The Department of Higher Education and Training updated the Committee on progress and challenges within the Community Education and Training sector. Areas highlighted were the budget and expenditure of the branch, infrastructure at centres, monitoring and oversight at centres, progress made towards sustainable governance structures and improving the capacity of colleges to administer their own funds. Other issues raised as needing immediate attention were the slow progress in the dealing with the backlog in issuing certificates in all 9 provinces as well as the need for conditions of service to be reviewed at colleges.
Members of the Committee raised questions around the vision and direction the Department wanted to take the branch into. They asked why artisans within communities were not being drawn on to assist with skills-based programmes. Members also questioned the relevancy of the skills that the branch wanted to teach at centres and whether they would allow students to become employable. Concerns were also expressed at the high dropout rate that the sector experienced and Members asked the Department what its plans were to deal with this issue. The Department was thereafter given an opportunity to respond to questions posed by Members.
The Chairperson said due to a lack of quorum the Committee would not be able to take any official decisions at the meeting and would only be able to listen to the presentation. Minutes could only be dealt with once quorum had been reached.
Dr Bheki Mahlobo, Acting DDG for Community Education and Training (CET) colleges, tendered an apology for the absence of the Deputy General due to another meeting on the National Students Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) which he had to attend at that time. He introduced his colleagues, Mr Tsela Moloi, newly appointed Director for Lecturer Support and Development at the DHET, and Ms Esther Koolisang, newly appointed Director for Management and Governance Support at the DHET.
Dr Mahlobo briefed the Committee.
The CET branch was formed in 2016 and had only two senior managers appointed. However, over time there had been several new appointments. 12 appointments which had been made since then. These changes have increased the capacity of the branch. which had been made by the DHET to strengthen the Human Resources capacity of the CET.
On the budget of the programme, there had been no budget allocation changes over the MTEF of 2018/19 to 2020/21. Total budget went from 2.35 billion to 2.71 billion over this period accounting for the Consumer Price Index. In 2018/19 the total transfer of funds for Goods and Services to the CET branch was at R112 million and that the CETC systems planning programme made up a large portion of the overall budget because these funds were primarily used for employee compensation at all levels, including gratuity payments to ex-officials, totalling to R2.1 billion and making up 92.6% of the budget. Only 2.6% of the budget was thus geared towards operational needs.
When the branch had appeared before the Committee in a previous meeting it was asked how the budget administration was done. The Department administered the budget on behalf of the CET’s because they did not meet the requirements to handle funds. The Department had signed a MoA with 37 Technical and Vocation Education and Training (TVET) centres to handle procurements on behalf of the CET colleges using their supply chain processes. The period of this agreement had been extended to 31 March 2019 by which time it is hoped that the CET colleges will have the necessary structures and capacity to administer their own funds. The CET colleges had sourced financial support from the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) and the support programme commenced on 1 March 2018 to assist in meeting the requirements of section 38(1)(j) of the Public Finance Management Act.
Financial Capacity Building Project
In 2015, nine new colleges were established following a shift of the Adult Education and Training function from the Provincial Education Departments to the DHET. One of the responsibilities given to SAICA was to reconstruct financial statements and allocation process to colleges to allow for an external audit to take place.
The Officer of the Auditor General had informed the Department that for 2016, 2017 and 2018 they would not be investigating the CET sector, however they needed to be audited by a reputable auditory body. This was the responsibility of councils with support from the Department. The SAICA project would be assisting the branch in the following areas of deliverables; ICTS infrastructure, establishing governance policies, Business Management Systems (BMS), Technical support, Supply Chain Management policies, Financial Reporting; and Financial Department and Operations Management. He also referenced several pieces of legislation that underpinned the implementation of projects in the CET sector.
Sources for assessing Teaching and Learning
The Department relied on annual reports from the CET colleges as part of the monitoring function. In addition to this, CET colleges submitted annual diagnostic reports and an annual Education Management Information System (EMIS) survey is done as well. The Department had also commenced with lecturer roadshows to engage lecturers on the challenges they face. However, the DHET could not visit Gauteng due to issues with lecturers not being paid at the time which took priority. This error was fixed by the end of the year; however, a roadshow was yet to take place in Gauteng. A circular had been distributed by DHET to the system stipulating that conditions of service would not be standardised in 2018 as was previously stated due to legislative impediments of shifting between the Education Act and Employment Public Service Act.
