Department of Basic Education Quarter 2 & 3 performance; with Minister and Deputy Minister

Basic Education

20 March 2018
Chairperson: Mr H Khosa (ANC) (Acting)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee received a briefing on the second and third quarterly performance reports of the Department of Basic Education (DBE) for 2017/18, with the Minister and Deputy Minister present.

Major highlights included conducting and evaluating the matriculation exams, where there had been a student pass rate of 75.1%. There had been training camps for both teachers and students during this period. The Department’s challenges mainly involved the alignment of its plans with national priorities, such as the National Development Plan and the Medium Term Strategic Framework.

By the end of the third quarter, expenditure against the budget allocation was slightly higher at 78% than the standard 75% norm. The reason for this was that the invoices for workbooks had been received earlier than usual. Previously, the Department used to pay for them by the end of the financial year. School infrastructure was showing low spending, but was picking up in line with projects coming on line.

Members were concerned at the slow pace of the projects in various areas, especially for the learners with severe to profound intellectual disability (LSPID). They also questioned the impact of the Learner Unit Record Information Tracking System (LURITS), which resulted in learners from outside countries without proper proof of identity being rejected at schools. The DBE responded that the dilemma was that the human rights activists would say that equal education should be provided to all, while the Treasury asked for numbers. Its approach was not to reject learners, but to allow them a specified time to provide proof of identity. 90% of learners were now in the LURITS, and the data was verified and used by the Treasury for the allocation of funds.

Another key issue was the eradication of pit toilets at schools, highlighted by the recent tragedy in the Eastern Cape. The DBE expressed concern over the lack of funding to achieve this goal, and also pointed out that once flush toilets were installed, the old pit toilets had to be closed to prevent any further incidents. It added that the problem with programmes related to LSPID was the lack of specialised professionals who were prepared to work on a contractual basis. They demanded permanency.

The Deputy Minister stressed the need to regulate the intake of students from other countries with valid documents. He also addressed the flaw on the part of the provincial education departments in not using the allocated equitable shares for infrastructure development and maintenance, expecting the national Department to fund their projects. On the issue of Information Communication Technology (ICT), he told the Committee that approximately 60% of the text books had been digitised, resulting in huge savings. Delays in infrastructure programmes were due to their repeated transfer to implementation entities, as well as some contractors dragging the DBE to court, resulting in projects being put on hold until the courts had passed judgment.

Meeting report

DBE’s Performance Report: 2nd and 3rd Quarters

Ms Nthabeleng Montsho, Director: Strategic Planning and Reporting, DBE, said the number of matriculants who had enrolled for the November examinations in Quarter 2 (Q2) was 629 155 full time and 173 276 part-time learners, giving a national total of 802 431. The Department had engaged with the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill, which went under review to focus on the amendment to South African Schools Act 1966 (SASA). It had also developed a rural education policy aimed at improving access to education and the quality of education in rural schools. 77% of the quarterly targets were achieved in Q2 in 2017/18, compared to 15% in the same period in 2016/17.

In Quarter 3 (Q3), the results of the matriculants who had written the exams were obtained. A pass rate of 75.1% was achieved. School management surveys were conducted at 2 000 schools in all the provinces. 27 806 Early Childhood Development (ECD) participants registered for an online training course and 13 545 had completed it. 15 134 Funza Lushaka Bursaries were awarded by 31 December 2017. 82% of the quarterly targets were achieved in Q3 in 2017/18, compared to 46% in the same period in 2016/17.

Major challenges included the alignment of the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and the Provincial Education Departments (PEDs) plans with national priorities – the National Development Plan (NDP) and Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) -- strengthening the management of performance information for the education sector, as well as in data, capacity, systems and structures.

Programme 1: Administration

Ms Montsho said the Department had provided support in the areas of training and social responsibility, as well as in financial services, which aimed at improving the infrastructure of schools and other aspects. The percentage of the service providers within the procurement unit which had been paid within 30 days had been above 99.5% in both the quarters. No grievances had been received in Q2, only one case was received in Q3, which had been dealt with by the line manager.

Programme 2: Curriculum Policy, Support and Monitoring

An Maths, Science and Technology (MST) strategy had been implemented which provided support to provinces. An MST conditional grant of R85 million had been transferred to all provinces under which 209 schools were supplied with equipment, tools and machinery to support curriculum and practical teaching. 363 schools had been supplied with consumable and subject-related apparatus to support curriculum and practical teaching methodology in schools.

Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and North West Province had under-spent their resources and under-performed. In Gauteng, the reason for the under-performance was the delays in the placement of orders, which had resulted in an increase in Q3 commitments to R28.7 million. Remedial steps had since been taken. The province had been given until 22 March 2018 to submit all the invoices by the suppliers. KZN had similar issues. North West’s main challenge was its inefficiencies in the management of invoices.

In the field of Information Communication and Technology (ICT) resources, grants were received by 330 schools spread across various provinces, while for workshop equipment, grants were received by 209 schools. In the proposed framework for 2019-20, it was suggested that funds be ring-fenced within the Education Infrastructure Grant (EIG) for infrastructure such as workshops and laboratories.

In the curriculum and quality enhancement programmes, multi-grade toolkits for about 4 000 schools had been printed, and low-cost educational robotics toys for the Grade 4-9 project had been selected.

In curriculum implementation and monitoring, a draft human resource development strategy had been finalised for the ECD programme. Systems and transversal outreach teams had been established in eight provinces -- except Northern Cape -- to provide outreach services to learners with severe to profound intellectual disability (LSPID) in 320 care centres and selected schools through the LSPID grant. The challenges in terms of the expenditure included delayed appointment of specialist outreach team members, since the positions involved a contract and were not permanent employment. An on-line face-to-face training programme had been developed, 26 technical occupational and 21 differentiated subjects for LSPID had been finalised, and guidelines for resourcing inclusive education had been approved for publication for public comment.

The target for the amount of off-line digital content, packaged and distributed to provinces, had already been met in Q2. The annual target of monitoring 18 schools per province for utilisation of ICT resources had been achieved. 20 schools had been monitored on the implementation of the incremental introduction of African languages (IIAL) nationally.

Programme 3: Teachers, Education Human Resources and Institutional Development

The Integrated Quality Management System (IQMS) had been monitored in Mpumalanga, the Eastern Cape and Gauteng. The Eastern Cape, Free State, KZN, Northe West and Northern Cape had issued circulars to schools on the signing of job descriptions. 600 principals and circuit managers had been trained on monitoring the curriculum in Limpopo.

Parental guideline booklets had been circulated through circuit managers, school governance officials, the South African Principals Association (SAPA) and the School Safety Forum. Various training programmes were undertaken in different subjects, like maths and physical science. 91 teacher centres had received video conference facilities and training.

A survey had been commenced in all the provinces to determine the Percentage of schools producing the minimum set of management documents to a required standard,. It would be completed during the fourth term.

Programme 4: Planning, information and assessment

An agreement with the Teachers’ Union to implement systemic evaluation was signed in November 2017. Approval was received for the sector audit outcomes webpage to be published on the DBE’s website. Training was provided for the Quality Learning and Teacher Campaign (QTLC) in schools around Tembisa in Gauteng.

Concerning district-level planning and implementation support in Q3, the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) had approved the amended district policy on 9 November. The amendments focused on district sizes, delegations and the minimum staffing norms for education districts.

The National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (NEEDU) had collected data from 158 schools in 24 districts from all the provinces incorporating 624 participants, to prepare a report on how DBE workbooks were used in the system.

A bank of language and mathematics test items had been developed for Grades 3, 6 and 9. An over-achievement had been noted, due to the preparations for systemic evaluation, diagnostic and summative assessment. The number of schools provided with sanitation facilities through the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) had reached 453 of the 585 allocated schools since inception. 147 projects were still under construction.

Programme 5: Educational Enrichment Services

Monitoring of the National School Safety Framework (NSSF) had been implemented in hotspot schools in the Eastern Cape and KZN. 4.45 million learners had been de-wormed in Q3. 49 officials had been trained in July 2017 on trauma support for learners.

Financial Report: Third Quarter Expenditure

Ms Ntsetsa Molalekoa, Chief Financial Officer (CFO): DBE, said the total appropriation budget of the Department for the 2017-18 financial year amounted to R23.409 billion. 79% of this amount had been allocated to transfer payments, like conditional grants and public entities. The actual expenditure for the 2017-18 financial year till the third quarter amounted to R 18.335 billion. Looking at the allocation against the actual expenditure per programme, the expenditure was a little higher (78%) than expected (75%). The reason for this was that the invoices for workbooks had been received earlier. Previously, the Department used to pay for them by the end of the financial year.

