History as a compulsory subject; Rural Education Draft Policy: with Deputy Minister

Basic Education

21 August 2018
Chairperson: Ms N Gina (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) met with the Portfolio Committee to discuss the proposed introduction of history as a compulsory school subject, and also presented its proposals for a draft rural education policy.

The Deputy Minister said the approach and value sought from history being taught was to create a platform for a better understanding of the past, the difficulties of the past, and celebrating the achievements of the present and working hard towards a future. The country’s future should be anchored in its history. The issue of decolonisation had to be confronted. There was a very robust and vibrant discussion about colonisation, and the presentation would address concerns that the current history syllabus was too Eurocentric. Other elements should be taken into consideration, such as the inclusion of archaeology, as it provided a scientific basis of our past, and social anthropology, to provide a historical context to the present day situation. 

The DBE said the recommendations of a Ministerial task team had included consideration of making history a compulsory subject. It put forward the various options available for making history a fundamental subject in the intermediate phase, as well as the senior phase. It gave the option of removing Life Orientation as a subject for the sustenance of history, but said there was also the consideration of combining both history and Life Orientation to create a hybrid subject.

The Portfolio Committee and the DBE emphasised the importance of history in the country and the curriculum. However, the Committee asked for the rationale behind the programme, and questioned how making history a compulsory subject would benefit those who did not need it in their careers after high school.

With regard to the draft rural education policy, the main issues raised by Members were the need for conducive working environments for teachers in rural areas, rather than a change in the curriculum, and concern over the apparent move to have separate curricula for rural and urban areas. They agreed the two presentations both indicated the need for the employment of more qualified teachers for quality education.

Meeting report

Opening Remarks
The Chairperson began by introducing the two topics for the meeting. These were the update from the Ministerial task team on the introduction of history as a compulsory subject, and the progress report on the rural education policy. These were very important topics, as they spoke directly to the issue of transformation in the basic education system. The Portfolio Committee was very eager to hear from the Department of Education (DBE) on the first topic on what recommendations the DBE had come up with, where to from here, and when they could see the changes from the recommendations, if there were any.

It was accepted that people must be aware of their history and know what had happened in the past for them to develop pride in who they are, as well as their country. Once one ignored history one was creating a community that would not be proud of who they were and where they came from. The Committee had had a number of discussions on the topic of history, and were eager to hear the recommendations from the DBE.

The Chairperson said the issue of rural development was an area of interest to the Committee, as the gap had to be bridged to balance what was received in urban cities and towns, and the rural communities. It was good that the Department had created a focus on looking solely at developments in rural areas.

History as a compulsory subject had drawn a lot of attention, especially from the media, which wanted to hear what the Department had come up with and what their recommendations were.

History as compulsory subject

Mr Enver Surty, Deputy Minister: DBE, said there had been a huge appeal for serious consideration of history as a compulsory subject. Currently, history was taken until Grade Nine and the Further Education and Training (FET) band of Grades 10, 11, and 12. There had been consideration of whether history should be a separate independent subject, or whether it should be integrated with Life Orientation (LO). The implications to be taken into account would be teaching, learning and time. The DBE had been advised to look and reflect on the capacity of educators’ competence to teach history adequately as a subject.

There were issues of identity and social cohesion. The approach and value sought from history being taught was to create a platform for a better understanding of the past, the difficulties of the past, and celebrating the achievements of the present and working hard towards a future. The country’s future should be anchored in its history. In 2015, the Ministerial task team (MTT) had done a thorough job of looking at models in Africa, Asia, France and South America. He himself had gained a good view of whether history was taught in these countries, and had found that largely, history was compulsory in all of them. The aim was to create a national South Africa and a national identity.

The issue of decolonisation had to be confronted. There was a very robust and vibrant discussion about colonization, and the presentation would address concerns that the current history syllabus was too Eurocentric. Other elements should be taken into consideration, such as the inclusion of archaeology as it provides a scientific basis of our past, and social anthropology, to provide a historical context to the present day situation.  The DBE had made the report public so the Committee could engage with it. He specifically wanted the Portfolio Committee collectively to influence and shape the DBE’s decisions.

Dr Mamiki Maboya, Deputy Director General (DDG): Curriculum Policy, Support and Monitoring, DBE, outlined the purpose for the Department’s recommendations on history as a compulsory subject. It was looking for engagement from the Committee Members on the recommendations, and their input. The work of the MTT had been finalised in December 2017, and the report handed to the Minister on 31 May this year. It had been made public by putting it on the website, where it had attracted insight and attention.

