Department of Basic Education 2018/19 Budget & Annual Performance Plan

Basic Education

17 April 2018
Chairperson: Ms N Gina (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) presented its 2018/19 Annual Performance Plan (APP) to the Committee. The presentation spoke to allocations for the financial year, reduction in funding, additional indicators and prioritisation of issues. The presentation also covered areas for improvement and response to findings by the Auditor-General of SA (AGSA) before discussing the programmes of the Department. In terms of financials, the Committee was taken through key allocations, comparison between programmes, economic classification and allocation between the current and previous financial year, earmarked allocations and areas of reprioritisation.

The Committee questioned the signing of performance agreements by principals, decline in the number of teachers while there was an increase in the number of learners, impact of the decrease in certain grants and steps to address findings of the AGSA. The Committee was concerned about the teacher learner ratio and learners per class, excessive assessment, which kept teachers from teaching and did not result in remedies, and the fact that pit latrines still existed in schools. There was engagement on infrastructure delivery, absent teachers, spending and specific targeted projects.

Members wanted to know when the Three Streams Model would be implemented, provision of schools for learners with profound intellectual learning disabilities and implementation of the Rural Education Assistant Programme. Concern was raised about the maintenance of schools and subject knowledge of teachers. The Committee inquired about the status of the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill, learner transport, connectivity and ICT and the impact on the VAT hike on the Department’s nutritional programme.

Meeting report

Apologies were received from Ms N Mokoto (ANC), Ms H Boshoff (DA), Mr D Nguni (ANC) as well as Minister Angie Motshekga who was out of the country.

The Chairperson said that this meeting has been a build-up of many other meetings. The Annual Performance Plan (APP) presentation would guide the Committee on what it should expect from the Department of Basic Education (DBE). Despite the various indictors, targets and other plans, emphasis was on the quality of public education - the Department will not go wrong if this is the emphasis.

Department’s Opening Remarks

Mr Mathanzima Hubert Mweli, DBE DG, remarked that the Department was at a Heads of Education Committee (HEDCOM) meeting yesterday where adequacy of funding, gaps, inefficiencies and if quality education was within grasp were discussed. He was impressed with Dr Nick Spaull’s article “Basic Education is under attack”.  

The allocation for 2018/19 is 2.9% less than the previous year. Infrastructure and other grants were R7 billion less. This reduction mainly comes from the Education Infrastructure Grant (EIG). According to analysis, this reduction started 10 years ago. Dr Spaull says investment in education has decreased by 10 percent. The “per learner” allocation has reduced from 2010, where it was R17 822 average per learner allocation, to R16 435 per learner in 2017. It is predicted that this allocation will decrease in 2019 to around R15 963.  The three main causes for this were (1) high cost of salaries - the increase and bulk of the budget, 80%, goes to salaries and 20% is left for non-personnel expenditure i.e. services. The allocation has been growing but this is misleading because this growth goes to salary increases and not improving service delivery. If the provinces cannot pay salaries, they take from non-personnel expenditure funds which are supposed to go to service delivery. (2) Provinces are not using 48% of their budget for education as they are supposed to. Provinces differ in the percentage of the budget used for education. Except for about three provinces, this percentage is not close to 48%. The Department had a meeting with Treasury and it acknowledged that it was not monitoring and making sure that provinces use 48% of their budget for education. (3) Decline caused by Occupational Special Dispensation (OSD) effects. The OSD created incentives for public servants. Treasury did not allocate enough funds for public servants to receive incentives.

Mr I Ollis (DA) asked for clarification on what OSD was.

Mr Mweli responded that OSD meant there had to be a review of salary benefits for all public servants, including educators. The OSD is to ensure good teachers are not lost to take up other posts, such as Circuit Managers or principals, because of better salaries.

The Chairperson asked when the issue of the OSD began and if there was a backlog.

Mr Mweli said that it began around 2007. There is a decrease in basic education but an increase in higher education. Secondly, there is a geometric increase in health when there is a decline in basic education. This was important to bring this into today’s discussion. There was a decrease in school management teams such as Head of Departments (HoDs) and a decline in teacher posts but steady increase in learner numbers. The unit to fund education is based on number of learners but over the years there has been a decline in posts and the number of HODs but an increase in learners.  Nick Spaull’s analysis of South Africa’s performance in international tests attests to this because there are not foot soldiers, such as HoDs, to guide student learning. The Department has three more indicators this financial year despite huge budget cuts – these indicators are included in the 2018/19 APP. The Department met with provinces last Friday to resolve the 19 new sector indictors which the Auditor-General of SA (AGSA) indicated provinces were not willing to include in their APPs. Good progress was made as the Department met with the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) - unfortunately the AGSA could not attend. There would be a final meeting to conclude the issue next month.

DBE 2018/19 APP Presentation

Ms Carol Nuga-Deliwe, DBE Chief Director: Planning, Research and Coordination, DBE, introduced the presentation and outlined a sense of a background. There are three additional indicators in the 2018/19 APP, relating to where the Department is in terms of learning outcomes and efforts to strengthen these outcomes in focusing on improving the quality of education. There has been prioritisation of issues about infrastructure and the oversight of provincial departments. Sector standardised indicators were tweaked to include better information to allow for better oversight. In the coming year, in each quarter, there will be a focus on issues which are in progress, as well as completed, so that a better sense of the dynamics could be grasped on infrastructure provision. Learning performance has seen a steady increase but more support is needed - the Committee is aware of changes with exams and critical challenges faced.