The packaging of the 2017 batch of diagnostic assessments per province per district and per school had been finalised. In the second chance programme, the Department was awaiting the finalisation of the printing resources for the second chance class of 2018. Teachers would be paid for lessons that would be provided for the March 2018 grade 12 supplementary examinations.

School infrastructure had been showing low spending at the end of the third quarter (28.95%), but right now it had almost doubled to around 54 % because of the timing of the project.

Financial Report: Second Quarter Expenditure

In terms of per programme spending, the DBE had reached 53.96% of its budget, which was higher than the 50% norm. Spending on examiners and moderators had been very low in the second quarter (30.12%), but expenditure increases from the third quarter and the fourth quarter because of the end of the year examinations. Transfers were showing a lot of under-spending because the invoices received for the payment of those transfers had been quite late.

Law enforcement agents had been involved to reduce the losses incurred through fruitless and wasteful expenditure on the Kha Ri Gude program. The committee appointed by the Director-General (DG) to investigate cases of irregular expenditure had reported progress, and recommendations affecting irregular expenditure amounting to R602.452 million had been submitted to the DG. A submission had been sent to the National Treasury requesting condonation. Additional cases amounting to R823.835 million had been discussed by the committee, and the report would be presented to the DG once it was finalised.

Discussion

The Chairperson began by commending the improvement the Department had shown in the report presented.

Ms J Basson (ANC) said that fewer questions needed to be asked because everything was clear. The report had been pleasing. The training and coaching programme in the North West and Mpumalanga seemed to be a good programme, but what was the timeframe set to reach the other provinces?

In Programme 2, regarding the MST conditional grants, the Department was under-spent by still being at 51% by the end of Q3. The concern arose from the fact that such money was from donors, and if it was not being used, this was unfair to the people who had donated. Would the provinces be able to spend the remaining 49% within the space of one quarter if they were not able to spend 75% in three quarters?

Regarding the Learner Unit Record Information Tracking System (LURITS), it was reported that this system had rejected some of the learners because of a lack of identity documents (IDs). She complained that these learners were in the system, using South Africa’s resources despite being from neighbouring countries, but they were still the ones who were the first to complain that service delivery was not good. They went against the DBE because they did not know the rules and regulations. How should one control the intake of these learners who were illegally schooled?

Little had been said on inclusive education, or on special education. Why were the specialists that were so badly needed not being appointed by provinces? There were unemployed social workers and psychologists, so why was the DBE’s money not being used to treat the challenge?

She referred to a slide which said that the DBE had received a clean audit from the South African Police Service (SAPS), which she found quite unusual. In the four years of her work, she had never heard of SAPS being involved.

The Chairperson raised the challenges associated with infrastructure development, and asked what strategies were in place to deal with them. It would be better to give percentages on the number of schools provided with sanitation instead of numbers, as a percentage indicated what the backlog really was.

Regarding the outstanding work at the end of Q3, how would the Department ensure that it would achieve 100% by the end of the Q4? Did it have the human and financial resources to finish the remaining tasks?

DBE response

Ms Montsho said there was general disappointment at the Department’s level of expenditure, and acknowledged that it had underperformed throughout the year because there had been insufficient resources to deal with the challenges, and for the first-time funds to be given for learners with disabilities. The DBE was not moving quickly because there was a lack of adequate capacity. There were only a few specialised and trained people to do specialised tasks. The same was the case with maths and science. The national Department acted like a bank for the provinces, but it became difficult for it to keep the provinces accountable when it gave them money.

She acknowledged the problem of the lack of proper IDs and numbers for learners from different countries. The dilemma was that the human rights activists would say that equal education should be provided to all, while the Treasury asked for numbers. It was a difficult issue, which the DBE had to leave for the law and order authorities to handle. The DBE could not conduct head counts of all the international students.

Referring to the Eastern Cape pit toilet tragedy, she said it was a very unfortunate incident that had happened under the DBE’s watch. She assured the Committee that the Department would provide a report when inputs from the forensic teams had been received. The next stage was to decide, with the President, how to deal with an audit because the Department did not provide funds for provincial infrastructure. Would they be using the ASIDI model? The elimination of pit toilets was going to depend on guidance from the Cabinet.

Mr Enver Surty, Deputy Minister: DBE, commented on some of the issues raised by Members.