Terms of reference

Dr Maboya said that the MTT’s terms of reference had been to conduct a comparative international study on how best to implement the introduction of compulsory history in the FET band. She emphasised the review and strengthening of the current content of history. In order to observe the capacity and capability of teachers, an audit of the number of teachers would be conducted if the decision was to be made for history to be compulsory. There would also be an audit of the number of history trainee teachers in the higher education systems. Teacher development programmes were proposed.

Consultations had been organised by the task team to prepare for policy and regulations to be gazetted. The task team had also drafted implementation and management plans with clear time frames, such as for the alignment of the history text books, and the making and implications of recommendations. The MTT was also to compile a final report and present it to the Minister and DBE senior management.

International Comparative Study
A comparative study about the education systems in Africa, Latin America,Europe,Asia had been conducted to see how history had been offered in those countries. There were broad questions to considered, such as whether history was compulsory, whether history should be a stand-alone subject or an integrated one, what the content framework should be, what skills were being developed, the particular approaches of the different countries, and what kind of national identity was being promoted in the different kinds of curriculums.  

In this case study, it was learned that history had an important place in the school curricula. There were variations, where history was either separate or integrated. In many countries, it was offered as a compulsory subject up until Grade 9, while in others it was compulsory up until high school or offered as an elective, as in South Africa.

In terms of learning and unlearning, the task team had looked at Ghana as a possible model. What Ghana had highlighted, unlike other content from 1652, was the African-centredness of history content. This model focused on the centrality of ancient African history, and was more cognitively developed. There was a recognition that there was a history of Africa that dated back over a million years. There was also awareness that the ancient civilisations of Africa had contributed to pre-colonial Ghana. She also emphasised the importance of archaeology, which allowed people to be scientifically informed of their history..

Consultation workshops

From attending consultative workshops, the MTT realised the need to separate history from geography and address the content overload, as the two were currently combined. They also realised that archaeology was key for the scientific part of history. However, teachers were not skilled enough to teach both history and geography in the General Education and Training (GET) band. The history content in the current Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS), was very Eurocentric. She added that history must not be integrated with Life Orientation. In the consultative workshops, it was also agreed that history should be compulsory in the FET band, but the Rwanda/ Zimbabwe approach -- which promotes ethnicity and patriotic history – had to be avoided. She asked for the paradigm shift away from Eurocentric history.

Dr Maboya said that the addition of history as an independent subject would increase the notional time. In the consultation workshops, it had been asked if there could be a hybrid subject consisting of elements of history and LO. There had been acknowledgement that history and LO each had its own importance.

In the current curriculum, social sciences -- which consisted of both history and geography -- was allocated three hours. Life Orientation -- which included creative arts, physical education and personal and social well-being -- had been allocated four hours in. Even in the senior phase, social sciences consisted of geography and history, instead of them being treated separately. Life Orientation was compulsory, with one hour being allocated to physical education. The notional time for the senior phase added up to 27.5 hours per week.

Implications for different scenarios

Dr Maboya said that she was highlighting the issue of time. The MTT had put up different scenarios for different recommendations, which highlighted the effects of time.

Scenario A:
In this scenario, history would be made compulsory from Grades 10-12. The teaching time would be increased from 27.5 hours per week to 31.5 hours. The learners would be offered a minimum of eight subjects per week instead of seven.

The implications were that the number of fundamental subjects would increase in the FET band, which would be from four to five subjects. There would be a four-hour increase in notional time. There would be budgetary implications such as more teachers, the reviewing of textbooks and the provision of Learner Teacher Support Material (LTSM) for all learners, as opposed to providing textbooks for 600 learners.

Scenario B:
This scenario would have a combination of history and LO, and would be a hybrid subject. There would be a transfer of history content to LO, to reinforce the teaching of citizenship and human rights.

The implications would be that the allocated teaching time for history in the FET would be compromised. The allocated four hours would not be sufficient in this scenario. The merging of history and LO could not be recognised by universities. The budgetary implications would be the same as for scenario A.

Scenario C:
In Scenario C, history would become compulsory in Grades 10-12, with the removal of Life Orientation, which would also be the removal of one of the fundamental subjects in the FET band. LO would be compulsory until Grade 9, and the content would be strengthened in the GET band. Life Orientation would be phased out of the FET band incrementally from 2023-2025. The notional time in Grades 10-12 would be increased from 27.5 hours to 29.5 hours per week. If the four hours for history and the two hours for LO were retained, it would mean that the notional time would increase by only two hours.

The implications were that the fundamental subjects would remain at four and the notional time would increase by two hours. The budgetary implications would be the same as the previously mentioned scenarios

Scenario D:
In this scenario, the DBE would look at history becoming compulsory in Grades 10-12, with the proviso of the removal of LO from both the GET and FET bands. This was because people had argued that LO was studied differently in different schools due to the inequalities in different communities. This scenario recognised that in Model C and private schools, there was meaningful work assigned to the subject which allowed for certain competencies, while less affluent schools cut corners due to the lack of resources.