Looking at key messages of the education sector lekgotla, areas of work where the Department must improve included:

  • African languages, English and Afrikaans literacy and numeracy focusing on foundation phase as well as consolidating work done in other phases
  • Social cohesion
  • Integration of technology, particularly in assessment
  • Accountability and consequence of management
  • Addressing issues raised by the AGSA and Committee in terms of its oversight and monitoring visits done on programmes
  • Fostering partnerships and collaborating in the sector to improve reading and literacy, especially in the foundation phase
  • Aligning the curriculum with industry and business to address skills shortages
  • Inclusive education and post school outcomes

In terms of key improvement plans of the Department towards the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) and National Development Plan (NDP) to improve the education sector, these included:

  • Improved MTSF alignment with the nine provinces: oversight responsibilities were included in the APP and rigorous analysis of alignment between the sector, medium and long term plans and where the gaps are, was conducted
  • Important engagements with the DPME on various reporting requirements and ensuring there is alignment that makes sense educationally and meets AGSA requirements. The HEDCOM sub-committees have been very critical in this respect

With the Department’s response to the AGSA’S findings on the draft APP, the Department has resolved most of these comments in terms of refinement. Some work related to the strategies of the Early Childhood Development (ECD) has been done but there is still some work to do in terms of the budget and transfer of that budget to the Department of Social Development. The systems and data requirements are already being prepared within the relevant programmes. On the indicators related to material supervision, a once-off indicator has been achieved so it has been removed from the final APP but information on material supervision across phases in the schooling system will be included. There has also been tightening of areas related to school financial management which is included in the provincial APP. The sector would be monitoring school financial management very closely. On the proportion of principals that have signed the performance agreement, the Department would notify the Committee when an agreement was reached. The Department was however monitoring job descriptions as a proxy in all nine provinces. On the learner records database, the indicator is planned within the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and the monitoring of provinces and how they implement the learner and records database, has also been included. There were hard discussions around school management competency and it has been included in the APP – there were also talks for its inclusion in the provincial APPs. Post provision monitoring was included in the APP as well as clear lines around reporting for the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT).

Turning to Programme One of the Department, Administration, the programme involved governance and ensuring compliance with legislation and policy. Some indicators included in the programme, which related to service delivery, management and practice targets within the public service, included:

  • percentage of received misconduct cases resolved within 90 days
  • percentage of received grievances case resolved in 30 days

Both of the above indicators are time frame dependent and delays are often caused by parties such as non attendance. The target has been set at less than a 100% because the reality is that misconduct cases are difficult to address because parties involved can delay processes.

Looking at programme two, digital content will be made available for provinces for their use and incorporation into existing instructional programmes but also publication and dissemination. This is in addition to what provinces do themselves. The Department will be reporting on the contribution as it is a national development priority in this respect. The distribution of workbooks to schools annually for grades R-9 to support teaching and learning, is also an objective that will be monitored. There will be monitoring and support of the implementation of the National Curriculum Statements (NCS) on reading in grades R-9 each year in order to improve teaching and learning. This included monitoring the number of schools implementing reading norms, the Incremental Introduction to African Languages nationally and the number of underperforming schools in the implementation of the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA).

On improving performance in Maths, Science and Technology, monitoring will continue but in much more detail. The indicators centered on Technical Maths, Life Sciences, Science and Mathematics and will monitor lesson plans, teacher guides and training sessions/workshops. The number of training sessions for Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) technical subjects, has shifted in the medium term from 14% in 2018/19 to 20% in 2019/20 and then a review of all 1647 technical subject specialisation teachers training in 2019/20. To makes sure that what is being delivered can be refined and tweaked, the number of schools visited for monitoring CAPS implementation in technical schools will also be a performance indicator for 2018/19.

The development, monitoring and support of implementation of policies and programmes for improving the quality of education in rural schools will be an objective which monitors implementation of the multi-grade toolkit and the number of advocacy campaigns conducted on Rural Education Policy in provinces. There will be nine advocacy campaigns. The Department would have to work with provinces to set up support and management systems for this.

The Second Chance programme now has a good dataset and trend of reach which was the original intent of the programme. The number of learners obtaining NSC, or extended Senior Certificate, including upgraded the NSC target, has increased from 25 000 to 30 000 for 2018/19 to 2019/20. This was particularly in terms of the extended Senior Certificate and the upgraded NSC.

There are new indicators for the Learners with Severe to Profound Intellectual Disabilities and their inclusion in the public sector. There was an extension from 3 327 in 2018/19 to 3 527 in the outer year. The Department is also monitoring support provided to these learners.

The Chairperson asked what was meant by upgraded NSC and extended Senior Certificate.

Mr Paddy Padayachee, DBE DDG: Planning, Information and Assessment, said that the upgraded NSC meant that learners did not have to take seven years. The extended Senior Certificate refers to the past amended certificate which allows students from the 550 curriculum, who needed one or two subjects to complete their qualification.

Ms Deliwe then continued with presentation and said that work was being done to build management systems to identify learners with severe to profound intellectual disabilities. There was also work that needs to be done on cooperation between the DBE and the Department of Social Development on identifying these learners in households and communities.

