engage in outside the school arena due to massive gang-related action and idleness in Nyanga

The MEC said that the provincial government was committed to assisting with the situation in Nyanga, and they would see if the school was on the current programme of rolling out infrastructure in the year.

Mr Dugmore proposed that the Committee should visit the school and the Arts Development Centre in Nyanga to get a feel of the situation and see the impact it made.

The meeting was adjourned


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