The implications for this scenario were that there would be a decrease in notional time of 2.5 hours in the GET phase, and two hours in the FET phase. Instead of 27.5 hours for the senior phase, the notional time would drop to 25 hours, and for the intermediate phase the notional time would decrease to 24.5 hours. There would also be the nullification of progress and investments made in Life Orientation, as well as budgetary implications.

MTT’s Key Recommendations

Dr Maboya said that from the four scenarios, the Ministerial Task Team had come up with terms of reference for the Minister.

It had recommended to the Minister that history should be made compulsory at the FET band, and should replace LO as the fourth fundamental subject. It was also recommended that LO remain compulsory up to Grade 9, and that the content should be strengthened. There was a recommendation for LO to be phased out in the FET band from 2023 for Grade 10, 2024 for Grade 11, and 2025 for grade 12.

The DBE would have five to six years to prepare the system for the implementation of compulsory history. The notional time for Grades 10 to 12 would increase from 27.5 to 29.5 hours per week. In the GET phase, in what was currently known as social sciences, history would be separated from geography and made a stand alone subject. There would also be a realignment of teacher education and development to ensure that teachers were trained.

Dr Maboya said that CAPS had serious limitations, so the DBE needed to overhaul it completely. This curriculum did not put Africa in the centre, which was why Africa-centeredness should become a principle in historical content. In addition to that, ancient history and pre-colonial history should be brought into the FET band.

Assessments in Grade 12 should consist of two final examination papers. Paper 1 would focus on African and South African history, and Paper 2 would focus on world history. The reason was that currently learners were given a choice, and there was a risk that other histories might not be taught.

The DBE would provide funding for prospective history teachers through the Funza Lushaka Bursary scheme, which was one of the modalities to be used. It had to note the budgetary implications of compulsory history in the FET related to capacity, teacher training, content alignment and textbook alignment.

Dr Maboya said that the number of fundamental subjects in the FET would remain at four. There would be a two-hour increase in notional time, and the budgetary implications would involve the LTSM, teacher training, human resource (HR) provisioning such as the employment of more history teachers, and the National Senior Certificate (NSC) marking processes.

Next Steps

Reappointment of the history MTT would be needed to conclude the development of the revised history content. The MTT would need to present and share the history report with the different stakeholders, the wider public and social partners. There needed to be an established inter-branch team to evaluate the implications of various scenarios. The MTT would also need to consult the basic education sector on the recommendations.

Dr Maboya asked the Portfolio Committee to discuss the recommendations of the MTT and to provide further guidance.


Ms N Tarabella-Marchesi ( DA) said the Committee agreed with the DBE that the current curriculum did not reflect South Africa as a country, and did not give knowledge to students on Africa as a continent. The content needed to be reviewed, and the history should reflect South Africans. The report did not substantiate the issue of making history compulsory until Grade 12. There was not enough proof to say that the subject made learners patriotic or responsible. The Committee believed that the curriculum could look at the history there was up until Grade 9, however, as long as the content was changed and was reflective.

There had been an issue that had been raised in the media, that history could be used for political indoctrination. The Committee’s issue would be the time that this initiative would be rolled out.

She said the discipline of archaeology was a good aspect to have brought in, but to offer history as a hybrid subject would not be good recommendation. LO needed to be strengthened, as some rural schools did not have the subject, or enough resources to ensure the benefits of the subject. She referred to Scenario C on the point of strengthening LO and enforcing in the GET phase, as well as the introduction of information technology (IT) or coding as a subject of IT. This recommendation would expose learners to IT and allow them to find work. Having IT from Grades 10 to 12 would allow for access to universities, as well as credit. She asked where the pressure for the rolling out of this programme had come from.

Ms Matsheke appreciated the thinking behind history being revised and more emphasis being put on African history, especially on pre-colonial content. The education sector should discuss these debates by considering themselves as children when discussing changes. She was worried about making history compulsory in FET colleges, for children who wanted to be mathematicians and plumbers, and asked what they would do with history at that level. She said reading would need to be compromised, and if not, marks would be compromised. The Committee should look into the compulsory part for Grades for 11 and 12.  History should be included as an Independent subject so marks were not affected.

Ms J Basson (ANC) said that history as a compulsory subject was long overdue. The type of history that was being offered was a dead history which did not speak to them and had no meaning. She said that a nation without a history was a lost nation. The Ghana model spoke to her as the best, because it spoke as Africans.

She said that there were challenges. The choice of mathematicians would be jeopardised. However, history would broaden the categories of a child up until FET. She could see that the research that had been done was relevant. The hiccups needed to be addressed, such as how LO would be recommended up until the GET phase. She expressed her concern at the notional time 31.5 hours. She noted that only at the end of the consultation timetable that the DBE was yet to consult with the unions. Unions were very important as they were the implementers, and she asked what would happen if the unions were to rebel.

