Education Laws Amendment Bill, Higher Education Amendment Bill: consideration; 4th Annual Economic & Social Rights Report 2000-2

Basic Education

09 September 2003
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


9 September 2003

Chairperson: Prof S M Mayatula

Documents handed out:
Economic and Social Rights Report 2000 - 2002 by the Human Rights Commission

The Committee agreed to approve the Higher Education Amendment Bill. ACDP and DA members disagreed with the majority and voted against some clauses in the Education Laws Amendment Bill. The Department of Education presented a summary of their response to the Human Rights Commission's report.

Education Laws Amendment Bill
Mr W Doman (DA) proposed that the Bill be amended to leave the decision about remuneration of state-employed educators with the Schools Governing Bodies (SGBs), and to give them the criteria to be considered when making such decisions. In the existing Bill, the decision and guidelines resided with the Department of Education (DoE). Mr Doman said that his party otherwise approved of all other aspects of the Bill. The recommendation was motivated by the fact that the obligation to apply to the DoE when remunerating state-employed educators was already in the Employment of Educators Act; that having to apply four months in advance for permission to make such payments was unworkable; no provision was made for vacancies which arose during the course of the year, and because the controversial part of the Bill had not been subject to public scrutiny.

Ms C Dudley (ACDP) said her party's proposal was the same as the DA's except that the SGB was obliged to inform the DoE when making decisions about remuneration.

A spokesperson for the ANC reminded the Department's Advocate Boshoff that it had been agreed that the members of the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) should not be reappointed for a period exceeding two years, and that line 31 on passage 6 should be underlined as it was an insertion.

Ms M Olckers (NNP) asked whether permission had to be sought from the provincial or national DoE and also objected to the four-month period. The obligation in the Employment of Educators Act for the employee to notify the Department was unfair. Advocate Boshoff said that the proposed bill was designed to address that unfairness and that the provincial DoE was the employer.

Prof Mayatula then invited other parties to comment.

Mr K Moonsamy (ANC) said it was typical of the DA to say that the law would not work - many "radical and workable" laws had been passed. The Bill was not intended to curb the rights of SGBs, but to curb irresponsible remuneration in the form of loans, gifts etc. The Committee did not want to return to apartheid days but that parents at former model C schools wanted to retain the status quo. He was disappointed that there was no submission from the South African Democratic Teachers Union.

Mr Kgwele (ANC) said that there was no need for further public comment because the DoE had applied its mind to the concerns raised previously. The Bill addressed inequalities and was necessary to give teeth to the Employment of Educators Act. Unfortunately it seemed that private schools did not want to pay their educators the same salaries as government schools.

Mr Ntuli (DA) said that Clause 38 was problematic in light of the submissions received. If legislation made stakeholders uncomfortable, it was not inclusive. He did not buy the argument that resistance was driven by white privilege. The chair ruled him out of order for bringing race into the debate and, in response to Mr Doman, said that Mr Moonsamy's comment was not racial. Mr Ntuli continued that there were concerns about transparency and about how SGBs were elected. Many educators worked long hours and should be rewarded; SGBs addressed the problem that not all educators could be well rewarded.

Prof Mayatula said the Bill did not say that educators could not be rewarded. SGBs could "pay millions" to their own educators but not to DoE educators.

Mr Ntuli said that four months was too long because it was impossible for a principal to predict the following year's enrolment. He was also worried about DoE capacity to make these decisions.

Ms Dudley said that the Committee was hearing about transparency and hidden costs, but the DA proposal addressed those issues. To level the playing fields, the government should provide incentivisation in public schools. SGB powers should not be undermined but that the provincial DoE should be given plenty of time to refer back before the SGB decision was implemented. The amendments were not against removing inequality.

Ms Mentoor (ANC) said it was the state's role to ensure that learners received decent and affordable education and also to ensure that SGB decisions didn't become unaffordable for parents. That was why the decision should rest with the DoE, advised by the SGB, and not vice versa.

Mr Doman said that chaos would result if SGBs could implement a decision to pay an educator more in the middle of a budgeted period.

Prof Mayatula said that the ten minutes allocated for informal consideration had extended to 55. He then asked the Committee to vote on the Bill clause by clause. The ANC had 11 members qualified to vote against the opposition parties' 5, so the decision was to recommend the Bill, with the minor revisions i.e. the underlining on p6 and the restriction on reappointing SAQA members.

Higher Education Amendment Bill
This was unanimously approved.

The Chair said the Bills would be debated in Parliament on 16 September. They had run out of time to discuss the four matters so it was agreed that the remaining time should be allocated to the DoE's briefing on their response to the Human Rights Committee's (HRC's) report. The Chair reminded the committee that Chapter Seven of that report had been referred to them, as well as a summary of it.

Ms Carol Deliwe, head of policy support at DoE, then briefed the meeting on their responses to the report. The report was of limited utility in tracking trends in access at a macro level, and it was not clear whether data had been cross-checked. The HRC report recommended that HRD strategy should guide the development of the Further Education and Training and Higher Education, but education business planning processes considered HRD as it related to the reform of the sector. Ms Deliwe showed information which refuted its allegation that "most government departments are operating in the dark". Issues of access, equity, quality, democracy and efficiency were not analysed sufficiently in the report.

After the briefing, Mr Ntuli said he was pleased that early childhood development was receiving attention. He was concerned about access and reports of fees and language being used as barriers.

Ms Mentoor said that the DoE should have a mechanism to monitor rights in education. Before macro-indicators, micro-indicators were needed. If there was no clean water, for instance, learners would get diarrhoea and be malnourished despite nutrition programmes and this would have negatively impact learning.

Mr Kgwele said that the DoE had done much but there were still areas of challenge. The Committee would be looking at allocation of spending more closely.

The meeting was adjourned.


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