Western Cape Provincial School Education Amendment Bill: public hearing

Education (WCPP)

21 August 2018
Chairperson: Mr B Kivedo (DA)
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Meeting Summary

The Western Cape Education Department briefed the Standing Committee on Education on proposed amendments to the Western Cape Provincial School Education Act. The amendments were needed to legislate provincial policy developments. The amendments were also required to achieve national development in relation to a change in the mandate for adult education and training. The Bill was also a requirement for regulating provincial policy developments.

The amendments included changes to definitions in the Act, technical amendments, monitoring and support in the classroom, the school evaluation authority, collaboration and donor-funded schools, intervention facilities, an exception to the prohibition of alcoholic liquor and regulatory provisions. Section 63 empowered the provincial Minister to make regulations on the funding and governance models for collaboration schools and donor-funded public schools, the norms and standards of granting subsidies to independent schools, the promotion and progression of learners at public schools, the norms and standards for intervention facilities, the admission of learners to public schools, the procurement of goods and services relating to education in the Province, the monitoring of, and access to, an independent school, and the procedure for registration as an independent school.

Of all the amendments, the sale of liquor in public schools under certain conditions received the most attention from both Committee Members and members of public. The provision of intervention facilities and the alternative to expulsion also received attention. The Department of Education tried to justify sale of liquor on public schools’ premises, arguing that the ban on the use of liquor may impact negatively on parents’ willingness to attend social functions in schools and fundraising activities, and the hosting of community functions by rural schools. These views were strongly condemned by Committee Members and members of the public. The sale of alcohol should be discouraged in schools in order to stem the social vices prevalent in the Province in recent times. Various stakeholders argued that other policies, such as functional libraries, laboratories, an improvement in the teacher-to-learner ratio, teacher development and safety on school premises should be pursued instead of the sale of alcohol on school premises. Various stakeholders urged the Committee to reject the Bill in its entirety.

Meeting report

Western Cape Provincial School Education Amendment Act: Public hearing

The Chairperson welcomed everyone, and said the meeting marked the sixth and final session of the public participation in the Western Cape Provincial School Education Amendment Act. He encouraged members of the public to express their views on the Western Cape education system, the educators and the school community. The Standing Committee would meet at a later date to consider all the inputs on the amendment Bill. The deadline for all submissions was 24 August 2018.

Mr Abdul-Raheem Khan condemned the decision to hold the meeting on the eve of a Muslim festival, Eid-El Kabir. He considered this an attempt by the DA party to disrespect and hold the Muslim communities in contempt.

Mr D Mitchell (DA) responded that the date of the meeting had been fixed by the Standing Committee on Education, not the DA.

The Chairperson apologised in response to Mr Khan’s complaints, and promised to give consideration to the details in terms of dates for subsequent meetings.

 Advocate Lynn Coleridge-Zils, Director: Policy Coordination: Western Cape Education Department (WCED), said the date for the meeting had not been fixed by the WCED, but was under Parliamentary control.

She started with the background to the Amendment Bill.

The Western Cape Provincial School Education Act (WCPSE) had been promulgated in 1997, and an amendment to the Act had been promulgated in December 2010, published on 30 August 2016 and had been out for comment until 23 September 2016. There were a number of adaptations to the original Bill, especially in terms of collaboration schools. There were national developments for adult education, monitoring and support of curriculum in classroom, schools evaluation authority, new types of schools (collaboration and donor-funded schools), intervention facilities, technical amendments, testing at special and focus schools, use and sale of alcohol subject to conditions, written consent of parents for excursions, and the Minister was empowered to make regulations in this regard. She explained certain new definitions in the educational landscape of the Province.

A donor was a person contemplated in Section 12C(2)(a) or 12D(1)(a) who provided funds or property to a collaboration school or a donor-funded public school in a manner that ensured the sustainability of education outcomes within the Province.

An operating partner meant a non-profit organisation having authority to empower the governing body, management team and educators of a collaboration school with capacity, skills and resources. This enabled the development of structures, systems, cultures and capacities necessary to deliver quality education. An operating partner only fell in the category of collaboration schools, not donor-funded schools.

For the first time, ‘school improvement plan’ and ‘subject advisor’ were defined in law.

Adv Coleridge-Zils stressed the importance of monitoring and support in the classroom. Research showed that this strategy helped to improve learners’ outcomes in schools as a result of increased access to the classroom. It facilitated feedbacks and identified professional development needs. The Head of Department, District Director, Principal or operating partner would monitor the activities of the educator in the classroom. Subject advisors, deputy principal, Head of Department (HOD) and subject head were also authorised to monitor educators in the classroom. The principal was monitored by the HOD, district director, circuit manager and authorised representative of an operating partner. The HOD was empowered to make rules for monitoring and support in the classroom.

The Educational Council was an advisory body which ensured accountability within the educational system. It provided the Provincial Minister with an advisory report, while the Provincial Minister considered the report and informed the Chairperson of the Council of his/her decision. The Minister may accept or reject the recommendation of the Council. This ensured transparency and accountability in the system.

The School Evaluation Authority was a new body to evaluate schools. The Minister was empowered to appoint a Chief Evaluator for a four-year non-renewable term. The Chief Evaluator, in turn, appoints lead evaluators and evaluators. This ensured transparency, accountability and objectivity in the evaluation process. Schools were visited within two days of notice, and without notice under certain circumstances. The findings and recommendations of the School Evaluation Authority (SEA) team were made available to the principal, district director and the governing body. The findings and recommendation were made public. The Chief Evaluator decided on the schools to be monitored in a given term. The monitoring cuts across all categories of schools, and the intention was not public shaming. The activities of the SEA would help to discover factors responsible for performance levels in schools. The various domains of the SEA included teaching and achievements, behaviour and safety, leadership and governance, parents and community. The SEA was not a replacement to a compliance component of the law. Rather, it was a complement to the existing system.

The HOD must consider the findings and recommendations and must implement measures that facilitate improvement. Someone with expert knowledge of education would select schools to be monitored in order to ensure the credibility and objectivity of the evaluation process. The amendment involved the insertion of certain regulations. Schools were evaluated to protect young people, diagnose problems, drive school improvement and to ensure that learners utilised the opportunities to get educated. This potentially impacted positively on learners’ outcomes. The WCED made provision for collaboration and donor-funded schools. The donor was expected to have an influence and a mutual relationship with the governing body of the school.

Mr Tau Matseliso, Deputy Director General: Institutional Development and Coordination, WCED made a presentation on collaboration and donor-funded schools as covered under Section 12. Section 12(1) made provision for collaboration schools and donor-funded schools as additional forms of public schools. Section 12C specifically made provision for the establishment of new collaboration schools and the declaration of existing schools as collaboration schools by the provincial Minister. The amendment made provision for the governance of the schools and appointment of staff by the governing body. Sub-section 12D made further provision for the establishment of donor-funded schools and the declaration of existing schools as donor-funded schools by the provincial Minister. Provision was also made in terms of the governance of the schools by the donor and governing body.

Mr Matseliso briefed the Committee on the process involved before a school was declared a collaboration school. In terms of the modules, there were two components in the initial stage, which were the donor group and the WCED. The two parties signed a memorandum of agreement, after which the donor could work with the school’s operating partner. The operating partner was based in the school and supported the school in terms of resources and other needs. The WCED, the operating partner and public school entered into an operating and service-level agreement. The school then became a collaboration school. He further explained the procedure involved in the development of a collaboration school. First, the WCED extends an invitation to all schools within the Province. The governing council of the school may apply to the WCED through the Head of Department, who either accepts or rejects the application. The criteria for acceptance were that the school must be a low-fee paying school, and the improvement in terms of learners’ outcome is poor.

Section 12 (C9) made provision for a governance module. There was a 50/50 agreement in terms of governance between the operating partner and other parties, including the parents, educators, non-educators and learners’ representatives. It also made provision for active involvement of parents in dispute resolution. This process aimed to protect the interest of the parents.

Dr Sigamoney Naicker, Chief Director: Inclusive Education and Special Programmes, WCED, gave a brief presentation on intervention facilities. He said there was an increase in the number of students exposed to the risk of expulsion from schools. A vital remedy for this challenge was the establishment of intervention facilities. Intervention facilities had positive psychological, social and therapeutic impacts on the beneficiaries. The kind of intervention facilities proposed was representative in nature. The intervention programme was usually the last resort and was preceded by other smaller steps. Students that successfully passed through the intervention facilities were re-integrated into the school community.


Mr Archie Lewis, Deputy Director General: Education Planning, WCED made a brief presentation on the sale or consumption of alcoholic liquors on school premises, and the exception clause. The sale and consumption of alcohol on school premises or at school activities was illegal in terms of Section 45 B of the Act. The proposed amendment made provision for the exception of the current Act in terms of the sale and consumption of alcohol. Schools interested in sales and consumption of alcohol on school premises had to seek the permission of the HOD. The HOD had the power to accept or reject the application. Following approval, the school was expected to fulfil certain conditions. Also, the school needed to apply to the liquor board to obtain a licence, and to the local municipality. Involvement of the local municipality was important, as schools were zoned based on the municipality. Schools seeking to permit the sale and consumption of alcohol on premises must apply for a deviation from the municipality. In addition, no alcohol may be sold or consumed on school premises during school time. This was an exception to Section 45 of the Act.


Mr Donovan Rustin highlighted seven issues of concern. He said the WCPSE Amendment Act undermined Section 23.5 of the Constitution of the country, which emphasised the importance of collective bargaining. The Bill also included some controversial issues, including the seizure of documents from schools without any notification. He said that the mandates of the SEA were already being performed by another body at the national level. Therefore, budget meant for the Department of Education could not be used to fund the activities of the SEA.

He also decried portions of the Bill that conflicted with national legislation. He urged the Committee not to pass such a Bill into law. He noted that Provincial legislation could not override the national collective bargaining agreement. Further, the structure of collaborative schools contradicted the existing South African Schools Act, which states that parents should form the majority of the governing board of a school. The current proposed structure of collaborative schools, in terms of parental involvement, also contradicted the national legislation in terms of the composition of the governing board and it should not be allowed.

The proposed intervention facilities contradicted Section 136 and the Children’s Act. Certain provisions in the Amendment Bill contradicted national policy, and this may constitute a legal case in the court of law if, for instance, a student from another province came to study in the Western Cape. The permission for the sale and consumption of alcohol on school premises also contradicted previous efforts to prohibit alcohol and substance abuse in schools. He advocated that indigenous culture should be celebrated during school activities, instead of the sale and consumption of alcohol. 


The Chairperson remarked that the Bill was sponsored by neither the WCED nor the Committee. The Bill was sponsored by the provincial Minister of Education. The Committee’s role was to convene public hearings so as to have effective public participation and input.

Mr Abdul-Raheem Kahn said that the action of the WCED was draconian and political in nature. He condemned the marginalisation and closure of schools in poor communities. He said the action of the WCED jeopardised the future of children from poor communities, and such action should be rejected where necessary. He decried the widening gap between the rich and the poor. He commended the patience and persistence of poor communities, but remarked that their patience was running out. He said the Western Cape government should ensure that all schools were properly funded. The WCED could not complain of fund shortages when government officials lived in luxury. Why should parents be compelled to pay exorbitant school fees for their children? Schools, especially in poor communities, should be structured in a manner that facilitated learners’ outcomes. Also, the current work conditions of teachers in poor communities should be upgraded to alleviate the suffering that the teachers go through. The current teacher-to-learner ratio, the conditions of libraries and laboratories, must be reviewed to ensure effective learner outcomes in public schools. He demanded that quality and free education must be available for all. Discrimination and marginalisation of the poor community in terms of basic education must be resisted and discouraged.

Ms Roné McFarlane, Co-Head Research: Equal Education, an organisation of teachers, learners and parents campaigning for equity in the South Africa education system, expressed concern that the SEA may be a duplication of already existing functions. According to her, safety on school premises should receive utmost attention from the WCED, the Committee and every stakeholder. The proposed collaboration and donor-funded schools, the evaluation system as well as the sale and consumption of alcohol on school premises, were both illegal and unconstitutional. She believed that the proposed amendment did not have the potential for improved learners’ outcomes and could potentially endanger the education of learners in the province. She urged the national education department to review what goes on in the Western Cape Education system, and to intervene where necessary. While well-intended intervention in public schools is a welcome idea, donor and operating partners should not take complete charge of governance, and they should not try to undermine the existing structures in public schools. She remarked that donor-funded and collaboration schools could be encouraged only when the need arises, and the WCED had to justify the introduction of these support systems to public education in the Western Cape.

She lamented the vague nature of the proposed amendment Bill, whose provisions directly contradicted parental and national interests. She expressed displeasure about the supposed plan of the WCED to give undue authority to private organisations in the educational system of the province. Some of the private operators may lack the requisite knowledge to run the educational system. There were also no provisions to protect schools and poor communities against abuses by the private organisations. There were no guarantees in the proposed amendments that collaboration schools and donor-funded schools would not be targeted for profit over the long term. She said that that Minister’s and community buy-in were as important as the WCED and donors in declaring a school collaboration or donor-funded school. Why were the parents and the Minister left out of the decision-making? She urged the committee not to pass the Bill until areas of concern were addressed. Collaboration schools should not be left in the total control of donors. The public schools had a permanent nature, while donors were only transient. While government needed the support of donors and international philanthropists due to the rocketing national debt and other economic challenges, the government needed to put measures in place that protected national, parental and students’ interests against the potential abuse by the donors.

On the proposed SEA, Ms McFarlane said that the action of the WCED subverted national interests. While her organisation supported effective evaluation of schools, the evaluation process should not be aimed at blaming individuals but facilitating improved conditions in public schools across the province. SEA was potentially a duplication of an already existing national function. She expressed concern about the non-independence of the evaluation process. She did not see how the proposed SEA would impact on education positively. She discouraged the commercialisation of education. Education was not a business. Therefore, it was not a product to be sold. She noted that SEA had been modelled after the education system of the United Kingdom. In the South African context, SEA was not only expensive but it imposed additional burdens on teachers. Teachers’ efforts should focus on important matters, instead of the need to prepare for evaluation. She also sought clarity on the sale of alcohol on school premises and during school activities, as well as the type of education provided at intervention facilities. The sale of alcohol on school premises completely contradicted national and international laws, and should be scrapped entirely.

A representative of an interest group said that the proposed Bill contained a number of provisions that contradicted the National Education Act. Specifically, some sections of the Bill conflicted with the right of educators to collective bargaining. The Bill also attempted to override national legislation and weaken school governing bodies. He said the Bill gave the Minister excessive power in decision-making, which posed a danger to the interests of learners, educators and parents. The Bill failed to cover critical areas like safety and security of schools in the province. He lamented the neglect of school safety and security by the Western Cape Government and the WCED. To him, the SEA should not exist because it apparently overrides national legislation like educators’ rights and the right to collective bargaining.

He urged the Committee not to waste time in passing the Bill into law, as doing so would result in endless litigation. The Bill should be rejected in its entirety. He pointed to some internal inconsistencies and incongruity in the Bill. It concentrated excessive authority on the Minister, and there was no clarity on the appeal process, Reporting to the Minister also deprived the Department of the line function that should be part of the internal structure of the Bill. SEA activities were not comprehensive, as critical components of evaluation like school safety and security, the role of parents and the community in school development, as well as school infrastructure, were completely left out of the evaluation process. The proposed Bill did not contain interventions to improve teaching and learning in schools.

Mr Muaath Gabier, convenor of the education sub-comittee of the Progressive Professionals Forum, alleged that the Premier and the provincial Minister of Education were the champions of the Bill. He accused the proponents of the Bill of a colonial mindset, which was characterised by a lack of empathy, reasoning and effective leadership. He accused the Premier of attempts to override national legislation, which could have detrimental effects on public schools within the province. He accused the Premier of being an architect of a Bill that threatened to further widen the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ in the province. He said collaboration and donor-funded schools would have negative impacts on the educational system of the province.

On the sale and consumption of alcohol on school premises, Mr Gabier said that this practice should not be tolerated on school premises and should be strongly condemned. The proposed Bill potentially constituted a danger to the people of the province, as it further widened the educational and the social gaps. He described the proposed Bill as ‘nonsense,’ and urged that the colonial mandate contained in the Bill should not be allowed in the Western Cape institutions of learning. He accused the Western Cape government and the WCED of recycling the same Bill that had previously been rejected in the hope of getting a buy-in from the public. The practice should be discouraged, and the funds expended in the formulation of such Bills should be used for worthy purposes. He condemned the lack of transparency and accountability in the design of the Bill. He argued that time and resources spent in the design, as well as the debate on the Bill, should be channelled into productive activities and those responsible for its design should be brought to book.

Mr Benson Ngyentsu, of the South African Communist Party, described the Bill as an attempt by the DA-led Western Cape Government to build a republic within a republic. He said that the provincial Minister of Education should not be referred to as the Minister of Education, as there was only one Ministry of Education in the country, which was headed by the national Minister. The South African Communist Party condemned the duplication of functions that already existed at the national level. He urged the Committee to abandon the Bill as it conflicted with the national interest. He condemned the Provincial Government for sponsoring a Bill that allowed the sale and consumption of alcohol on school premises. He told the Committee that the Western Cape Government had regrettably introduced the Bill after some school children in Wynberg had misbehaved under the influence of alcohol on 19 May 2018.

He maintained that the education of the African child was a basic right and should not be commercialised. People had fought for this right and the right should not be relinquished to donors. Donors should not be given absolute authority over schools simply because of their financial might. The Bill also potentially robbed workers of their hard-won victory in terms of their access to basic rights. He threatened massive protest action in the Bill was passed into law.

 Ms Holly Hayes, Head of Research and Development: Mellon Educate, addressed the Committee on the role of her organisation as an operating partner and a donor in Western Cape public schools. The organisation aimed to solve the diverse problems in the South African and Western Cape educational systems through creative and collaborative means. Mellon Educate supported public schools in terms of financial and technical resources. The expertise needed for improved learner outcomes was obtained locally. The group brought together various experts within South Africa to give psychological and emotional support to learners.

Mellon Educate considered public buy-in an important component of its operation, which emphasised mutual benefits for all parties involved. It operated based on the collaboration agreement, and did not seek to impose its mandate on other parties involved in the collaboration. It sought to know what happened in public schools in the Western Cape and give appropriate support. She believed Mellon Educate could work together with other stakeholders in order to achieve the desired change in the Western Cape educational sector.

A member of the public strongly expressed opposition to the establishment of collaborative schools. He suggested that the funding role of a collaborator should not influence governance in public schools. The right of parents, as a component of the governing body, should be protected at all times. He condemned the creation of intervention facilities as detrimental to the black population. The intervention facilities were similar to correctional services. He said various stakeholders fought strongly against substance abuse in schools. He urged the public to reject any legislation that could encourage substance abuse in the Western Cape education landscape.

Mr Benjamin Daniel, Provincial Working Committee: South African Youth Council of the Western Cape, strongly condemned the Bill. The Council sought to know the sponsors of the Bill. He expressed concern about government’s ability to contain the sale and consumption of alcohol in public schools, given its failure to control the sale and use of cigarettes. He said that the consumption of alcohol was one of the reasons for the massive drop-out of students in Western Cape public schools. How did this Bill protect the young people? Schools should attempt to curb societal challenges through the discouragement of alcohol consumption. The WCED should try to promote a Bills that addresses the creation of functional libraries and laboratories, the access of students to functional computers, as well as quality and equal meals for every learner in the province. He urged the Committee to reject the Bill in its entirety. The Council would seek to know the sponsors of the Bill should the Western Cape Government intensify its efforts to pass it into law.

Advocate Den, of African Future Leaders Hub, said the organisation trained learners to become future leaders through the art of talking. He strongly condemned the Bill, especially the section that proposed the sale and consumption of alcohol in schools, and likened the act to an attempted murder. He said that existing law could be changed only if there was massive public demand. Also, specific guidelines must be followed to change existing laws. He challenged the rationale behind the proposed Bill on the sale and consumption of alcohol in public schools. Was the sale and consumption of alcohol just and equitable in the South African context, given the prevalence of alcoholism and crime in the country? The sale and consumption of alcohol in school should be prohibited and was not worthy of debate at this point in time.

A youth activist strongly condemned the proposed Bill. He expected the government of the Province to sponsor Bills that had positive impacts on learners. The province should discuss issues related to the safety of learners on school premises. He lamented the rate at which students were killed in schools across the province. The government and the people of the Western Cape should focus on areas to facilitate radical economic transformation. Unsafe schools were an attack on radical economic transformation. He urged collaboration school donors to support schools with the necessary resources without attaching unfair conditions. The local communities should be allowed to decide how schools were run in their locality.

Mr C Dugmore (ANC) expressed concern about the unwillingness of the Premier and the provincial Minister of Education to appear before the Committee to defend the Bill and listen to public opinion. The Committee, at the initial meeting held in Caledon, had requested the Premier and the provincial Minister of Education to appear before the Committee to defend their positions. He lamented the Premier’s attempt to override national legislation within the Province. For instance, the Premier had refused to appoint a children’s commissioner, despite public demand. The Province was yet to have a children’s commissioner, despite the Premier’s promise to appoint one since 2009. The government should focus on matters that facilitated the development of communities instead of pursuing causes that were inimical to the youth. While support for schools was a welcome idea, he challenged donors to be genuine in their activities.

Across the world, charter schools had mostly endangered public schools, and the privatisation of South African public schools should be discouraged. He questioned why the Western Cape government had failed to spend the equitable share to improve the teacher-to-learner ratio and safety in public schools. He also pointed to loopholes in the government’s allocation of funds to information communication technology (ICT) development in schools. He urged the government to set its priority right and create an environment that facilitated equitable and fair education for all learners in the Province. He reiterated that the Bill should be rejected in its entirety.

Mr D Mitchell (DA) accused Mr Dugmore of politicising the issue. He said that the Bill had not passed because of a failure to meet the necessary legal requirements. He maintained that the DA was not the sponsor of the Bill. He urged the Committee to remain unified in the consideration of the Bill.

The Chairperson appealed for calm from all present at the meeting. The comment by Mr Mitchell had earlier sparked uproar within the House.

Mr Gabier expressed displeasure with Mr Mitchell’s comment, and referred to the whole process as a farce. 

Mr Mitchell maintained that the Committee was yet to have an official written document regarding the Bill. The Committee could only accept the Bill after due consultation with the legal department and appropriate recommendations were made.

Mr F Christians (ACDP) described the Bill as a total waste of money. It was clear that the people of the province did not want the Bill, and the government should not attempt to force it down their throats. Government could not continue to dictate the fate of people within the province. The Bill must die immediately.

Mr T Olivier (ANC) expressed satisfaction with the public’s reaction to the Bill. He had earlier advised the Committee to abandon the Bill, but his suggestion had been discarded. He noted that the Bill, in all its forms, had been rejected from the outset, and wondered why the provincial Minister of Education continued to re-introduce it in various versions. He decried the action of the provincial Minister as unconstitutional and illegal. He expressed displeasure with the structure of schools in certain communities, the inappropriate teacher-to-learner ratios, as well as the high crime rate in public schools. He suggested that the Bill be rejected in its entirety.

Mr Dugmore said the Bill had nothing to do with regulations, and commented that the Bill directly contradicted the interests of the public.

The Chairperson thanked everyone present at the meeting, and asked Committee Members to re-convene after adjournment of the meeting to discuss serious and critical issues.

The meeting was adjourned.

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