Programme Three looks at School Governing Bodies (SGBs), human resource capacity and the issues of teachers and the educator labour market.  There are indicators to monitor SGBs effectiveness and the percentage of schools producing a minimum set of management documents. The idea is to have a sample of 2 000 schools and use this as a thermometer for performance. There is an indicator on the number of Funza Lushaka bursaries awarded. The decline in the number of students supported is a result of increased university fees. In the third year for SGBs there is an election and a new process of orientation therefore the indicator dips in the outer year.

There is an objective to identify and determine content knowledge of teachers in Mathematics, English First Additional Language, Physical Sciences and Accounting through Diagnostic Self Assessments -the indicator is the number of teachers participating in diagnostic for each of the listed subjects. This was in addition to what provincial departments were doing in this respect.

On performance management systems in provincial departments, there would be monitoring on implementation of the Integrated Quality Management System, Performance Management Development System and post provision compliance. There would also be indicators on the number of National Assessment reports to help oversight of learner performance.

Programme Four included on the number of NSC reports produced and number of questions set annually for the NSC and Senior Certificate. There are various indicators for the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI), particularly on sanitation, water and the number of new schools. There are no targets for electricity because ASIDI, as a special grant, will be wrapping up in 2018/19.

There are targets for the use of technology in schools and implementation of the South African School and Administration Management System (SA- SAMS) and Learner Unit Record Information and Tracking System (LURITS).

The work of assessing and monitoring Districts will continue. There would be indicators on school principals rating support services of Districts and District Managers assessed against developed criteria.  

Programme Five deals with learning support of learners and social cohesion. The provision of nutritious meals would be monitored, in addition to provincial monitoring. There will be 900 South African Schools Choral Eisteddfod (SASCE) trained professionals. The training takes place once a year therefore the figure is constant over the three years. The number of learners, teachers, officials, SGBs and community organisations members participating in social cohesion and gender equity programmes will increase from 7 000 in 2018/19 to 8 000 in 2020/21.

The number of Hot Spot schools monitored will increase.

Ms Ntsetsa Molalekoa, DBE Chief Financial Officer, then took the Committee through the 2018 budget. The Department has been allocated R22.7 billion in 2018/19, R23.6 billion in 2019/20 and R25.2 billion in 2020/1. Included in these allocation is the compensation of employees amounting to R505 million and R584 million over the MTEF.

In terms of comparison between programmes and allocations from the 2017 to 2018 MTEF, there has been a decrease of 2.9% in the budget. The main decrease in the budget was Programme Four, Planning, Quality Assessment and Monitoring and Evaluation, which reduced by 9.6%. The main reason for the reduction was the budget cut on ASIDI and the EIG.

The Committee was taken through programme and economic classification allocations over the 2018 MTEF. The bulk of the allocation for the Department is for Transfers and Subsidies. These transfers included conditional grants and takes most of the funds for 2018/19 i.e. R18 953 411.

Looking at the comparison between economic classification allowances from 2017 to 2018 MTEF, there is an increase on Compensation of Employees by 5.9% and a reduction of 2.4% on Goods and Services. The main reason for the 2.4% reduction is the reduction of the Second Chance Programme. The Interest and Rent on Land has increased by 5.8%. There has been a small increase on transfers and Subsidies of 2.45- the main reason was the budget cut on some of the grants. Payment for Capital Assets reduced by 45.65%.

In terms of the details of earmarked allocations over the 2018 MTEF, it should be noted that the Learners with Profound Intellectual Disabilities Conditional Grant will have R3 418 000 in 2018/19 but will be reduced to R1 313 000 in 2019/20. This cut is because for the first two years Treasury gave the Department more funds on the item for setting up costs. The funds for setting up is being taken away while funds for monitoring and evaluation remain. It might look like the earmarked allocation for the National School Nutrition Programme is decreasing but it is not – this is just due to movement from conditional to operational.

With the comparison of conditional grants allocations between the 2017 and 2018 MTEF, there is a 1.3% reduction on the Education Infrastructure Conditional Grant. The Learners with Profound Intellectual Disabilities Conditional Grant increased by 157.6%.

In terms of reprioritisation and budget approved cuts, the ASIDI project was coming to an end but Treasury decided to provide funding for completion of existing projects. Funds that would have been taken away from ASIDI is reflected as part of the EIG. From this amount, maintenance of school infrastructure will be covered. The remaining balance is what was shifted back to ASIDI.

Mr Ollis asked for clarity on how the Department could say there were budget cuts but also that funds were being returned.

Mr Mweli responded that the reason for this was that it was a new MTEF which excludes the previous financial year.  

Ms Molalekoa added that ASIDI was originally supposed to end but ASIDI funds were shifted to EIG because there are still projects to be completed related to ASIDI. The cut is shown.

Mr Mweli said there is a difference between what was given to the EIG and ASIDI as opposed to budget cuts in both ASIDI and EIG.

Ms N Tarabella-Marchesi (DA) asked for clarity on the maintenance of school infrastructure grant.

Ms Molalekoa responded that Treasury took away the funds but it had to be added back. The funds were only retuned for maintenance. Cabinet approved budget cuts and the cuts are indicated in the presentation. Included in the cuts is the HIV and AIDS Conditional Grant, School Backlog Grant, Maths, Science and Technology Grant, Matric Second Chance and operational budget of the Department and Umalusi. The total cut is R7 391 795 over the three years.

The allocation is for the Rural Education Assistants Project is an additional allocation which is not part of the vote but is coming through National Treasury because it is a European Union (EU) allocation. It will be a pilot project that uses educational assistants to improve the quality of education in rural schools.