The DHET planned to have strategic coordination meetings with principals of colleges and regional councils at least 4 times a year to measure progress on the ground. The instability in programmes in provinces sometimes resulted from a lack of management not properly dealing with issues in a timely manner. He had met with 3 colleges to discuss how appointments were made by centre managers, because there had been cases of illegal appointments which did not follow proper procedures. The DHET hoped to have cleaned up this issue by the end of the year. There was an urgent need to sort out the conditions of service and payment of lecturers to further mitigate instability.
Surveys had been sent to 390 colleges and they were requested to do a self-diagnosis and part of the DHET’s monitoring and evaluation process. The Department wanted to put together a performance management review to ensure that there is proper oversight of teaching quality to give early warnings if intervention is needed. The performance in subjects was not always the responsibility of lecturers.
The challenges that the Department had noted up to that point included absenteeism of students due to external seasonal work opportunities and for traditional reasons such as initiations which resulted in young men leaving the colleges for extended periods of time. Lecturers were ill equipped to deal with such cases. Another problem the DHET encountered in shifting from academic work to a more skill-based focus had been slowed by the fact that most lecturers were school teachers and thus not trained to present a curriculum of that nature. He hoped that in future the teaching core in the CET colleges would be hybridised to include artisans from the industry. Between 30-40% of staff at colleges were under qualified or not qualified at all, particularly in rural areas. Many lecturers in some places were Gr12’s. The Department needed to insist on qualified lecturers being appointed however this would lead to some colleges shutting down. He asked whether it was better to provide the service in poor quality or to not provide it at all? Colleges which had their own buildings often did not have the necessary budget for maintenance, which meant that the colleges had to look for partners to assist in maintaining their infrastructure. The Department needed to provide a clear plan for lecturer development so that funding could be used more effectively in improving capacity. In some cases, there was a mismatch of subjects being taught and lecturer qualifications due to lack of qualified lecturers. The Department was also in the process of reviewing the GCET examinations to ensure that those students who write the exam are literate and numerate.
The certification rate for the GETC’s was as low as 37% in 2015 and 36% in 2016. The 2017 statistics were not added to the presentation because they were incorrect and the level of entries and eventual through put numbers were reduced by as much as 50% and did not reasonably line up. The data would be presented in future. The diagnostic report had identified the need for enrolment admission policies needed to be developed by councils and in the absence of development the Department presented colleges with viable policies. Other areas of focus included gradually moving to more skills programmes, which some colleges had begun to do through external partnerships that assist in delivering accredited content.
Recommendations from engagements
It had also been recommended that the Department investigate the high dropout rates of up to 60% between the time of entry to the time of examinations. Since provinces still coordinated and managed examinations it was decided that the issue of inaccurate results or late had to be raised with the heads of the DHET. He had established a committee that met twice a year to deal exclusively with examinations. Colleges needed advocacy programmes to advertise what they had on offer to community members. There was overall laxity in the administration of exams. The branch had requested an MoU be signed between the Minister and MEC’s so that provinces would continue to administer exams, however not all provinces were adequately adhering to the agreement.
The Department had engaged in policy mediation in the beginning of 2018 and would continue to do so for officials in the regions and districts. The budget needed to focus on resources for teaching and learning, lecturer development and support as well as feedback on the monitoring which had already taken place. The sector needed to enter into partnerships to diversify programmes and he presented a list of partnerships which colleges nationally had entered. As of the end of March enrolment in General Academic Programmes stood at approximately 185 000 while occupational programmes had approximately 3130 registered students. All nine CET Colleges had councils in place appointed in terms of Section 10 (4) and (6) of the Continuing Education and Training Act, Act No 16 of 2006, and the Department had conducted induction workshops for Councils in January 2018. Funding was sourced through the European Union (EU) for specialised training of Councils, Management and SRC’s in governance and leadership. This training had commenced on 8 April 2018 and set to finish on 5 May 2018. The Department had concluded the development of CETM Information Systems and implementation would take place once SAICA had successfully assisted colleges in getting the appropriate IT infrastructure and administration systems in place.
On the issue of certificates, Dr Mahlobo presented the number of certificates which had not been issued yet going as far back as 2001. A completeness test was being done to determine the exact number of certificates outstanding. Hence, the numbers presented were just estimates and could rise to as high as 20 000 once the test was complete. However, from 15 to 18 May the SETA’s and department’s examination section would meet and work to clear the backlog. In North West only 2017 backlog was left and prior years had been cleared.