Mr X Ngwezi (IFP) agreed in principle that history should be compulsory. He said correct history should be written in Africa and South Africa. If history was used to be taken and discuss about the past, it would be dividing the nation. One of the challenges that South Africa faced was social cohesion. He said that Africans feared one another, and that they treated each other with fear. The country still lived with the fears of the past.

Those who wrote the history were those who had won the battle, as they had all the resources to manoeuvre to write what they liked. He discouraged learners from taking maths literature, stating that if learners could not read, analyse and write, they would not pass. The culture of reading and writing should be encouraged.
For someone who did not read or write, a subject like history would damage his or her results. He agreed with Scenario C by removing LO in the FET band. The IFP agreed with this sentiment, as the marks were not counted in university. It could be taught till Grade 9. Learners needed to be aware of changes in themselves and the environment.

Mr Ngwezi observed that there was a proposal by the MTT that history teachers should be funded by Funza Lushaba. He thought that the Committee should analyse how they funded and recruited teachers. He  agreed with Funza Lushaba graduates getting preference, but that they should also go through interviews. Some people preferred old teachers over Funza Lushaba. Just because a teacher had a degree did not mean they could perform. Inequalities were being created in graduates. Self-funded graduates were given last preference. He said while there was a good proposal, the Committee should continue to engage on the implementation of history as a subject. He was more worried about “correct” history.

Ms H Boshoff (DA) said if history were to be compulsory up until matric, it would curtail the learners’ choices. Students should be given some form of latitude in specialisation. She asked what the audited outcomes of teachers that were available were, and what teachers were needed from Grades 4 to 12, and what the costs were. When would this programme be implemented? She asked whether there had been a study on teachers’ interest in history currently. Regarding using the Funza Lushaba bursary for prospective learners who wanted to teach history, what if no-one was interested -- what would happen?  Could the bursary only be given only to learners who took history?

She asked what the discussion with the unions entailed. If the notional time was increased, this would be opposed by the unions. There was nothing in the presentation about subject advisors. With the strengthening of LO, what would it entail in the FET band?

Mr H Khosa (ANC) welcomed the proposal of history as a compulsory subject. He said that it helped children move from the past to the future. The challenges raised by colleagues indicated that history books needed to be fairly scrutinised so as not to distort information.

He wanted to raise the issue of the readiness of the DBE for the provision of quality educators and LTSM. There was a problem, as history teachers were being reduced to a minimal number where the subject was no longer being offered. Looking at the five to six years, he wondered whether it was sufficient for the DBE to prepare for the implementation. There should be mobilisation to look for student teachers at university. History as a subject should be followed for the next five years to note any decline, to ensure that this period was sufficient to start with its implementation as a compulsory subject. In the previous year, the DBE had received all his support to fast-track all the avenues for the implementation of this programme.

Ms Tarabella Marchesi said that the notional time should be left as it was at 27.5 hours, as she believed that teachers and learners were already under pressure. History should be left to be compulsory till Grade 9.

The Chairperson said that they would all agree on social cohesion and the importance of history, and how important it was to create learners who would have pride and nationalism about their country. There should be patriotism and national unity. She believed that history could play that part. She asked, what if a learner did not need history for a career after matric? In taking history as a compulsory subject, and when one believed in the principles described by it, having this as a background would assist one. Making history compulsory would be taking the country to another level.

The Chairperson asked how and when the correct history and content would be received. What was important to her were the discussions that the DBE would have with higher education systems.
She asked how ready the counterpart in the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) was.
How they could speed up the processes of five years, and consult publishers about the content? There needed to be an up-skilling of teachers. There was still a lot that needed to be done for the introduction of history as a compulsory subject.

When it came to the unions, the DBE should not be late in including them and bringing them on board. When it came to the issue of notional time, the unions would be affected. History as a compulsory subject in the FET band would be a huge task, as the Department would have to start from the lower grades. This programme could not be implemented without having done the groundwork from the GET band. The DBE needed a lot of time and needed to be prepared for a marathon of problems.

The Chairperson said the plans should be mindful of all considerations. She was happy about the content to be covered. It was almost as if South Africa’s history had started in 1652, and she wanted to know what had happened before. She wanted to open up the dark time that had not been exposed.

She was looking forward to how the DBE would unpack the process and move forward. She asked the MTT to be called again to finalise the issues, and for it to be soon. She also wished to see the Minister fast-track the task that had already started.