Discussion

The Chairperson was worried about the performance agreements for the principals - the presentation says the job description is being used but there is a void because the DBE is encouraging the use of the job description in the absence of the performance agreement. What is the situation right now?

Mr D Khosa (ANC) asked what the cause of the decline was in the number of staff while there was an incline in the number of learners – how can this issue be overcome? What is the impact and is the matter considered when budgeting? This is a setback. On the payment of capital assets, he asked if there was a reason why the decrease occurred when the backlog is still huge. The Member did not believe the backlog will be covered in three years. Why was there a decrease in the Grant for Learners with Profound Intellectual Disability? Has the Department agreed with the AGSA on the proposed findings? If yes, what steps is the Department taking to address these findings? Are the affected officials supported or are they being held accountable with regard to these issues? Programme One has three indicator - has the Department put systems in place for realistion of these targets? He asked for an explanation on how the Department has indicator 4.1.1 if there was no target for it. Why was there not an ASIDI target set for electricity?

Mr Ollis assumed the DG agrees with the data in Dr Spaull’s newspaper article that was referenced earlier in the meeting. Mr Ollis noted that he asked a written question about the total number of teachers and learners in the basic education system. If one divides the learners by teachers, one came to 34 learners per class. However, some teachers are principals and therefore do not teach so the number increases to 36 or 37 per class. In the Spaull article however, the numbers quoted are bigger. Schools were visited and it was noticed that class sizes are bigger than the calculated number although in rural areas class sizes are smaller. It appears that the problem is that many classes and school sizes in rural areas are too small. One of the worst performing school in the country this year has 86 learners with four teachers and a fifth teacher sponsored by the parents through the SGB. What is the solution in terms of teachers and HoD numbers declining while learner numbers increase? This means a crisis will be created. The only solution is to close down non-viable small schools but that would then mean learners will have to be moved. That could be remedied through the provision of scholar transport but this is not a permanent solution. Another solution was to build boarding schools. Theoretically many big boarding schools would have to be built to get the learner to teacher ratios correct which will hopefully improve the quality of education. However the Department has shown, in the second and third quarter reports, that it is actually not good at building schools. How is the Department going to fix this issue of the incorrect distribution of teachers versus learners? It is a crisis across the country that cannot be addressed easily and the solution is going to have to be building boarding schools but the Department has limited funds which is being cut by government and has problems delivering infrastructure. Apart from improving school infrastructure the Department would also have to build boarding schools which would be a massive undertaking. Provinces do play a role in the provision of infrastructure but not all provinces could do this on their own. How will this complicated problem be fixed?

Mr Ollis looked at NSC performance in the APP and noted that the high point was in 2013 - what has gone wrong since then? What would happen with the reduced infrastructure funding if schools still needed to be built? Where would money come from to build boarding schools to address the teacher to learner ratio issue?

A common theme to crop up when visiting urban schools and assessing learners, teachers etc was that schools complained they are assessed excessively – it was clear more assessments were not required. Much assessing was being done but there were no remedies implemented based on these assessments. The Department is good at assessing problems but there was not enough work done on remedial action to fix the problems. More assessments will not fix the problems. Another challenge is the management ability of principals and some teachers’ teaching abilities which are not up to standard. This is seen in poor subject content knowledge and incorrect qualifications.  The Member wanted to know more about remedies to challenges because this did not come out in the APP. For example, some teachers just fail to pitch up to school. It is difficult to answer how this challenge could be addressed as an electronic system exists to track attendance but it was not working. On a visit to a school in the Eastern Cape, it was found there were no teachers present. Conducting more assessments was not a remedy. A solution needs to be created that makes teachers come to class because the current system is not working.

The Chairperson asked what was done when the Member found the school without teachers.

Mr Ollis said written questions were asked to the DBE but he was told to contact the Provincial Department not the National Department. The Member did have the authority to demand the Provincial Department answer him because he is not a Member of the Provincial Legislature. The Member asked colleagues in the province to put his questions forward but they were struggling to find answers.

Mr Mweli responded that there are still challenges with teacher absenteeism in certain areas of the country but given what has been done to strengthen accountability and monitoring of teachers, there has been improvement. A triple D system, Data Driven Districts, allowed for better monitoring and was put in place. The system is not perfect but is getting there. The major problem is not absenteeism but quality of teaching which is a historical and inherited problem. It would take a while to turn this around.

The Chairperson said another enemy besides absenteeism was the Department taking away teaching time. A practical example was the issue of moderation which expected teachers to go to moderation and leave class. Some teachers are expected to be away for as long as six days. These are systemic issues which need to be addressed. Absenteeism is an important issue and needs to be addressed but the Department must limit the time it calls on teachers and disturbs teaching time.

Mr Mweli agreed and said that the Minister has addressed the issue with the Members of the Executive Council (MEC). Teachers and principals need to be afforded maximum time to be at school because it is the only way to ensure that teaching and learning happens. In provinces were this occurrence is chronic, the DG wrote to the MEC and HoD to intervene immediately. The Minister further said it must be followed up by letters which she signs and goes to MEC and HoD. The DBE has recognised that it has to minimise activities that take teaching time from teachers, subject advisors and circuit managers.  Improvement will only come if these staff members spend more times at schools. He agreed that the Department’s own activities do in part contribute to these issues.

