The Portfolio Committee met to receive the Annual Performance Plans of the Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Higher Education and Training. The Minister provided opening remarks and context for the meeting, including reference to a revised White Paper on science and technology which had been developed against the backdrop of changes as a result of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The Department of Science and Technology described the performance plan targets, which had been set in line with the National Development Plan. They outlined the reasons for adopting the new White Paper, and drew attention to the development of a new ten-year plan for the Department. Some of the achievements of the Department in using science and innovation for socio-economic development were listed, as well as the challenges it was facing, particularly around intellectual property and funding.
Members of the Committee raised questions about the merging of two departments, pointing out that the large gap in funding could lead to one dominating the other. They expressed doubt over South Africa’s readiness for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Where there plans to ensure that ordinary people benefited, particularly the marginalised and the elderly? How would it mitigate against job losses? Was the Department able to fund disruptive technologies to spur new industries or for socio-economic benefit?
The Department of Higher Education and Training’s annual performance plan centred on expanding access to higher education, and ensuring that educational institutions imparted the skills needed by the economy. They highlighted several initiatives to enhance the effectiveness of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) and community education and training (CET) colleges.
Members questioned the role and cost-effectiveness of sector education and training authorities (SETAs), and whether there were any measurable targets. They expressed concern about the inadequate qualifications of some TVET college lecturers to lecture in particular subjects. They asked about the funding of university and TVET students, with particular reference to the disparities in resource allocations and student allowances.
The Chairperson said the Committee would receive briefings from two Departments. When the budget was tabled, it had happened under the previous administration, and since the elections the Departments had been reconfigured. It was now the Department of Higher Education, Science and Technology. He hoped that going forward the process of integration would be finalised so there would be a single budget vote going forward. The following Tuesday the Minister would present the budget vote on Science and Technology, which would be debated by the Committee, with the Higher Education budget vote being discussed the following Friday.
Minister’s opening remarks
Dr Blade Nzimande, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, congratulated the Chairperson on his election of as head of the Committee. He said that the Department consulted with the Committee and was looking forward to constructive and cooperative engagement, and he hoped that the Committee would not abandon its responsibility to hold the Department to account. He stressed that he appreciated ideas from the Committee about how best to carry out the Department’s work.
He commented on the change in name to Higher Education, Science and Innovation, which he did not feel would change the work of the entity. The Department was looking forward to accounting to Parliament through the Committee and would cooperate as much as it could with it. The presentation was not a gesture of compliance and good governance, but an opportunity to present its planned activities and highlight progress from the previous year, as well as state what it intended to do in future.
The Department would need to be guided by some of the things that the President had highlighted in his State of the Nation (SONA) addresses, particularly successes in reducing poverty and transforming the economy over the previous 25 years, which he felt had previously been built for a few. The President had highlighted many challenges which affected young people in particular, many of whom were unemployed. Despite progress, women and people with disabilities, as well as the workers and the poor, were still affected, and he felt that the levels of implementation had not reached the levels that were needed. This Committee was fortunate in that in terms of science innovation and technology, the Cabinet had adopted a White Paper a few months previously which he hoped the Committee would take time to look at closely. The White Paper built upon achievements made since the first White Paper in 1996.
Dr Nzimande felt that another thing which would guide the Department was the style of governance and implementation which had been taken to higher levels by President Ramaphosa, particularly the idea of a social compact and the meaningful involvement of all stakeholders in the work the Department does. Not all stakeholders were equal -- some did not have the capacity nor the platforms to articulate their own needs. As a Department, it needed to go the extra mile to assist ordinary men and women who had a role to play, to play that role. He wanted to strengthen the capacity of the two Departments to handle stakeholders. This portfolio -- Higher Education, Science and Technology (HEST) -- had the single highest number of entities of any government department, possibly over 120 if one included universities, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges and Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs), the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), the Council for Higher Education (CHE) and entities in science and technology. The issue of stakeholder relations would be prioritised by the Department.
The Committee was meeting at a time when it was having to contend with rapid technological changes which were ushering in a new world of work, reshaping the global economy and redefining social relations. He said there were numerous discussions about the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and it was discussed as if humanity was facing an oncoming train called the Fourth Industrial Revolution. He stressed that technology had not created humanity, but humanity had created technology, and this should be the attitude. How could one use technology to help humanity? The three previous industrial revolutions had all benefited the wealthy, not least in SA. How did one ensure the Fourth Industrial Revolution did not continue on that trajectory, but was rather in the service of workers and the poor and ordinary people? The previous president had set up an inter-ministerial committee, as well as a presidential commission of experts and technocrats, on the Fourth Industrial Revolution to help the government to navigate this period better and more confidently. At some point, it may be appropriate for the Portfolio Committee to interact with the inter-ministerial committee.