He said they should be proud that more than 90% of the learners had been loaded on to the Learner Unit Record Information and Tracking System, with their details, identity numbers and full names, which had also been verified by the Department of Home Affairs, so it did have a reliable and credible database of the learners. Last year, the Treasury had used that database for the allocation of resources to provinces. The DBE was moving towards the second phase, where the data would be web-based (live), which meant that one could access data at any point of time, especially the LURITS, because the system would be on the on-line platform. This would help to do a lot of things, apart from just capturing the data, such as monitoring health, the curriculum, absenteeism, and which of the learners resided more than 5 km from the school.

The normal procedure involved the presentation of some or the other kind of legal identity proof at the time of admission -- for example, a passport, visa, or birth certificate. However, an application had been made that irrespective of whether a child had an identity document, he/she should have the right to a basic education and the school authority should not refuse/decline admission to such a student, which was absurd. Nonetheless, what these schools had been doing was admitting these students and giving them 180 days to produce an identity document. Home Affairs had gone to these schools to assist communities to do so. The argument had been made, however, that parents were too busy to go and do this, or were living elsewhere, so why should one victimise the child? That was very irresponsible, and the constitution was very clear that the right to domicile was a right of a citizen, and was not for everybody. The DBE’s view was not to shut its doors completely but to regulate the intake flow with valid documents.

Intervention in respect of infrastructure for water and sanitation was very unfortunate. The DBE had almost overcome the problem of electrification. However, water and sanitation went to the heart of the challenge. In ASIDI schools, there were dedicated sanitation facilities for Grade R learners. Toilets for Grade R learners were very different to toilets for older children. An important source of funding was the equitable share, where provinces were provided with resources to improve infrastructure, and included in that share was a dedicated allocation for maintenance. There were some provinces that did not use the equitable share and relied on the national Department to fund its infrastructure projects. The matter had to be urgently investigated.

Regarding information communication technology (ICT), approximately 60% of the text books had been digitised. The Minister and Deputy Minister were working extremely hard to achieve something that was unique. Grades 4,5 and 6 maths, science and technology had already been digitised. Work was going on in other areas as well. That would allow the country to access these documents, and it would save millions of rands. A small server which cost R2 000 would provide all the textbooks. The challenge with ICT was about getting fibre connectivity to the schools, and for that reason the Minister had formed a task team with the Presidency to come up with an integrated solution to accelerate the delivery.

Lastly, the DBE had resources dedicated for learners with severe intellectual disability. Highly specialised professionals were needed for this, and to get such people on contract was not going to work, because they needed stability and permanency. The Department was looking at it seriously. The next two quarters would give a better indication of how it had improved.

Mr Hubert Mweli, Director General: DBE, thanked the Committee for the positive feedback, and credited the ministerial leadership and the hard work of the team.

An important pilot programme had been started in the North West province, but it was a very expensive plan to implement. Once resources were acquired, the DBE would implement it in other provinces.

The Ministers had already indicated their disappointment regarding the conditional grants for the severely disabled. The major issue revolved around the nature of the employment. With the expertise involved, it was not easy to get people for fixed term employment. The team had been urged to use the equitable share allocation. Provinces were facing immense challenges, as budgets had been cut, and the major cuts were in the salaries. The bulk of the expenditure would flow through the activities of the team once the team had been established on the basis of permanency. Regarding the skills that were required, working more closely with the Departments of Social Work and Health would be beneficial.

Regarding the LURITS, the rejection of learners was a safety measure. Treasury would be using LURITS data now, and they would make sure that the data was credible. The rejections were being made on the basis that the provinces ensured their data was credible. The data was being audited before being uploaded as grounds for rejection.

Regarding the clean audit by SAPS, these were annual audits conducted in respect of security systems and documentation.

He admitted there were challenges around infrastructure, but reminded the Committee that in some instances, projects had had to be reallocated from one entity to another. For instance, a number of infrastructure projects had been taken from the Independent Development Trust (IDT) and reallocated to the Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA) and other entities, which had caused delays. Also, with some projects, the DBE had been taken to court by some implementing agents, which resulted in delays because of the impending judgments.

Dr Mamiki Maboya, Deputy Director General for Curriculum: DBE said that the Department had not been able to hold provinces accountable for funds, so it had developed a framework, approved by the CEM, which it would implement this year. This would make the provinces accountable for funds and output. It was hoped that the provinces would be able to spend better, and that they would not have issues around procurement.

The Chairperson thanked Minister Angie Motshekga. He pointed out that when the schools built new toilets, the old ones were not demolished. The problem was that children would continue to go there, so the provinces and schools had to be assisted to ensure that old toilets were demolished in time.

The meeting was adjourned.

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