Mr Ollis said this does not take away from the DGs point on quality of teaching as the points do not cancel each other out - both are very important.

Mr Mweli responded that it demonstrated the complexity of education which involved a myriad of variables that contribute to quality of education. The quality of teaching is a historical fact but research indicates that new entrants into the teaching profession demonstrate better subject content knowledge. Studies show that new entrants from universities are strong in subject content knowledge but not teaching methods. This is compared to older teachers who have been in the system for a longer time who are strong in teaching methods but weak in subject content knowledge. Zimbabwe did not get rid of its old teacher trainer colleges but linked them to universities which led to universities and teacher training colleagues learning from each other in terms of pedagogy and subject content knowledge. South Africa has failed to do this.

Mr Mweli said unions would be happy to hear that it was said the Department was over-testing. Formative assessment, which is the assessment of learning during the process as opposed to assessments after learning has occurred, has been underused. Such assessment drives the quality of teaching. The Department has neglected formative assessment and this has been a weakness. Formative assessment is not always recorded but rather summative assessments are recorded.  Part of the issue is the width of curriculum which is too wide in South Africa and needs to be addressed. Countries which are doing well, such as Singapore, do not have such wide curriculums – these countries have identified critical areas and narrowed down the curriculum. In contrast South Africa has a broad curriculum because of its historical background and teaches everything because the Constitution is expected to be delivered in every grade.  After 20 years of a broad curriculum, the curriculum is being narrowed down so that there is time for assessment in the classroom.

With the reduced infrastructure allocation, only three out of the nine provinces were allocated less than 30% of the ASIDI allocation and EIG combined as part of the equitable share. Treasury agreed it had not monitored the provinces adequately and should have insisted provinces allocate funds for infrastructure. The blame is placed on the Minister but constitutionally it is not the responsibility of the Minister. Conditional grants are interventions by national level for specific purposes and are not intended to be there forever but in South Africa, conditional grants are running provinces. The equitable share is what should be used. The Minister will meet with the Minister of Finance and MECs soon to discuss the need for funds to be allocated for these line items and to stop the use of funds allocated for education used for other purposes.

The only administration that broke the psychological barrier of 70% for the NSC result was the administration of the current Minister. This was achieved through a reduction of 10% over a period of 10 years and it was a miracle. The Department achieved this improvement because it took funds from other standard items to cushion teaching and learning.

With the Department maybe not doing too well in rolling out infrastructure, this had yet to be compared to all other departments that roll out infrastructure. DBE does better than the Department of Public Works when it comes to roll out of infrastructure and delivery of schools.

Mr Ollis said that infrastructure roll out had collapsed two years ago.

Mr Mweli explained that compliance with the Public Finance Management Ac t (PMFA) created difficulties for infrastructure roll-out along with irregular expenditure. However, the work was done and schools and libraries were built. The matter was a double-edged sword.

The Chairperson asked if the Department was saying it performed better outside of the law.

Mr Mweli said this was not the case.

It was clarified that the learner to teacher ratio, when calculated, does not give a class size. Dr Spaull refers to a class size not learner teacher ratio. The two are different - class size is the number of learners in a class but the ratio is the total number of learners divided by total number of teachers. A school might have a favourable learner teacher ratio, maybe 1:30, but had fewer classes. The school might have fewer teachers which would make the classes large to accommodate all the learners. 

Mr Ollis agreed and said that the point he was making was that there was enough teachers in South Africa but they are not in the right place i.e. the right class room with the right number of learners. The classroom on the ground is not the same as the learner teacher ratio. What is the solution to this issue?

Mr Mweli responded that part of the solution was the rationalisation and merger of unviable schools. This process would involve MECs and legal processes. In the North West, over 500 schools were closed and seven mega farm schools were built. The Free State was the trailblazer in merging schools. There are instances were schools cannot be merged because there is no school nearby. These schools need to be kept open. There could not be a situation where there were too many small schools because teachers would be transferred to non-viable schools. There is some movement in this direction but some of it is not happening as well as it should. In KwaZulu-Natal, schools were merged but learner transport was not provided. Investment in learner transport must be done in conjunction with infrastructure roll-out because the philosophy of government is to have schools closer to communities. A balance must be created between keeping schools closer to communities and building boarding schools which take schools further from communities. Allocation for learner transport in some provinces is the responsibility of the Department of Transport. There is a positive development where provinces are taking the allocation back to the Department of Education.

Mr Mweli said that it was a difficult to propose a solution to the issue of decline in teachers and staff while there was an increase in learners. The Minister was meeting with the Minister of Finance and MECs to address this matter. Provinces like Mpumalanga are collapsing because they do not have funds for running costs and KZN is not far behind. On norms and standards for school funding, the Department thought there was movement to where the provinces would meet the minimum threshold. Because of the presence of budget cuts and so on, it is becoming a moving target almost like a tantalising mirage. Only the engagement between the Minister, Minister of Finance and MECs can help the Department navigate its way out of the situation.

The decline impacts the quality of education. Improving results will be extremely difficult under these conditions and if results do not improve this will be part of the cause. This reduction has happened over a period of 10 years and the impact has become much more profound. It is a setback because as Nick Spaull said, it was reversing all the gains made in education. The backlog was still there. In primary school, the ratio is 1 is to 40 and more while the rations in high school were much more favourable. The post provision of high schools is much better than that of primary schools.

Ms J Basson (ANC) asked if this was because it considered the weight of subjects.