DBE’s response

Deputy Minister Surty said that the DBE wanted authentic history, and not distorted history. History should reflect what had occurred so that it was not used for political purposes. Cognitively, it was only in Grades 10,11 and 12 that children could grapple with the realities of history. In the early years, there was a rather mechanical regurgitation of what was taught. In Grades 10, 11, and 12, history could become exciting.

He was in agreement with Ms Tarabella-Marchesi on the topic of there being a rationale as to why history should be made compulsory. The political pressure to make the decision could be seen from the fact that the ANC had had their third conference in trying to make history a compulsory subject. The ANC had had three factors to take from the conference, which was the fight against racism and tribalism so that there would be a cohesive view of history. There would also be a commitment to learners for equality, and for them to be proud of their African identity, as well as recognising that they fell into the international community. The notion of history and identity should be South African, African and global. Learners had to develop equality, an African identity, and also be able to recognise the global community of justice and peace.

The Deputy Minister said that there were three skills in education, which were knowledge, skills and attitude. Values and attitudes were informed by Life Orientation and a better understanding of history. That was the rationale, and it should be more compelling.

Regarding political indoctrination, Mr Surty said that the framework of South Africa that had been agreed upon was the constitution. An understanding and analysis of history could allow for the transformation of society in a way that could be celebrated. By understanding the history and perspectives of greats such as Nelson Mandela and Albertina Sisulu, and their attitudes and their values, learners could become better citizens. If they had to argue that history was not important and the understanding of that history was not important, they would be betraying the values of Nelson Mandela and Albertina Sisulu.

With regard to history as an elective subject, he said it was not being taught in exciting ways -- if it were, more people would be taking it. This was where teacher development would be quite critical. He said that history and Life Orientation were both equally important. The DBE said that 50% of LO should be examinable.

The Deputy Minister said that the DBE had introduced literacy in mathematics to promote reading. Regarding Funza Lushaba, it was not just about the applications -- interviews were just as important. The Funza Lushaba scheme could not be promoted and then discriminate against a parent who had sent their child to university at their own expense, denying them the same opportunity as the Funza Lushaba student. There could not be an unqualified temporary teacher when there was the Funza Lushaba scheme. There could not be a teacher who did not have the skills in a specific subject when there was a qualified, skilled Funza Lushaba teacher who could teach the subject.

There was no bias in favour of Funza Lushaba teachers in terms of policy and approach. He admitted that the implementation and presentation was not perhaps what it should be. The auditing of capability, capacity and competency was important. There was the challenge of looking at the quality of schools simultaneously.

Dr Mabhoya said that the motivation behind history as a compulsory needed to be strengthened. History as a social science had become more important in this era than before. Work on IT and coding had been done, and it needed to be presented to the Committee. On the concerns about students doing maths, science and technology, she said history was also important in the sense that most philosophers studied in Egypt. If that was not highlighted, maths and science students would not be motivated. The link with the past helped to solve problems.

Regarding consultations with union, the DBE would review the schedule in order to bring the date forward. This would need to be addressed as soon as possible. The foundational skills on reading and writing were central. With the issue of Funza Lushaka, what was meant was that history teachers who were in the priority areas would be chosen, but that other qualified teachers would not be excluded. The DBE was also looking at the re-skilling and up-skilling of teachers. There would also be a reappointment of the MTT to look at the existing content in the history books.

The Chairperson asked how the renewal of the content of history would be seen throughout the system of education. The Committee would review it, and they would require frequent follow-ups.

The Deputy Minister said that a roundtable meeting and task team had been put together to discuss the recommendations. The DBE could not wish away the reality of multigrade schools in sparsely populated areas. It was something that the DBE was trying to get rid of, but it was a reality that there were still 25% of multigrade schools. The DBE was trying to be transformative in its raising of capacity by making the rural environment conducive for teachers. There had been vast migration from rural areas to urban areas, which was why there should also be a focus on urban areas.

Draft Rural Education Policy

Dr Mabhoya said the DBE needed the wisdom and guidance of the Committee for them to strengthen the draft rural education policy. She highlighted the challenge of rural communities referring to their immense, untapped potential which was often overlooked. The aim of the DBE was to hear the children’s voices through the policy itself.

A research team had been appointed by the Minister in 2016, which consisted of seven core researchers and a reference team to provide technical support. The team had carried out consultations and desktop research to create this rural education policy. The policy had been gazetted in 2017, and the closing date was in March 2018. It had been specifically gazetted for public comments, which had been received, processed and factored into this draft.

The policy was informed by both national and international mandates.

International agendas
The international agendas included the Unesco Framework for Action (UFFA), which addressed the issue of prioritising inclusion and equity. The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), which was the SGD4 in this case, referred to quality education for all.

