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PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION
5 August 2003
EDUCATION LAWS AMENDMENT BILL & HIGHER EDUCATION AMENDMENT BILL: BRIEFING
Briefing and visit:
Education MEC for the Free State, Mr DA Kganare; Education MEC for Mpumalanga, Dr C Padayachee, and Superintendent-General for the Free State, Dr M Ndaila.
Documents handed out
Free State Department of Education, MEC's report to the National Council of Provinces, August 2003.
Response to report compiled by Portfolio Committee on Education: National Assembly
The meeting intended to give clarity on the meaning of the Bills so that members could caucus with their constituencies before making formal recommendations on 26 August. Changes to the Education Laws Amendment Bill were largely technical and members predominantly discussed Clause 10 on the prohibition of extra payments to educators.
Minor amendments to the Higher Education Amendment Bill provided for the establishment of National Institutes for Higher Education in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape.
The MEC and Superintendents-General of Mpumalanga and the Free State discussed responses they had circulated on the Committee's report on visits to their provinces. Members expressed ongoing concern regarding school builiding maintenance, multi-grade classrooms in farm schools and pupil sexual abuse. The Committee's report and the Departments' responses will be circulated to the schools concerned.
The Chair reported that the committee was temporarily without a secretary and reminded members of the following day's session on values in education.
Education Laws Amendment Bill
Advocate Boshoff said the Bill amendments were technical and he did not expect debate except on Clause 10 on prohibition of extra payment to educators. Advocate Boshoff said the background to this was that many parents had written to the Department of Education (DoE), expressing dissatisfaction at having to pay additional fees without explanation. Also, School Governing Bodies (SGBs) at previously model C schools had paid more than Department salaries for years. This had led to problems, for instance where a level 1 educator was promoted to deputy principal (a level 3 post), causing resentment to level 2 educators in the school. In this and other cases, SGBs were not fully aware of the regulations governing the appointment of educators and the Department was concerned about being sued. The amendments to the Bill were designed to address this potential problem and required schools to apply for permission to pay higher salaries. The new legislation was also intended to clarify whether the school or the DoE was the employer.
Prof Mayatula noticed that Clause 10 was not underlined, although it was a substantive change. Advocate Boshoff explained that the section would not be in the new SAQA Act, and it had not been underlined to facilitate the drafting process.
In answer to a question, Adv Boshoff said that increasing the number of teacher representatives from two to three had been cleared with the three teacher unions.
Ms M Mentor (ANC) and other members were opposed to the chairperson's ability to extend a term of office more than once and for an unspecified period. Advocate Boshoff said they needed to retain existing board members until the Bills had been finalised, but agreed to take their concerns back to the Minister.
Prof Mayatula confirmed that the intention of the meeting was to gain clarity on the meaning of the Bills so that members could caucus with their constituencies before making recommendations.
Mr I Vadi (ANC) asked for more details regarding incentives beyond stipulated salaries and about what duties would be considered beyond an educator's "core functions".
Advocate Boshoff replied that there might be a need to "sharpen" learners before exams or at an after-hours academy. An accounting teacher who acted as the school's accounting officer would also be seen to carry extra responsibilities. He said that these extra offerings would improve the school and attract learners. Reported incentives paid had included bonuses, cars, unreasonable subsistence and travel claims and mortgage repayments.
Mr Duncan Hindle said that "extra duties" would not be determined by computing extra hours but by qualitative output. It would however not be valid to pay extra to a teacher only to prevent him/her from resigning to take up a higher salaried position. The minimum criteria for granting extra payments were detailed in section 7. Payment in kind - for example lodging in a rural area - would be considered extra payment.
In answer to a question from Mr LM Kgwele, Mr Hindle said that section 8 stipulated how these extra payments should be detailed in the school budget. Ms Mentor asked whether SGB members ignorant of their predecessors' decisions, would be liable should educators make a claim against the SGB. The answer was that they would not be liable for claims made against them for the first four months of their office, and not at all when they voted against the decision which had resulted in the school being sued.
Higher Education Amendment Bill
Advocate Boshoff explained the minor amendments. The Bill provided for the establishment of National Institutes for Higher Education in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape because there were no universities in these provinces - elsewhere universities would carry out such work.
The chair reminded the committee that the bills would be considered formally on 26 August after the members had consulted with their constituencies.
Mr L Green (ACDP) felt aspects of the Bills were controversial and that the committee should have asked for hearings. It was agreed that Mr Hindle should forward the submissions from the public on the costs of education.
Discussion of the bills concluded, the chair then formally welcomed the presenters who had circulated typed responses to the Committee's report on the visit to their provinces.
The committee expressed concern that the Senior Schools Management Officers (SMOs) were unaware of conditions of schools in their areas, for example the lack of toilets, furniture and learner support materials. They were also worried about the standard of education at some farm schools where several grades were taught in one class.
Dr Kganare said his department had designed instruments for SMOs to use in schools for evaluation. The instruments had 10 categories, which the SMO could add to, and the department as a whole had 17 strategic thrusts.
Mr Kgwele thanked both for their reports but said that "reading the Free State report, I am worried" because it was a "defensive report". It was obvious to him that officials had been asked to respond to the Committee's report, and, finding that it implicated them, had disputed the allegations. The committee was unanimous that the allegations had not been disputed at the meetings at the schools in question. The MEC acknowledged that his officials had responded to the report and said that he had thought it was honest but would be informed by the opinion of the committee.
Ms Mentor was disturbed that allegations of sexual abuse were said to be unfounded as no parents had complained. She said that in her experience, parents were unreliable indicators of sexual abuse because, in poor communities, if their child had a relationship with a teacher, the family's social status would be elevated. She said that sexual abuse, sometimes resulting in suicide in the Northern Cape and Gauteng, was a very serious problem and she had learned to trust educators' allegations.
The committee asked the Department of Education to work on a co-ordinated plan for school maintenance. It was not good enough to report that broken toilets had been fixed if there was no plan for ongoing maintenance. The Department of Public Works should inspect and repair them on a regular basis instead of waiting to be called. Similarly, it was inadequate to say that a school had insufficient furniture because they had not requisitioned any - the department should send them reminders and take regular inventories with an asset register to alert the Departments to shortages.
Mr Kgwele said that the MEC was providing good leadership by taking the report back.
The Mpumalanga MEC was also not in favour of multi-grade farm schools and his department was working on a plan for 2004. There were also problems with integration - in some schools where 60% of the learners were black, the teaching staff was white. He said that he had told the Department of Public Works that it was their responsibility to ensure that school buildings complied with municipal by-laws and a maintenance contractor had been appointed. He said that in Mpumalanga, there had been many SMOs who were unaware of conditions in their areas but that the proportion had been reduced to six out of 56.
The Limpopo MEC said that there were also problems with public works in his province, exacerbated because one government department could not sue another. He undertook to clarify all aspects of his department's response to the Committee's report before the end of the month.
Dr Kganare and Dr Padayachee MECs agreed that the Committee's report and the Departments' responses would also be circulated to the schools concerned.
The meeting was adjourned.