Mr Mweli responded that is was not because of that but rather a result of financial planners. 70% of schools are primary schools and if funds need to be spent, less will be allocated for majority of schools. This is the rationale of financial planners - if there is any educational rationale more funding should be allocated to primary schools because this is where the foundation of education is built.

The grant for learners with special education needs was not affected by the cut.

The Chairperson said the main issue was that the Department was not spending well in its current position - can the lack of spending be covered up? It is understood that the reduction is due to the end of period for setup costs.

Mr Mweli replied that in hindsight, the issue of appointing the multi-disciplinary team on psycho-social support, on a fixed term contract, did not work. People did not want to leave permanent posts for fixed term contracts. The Department even discussed the issue with Treasury to consider the possibility of permanent contracts. Expenditure of grants is mostly linked to the activities of the multi-disciplinary team.

With the steps to address the findings of the AGSA, the Department did report on the improvement plan to the Committee in its last meeting.

There were no targets set for ASIDI electricity.

Dr Mamiki Maboya, DBE DDG: Curriculum Policy, Support and Monitoring, said the main challenge was around the appointment of multi-disciplinary teams. The Department provided support to struggling provinces. There has not been any feedback from Treasury with regards to making the posts permanent appointments. She was not sure if this item would be absorbed in provinces in terms of budget cuts.

Mr E R Mafoko, DBE Acting Chief Director, added that the reason no targets were set for ASIDI electricity was because ASIDI was an intervention and there was a finite number of projects that were allocated to it. There were 393 projects on electricity - 372 of these projects were completed. The Department was waiting on the Certificates of Compliance from Eskom to finalise the balance of the projects. The Department was in the process of closing the ASIDI project. The reason for the expansion in ASIDI was to complete outstanding projects. The Department has completed electricity projects and the same closing process will occur for water and sanitation.

Mr Ollis noted that in the 2017/18 APP or budget, there was a target of 600 for electricity projects but now it was 393 – why has the target changed?

Mr Mafoko said this was correct – this was as a result of scope changes such as visiting as a school and finding out that electricity was provided for by other means. Such cases were removed from the electricity programme.

Mr Mweli said that once the matter was finalised in the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC), the performance of school principals will be based on job descriptions and work plan. The Department conducted training in the nine PLRCs. The solution did not only come from the Department but the ELRC as well which went through PLRCs to get the officials trained in all nine provinces so that the message is conveyed. The work plan contains the deliverables which are objectives, activities, outputs and inputs which will eventually bind the staff member to deliver on the specific job.

The Chairperson asked if staff are bound and not just encouraged to deliver on work plans.

Ms Basson asked if all schools were on par with implementing the LURITS and SA-SAMS tools and, if not, how fast the Department was moving to achieve this for rural or farms schools so that they could benefit from these tools. How far was the Department with the implementation of the Three Streams Model? On Programme Three, what steps were being taken to ensure there was a teacher for every subject? During constituency visits it was noticed there was a lack of Maths teachers – how far was the Department in addressing issues of teacher supply? Inclusive education is a core programme and must be promoted. What plans were in place to ensure every district (provinces are too broad) have schools for profound intellectual learning disabilities? How far was the Department on having one such school per district? What plans did the Department have to provide sanitation infrastructure if there is a cut in the ASIDI budget? How will the budget cut of the Second Change programme affect students? Would the Rural Education Assistant programme start in the current year? If so, where will it be implemented and what does implementation entail? She wished the funds were greater as the need was crucial in rural areas.

Ms Tarabella-Marchesi was concerned about the issue of maintenance of schools, especially the cost involved, and asked how much will be spent on the maintenance of ASIDI schools. A lot of money is spent on those schools but maintaining those schools is expensive. Perhaps it would have been better to build schools which were easier and less costly to maintain. In Mpumalanga, there was a school where the teachers were basically not teaching because the subject content is not being utilised in that particular school. Basically, the teacher did not have knowledge of the subject he/she was supposed to teach. This teacher however still earned a salary. It looks like the budget is there but it is not utilised optimally.

Despite the huge budget of the Department, learners were still falling in pit-toilets. There are state of the art schools but in rural areas there are still pit-toilets. She was aware that the President has made it a priority to find out how many pit-toilets there are. Would there be another allocation on top of the ASIDI to eradicate pit toilets? The ASIDI was meant to address this issue but has failed. The Department has many ideas on what should be happening regarding the quality of education yet principals were still not signing performance agreements. The reason for not doing so was not known. The Member wanted to know the reason why and how long it would take to roll out at all schools. How many teachers are misplaced and how long will it take to make sure the correct teachers are allocated in the correct schools and classrooms?

The Chairperson commended the Department for alignment of its programmes and responding to the AGSAs comments. However the DG, his team and the Committee must remain vigilant and follow up on targets removed which in fact need to be achieved in the provinces. The provinces need to find the capacity for these indicators. She asked for information on the progress of the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill and learner transport. Given the fourth industrial revolution, she asked how the Department was affected by ICT and in what direction the Department would move in the future. Where is the Department in terms of connectivity? Annual National Assessments (ANAs) will be replaced with systemic evaluation but where would it be piloted? She asked what the progress on the IIAL was.

