Committee Oversight Report

Higher Education, Science and Technology

27 February 2019
Chairperson: Ms September C. (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and Training discussed the report on its oversight visit to Northern Cape and Free State from 28 January to 01 February 2019 and minutes. The Committee adopted the oversight report and minutes for the 5th of December 2018 and the 13th of February 2019.

The crux of the meeting was about the observations of the Committee during their oversight visit to Northern Cape and Free State. Issues were raised about the adequacy or otherwise of funding of the Technical and Vocational Educational and Training (TVET) Colleges. While some members were of the position that funding was a core issue, others believed the problem was leadership. It was however, agreed that caution should be exercised in allowing the claims of colleges to affect the views of Members since no college submitted their financial budget for confirmation.

Members also discussed the need for proper measures to be adopted when it came to the computation of student results, the Legacy Report and the Students Representative Council’s (SRC) term. The importance of Committee support staff properly conveying the thoughts of Committee Members and quality editing of reports was also raised by Members.

The Chairperson told Members that efforts had to be made to deal with all outstanding matters as the end of the fifth Parliament was approaching. The Legacy Report would be up for discussion and adoption by the 13th of March 2019.

Meeting report

Oversight report on Committee visit to the Northern Cape and Free State.

The Chairperson asked if anyone had any observation to make about the report.

Ms J D Kilian (ANC) suggested that the first line on page one should reflect the date. Rather than putting the date on the observation page it should be left on the first paragraph of the first page.

She added that substantial amendments were not in the document except for punctuations and she wanted to know if it was alright to just correct the punctuations and hand the document over to the Chairperson.

The Chairperson responded that would not change the content of the document

Mr CD Kekana (ANC) said spelling was important in the report and requested that secretaries should be more careful so that the Committee would not spend so much time on grammar and correcting typographical errors.

Ms Kilian referred members to the second line on the third page. She corrected it to bring out the correct meaning for those who would not understand the lingual.

On the expulsion of SRC President, she suggested that the paragraph should read ‘expulsion for findings of sexual misconduct,’ as it could have been an allegation otherwise there may be a request for the disciplinary proceedings

The Chairperson said that ‘a case of sexual misconduct’ was better.

Dr B Bozzoli (DA) said the word ‘alleged’ should be put in front of all the claims made by Mr Mkhila (spelling unconfirmed). Most of his claims should be treated with circumspect as she felt they are overblown and may be far from the truth. They should be reported as allegations and not ‘facts’

The Chairperson said the matter would be discussed under observation.

Dr Bozzoli said it seemed like union members were expressing an extreme version of their grievances. She suggested that since their claims were not verifiable they should be best described as allegations.

Ms Kilian took the view that the extreme expression of grievances did not apply only to union but also to management and students. They all tend to embellish their various challenges and problems. She suggested that there should be a paragraph where it should be stated that ‘the complaints of the union have been noted. It would be captured under observation. The issue should be taken with a pinch of salt rather than using the word “alleged” for every case.

The Chairperson was of the position that at the point of observation the report may show what the student and union alluded to and what the committee observed. She cautioned against writing down what was said verbatim by the union and student. She said they do not expect an opinion at that stage.

Dr Bozzoli on page 12 said, the words ‘issues affecting the college’ expresses a statement of facts affecting the college.

Mr AP Van der Westhuizen (DA) said once the issues were established as facts then they can be reported as such. He said there was need for the report to be consistent. However, where the responses and views of the management is sought, the report would reflect that it is the opinion and views of the management.

The Chairperson said the words used should not be used in such a manner that creates an impression that the Committee was convinced about the claims made.

Ms Kilian said it was an important lesson for the Committee staff who had the duty of reporting.  Staff writing reports must develop a way of reporting which is not conclusive in form to avoid creating wrong impression in the mind of the readers.

The Chair admonished report writers to be circumspect and look at all the different pages, role plays and phraseology of different people.

Mr R Mavunda (ANC) suggested that staff writing reports should be allowed to record so that words taken will reflect the exact opinions of the Committee.

Ms Kilian suggested the inclusion of drug abuse and inadequate student safety on page 19.

The page to page consideration continued to page 24

Ms Kilian said there should be heading and observations with bullets points and that dates were not necessary.

Dr Bozzoli said there were observations of lack of accommodation, inadequate wages and I.T but the big observation was lack of funding for the college as a whole.