National Mandates
These were the Constitution of South Africa, the National Development Plan (NDP), and the action plan to 2019, which all address issues of inclusivity, quality and redress. When speaking about the rural communities, they could be known as the marginalised communities.

Overview of policy processes on rural education
Dr Maboya said that the DBE had 2 000 farm schools and workshops. Most of the time, the implementation of policy required hearing the voices of the affected before the policy was created. There was also a ministerial committee that had been formed in 2005, which showed that the DBE had come a long way in trying to address issues of rural communities, in particular rural education.
The reference team consisted of DBE officials, provincial officials, unions and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). She explained that the methodology consisted of research team meetings, reference team meetings, desktop research, provincial consultative meetings, a consultative forum, bilateral union meetings, a writing retreat which had a two day writing session, and a consultative forum with school governing body (SGB) Associations.

Conceptual framework

The policy was framed around three important principles:

There was social connectedness, which addressed the disconnect about the situation of rural communities. In terms of social connectedness, the DBE and schools were working together in collaboration with rural communities to mobilise resources available to the rural communities.

There was the concept of self-esteem, because the isolation and social disconnectedness had to do with the self-esteem of the community -- they looked at themselves as being disadvantaged, where they felt ashamed of themselves and not really valuing themselves.

The third principle was about functional services, where the DBE was saying that the environment in which the communities lived would have to have the necessary services so that they were valued as human beings.

This Framework was about bringing back humanity into what was being done.

Purpose of the policy
Dr Maboya said that the purpose of the policy was to improve access to the quality of education for all rural schools. This involved providing a framework for context-specific, relevant and sustainable strategies to deal with challenges in rural schools, while drawing on existing strengths in rural communities. The thinking behind this policy was from the premise of the situation in an environment that had assets, more than a deficiency model. The DBE looked at rural communities as a resource and an asset rather than as a deficiency. The purpose of the policy was to improve the quality of education in rural areas that would allow for the creation of appropriate strategies and practical intervention.

The rationale for the policy stemmed from the imperatives such as the SDGs, the Unesco FFA, the Constitution of the Republic and the NDP. All these gave the DBE a mandate of what to do to ensure quality education for rural schools. This policy had three pillars for developing quality rural education. Quality education was one of the main concerns, which was why it was one of the pillars.

Developing quality rural education
There was a need for the DBE to classify schools, and this was prompted by the fact that the DBE currently did not have a single definition for ‘rural’ and ‘diversity’ within this context, which posed a challenge. As a result, ‘rural’ referred to tribal lands, sparsely populated areas, dense settlements, and mining towns in rural contexts, including where mining was no longer active.

‘Diversity’ called for the classification of rural schools which should be informed by a set of indicators or filters. Diversity was being discussed because as much as the DBE discussed the quality of education, they needed to be mindful of certain filters which distinguished rural schools, such as the location, the school size and all the various social and economic and deprivation factors.

Reviewing and aligning the curriculum

Dr Maboya said that the DBE had been talking about the subject offerings of rural areas, saying that these offerings allowed for a sense of place, pride and belonging in the school community. It had also looked at the scarcity of resources, and acknowledged the resources and knowledge that existed in rural communities. For example, in rural communities the DBE needed to look at the issue of sustainable development and issues of the environment. One needed to remember that there were rivers and mountains going through these communities. Nature preservation should also be looked at. Agriculture was also an economic driver for the lived experiences of the rural committees. A curriculum was needed that reflected the aspiration of the individual learner and the community, while responding to the well-being and development needs of the community.


Dr Maboya said that because of the multilingual nature of rural settings, it was important to take into consideration the development of LTSM in home languages that were reflective of the rural settings in which these schools were, the strengthening of SGB capacity, and the learning of indigenous languages.


Dr Maboya said that the education system could contribute to further economic, social and human development by expanding agricultural education. She explained what was meant by expansion by saying that it should be expanded to rural areas as an offering in the DBE curriculum. The DBE also needed to invest in appropriate LTSM training and partnerships with key-role players. The DBE had been looking at the offering that would allow learners to participate in the whole value chain in as far as agriculture was concerned. Agriculture would not only be around farming, but logistics, transport, issues of marketing etc.

Resourcing of rural schools

Dr Maboya referred to mobilising communities to facilitate education and development facilities,
and the recruitment of young people as volunteers in curriculum support, administrative support as well as sports and culture, and attracting them to the teaching profession. The mobilisation of the school community and the mobilising of elders to share the cultural heritage linked up with the history recommendation, but would also establish a partnership which would increase the capacity of the state.

Recruitment, retention and development of teachers

The rural education policy sought to create a package of teacher incentives that went beyond finance, and included teacher development, career progression, transport and recreation, and other essential services. The policy sought to look at teacher villages that included teacher development centres, edu-villages, and higher education institutions that sought to offer programmes relevant to rural education. The policy also aimed to provide various types of support for specialised educators in science, maths, agriculture, technology, language and early childhood development (ECD).