Conditions of service
Some discrepancies around conditions of service for staff at colleges occurred due when the branch took over the CET function. 16 000 lecturers are employed at colleges and centres, however not all of them had pensions. The Department needed to standardise the provision of pensions to deal with this injustice. The Corporate Services section of the branch had been working on post provision norms for employment on the basis of which conditions of service could be finalised. Steps needed to be taken to stabilise the sector. One solution that the Human Resources section of the branch had been working on was to place employees who do not receive social benefits onto part-time employment packages of a minimum hours of 3 out of 8 hours a day. Employees working for 2 hours would need to be moved to working 3 hours under this new package.
Work was being done on establishing a collective bargaining chamber. The DHET had already drafted a Collective Agreement on how this chamber could be established within the GPSSBC and to initiate a consultation process. To date no feedback had been received and the Department would continue to follow up. The process of capturing Relative Education Qualification Value (REQV’s) had been decentralised in order to deal with the backlog. 1000 cases were being processed at that time and that the Department had processed a total of 4200 since 2015.
He invited members of the Committee to ask questions which would give the delegation a better idea of what the Committee would like to know and whatever he could not answer immediately he would refer to the Chairperson on in writing at a later stage.
Mr C Kekana (ANC) said students had made their desire for practical knowledge known and colleges needed to meet that demand. He was not convinced there was a lack of qualified applicants given the high number of unemployed graduates in the country. He asked why these people were not being drawn on. He also asked why infrastructure maintenance was not being budgeted for given that resources were available and only needed to be allocated. Unless these issues were addressed the country would not be able to overcome youth unemployment to the benefit of the country.
Dr B Bozzoli (DA) thanked the entity for presenting the challenges clearly and undiluted. She asked who oversaw the work of staff at centres to ensure that teaching and learning was taking place, given that the centres were so far away which made it difficult to monitor what took place in them.
She further asked for clarity on how many lecturers were unqualified and why they were put in permanent conditions of service if they weren’t qualified? The kinds of qualifications in demand were of an academic nature and in Gauteng a large portion of the applicants applied to repeat matric while many others were there for adult literacy, on the other hand practical qualifications made up a much smaller portion of qualifications.
She asked why the Department wanted to change the system while at the same time attempting to make the system work well. This appeared to be an impossible task given the challenges the sector faces and the CET’s should focus on offering students the programmes they wanted. She asked whether any SETA’s would in fact be interested in funding the kinds of skills that the Department wanted to implement e.g. woodwork, pottery, beading, which were modest skills.
Mr R Mavunda (ANC) said payments had been a persistent issue at institutions and he was not convinced that the law allowed for employees to work for so many years without pension according to the Labour Act and he advised that the Department consider whether workers were not being exploited by allowing this practice to continue. He asked why so called “unemployable lecturers” could not be employed and whether it was due to them having been registered with another section of the department which made them unqualified to receive benefits.
Mr A Van der Westhuizen (DA) said he did not see any clear vision presented by the Department on how to take the CET colleges and centres forward. The number at centres had dropped significantly between 2015 and 2017 by approximately 40%. The pass rate and those who achieved an NQF level 1 qualification had dropped as well. The level of unproductivity in the sector was shocking and success rates needed to improve. If these success rates were not improving this warranted extreme intervention, which the Department had failed up to that point to provide.
He asked what the Department regarded as the ideal centre. In some provinces there were no permanent staff members, which caused an imbalance in the system. He asked whether the Department saw centres potentially operating over weekends or holidays. Or if they only run in the evening could the centres then share the infrastructure used by the Department of Basic Education (DBE)? And if the Department chose to implement evening classes would it not make sense to employ staff on a part-time basis?
Ms N Nolutshungu (EFF) expressed concern over the quality of education received by students that did not drop out given the challenges faced by the sector. The challenges outlined show why students are dropping out because the low quality of education was not appealing.
She asked about the Department’s efforts to give prisoners to access to its centres.
The Chairperson approved of the Department’s efforts in improving the qualitative nature of the sector. The Western Cape still faced many of the challenges outlined such as payment of salaries, victimisation, illegal appointments etc. that still undermined the quality of education at centres. Order needed to be restored.
She asked the Department to make it clear what the purpose of CET’s was in the first place.
The Chairperson asked if the Department was satisfied with the level of governance and management at each of the institutions which allows them to function properly and take responsibility. Once the Department was satisfied with governance structures it was important to look at what the centres were offering. The skills mentioned in the presentation were not adequate for ensuring the needs of the economy would be met. She said that they would be more applicable to the Department of Arts and Culture. But would these skills make people employable? The programme was meant to assist in employment, provide further vocation training and links to other higher education institutions. These were the measurable deliverables that the Department should be focusing on.
She asked if some centres could be merged given the vast number of centres and their proximity to one another. The financial structure at the centres relied on state allocations but centres gathered resources from other resources as well. Could the centres effectively generate and manage finances coming from these external sources? She asked if the Department had done any financial management training. The Department should not stay with the current funding regime, which excluded the poor from the centres who would rather look for work. She asked why the CET sector had not included in the new funding regime either by extending NSFAS funding or by other means.
She also asked that the branch report on the state of private colleges in the sector, and that the Department set deliverable and achievable targets and centres should be held to accountable for their responsibilities.
Dr Bheki Mahlobo, Acting DGG, said the system did not have the necessary infrastructure for training nor the budget for maintenance as most of the budget covered employee compensation as well as goods and services expenditure. Even when colleges had their own buildings they did not have funds to maintain those.
Addressing Ms Bozzoli, he said each centre was managed by a centre manager who ensured that lecturers attend and teach. Unqualified teachers were given a set period to become qualified. There was no intention to force students into certain degrees; the goal was to make the system more responsive to what was required. In Gauteng it was decided that students failing matric should attend centres. The teachers at these centres were qualified to teach the mainstream curriculum. These teachers worked various hours in different provinces.
SETA’s were interested in entering the space of skills development. However, once SETA’s put funding into the CET sector it would become public money which required the appropriate systems of financial management in place. It was exactly these systems that the Department was attempting to put into place.
Responding to Mr Mavunda, he said the 3 out of 8 hours system was a temporary measure meant to give employees access to benefits such as pensions. If the standard was set at 8 out of 8 hours of permanent employment there would not be enough funding or infrastructure to sustain that. Hence it was scaled to include a category for working no less than 3 out of 8 hours. The Department wanted to emphasise that whatever number of hours an employee was contracted to, they would be required to work 5 days a week. Lecturers who are unemployable in the system are those who were already in the government system and gaining government benefits therefore could not be given those benefits twice over.
In response to Mr van der Westhuizen, he said the Department did have a vision and this was evident in its goals that far exceeded its current means. There was a need for both permanent and part time staff for short term projects which require different types of skills. On operational hours, they could not be standardised because centres which use their own facilities can work later while others that do not can only use school facilities for a set number of hours and lecturers needed to be contracted accordingly.
Dr Mahlobo responded to Ms Nolutshungu that many correctional facilities ran adult training programmes. Question papers were distributed according to lists which included prisoners from correctional facilities. The NSC was already available to them and future programmes would be made available as well.
Addressing the Chairperson, he said he was working with the Western Cape regional office to clean out the negative practices in the province; however there had been resistance from certain centres. The Department needed to engage with centre managers and not just managements and councils. There were councils in all nine provinces. All provinces had also been in the process of training SRC’s and only the Western Cape did not have one. He had asked management and council in the Western Cape why there was no SRC and this issue needed to be followed up. He could not verify if all councillors had shown good leadership and would have to observe them over time to determine their effectiveness. The Department wanted to give more responsibilities to centres so that management could be done and councillors could provide oversight.
The Minister had asked the branch to provide her with a proposal on how the 779 centres could be dealt with to make them more accessible. How could the issue of proximity and lecturer to student ratio be balanced? The Department had advised centres to work through invoices that they send to partner organisations thereby limiting the amount of money that needs to go into and be administered as public funds. This would remain necessary until the centres achieved the level of capacity to effectively ensure funds are handled accountably.
Ms Esther Koolisang, Director for Management and Governance Support, added that there was room to expand programmes at centres. SRC training had allowed the Department to engage with students on the ground of which the majority were young people who had dreams to complete their matric and eventually move into careers. She said this also explained why skills enrolment was still so small in places like Gauteng and if students desired academic programmes then that is what the centres should provide. However, skills development remained an area that should be promoted.
Mr Tsela Moloi, Director of Lecturer Support and Development, said research had shown that the quality of teachers played a key role in attracting and retaining students. One of the biggest challenges had been the cohort of unqualified lecturers. Adult students dropped out when lecturers were not of good quality.
The Dr Mahlobo added that the function of private colleges was under the TVET branch and not under the CET branch. He said he could verify of the private colleges were offering qualifications in the area that CET colleges focused on.
Mr Van der Westhuizen asked what the Department would do next and how it could be held accountable, and what their desired figures or new programmes were going forward.
Mr Kekana said in rural areas teaching was a big industry for employment in both the basic education and private sector. Artisans already in the communities could be recruited to assist in teaching programmes. This could be accompanied by teacher training to better equip them. The tradition of going into teaching for job opportunities had already existed and only needed to be harnessed.
Mr Mavunda said he was unable to reconcile CET and the Higher Education sectors role in matric qualifications given that this was a function of the DBE sector? He asked if it was not difficult for people to complete matric without proper qualified teachers at centres?
On the issue of drop outs, due to jobs opportunities to earn money and a lack of proper prior education e.g. Gr8 students would not be able to complete their studies. He asked whether the CET centres offered both higher and basic education levels qualifications and were there teachers who could teach drop outs?
The Chairperson asked Dr Mahlobo to explain the difference between a matric qualification and the programme offered by the CET colleges. She asked that the Department include deliverable targets and objectives in its next presentation to give the Committee greater understanding of the progress of the sector.
Dr Mahlobo addressed Mr van der Westhuizen. The Department wanted to get rid of stigmatisation around the sector due to certificates not being issued by overcoming this challenge. The target of the end of the year was to present a concrete proposal on labour policies that would then be left to the Labour Department. This would deal with the issue of underperformance. The CET programmes had not been advertised enough to those who would be interested in the centres. Policies had been developed and it was now a matter of implementation and ensuring quality.
Addressing Mr Kekana, he said it was possible to appoint artisans from the community but thus far there had been no coordinated efforts to do so, due to lack of appropriate infrastructure that would allow for that type of skills training. Recruitment would be done by the Department once those provisions were in place.
Addressing Mr Mavunda, he said students remain eligible for basic education three years after writing matric but after that they need to be able to complete matric; once this time has elapsed due to age and CET colleges serve this role. Hence it served those who cannot be served by schooling system any longer. There were quite a few requirements to join the matric programme which would prevent someone who lacks the proper prior education to enter the programme but those individuals will be catered for through other programmes that provide literacy and numeracy training within the sector as post school training.
Chairperson thanked the presenters and said that the certificate issues would be addressed in the overall departmental report on certificates. The image of the sector must be improved.
She excused the Department and mentioned that the next meeting would deal with various reports submitted to the Committee in preparation for budget votes.
Dr Bozzoli said that she had sent a note to the Chairperson to urgently call NSFAS to Parliament about the issue of funds not being released to students. She asked why NSFAS could not be brought before the Committee to be questioned the following week.
Ms J Killian (ANC) responded that Ms Bozzoli was away during the previous meeting when NSFAS presented to the Committee and the Minister commented in her press briefing that some students had not signed their agreements yet leading to delays in the system. The Committee could request an update report without calling them to Parliament.
Mr Kekana said that NSFAS had been making the best out of a bad situation. It was required to make significant changes and there had been no major crises in any area of the sector. Students were eager to use the new opportunity of free education.
Mr Van der Westhuizen disagreed with Ms Kilian. NSFAS had not presented any plans at the previous meeting to deal with the issue and the meeting was only meant to focus on the Annual Performance Plans. This was an imminent issue that needed to be addressed because the prior meeting was not sufficient. Parliament needed to provide oversight on these failures, which were not asked or addressed at the prior meeting.
Mr Mavunda agreed with Ms Kilian in that unless there was new information to call NSFAS before the Committee it would be best to go over the Minister’s media statement. Once the Committee had the statement it would be better able to identify areas which needed to be addressed. It might not yield the necessary result to call them again if NSFAS had not been given a chance to answer their prior questions or until the Committee knew what was outstanding.
Dr Bozzoli said the ANC members of the Committee were defending NSFAS which alarmed her; there needed to be more investigation into the issue. The Minister was furious in her statement because there were students that had not received funds who had already signed. The Committee needed to know how many students had not received their money. She recognised that they were in a difficult situation given the roll out of free education. Some colleges were closed due to NSFAS protests and the interests of students needed to be protected. If steps were not taken the Committee would be seen as protecting NSFAS from the effects of its failures.
The Chairperson said it was decided in the previous meeting that NSFAS and all other relevant stakeholders in the sector would be called back to account to Parliament. Oversight suggested that various entities blamed one another hence it would be useful to call all of them before the Committee at the same time. A timeframe had been set for when this meeting would take place.
The meeting was adjourned.