Mr Mweli said in terms of IIAL there would be full implementation in all provinces in grade one. Full implementation would take place in 2019. The latest level of connectivity is 67% from figures received yesterday. The Department has benefiting from two rollouts: service obligation related to the license of network operators and the allocation made to the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, who is responsible for connecting government infrastructure. The effect of budget cuts on the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services needs to be investigated. DBE made a decision to recommend to the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) that it strongly consider a conditional grant for learner transport. From HEDCOM level, it was agreed and there was a meeting with Treasury. Treasury was not averse and finds favour with the CEM that there might be a conditional grant. A conditional grant is the only way the allocation can be protected. Earmarked funds are not protected as provinces have discretion as to their use – there is no room for discretion with conditional grants.

Ms Tarabella-Marchesi said that in meeting with Parliament’s Appropriations Committee a few weeks ago, Treasury indicated the only way grant can be approved by Treasury is if there is one locus for the money - she wanted to know if this was a decision made during that meeting.

Mr Mweli said this was exactly what transpired. An update was then given that KZN would be moving he function from transport to education. This is part of getting the conditional grant in place because there has to be one line function.

Mr Ollis asked for the minutes of the HEDCOM meeting.

Mr Mweli responded that it would be made available.

On the BELA Bill, inputs and comments are still be collated. For a lack of a better word, there was an avalanche of input – the inputs are many and are varied. Once the comments/inputs are collated they would be presented to the Committee in preparation for the parliamentary process. It was interesting that those now fighting for SGBs were the very people who opposed the concept when it started.

The Department does not have the figures of misplaced teachers offhand but the numbers have drastically reduced. The Eastern Cape was an Achilles Heel but a number of agreements were signed from the provincial ELRC to reduce the number of teachers in. The issue is still present in other provinces the figures for which can be made available to the Committee.

A performance agreement constitutes Annexure A (job description) and Annexure B (job plan). This was a tool which was supported by the ELRC and was used to get the agreement of principals. Other employees in the Department also signed performance contracts

The Chairperson asked if it was agreed that the issue of job descriptions and work plans is an issue that the Department was working on and the term “performance agreement” was being done away with.

Mr Mweli responded that initially, it was “performance agreement” for public servants but the resolution taken by school principals, signed in the ELRC, stipulated “job plans” and “job description”. The tool however remained the same.

The Chairperson said the issue around this had to be addressed because it created difficulties for oversight and could lead to the AGSA finding there was underperformance.

Mr Mweli said that it will be sorted out with the DPME and AGSA.

Mr Ollis said that “job plan” and “job description” should then be used in the current APP instead of “performance agreement”. This affected accountability.

Mr Mweli said that it will be reflected in the 2019/2010 APP.

MsTarabella-Marchesi asked if the 1% VAT increase was considered when costing the nutritional budget and if the funds were sufficient.

Mr Mweli needed to confirm this but what is provided in the programme fell in the zero-rated goods list. Increases take the CPIX into account.

Ms Tarabella-Marchesi asked how much was allocated per child for the nutritional programme.

Mr Mweli would confirm the figure for the Member at a later stage.

On the quality of education, there are five to six aspects which determine education anywhere in the world. These aspects are access, redress, equity, efficiency, quality and sometimes inclusivity. The basic education system in South Africa is doing in extremely well in three of the five aspects namely, access, redress and equity. Efficiency and quality are the aspects which need to be improved and the Department is making efforts to address them. Teachers should know where they are doing well and where there is room for improvement.  

Ms Tarabella-Marchesi said that it could not be said the country was doing good when there were statistics that showed large percentages of lower grades could not read for comprehension and do basic Maths.

Mr Mweli replied that South Africa is not as bad as it is thought to be because the country is applauded for its progress. Things did not happen overnight – the system resulted in more than 80% of teachers with poor quality of teaching. It would take time for this to work its way out. There has been progress on access and redress but quality and efficiency still needs to be tackled. Teachers need to be more informed about their strengths and weakness. Learners were tested at Grade Four level, during the transition phase of moving from the mother tongue to English, and this confusion can reflect in the outcomes. The South African education system is not as bad as it is perceived to be.

On the large budget, education expenditure should be seen as an investment. He reiterated 80% of the budget went to salaries and salary increases which should be a concern to public representatives. Public representatives should want to see more posts allocated to see the quality of education improve rather than salary increase. This was not to say that public officials should not get increases – however there should be a focus on the quality of education.

Ms Tarabella-Marchesi responded that the ratio was fine but the machinery was not working optimally. She clarified that Mr Ollis did not mean there had to be more teachers. The current teachers are the problem, not the amount of teachers

Mr Mweli agreed with Mr Ollis that the problem is not absenteeism but the quality of teachers. 

Mr Mafoko said that ASIDI is an intervention – this meant DBE did not own the school and the Department could not maintain what it did not own. ASIDI was meant to assist provinces address inappropriate structures. When this was completed, the school was ceded back to the provincial department of education responsible for its maintenance through the EIG and equitable share. ASIDI does not have a cent allocated for maintenance. When the school is ceded back to the provincial department of education it comes with a maintenance plan which entails what must be done to maintain the school and the provincial department must budget for this plan.

Ms Tarabella-Marchesi said she did not ask whose responsibility it was but rather how much was spent on maintaining schools. The provinces are given the schools to maintain but how much of its budget would this take?