Mr M Wolmarans (ANC) said he shared the same feeling both from the point of the union and the institution themselves. He said they lacked the adequate funding. He shared his experience when he went on the Committee visit and they had to move into and outside the buildings. He said they had to stay in tents.

Mr Kekana said there had not been adequate allocation of resources to TVET colleges. He said the unwillingness to allocate resources was responsible for the students and unions complaint. There should be a separate location and an overhaul of dedication towards TVET colleges.

Ms Kilian agreed with the views of Mr Kekana to certain extent. She said the migration of TVET colleges was a complex system. The issue was not just money but management as well. It was not enough to conclude that there were insufficient funds because people often used the excuse of inadequate resources as reasons for non-performance. It was not ideal to follow that line of thought.

The TVET sector must be made much more attractive. There should be input from different sectors of the institution who made the various allegations. She suggested the minute should be reported to show that notwithstanding the available vast resources there were no adequate managerial capacities in some institutions. She said she would be hesitant to say there were inadequate financial resources, rather there should be a general approach to it. Efforts must be strengthened to ensure that these agencies operate functionally to fulfill their mandate.

Mr Van der Westhuizen referred members to paragraphs 4.1.2. He expressed concern on the impression that students who after registering for school assumed they had completed their studies rather than saying they had advanced in their studies. He referred to paragraphs 4.1.2, on engineering related courses. He corrected that it should not be limited to engineering alone but other semester programs as well. He suggested that the minute should read “another rounds of admission registration for future trimester and semester programs would be done in the year.” it should not just be restricted to engineering.

On page 23, he said he was not sure if it was a Committee decision that the University should host the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) data system but the suggestion had to be referred to NSFAS directly and not the University. He said it was better to record it as suggestion that was made by a Member and corrected to reflect as such in the report.

The Chairperson said the paragraph should be taken out.

Mr Kekana concluded on this point, by saying there was still some form of migration. There were still underfunding of TVET colleges. He reiterated that migration must stop and the issue of funding must be addressed. There were no workshops, no proper lecturers, students were complaining of poor teaching method and poor curriculum.

With the budget of 67 billion, TVETs were receiving about 5 to 7 billion, while the rest went to the Universities. The number of TVET Colleges were about 150 with different campuses and TVETS only received about 10%. The issue of allocation had to be looked at and funding had to go through the right people. When the migration was taken place, they had to train principals and Chartered Accountants and Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) on how to run finances. That process of migration and underfunding had to come to an end and the system had to be run properly.

The Chairperson commended members on the comments and observations made. She said it would be unfair to conclude that all the institutions do not have money at all because much investigation were not done to that effect. The way the report was structured concerning the registration program was fair. In the observation of the Committee there was nothing wrong in saying they found chaos and expressed the view that the Committee was not happy at all with the preparation of colleges.

On the registration process, it was recommended that the Department of Higher Education was supposed to ensure that the college had everything in place. She said it was a human resource problem and it must be separated as what was observed. She said no financial statement was presented to the Committee. She referred to another institution, the Sol Plaatje University which was not as chaotic as the previous institution. She made it clear that all those advocating for additional funds should make do with what they observed and noticed various observations and recommendations must be made.

She suggested that colleges and universities should have stricter exit and entry regimes. The problem according to her was dedicated leadership problems, not money problems. There must be better use of the financing models since monies were used in the painting of walls. She said no sufficient information was received to suggest that they all needed money.

Dr Bozzoli said the issue of a lack of money may be noted but should not be recommended otherwise the whole section on infrastructure would be re-written on 4.6.3.  She was of the view that these facilities were necessary. Facilities like WIFI are fundamental and infrastructure generally must be advocated for.  The issue of insufficiency of money had to be raised.

The Chairperson responded that caution had to be observed in saying everything requires money and that those areas where students said required money must be met and where monies are taken from teachers such must be properly investigated to be sure they require all the money and the proper disbursement of it. These matters should be contained in the report. She said the case must be made for the funding of colleges. The Committee was an institution where they should go to and make case for funding. The Committee however had to ensure that there is accountability.

Ms Kilian said she would like to see future budgets making specific provisions for improvements in the given sectors and it would be ideal if the ministry could include it in the report making reference to what has been observed.

She said all facts were not available at their disposal as to the use of funding. She said teacher funding was not for the entire institution. The issue should be captured appropriately for the next parliament showing they have a concern, having visited different entities and then proffering suggestion on funding.