Small schools in rural areas

Dr Maboya said that there were primary schools at which the policy ensured the special post provisioning norms. With secondary schools, the policy included the provision for the introduction of itinerant teachers who may be used to serve more than one school where qualified teachers were not available. It was very difficult to have highly-skilled teachers in rural areas. Until all schools were given the required resources, the policy stated that the establishment of a centre for a cluster of schools with administrative, resource facilities, recreational facilities and specialised rooms, should be made. The issue of radius would have to be taken into consideration, as in some areas some schools were very far apart from each other.

Dr Maboya said that there should be provision of LTSM which looked at the leveraging of ICT packages, to ensure that LTSM was provided to the learners in rural areas. The policy lists other requirements for small schools, such as support staff, including a senior administration clerk, a cleaner and a security guard.

Inclusive education

Dr Maboya said that inclusive education could not be left out, as there were learners in rural schools who needed special assistance. In this policy, it was stated that in order to strengthen the implementation of the curriculum in special schools, there needed to be the implementation of inclusive education policies in rural contexts, and to ensure that rural learners had access to special needs education. The policy also acknowledged the need to establish special schools in rural contexts.

Roles and responsibilities

These roles were for the establishment of the rural education advisory committee, inter-departmental collaborations, a national team of key heads of branches, and the issue of planning, monitoring and promoting the act of accountability as one. At the provincial level, there was a need to have a directorate or sub-directorate for rural education. The DBE was struggling with the provincial level, because rural education had taken on a ‘by the way’ function. The policy said that a district rural education committee should be established, which would have almost the same type of structures as the national level. At the district level, the policy aimed to share the same structure as the provincial level in order to coordinate the activities around the rural areas. The policy suggested that at the school level, the SGB’s responsibilities included the mobilisation of the community, which had already indicated the importance of taking the community on board regarding the provision of education in rural areas.

The DBE was recognising the resourcefulness of the community by identifying and harnessing resources such as the cultural, natural, material and social resources to support teaching and learning.

Dr Maboya said that the Rural Education Policy aimed to ensure that rural schools provided quality education for all learners, in line with the democratic principles of the Constitution, as well as with the vision of the NDP. This would require the overcoming of many challenges of concern to the macro environment, as well as school level disparities in the public school system.


The Chairperson asked whether the multigrade schools were still standing at 25%. Was the DBE updating the data, as it had been standing at 25% for years?

Mr Khosa said that there were serious challenges with rural education, which were characterised by the need for the provision of infrastructure such as buildings and furniture, and many other facilities. He hoped that all the negative issues affecting the education of learners in rural areas would be covered by the initiative. He requested that attention be given for inclusivity and special needs education, because in rural areas it was serious, as it seemed to be overlooked. There were very few special schools in rural areas. Those who were not at school were still on the waiting list. There were other issues involving higher education institutions offering relevant subjects. He would like the Department to engage further with different stakeholders, so that this policy would receive support from the communities that were supposed to be benefiting from it.

Ms Tarabella-Marchesi expressed her concern for two curriculums, with one specifically for urban learners and another for rural learners. This would be the discrimination for rural and urban learners, and the DBE should be wary of this notion. There was a proposal of agriculture as a subject within a specific curriculum, but there was also another recommendation which spoke about agricultural schools. Agricultural schools should be in every province so that learners who were interested had access to them. Just because one lived in a rural area did not mean that they wanted to study agriculture.

In rural schools, there needed to be proper infrastructure, toilets and qualified teachers. She asked how they would get them there. With schemes like Funza Lushaba, where teachers were obliged to teach for four years in a rural area, they had not been able to abide by the contract. She asked how they made sure that these teachers complied and stayed there. Rural schools were isolated and the teachers came from the metros, which posed as a big challenge for them. The difference in standard of living between the urban and the rural areas was so vast. There should be ideas for providing incentives, accommodation and some type of recreation for teachers.

She recommended that the DBE be specific about going to specific divisions. The DBE should scout Grade 12s and advise them to study education so that they could come back and work in the village. This would entice the learners who were from the area to study and come back, which would be much easier than having someone from the urban areas.

The Chairperson said that the issue of having two curricula was a concern, unless the DBE could convince them otherwise. The manner in which they had presented it had indicated that there would be different curricula for the rural areas, which as a Committee, she would not support. She asked for the DBE to expand on this notion and try to cover the conditions in the rural areas.

Ms Boshoff said that her concern was stigmatisation, which was something the Committee should steer away from. With regard to special needs, they did not exist only in rural areas, but in many urban areas. In general, this policy had no specific implementation information. She wanted to know the structure of unfolding the policy, and if the additional directorate and district committees would not require additional resources in an already resource-limited context.

