This was a roundtable meeting with the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT), which was given an opportunity to present an updated report on the impact and challenges of its programme.
The NECT said that there had been growth in the programme, but it was still being confined to specific areas, and was not really accounting for learners with disabilities yet. Its key focus was on teacher professionalisation, implementing continuous development programmes that ensured that the educators were able to equip learners with the skills required in the 4th industrial generation.
There were six districts that were currently in the implementation phase, and the NECT’s influence had grown in contributing to the ultimate improvement in the National Senior Certificate (NSC) results.
Members raised questions about the Trust’s lines of reporting, and also expressed concern about the possible duplication of its operations with those of the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and the South African Council of Educators (SACE).
The DBE suggested there should be a follow-up meeting to discuss the impact of its relationship with the NECT. The Committee said it would continue to monitor the working relationship between the DBE and NECT to determine future advancements. The provision of quality of education was of serious concern in South Africa.
The Chairperson conveyed apologies from the Minister, Ms Angie Motshega, and the Deputy Minister, Mr Enver Surty. She said the meeting was to review the annual report of the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT) to determine the contribution made to the development and quality of the education of learners. The last meeting had been in 2016. The analysis would focus specifically on learning, reading and how the teachers pace the teaching, and also the impact of the infrastructure on education. The Trust had been given a mandate by the President to solicit contributions from the private sector related to the provision of sanitation at schools.
National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT): progress report
Mr Sizwe Nxasana, Chairman: NECT, said the Trust had been founded after the National Development Plan (NDP) was adopted as a policy of the government in 2013. This was after there had been discussions about pulling business, labour and society together to support the government in its efforts to improve the quality of education. In 2012, stakeholders such as non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and trade unions were invited to discuss what could be done in support of the government to mobilise the efforts of the private sector. The mission of the trust was to mobilise the national capacity to assist the government to achieve distinctive, substantial and sustainable improvements in education. The NDP called for active citizenship -- all the role players to work together with the government.
Over the last five years, the NECT had provided the following benefits:
- Gained a lot of support from the banking sector and other business organisations (financial and provision of skills support);
- Seven unions were represented through the structure. This was through the SA Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) and the National Council of Teachers of South Africa (NACTOSA), representing all other Unions;
- Over R700 million had been mobilised through the government and private sector in support of the Department of Basic Education (DBE);
- Provided a platform for reflection on issues affecting the country and sector, such as understanding the effects of the 4th Industrial Revolution for South Africa and the rest of Africa. New resources were required, so a response to the change was required, and access to the private stakeholders assisted in the articulation the requirements of what should be included in the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) from the foundation phase.
- Developed a long term view of the building blocks to train teachers in order to impart the skills that were required to better the experience of the learners.
It was also important to work not just with the DBE, but all other departments that support it, specifically monitoring and evaluating the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET).
The rights of workers were protected by the constitution, but there were other issues raised in previous discussions on the role of organised labour in education. There had been strong partnerships with the unions on the continued development of their members, and the improvement in the quality of the education presented in the classrooms. When unions engage with government, there may be issues that were more difficult to deal with, so the NECT assists in handling the tough conversations that are required.
Mr Godwin Khosa, Chief Executive Officer (CEO): NECT, said that NECT programmes were implemented at 6 400 schools in 2016, with the focus on KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Limpopo, North West and Mpumalanga. The intention was to create a basis for the design and implement interventions that would fast track education improvements made in the DBE. In partnership with the DBE, the work of the NECT had been extended to two-thirds of schools in South Africa.
The plan of the NECT had always been to determine how one tested evidence and the scale of interventions that showed potential. Over the years there had been an increase and greater maturity in the collaboration on the work of the NECT and DBE, as well as the other NGOs working in the schooling environment. The benefits created included:
- Policy level quality research work is shared with the DBE, and provincial departments are made aware of the findings;
- There is impact at the provincial level in forming and supporting the work performed in the departments through a systematic approach;
- Analysis of the management of schools and monitoring of the work performed by the teachers. At the operational level;
- Data is collected on the improvement of learning, base lining aspects of the learning outcome requiring follow-through assessments.
Teacher professionalisation was the focus area. The core of the approach was to provide support through the use of structured learning programmes (SLPs) and early grade reading study which was spearheaded in the DBE. There were still gaps in some languages, and the Trust was currently work with the DBE to introduce ways to accommodate them. The work done in provinces was driven by memorandums of understanding (MOUs) that highlighted what would be done in the specific provinces.
5.7 million pieces of teaching and learning materials had been distributed to 61.5% of schools nationally; 84 128 teachers and 671 subject advisers had been trained; and 73 800 hours of coaching and support had been provided. Lesson plans had been derived from the Grade 1-4 level, which stipulate the lesson plans for each day of the year and assist in ensuring that what was taught to the learners was in line with the CAPS curriculum.
The subject advisors had been trained in order to strengthen student advisory services, in collaboration with the DBE, and an outcome had been a 16% increase in the understanding of the Foundation Phase (FP) English First Additional Language (EFAL) curriculum.
The focus of the school management area was expert and courageous leadership, school fundamentals of performance and curriculum management.
Mr Khosa referred to technology in education, and said the SA School Administration and Management System (SAMS) had been developed 10 years ago, with R100 million secured through R60 million from the private sector and R40 million from the nine provinces. The SA-SAMS provided guidance and oversight into the functional and technical design. Innovations in 21st century teaching and learning methods had bade farewell to the old approaches, and showed understanding of all the skills that would be required in the future. With the assistance of the private sector, better understanding had been obtained through the collaboration with the NECT.
There had been three pilot projects in 10 schools in the Waterberg District. These projects were:
- Syafunda : aimed at improving mathematics and science learner outcomes through a digital library (this was in partnership with Old Mutual KZN);
- School in a Box: the use of a blended learning approach to address the gaps in mathematics and English);
- CRSP DSGN: provides affordable robotic toys to schools. This was a project initiated by two young engineers.
The National Reading Coalition provides six principles that need to be aligned with what is happening in the classrooms: teaching preparation; access to reading resources; continuing professional development; community support; policy; research.
The NECT had the following special projects in place:
- Sanitation Appropriate for Education (SAFE). This was introduced in August 2018, and was still a work in progress. This campaign was launched in order to mobilise and unlock private sector funding in order to assist in building new ablution facilities.
- New life orientation textbooks. The intention was to mobilise private sector support, and an excess of R20 million was raised.
- A refreshed compact for education.
- Early Childhood Development ( ECD), with the pilot programme intended to start in North West in October 2018.
- National Institute for Continuous Professional Development ( NICPD).
Ms N Marchesi (DA) said that upon reviewing the corporate governance structure of the NECT, there was no indication of the staff component working on the ground, and asked if an organogram was available for presentation. The six districts were predominantly in rural provinces, and she wanted to know the criteria required to be met by the schools in order to be considered, and whether funding was involved. She asked why certain provinces had signed an MOU, while others had not. As the NECT had been active since 2013, she would like to see the impact of its work. How was it dealing with the issue of Grade 1 - 4 learners’ reading, which was a crucial area for the DBE? Sanitation was indicated as being a priority of the NECT – how did it assess its priorities in order to channel its abilities and capacity to deal with the challenges? Was the NECT was part of the task team that had been put together by the President to look into sanitation and education, and its responsibility to source funding? She would like to know who the NECT reported to, as it had not presented to the Committee for the previous two years. As funding had been received from the government, there should be a clear indication of to whom the expenses incurred was communicated, and whether the NECT was audited.
She would like to know why only two unions had been considered for a relationship with the NECT. What had prompted the inception of the NECT, as there was concern about replication, as the benefits described by the NECT had already been achieved. This was why there was no implementation in provinces like Gauteng and the Western Cape, because the outcomes of the work of the NECT were already present. Why were these responsibilities being replicated, rather than assessing the issues specific to schools in the schooling system?
Ms V Basson (ANC) asked whether there was an overlapping of roles between the NECT and other sectors of the government. Throughout the presentation, there was no indication of how the NECT catered for learners with intellectual or physical disabilities within its programmes. She was happy that the focus of the NECT was on teacher professionalism and management, specifically the curriculum management. The Auditor General’s report had indicated that there was an issue with the curriculum management at schools, so she would like to know the role played by the NECT, given that its focus was on six districts. What was the expected rate of its expansion plans, so that all the provinces benefited from its programmes, given that it had been in operation for more than four years?
With regard to SA SAMS and information communication technology (ICT), there were provinces that had a shortage of infrastructure. She would like to know the challenges faced by NECT in implementing ICT in the rural or farm schools, and also the areas of concern when implementing the programme. With reference to the national reading, she would like to highlight the importance of community support. She asked who monitored the support, and whether the districts were aware of, and part of, the programme. For oversight purposes, she would like to know where the companies and businesses assisting the government in sanitation were located.
Ms H Boshoff (DA) expressed her concern with regard to the various professional developmental courses, as there seemed to be a conflict of interest between the NICPD and the South African Council of Educators (SACE), which had the Continuing Professional Teacher Development (CPTD). She would like clarification on whether there were collaborations entered into to ensure that there were no overriding of programmes between SACE and the NECT.
The NECT’s annual report (page 11) states that 68.6% of coaches were dedicated to the curriculum, and she would like to know what the support of the NECT to the coaches was, and reasons for the low performance in mathematics and science by learners, followed by low levels of reading and writing skills. In broader discussions, it had been stated that educators were unable to read and write at a certain grade level, which had contributed to the teachers performing badly. The annual report also made reference to training of the subject advisors (page 15), but at an oversight event in the North West Province, it had been communicated that subject advisors’ training, especially in technical subjects looking at the three- stream model, was zero. She asked whether the NECT could reach out to the districts in the North West Province.