The performance of an institution should be rewarded with funding in the following year with specific project. The concern is if poor management is observed, how is it being addressed? Poor management should not continue because it is a waste of public funds. There must be a performance assessment of the college and efforts must be made at making these colleges commit themselves to outcomes in order to be recognized in future for additional financial funding.

Mr Mavunda said on the same matter, that caution must be had on being specific on the area that needs money since the Committee was not sure and unable to quantify what their needs are. He said the problem was more of management than funds. He said there had been cases of misrepresentation, even if there was money, that cannot fix the managerial challenges. He said these colleges had never presented their financial challenges.

Mr Van der Westhuizen said in terms of the outstanding results of November 2018 assessment. The delay in the release of the result was not only a departmental responsibility, it is often caused by the colleges themselves who do not upload the correct continuous assessment marks on the computer system. The sentence should be rephrased as “Colleges do not upload correct continuous assessment marks”.  He said the paragraph should be rephrased so it does not give the impression that the Department is delaying the release of results.

The Department should look at the policy and the management of the result and continuous assessment marks. College Principals were blamed for not doing the necessary quality assurance and when the marks do not reach Umalusi, which is the quality assurance department, they cannot compute it quickly and it cannot be released. Many colleges contacted and admitted that they received all their results except one or two outstanding. 

The Chairperson said the Department must not be exonerated in this. She suggested that the report must be phrased to reflect that Department must do a detailed investigation

Ms Kilian recommended that the report must include the idea that the Department must ensure that colleges improve their result capturing process.

The Chairperson said the two points should be combined to show that the Department must also take responsibility of investigating the issues they had raised because the problem could be the Department or the college because Umalusi also could be negligent in its duties. The issues should be all encompassing.

Mr Van der Westhuizen said the causes of delays in the publication of results should be investigated.

Dr Bozzoli observed the case of a protest by student particularly one student called Godsfield (spelling unconfirmed)

The Chairperson responded that it would be contained in the report.

Ms Kilian moved for the adoption of the report and was seconded by Mr Mavunda.

Adoption of minutes

Mr Wolmarans moved for the adoption of the 15th December 2018 minutes and was seconded by Mr Mavunda.

The Chairperson asked if there were any comments on the 13th of February 2019 minutes.

Ms Kilian reminded the Members of the suggestion that the Student Representative Council (SRC) term of office should be staggered to reflect two years term of office since everybody did not leave office at the same time and asked if it was adequately captured.

The Chairperson said it would be taken into consideration in the recommendation Dr Bozzoli moved for the adoption of the 13th of February 2019 minutes and was seconded by Ms Killian.

Discussion

The Chairperson also referred to a page on Public Protector though no feedback was gotten.

Mr Van der Westhuizen wanted to know about the action of the Public Protector writing to Parliament on the Tshwane South issue and the Department opposing the court. He said the Committee was informed that there would be a meeting in council and opposing parties in the probation office would try to seek and settle this matter. He wanted to know if a follow up could be done to know if the resolution would be the decision of the court or would the case still go to court.

The Chairperson said an inquiry could be made on the positions of the Public Prosecutor and the Department on the matter.

The Chairperson informed Members of a meeting held with all the chairpersons where it was directed that all outstanding works be completed, and all reports should be dealt with, notwithstanding the fact that Parliament has been dissolved. They also had to bear in mind the need to deal with new matters and all outstanding matters. She said it was not necessarily for new things to come on to the agenda but to reflect on what was still outstanding in the Committee.

On the Legacy Report, she advised the content adviser and researcher should take note of the headings and said there was a framework on content. Members should have the framework on the Legacy report. The framework should be used to finalize the legacy report on the 6th of March 2019, which would be the only outstanding report. She suggested that there are always issues arising from higher education and training and there has been some intervention on the disputes around some institutions.

On the college side, there are disputes between the departments and the union and the parties are supposed to deal with it at the governing council. The Committee has followed up as requested by the Minister with the institutions on what the councils are saying about the existing agreement and engagement and they are talking to smaller committees and engaging with each other on various issues.   

Dr Bozzoli asked how long the report it would be and if it would be ready by next week.

The Chairperson responded that the report would be an adequate length and should finally be adopted on 13th of March.

The meeting was adjourned.

Documents

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