She asked what the urban agenda was, as it did not make sense to her. Any change that was made to the curriculum policy should not disadvantage rural learners relative to urban learners when it came to qualifications for further education and training, as the presentation had indicated clear differentiations of rural and urban education. She wanted to know where the resources and teachers were going to come from for all the special needs schools.

She said the schools of agriculture were not working, as they did not have the necessary resources and qualified teachers. The DBE should come back with a more comprehensive presentation. She asked how the vetting of volunteers would work if they did not have qualifications, and how the establishment of partnerships supporting teaching would work.

Ms Basson said that it was time to fast-track this initiative. Rural communities had been feeling neglected and not being a part of the new South Africa, because wherever one went one could feel the inequality and injustices of the past. This initiative was good, as it provided the means to address the needs of rural communities.

Incentives and allowances were difficult to implement. How would the DBE work with other departments when taking such initiative? This policy would need other Departments to buy into the ideas. The Department of Education should not be the only one providing resources to make the rural environment conducive for educators. She asked whether there could not be a rural grant for donors and funders to participate in.

The Chairperson said that when it came to rural education, there was not much of a programme when it came to curricula. The discussion by the Committee had been focused on the conditions of rural schools so that they could attract teachers to these areas. She asked how conditions could be made conducive for teachers to stay in rural areas, and about the upgrading of the infrastructures, and issues of labour transport. The issues were more about access than the curriculum itself. The DBE had placed emphasis on the curriculum which was discriminatory.

Dr Maboya acknowledged that the issue was around the curriculum and functional services. For functional services, the DBE needed the support of other departments. She agreed with the Committee about making the conditions conducive and bearable for teachers to want to be at these schools. The policy focused on issues beyond incentives by looking at other conditions that needed to be improved for teachers. Once the conditions had been improved, they could attract skills.

She referred to the unavailability of special needs schools, and said that there was a need for differentiated learning in rural schools. The DBE already had a model that had been established for testing, with outreach teams going to centres for learners with severe intellectual and learning disabilities.

Dr Maboya said that the policy did not account for more than one curriculum, but learners had to be able to relate to what was being taught. Curriculums should be context sensitive. The intention of the policy was not to create two curricula. This was a draft policy and unlike any other policy, they were getting input for improvements until they got to a final policy. They would now be working with guidelines.

Dr Phumzile Langa, Director: Rural Education, DBE, said the rural education policy was the driver of education reform. The MTT task team of 2005 had made a conclusion that when policy was developed, they would use the urban area as a benchmark. In reports published by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), where there were reviews of national policies for education, one of the findings was that most of the policies were failing rural schools because they were developed with urban schools in mind.

She said that this policy was using rural schools as a benchmark. If a policy could work in a rural school, it should work in an urban school. The DBE wanted urban schools to be followed on the agenda. With the issue of teacher incentives, the policy was based on consultation. Teachers had said that they did not want money, but wanted an environment that was conducive for teaching, and one that would make them stay. This was the reason for Edu Village, where teachers would stay.

The DBE had asked the teachers what services would make them stay and not leave, which was what the policy aimed to have. The issue of the curriculum was semantics. She had seen the challenge of the weighted curriculum because of the assumption of different curriculums for rural schools

In the context of the policy, the DBE was explaining what the schools were attempting to teach, and its objectives in the schooling life of a learner. During consultations, parents had said that there was no connection between what was being taught at school and what was happening in rural communities. The parents believed that there was a disjuncture.

Dr Langa said the DBE was teaching children to leave the communities, and for them to have options. The DBE was teaching them to go to urban areas for further education and training. Rural people were leading in agriculture and it was a part of their livelihood, but schools were not assisting learners to get more current knowledge about agriculture, or to become farm owners. The DBE said that not all rural schools should teach agriculture, but they should find a curriculum which spoke to the environment.

With partnerships, the DBE wanted to link the Edu Villages with Agri villages. The DBE was partnering with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Developments on how there could be agricultural villages within edu villages. They were looking at what services would be needed in edu villages. The DBE was partnering with Stats SA with regard to the classification of schools.

Dr Maboya acknowledged the manner in which the curriculum had been presented. She said that it was for the DBE to review it so that it did not sound the way it appeared.

The Chairperson asked Mr M Kekana, Parliamentary Researcher, to come up with a paper that included the proposals and discussions put forward by Members regarding the policy, so that they could be shared with the Department. The two presentations discussed had both been works in progress. The Portfolio Committee and the DBE would be working together and making contributions and a follow-up on them.

The meeting was adjourned.

Download as PDF

You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.

See detailed instructions for your browser here.

Share this page: