Informal Consideration of Education Laws, Higher Education, HIV/AIDS Education and School Governance

Basic Education

18 August 2003
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Meeting report

Portfolio Committee on Education: Informal consideration of Education Laws, Higher Education, HIV/AIDS Education, School Gover

Portfolio Committee on Education
19 August 2003
Informal consideration of Education Laws, Higher Education, HIV/AIDS Education AND School Governance

Chairperson:
Professor S M Mayatula (ANC)

Relevant Documents:
Higher Education Amendment Bill (B36-2003)
Education Laws Amendment Bill (B38-2003)
School Governance and District Development
The Education Response to HIV/AIDS Progress

SUMMARY
The parties discussed whether public hearings would be needed after comment on submissions, particularly that of the Education Department. The DA and ACDP said they would decide whether hearings were needed after they had read the submissions and caucused with their parties, and would report back at the meeting next week.
The Committee discussed ways to overcome tensions between school governing bodies, parents and teachers, particularly in ex-Model C schools. Underspending on the schools Lifeskills programme was addressed, as was the lack of first aid kits in particularly rural schools, and the identification and support of orphans.
All parties agreed that affected groups without the means to access the parliamentary system, like those from rural areas, should be actively approached and included for comment on submissions.


MINUTES
Mr Mayatula said that the discussion would surround the Bill amendments, school governance and HIV/AIDS. The South African Human Rights Commission would not attend the meeting.

Mr W Doman (DA) said that his party wanted the relevant submissions from other stakeholders. The Department's promised comment on the draft bill had not been received. These were controversial issues that called for public hearings on submissions.

Mr Doman suggested that they should ask for submissions but first listen to the presentations. They could only make applications four months before schools finalised budgets. As they were too late for this, the Committee should take their time to gather submissions and not make decisions based on Department presentations.

Mr Mayatula explained that they were still open for submissions but would not have a standard public hearing. The committee did not have a secretary and this was causing a problem.

Ms C Dudley (ACDP) said that there had been many changes so submissions were absolutely necessary.

Mr R P Z Van den Heever (ANC) said that they were at an informal stage of discussions and the amendments were not that controversial. He motivated that the Committee go ahead with the process.

Mr T Abrahams (ANC) said the department made the documents available on Wednesday after the meeting.

Mr Doman wanted it put on record that he did not receive the documents. He said that he could not agree that a programme had been agreed upon. He said that he did not understand how the Committee could proceed with the informal stage when there should be hearings instead.

Mr Mayatula said that it was possible to accommodate everyone and proposed moving the dates around. He said based on the content of the submissions, they would be able to proceed.

Mr Van den Heever said that the ANC agreed. Once submissions had been shared, there would be no need for public hearings.

Mr Doman said that the party would reserve their position on public hearings until they had seen the submissions and had a chance to caucus.

Ms Dudley said her party had not caucused and she would only be able to make decisions after seeing the submissions.

Mr Doman said that there had been a misunderstanding and they could not make decisions about public hearings with no information. He stated that they would state their position at the next meeting.

Prof S Ripinga said that the ANC agreed with the Chair about the process. He said that public hearings were for Bills dealing with technical amendments relating to policy and should not delay the process of finalising legislation.

Mr Mayatula ruled that they would deal with the issue next week.

School Governance and District Development Submission
Introduced by Mr Martin Prew, Director of Education Management and Governance Directorate

School Governance Ministerial Review Committee Submission

Mr Craig Soudien said the relatively successful democratic election of 200 000 people to school governing boards was likely to be finished by October 2003. Problems faced had included: Some provincial regulations were not in line with SASA; uncertainty in status of SGB employed teachers; role of student representatives limited and unsatisfactory; budget allocated too little for effective process; patchy training of electoral officers; difficulty in attracting candidates and meeting quorum; flouting of regulations by ex-Model 'C' schools; limited knowledge of regulations by rural schools, and the limited capacity at district and school level to fulfill their mandate.

As there was no specific national policy or legislation on 'districts', there was wide variation across provinces on their role, powers, functions and resourcing. District-level structures for co-ordinating school governing bodies could be established to undertake policy, support and quality assurance tasks that are not done efficiently at school level. District performance was perceived to be poor but there was a lack of agreement of terms, definitions and performance indicators. To address this problem, the Department was currently involved in consultation with PDEs, a review of theoretical and empirical work and related implications for current policy and legislation, and a district survey.

Discussion

Mr B M Komphela proposed that all the presentations be made and then follow this with questiions in the interests of timekeeping. Mr Mayatula ruled in favour of this suggestion.

Ms Dudley asked why the provincial legislation was not in line with SASA. She also asked why ex-model C schools were flouting the rules and about the tensions between parental authority and school governance. She asked for his comment on the conflict.

Mr R Ntuli (DA) asked why there was insufficient representation of parent diversity on school governance boards (SGB) at ex-model C schools. Secondly he wanted to know about quality assurance at exit points. He said that some districts were not giving necessary support.

Mr K Moonsamy (ANC) found the issue of regulations disturbing and asked what was being done. He questioned how the state was undermining SGB and also wanted a way for conflicts to be minimised.

Mr Van den Heever asked about strengthening democratic foundations in schools. He enquired if the ex-Model C objections were politically motivated.

Ms P N Mnandi (ANC) requested Mr Soudien to explain whether there were any rural schools in the survey of 1 000 schools and how many of the 26 public hearings were held in rural areas. She then asked Mr Prew about the different tiers in some districts and how the Department was dealing with issues of limited capacity.

Mr Duncan Hindle (Deputy Director-General GET) commented that the issue of conflict was really a healthy debate. The situation of each province must be taken into account instead of the one-size-fits-all approach.

Mr Prew responded that provincial regulations were being disregarded such as school government educators not sitting on the governance body. In most rural schools there was no SGB constitution. Where there was a constitution, every single one was in violation of the national constitution and NEEPA such as the language and admission policies or the ignoring of quorum. He said that he could not say if ex-Model C schools were politically motivated. In response to Ms Mnandi's question about districts, he said that the situation had improved substantially.

Mr Soudien expanded on ongoing tensions between teachers, educators and parents. There was often anxiety about questionnaires because people immediately thought that something was wrong. The Review Board went out of their way to ensure that the study was scientific so they went to rural areas. Some areas did not distinguish between urban and rural but they tried to meet proportionally urban, rural, ex-model C schools etc. The study bearings generally worked with one in the urban area and one in the rural area.

Submission: The Education Response to HIV/AIDS Progress

Ms Kgobati Magome reported that an HIV/AIDS Directorate had been established at national level that supported provinces to develop provincial strategic plans and establish adequately staffed HIV/AIDS Units. A report on the determinants of demand and supply of educators based in schools and FET colleges had provided information on current health status and attrition-causes. Policies had been reviewed in the light of these reports. There were now HIV/AIDS programmes in all 35 higher education institutions with a focus on research, peer education, curriculum integration and voluntary counselling and testing. An HIV/AIDS curriculum framework for the training of teachers was being developed.

The involvement of SGBs in school-based HIV/AIDS programmes had proved critical in establishing a supportive environment, and resource guides had been developed for them and parents. A School AIDS Week would be held in September 2003 with focus on the provincial agendas of curriculum-based lifeskills and HIV/AIDS programmes, workplace programmes and inter-branch committees.

Some 55 000 teachers had been trained to facilitate lifeskills and sexuality education and programmes were now active in about 60% of schools. The production of age appropriate learner material had continued, as had that for those with special needs.

Expenditure had improved substantially as capacity, planning and management improved. Over-expenditure had been mainly due to administrative errors. The Department needed further work on strengthening support and monitoring and consolidating care responses for learners and educators.

Discussion

Ms D G Nhlengethwa (ANC) asked about the criteria of the allocation of funds and asked for a provincial report.

Mr Abrahams asked how much of the allocation was actually spent on the Lifeskills Training programme. He asked for an explanation for the underspending.

Ms Mnandi acknowledged that significant gains had been made. She had just visited the Northern Cape and found that teachers were given very little by way of protection, for example gloves. She felt that the Department and educators should interact more. On the issue of higher education, she said that two years ago there was no HIV/AIDS programme at Potchestroom University because it claimed to be a Christian institution. She asked if there was a policy now and if condoms were distributed.

Mr Komphela commented that the department was doing a good job. The Free State had 23 000 orphans of schoolgoing age and he asked if there was a programme that identified these children. He asked why prevention was not included in the Department's three-pronged strategy on HIV/AIDS. His view was that by emphasising prevention, all other factors fell into place.

Mr Hindle said there was a programme for vulnerable children and that they were treated as a special group.

Mr Edcent Williams (Chief Director of Schools) responded to the questions on statistics by saying that funds were allocated on the equitable share formula. For example in Limpopo, the percentage was worked out on the current allocation that did not take into account the roll-over. Limpopo was spending where the roll-over occurred, thus 70% was for teachers and teaching and 30% for materials etc. On the issue of orphans, he added that identification was the first process followed by an integrated social development approach.

Ms Magome explained that there was an HIV/AIDS policy on protection for teachers and schools had to have First Aid kits. All teachers had to work on the assumption that everyone was positive.

She explained that the higher education programme started last year. Each institution was given seed funding based on strategic plans that were submitted by the institutions. She said that she would follow up on the issue of Potchestroom University.
She said that regarding orphans in the Free State, the department has been working at paying school fees and seeing to the provision of social development and relief grants. The aim was to ensure that orphans remained in schools. All orphans were treated the same so as not to stigmatise particular diseases.

Mr Komphela said that schools should be dealt with differently and poor schools, particularly farmschools, should be given a kit.

Ms Palesa Tyobeka (Acting Deputy director-General Special Programmes) said that kits were provided by the department to all schools. They would look at resupply.

Mr Mayatula suggested that they work with the Department of Health because some people did not know about the assistance available to them. Rural areas were particularly unaware and this information should be included in the kit.

Mr Doman asked for the submissions regarding the Higher Education Bill.

Mr Hindle agreed to submit what they had.

Mr Komphela said that public hearings had not been tested by people by those without access. The Committee took submissions from those with some means - rural people do have interests even though they are not here.

Mr Doman agreed and said it was important to get the voices of those without means because it was a principle of parliament. They could not move until they had seen the submissions.

Mrs Dudley asked for clarity on the Higher Education Amendment and the definition of state employees at private schools.

Mr Hindle explained that it only applied to public employees.

The meeting was adjourned.

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