On page 17 of the report, it was stated that there had been a 40% decrease in the hours of support to teachers due to the implementation of one programme. She would like to know why only one programme had been implemented, where previously there had been two programmes. The report also refers to the professionalism of the teaching profession, yet on the daily basis there was a failure in the actions of the educators. She would like to know the reasons for the lack of professional behaviour by some educators.
She asked the NECT Chairperson how the R40 million government funding had been obtained, specifically whether it had been based on a percentage of the number of students per province. Also, what were the specific amounts taken from each province?
The Minister was in discussion over migrating ECD to the DBE, so she would like to know whether the migration was still on track. With regard to the life orientation books, she would like to know whether there was specific reference to the large print in the books.
Ms C King (DA) said that she would like to know whether there had been a dialogue with regard to the increased violence in schools, and the view of the NECT on this. In her view of the CAPS curriculum, she felt the programme tested memory but did not test the intellect of the learner, and did not cover the desired curriculum. She wanted to know the measures assessed by the NECT to deal with this issue, taking into account any strikes and union meetings that may reduce teaching time.
There was high involvement with SADTU and schools affiliated with this union. She asked if the unions influenced the direction of the programme, or if the focus was on re-partnering.
From her past association with SA – SAMS, she knew there had been issues with the project, and currently there were challenges with regard to infrastructure, especially in rural schools. She would like to know whether NECT had investigated ways to connect the broadband communication without the use of the private sector, as the private sector contributed at a minimum level.
Funding was granted by the government, therefore she would like to know whether the NECT was operating in compliance with the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).
Reference had been made to the 4th Industrial revolution, considerations made to the lack of infrastructure, the inability of teachers to adapt to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teaching, and the difficulty faced by students in adapting to mathematics, reading and writing skills. She would like to know the challenges faced in introducing the programme in the rural areas.
Mr D Khosa (ANC) asked what the structures of the NECT were, and to confirm that there was no duplication with the DBE. Furthermore, regarding the challenges faced as a sector, how did it deal with the rejection of the stakeholders? He expressed appreciation for the implementation of the pilot in the stated areas.
Mr X Ngwezi (IFP) asked what could be implemented by the NECT in order to improve the safety of learners and educators in schools. How could it extend the benefits of its programmes more widely, and not limit development only to areas of previous development.
Ms N Mokoto (ANC) asked for a report on the structure and management of the programme, specifically in respect of the available properties of the NECT, as well as an analysis of the alignment of the programme run by SACE and the NECT, and how they could assist SACE to carry the programme. Diagnostic tests had not been mastered by the government -- how could the NECT assist the DBE in this area? One programme had been applied, so she would like clarification on the method of application for each province.
The Government had applied similar research and practices as the NECT, so what had the NECT applied differently to the government, and how would they continue to ensure that the programme was widely accessible in all areas? Had it had enough time to implement all the findings from its research phase?
Which provinces had benefited from the R1.1 billion that had been raised, and by what amounts? Had the NECT been audited, and what had been the audit opinion?
Mr A Botes (ANC) said that learners were not accurately integrated within the schooling system, specifically at the pre-school level, and as a result they remained in the schooling system for longer periods. He would like to know how the the Trust and the DBE collaborated, and about the allocation of the funds between the formal and informal areas.
The Chairperson asked about teacher development through the operation of the NECT programmes. Did the NECT ensure that all the educators were registered? What was its plan to ensure that the learners had access to quality equipment in the midst of technology in education? What process was in place to ensure the safety of the students?
Mr Nxasana and Mr Khosi handled the responses to the questions.
They said the NECT was a publically audited organisation, audited by Ernst & Young. It worked in collaboration with the DBE, and did not duplicate functions, as there were already limited resources in the country.
The MOUs had been signed at 450 schools, and with growth in the system, the MOU had been developed. A baseline on languages and mathematics existed at present. Sanitation was one of the NECT's support areas.
The NECT worked in correlation with other NGOs that offer similar work, such as the Kagiso Shanduka Foundation. It had been agreed by the stakeholders that work would be performed with this Foundation.
Learners with challenges had not been addressed, as the programme was in its early stages and would cater for these learners further along.
The work performed by the NECT was performed on an ongoing basis, and this also provided partnership with international companies through the private sector in order to equip learners with better skills.
Mr Hubert Mweli, Director General: DBE, said there were currently weaknesses in the governing structures that also contributed to the behaviour of the students. The inadequate investment in the social infrastructure, such as social workers, had also negatively influenced their behaviour.
The NECT had communicated that a further report would be forwarded to the Committee, detailing developments with its structure and the impact of its programmes.
The meeting was adjourned.