Mr Mafoko responded that at this stage the Department could not say how much provinces were allocating to maintain aside schools. In the last financial year, 28% of the budget was allocated to maintenance of schools – this amounted to R3.5 billion. The Department was overspending on maintenance which means the provinces have not sufficiently allocated funds for maintenance. This explained why the Department needed to “steal” from other programmes.  It was important to note that it was cheaper to maintain a new school than an old school because maintenance becomes expensive as lifespan goes beyond a certain age and without maintenance being done.  It needed to be ensured that day-to-day and life cycle maintenance was happening.

The Chairperson said that issue of maintenance has to be discussed with HODs when the Department meets with them. There has to emphasis on this.

Mr Mweli said this would be done.  

Mr Mafoko, responding to the question on decent sanitation, said that the Department was dealing with pit-toilets not even though schools received other toilets. The case in Bizana was one where the school was fitted with VIP toilets but the pit-toilets were not decommissioned and that was where the learner unfortunately fell in. Insufficient sanitation refers to where the number of toilet seats is insufficient for the number of learners. The sanitation also needs to be fit for purpose e.g. Grade R learners need smaller toilet seats. Because of the short amount of time given, the Department could not go on a large scale investigation of all schools but the work is based on information the Department already has, verified by the provinces. According to preliminary data, there are 5 779 schools with pit-toilets which equates to 82 133 toilet seats that are needed. 3 532 toilets would have to be decommissioned which means that these toilets have to be demolished. There are 4 516 sites where there is insufficient sanitation which equates to 45 143 toilet seats that have to be provided. Additionally 30 028 Grade R seats have to be provided. This is fresh information from the quantity surveyors calculators. To provide all this sanitation, R7.8 billion is needed. The numbers given have removed ASIDI and EIG projects so these numbers are a backlog which must be addressed.

Ms Tarabella-Marchesi asked if it would be a new programme.

Mr Mafoko could not answer but from the numbers and estimates of the quantity surveyors, the team is busy conceptualising a programme or options such as extending ASIDI, private sector involvement or provincial realignment of other programmes to see what projects can be delayed in order to address this emergency issue. This was all work in progress.

The Chairperson said the issue of maintenance is important because there are schools that were given new toilets but due to poor maintenance, these toilets are not safe for use. These toilets can be built again but if the issue of poor maintenance continues the Department will always be fighting to reach targets. What was the plan going forward, in terms of maintenance, so that money can be saved?

Mr Mweli responded that at some point, the Department would need to come back to give a detailed report on these issues as it is a working progress. These numbers were also not final yet. There had to a focus on educating learners on how to use sanitation facilities correctly. It is about the safety and hygienic conditions of school toilets. It is an issue of maintenance and education. There was even talk of getting an Extended Public Works Programme of getting young people training learners to use toilets properly and to look after them. He suggested that once conception of the project is finalised, the Department could present it to the Committee.

Dr Maboya said the rural education assistant programme will only be starting on 1 May.  It will be piloted in KZN, the Eastern Cape and Limpopo and will cover two districts in each of these provinces. It is a pilot project of using educational assistants to promote reading, literacy and numeracy in rural schools.  It is also a pilot recruitment model for rural schools and to attract rural persons to develop interest in teaching, therefore it is also being attached to the programme of Funza Lushaka. A pipeline for youths to become educators will be created through the attachment of Funza Lushaka. Recruitment guidelines will target unemployed matriculated youth in rural areas. An average of 254 assistants will be allocated per province to work in primary schools in the foundation phase. On integration of African languages, there was a resolution of the CEM that all provinces must implement IIAL in Grade One in 2018 however, during oversight visits, it was observed there are provinces which have not started with implementation. Slightly over 50 percent of schools are implementing IIAL. Majority of schools that are not implementing are in the Western Cape.

Ms Tarabella-Marchesi noted that there was no budget allocation for IIAL but provinces were expected to implement it – how were they meant to do so without budget allocation?

The Chairperson asked what challenges provinces were experiencing in implementing IIAL. What challenges did the Western Cape have that other provinces did not regarding implementation?

Dr Maboya responded that different modalities were in place to deliver the mandate. There are digital lessons if there are not teachers.  IIAL is just about basic communication proficiency in African languages. The content was distributed to schools. During the HEDCOM subcommittee meeting in March, the Western Cape said it would meet the target before the end of the year. The other challenging province was the Eastern Cape – this was resolved by the province offering IIAL at the level of the First Additional Language (FAL). This was not a problem because the material was developed for FAL and there are already African languages in FAL. The province then used the material it already had.

Mr Mweli said that the number of learners who need the services of special schools per district did not warrant the establishment of such schools in the district. In the past, these schools existed only in certain parts of the country but the disparity has been now addressed. The best approach was that if there is a need for another special school, the province could decide on the best geographic position for it.  

Dr Maboya added how the Second Chance programme would be affected by the budget cut was not yet determined. The objectives of the programme will still be met but there might have to be a cut down on face-to-face institutions and platforms.

Mr Padayachee said that some schools do not use SA-SAMS and LURITS but used third party systems. Some schools cannot upload electronically and therefore use the CD method. The disk would be taken to the district or circuit point for uploading. There were not many schools doing this but work was being done to further improve the number. The Department is working on making the system web-based. By the end of next year all possible solutions will be taken into account but measures must be put in place. The systemic evaluation pilot will take place in October in 20 schools per province to test items. It will be the provisional before the final tests are set for 2019.

The Chairperson gave thanks and said that Committee was well prepared for the Budget Vote on 9 May because of all the information provided by the Department.

The meeting was adjourned.

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