The Minister said that the National Treasury framework for strategic planning requiref that government departments table their Annual Performance Plans (APPs), and he hoped that this would be reflected upon in the budget votes the following week. The Department would be talking to some of the key issues and objectives for the forthcoming financial year. As Minister, he approved the APP after the commencement of the new administration, with one objective being the strengthening of the alignment of public entities’ APPs with those of the Department of Science and Technology (DST). There had already been countless interactions with the Department’s entities to ensure that there was alignment. This was all against the backdrop of the White Paper. This would allow it to allocate resources better.
Dr Nzimande commended the alignment of Higher Education and Training with Science and Technology under a single ministry. It pointed to possibilities for better alignment between two spheres of operations which largely operated within the same space. For instance, the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) dealt largely with undergraduate bursaries, while the Department of Science and Technology (DST) dealt with postgraduates. He hoped that this alignment would result in better synergies.
One of the things that needed to change in this sphere in operations was that a shift in mentality. Historically, he understood the emphasis on access to undergraduate studies. This had resulted in a neglect of post-graduate scholarships, particularly for blacks and women, which was important. Even when one thought financially, one must not think of taking every cent for undergraduates at the expense of post-graduates to produce Masters or PhD students. The goal of innovation could not be achieved without producing more PhDs. This mindset shift needed to happen, as this was a cross-cutting issue. During the “Fees Must Fall” campaign, one of the issues being raised was decolonisation. It had become an empty cliché -- who would teach a decolonised curriculum if one focused only on undergraduate studies? This issue was also important for the DST.
Dr Nzimande felt that the two Departments should start working towards merging into a single Department. Many things were done in parallel. In his first stint as Minister of Higher Education and Training, he had established a ministerial task team to look at challenges in producing black and female academics. At the same time, the DST had undertaken a similar study on increasing the number of black and female researchers. The Departments were effectively talking about the same thing, as one could not have academics who did not do research. There were several other areas that needed to be investigated. The President had felt that the two Departments needed to establish a process to engage and improve alignment. He had asked both Directors General (DGs) to engage with him and the Deputy Minister -- and at appropriate times with the Portfolio Committee -- as this was being carried out.
He stressed the need to contextualise and locate the strategy for science, technology and innovation (STI) nationally and locally. He introduced the concept of a National System of Innovation (NSI), which would be South Africa’s new approach for STI. The NSI would respond to the National Development Plan (NDP). For the benefit of the Committee, and for it to do its work properly, the current strategic plan of the DST was based on three phases of implementation of the NDP’s goals. The first phase had been 2012-2017, which focused on intensifying research and development spending and providing opportunities. The second phase, the current phase between 2018 and 2023, looked at the strategy for implementing the NDP. This phase was meant to lay the foundation for more intensive improvements in productivity and innovation across the state, business and social sectors. This should become more pervasive. Part of this period was to ensure that STI must not be the exclusive preserve of the elites, but must be prevalent among small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs), cooperatives and ordinary communities. The third phase, which would lead up to 2030, would place greater emphasis on innovation, improved productivity and the pursuit of knowledge. This did not mean that these things were not being done now, but they would be taken to a higher level in the third phase.
He concluded by quoting from the President’s SONA address about meaningfully improving the lives of South Africans in the following ten years.
Department of Science and Technology’s Annual Performance Plan and Budget
Dr Phillip Mjwara, Director-General, Department of Science and Technology, said the delegation felt that it needed to provide an overview of the policy context, the mandate and the structure of the Department, including what the Minister had said about the policy context and new White Paper. The Department was happy to present on the White Paper and plans for its implementation at an appropriate time in the future. The delegation would then go on to the APP. The first part of the APP was on the legislative environment, which the delegation would not present, but which was in the document. The second part of the APP was on proposed targets and the budget to achieve those goals. The delegation would return to the concept of the National System of Innovation, the NDP and the mandate of the DST, as it provided an excellent context of the sector of science and technology, which was not always clearly defined. The concept of the NSI would provide members with a sense of how it executed its work. The delegation would note how policies had evolved since 1994 and how the Department planned on going forward. It would then proceed to the APP.
Dr Mjwara read the role of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) in socio-economic development over the following five years, reiterating what the Minister had said about what the NDP expected STI to do. He read the 2014-2019 phase of STI development in the NDP, and said that the delegation would provide a snippet of how it had achieved this. He read the goals for the 2020-25 phase of the NDP, noting that demographic transformation in the NSI was still a challenge. Investment was currently at 0.8% of gross domestic product (GDP), with the hope that it would achieve its target of 1.5% of GDP, as set out in the White Paper. There were specific proposals on how to achieve this. He then read the 2025-2030 NDP goals, as well as the PhD targets in the NDP. The Department aimed to produce more than 100 doctoral graduates per million population by 2030. At the time of the presentation there were only 30 doctoral graduates per million. There was a need for a three-fold increase by 2030. This implied an increase from 1 420 doctoral graduates in 2010 to well over 5 000 a year.
Dr Mjwara elaborated on the concept of the NSI, which would be the main organising framework of SA’s STI policies. The real importance of the NSI as it developed was to ensure that countries moved from focusing mostly on just science, to a broader focus on science, technological development and innovation. A system of innovation was more than a science system but was rather a science system which produced and exploited knowledge for socio-economic development. For an innovation system to thrive, science/knowledge, human capabilities, healthy institutions and strong linkages between NSI actors and financial resources were required.
He gave the definition of the NSI and listed the actors involved, stressing that they all needed to work together. One of the ideas which the Department was driving in the White Paper was to work closely with local and provincial governments, as well as other government departments and international partners. He hoped that this gave the Committee a sense of what the NSI was.
The Department used the NSI to generate knowledge which was measured through a number of mechanisms --for example, the number of students who work with academics to produce publications. There were currently 14 centres of excellence used to drive knowledge generation capability. The Department looked at how it could utilise knowledge generation for the public good and for economic competitiveness. This was done through several agencies, including the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) which was supposed to work with higher education institutions to commercialise ideas. There were examples of the work being done in this domain and at some point, the Department would return to the Committee to report on progress.
STI should provide decision support for government. He gave the example of when government wanted to explore shale gas capability in the Karoo, the Department had put together scientists who were asked to provide scientific evidence as to how best to embark on the shale gas programme. The second example was on how to deal with climate change. A report was produced every two years on what climate change research says about SA and how it needs to respond. There was a vibrant programme to support small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) through technology stations which were attached to education institutions. There was also support for SMMEs in getting state contracts.
Dr Mjwara elaborated on the focus of the Department, which was to generate knowledge for socio-economic development. It provided scientific infrastructure to institutions, as well as providing and financing human capital in the form of funding to students and researchers, to support knowledge generation through publications and the training of post-graduate students. The Department tracked the way it generated knowledge through research and development (R&D) in certain key priority areas. This was measured through the knowledge transfer into industry, government and communities. There were certain outcomes and impacts the Department wanted to achieve. It hoped to have a spin-off from universities, and saw a good increase in the number of spin-off companies from some universities. The Department hoped that this would increase going forward. It also hoped that R & D would contribute to GDP and a reduction in imports. The Department paid attention to how it governed systems of innovation.
The National Research and Development Strategy (NRDS) was adopted by Cabinet in 2002, and the Ten-Year Innovation Plan (TYIP) was adopted by cabinet in 2008 and guided the Department up until 2018. Both documents were being reviewed by the National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI) as to whether the objectives had been achieved and what lessons could be learned. He would spend more time on the proposals from the new White Paper and how the Department hoped to implement those proposals. He would also comment on sectoral strategies which targeted how to increase manufacturing capabilities and how the work was related to supporting other government departments.
Recent studies showed progress in transforming frozen demographics, but it was not yet where it wanted to be. The National Research and Development Strategy (NRDS) identified technology missions and science platforms and proposed a target of 1% of GDP being spent on R&D, which was set in 2002.
The science platforms platforms which were identified as areas of geographic advantage therefore made sense to invest in for doing research and understanding these areas. The first area was astronomy, and the Department could share with the Committee at an appropriate time the investment and benefits - scientifically, economically and socially. The second area was in African origins platforms, where it had been identified that because of the fossil finds, SA could take advantage of doing internationally recognised research to fully understand where we come from as humans.
SA was the third most biodiverse country in the world, and the Department wanted to understand how it could harness this biodiversity and do research on what this resource was for the country. Indigenous knowledge systems were a huge untapped resource, and the Department could share the full portfolio, from preserving to exploiting knowledge in a sustainable way. SA was in a very interesting geographic space, with the Indian and Atlantic Ocean meeting below Bredasdorp. Antarctica was only a few hours away. This provided an exciting laboratory to do research to understand a variety of global phenomena, and this research could be done in SA. The Department had identified technology missions which included poverty reduction, advanced manufacturing and resource-based industries. He observed that SA had a unique mining sector, being one of the few countries which mined at depth, and therefore it made sense to invest in those areas.
The Ten-Year Innovation Plan of 2008 recognised additional areas which were not invested in. This included bio-economies due to the emergence of bio-technologies at the time. It also recognised that SA had space heritage as a resource, so it needed to invest in using space to generate economic returns. Energy was a big challenge at that time, resulting in investments in providing alternative energy programmes. Globally, climate change was a phenomenon that the Department wanted to get a full understanding of. The Department had recognised that SA was a unique society which should focus on understanding who it was. He was glad that it had started the work at that time, since one was now in a world where technology shaped society, and shaped how one lived differently. He felt that in consultation with the National Advisory Council, it could advance this area going forward. The Department would come back to the Committee once the review of these two documents had been done and would be happy to share the progress made.
Dr Mjwara outlined the reasons for updating South Africa’s STI policy and the megatrends shaping the global STI policy context. The justification was the Department’s review of performance since 1996, when it had embarked on the process of setting up a new White Paper. It had started to strengthen institutions in the science and technology system and discovered that there was a huge leakage of intellectual property (IP) that had been developed in SA. There was now an act which guided how those who develop intellectual property should try and protect it. The TIA helped the Department finance innovation across the system. The Department had also set up a National Intellectual Property Management Office (NIPMO), which worked with higher education institutions to assist researchers who intended to take ideas into the market place. There were several large-scale initiatives which could support new industry development. For instance, there was also an abundance of titanium and the Department had embarked on a pilot program to add value to it. There was a similar abundance of platinum. It had worked strongly with the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and wanted to see how this relationship could be used to develop and support industrialisation. It continued to advise government on how science and technology could assist.
He cautioned that scientific and technical knowledge was generated at certain institutions and not at others. The Department was looking at how to support other institutions to increase knowledge generation and publications. Human-centred design and transformation remained a challenge. He expressed concern that the Department did not always communicate the work it was doing and wanted to make sure it increased public engagement.
Dr Mjwara read the vision and objectives of the STI White Paper, as well as the policy intended for inclusive NSI governance. He supported the point made by the Minister about how to be compact in developing plans. The Department was in the process of developing a ten-year plan that would translate its policies into concrete proposals. It hoped to finalise this plan by the end of the current financial year and to share the plan with the Portfolio Committee. This would include timelines and how it would measure the indicators of success. He expressed his thanks to the National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI) for conducting studies to finalise the decadal plan, reviewing the previous White Paper and conducting foresight studies. The Minister had received these, together with the framework for the decadal plan. He stressed that the Department would use the lessons from the previous strategies and would also look at the landscape of the institutions and whether they might help the Department achieve its goals.
Annual Performance Plan
Dr Mjwara said the first part of the APP provided a strategic overview which he proposed skipping, as it was in the document. The APPs and strategic plan were implemented by entities overseen by the Minister. The APP was structured around five strategic outcome orientated goals which he listed. He proposed skipping the performance highlights, but encouraged the Committee to look at them in their spare time.
The performance information was presented, indicating that the Department paid particular attention to the public entities, with their APPs being approved by the Minister. It paid attention to making sure it had a strong audit and risk environment in the DST. There was a committee which identified and oversaw risk, as well as an internal audit and audit committee. These three committees ensured the Department had all the controls needed to ensure it used public funds properly.
As part of the Department’s communication strategy, it had set a five-year target of producing 104 media articles and hoped to write and produce 24 articles in 2019/20. It planned to have 10 public participation programmes that year, and was hoping to maintain its unqualified audit from the previous year.
For Programme 2, the Department hoped to fund 21 instruments in support of knowledge utilisation. It aimed to generate 149 knowledge outputs. It had targeted five strategic policy directives in designated areas of the economic sectors, with shale gas being an example. The Department tracked the number of new disclosures reported by researchers at the universities. It wanted to take this knowledge and protect it as the first step in taking these ideas into the commercial domain, and aimed for 220 new disclosures. It also provided support for using science in a regulatory environment, and worked closely with colleagues from the Department of Agriculture, Forests and Fisheries to provide decision-making support to ensure that South Africa entered the genetically modified organism (GMO) sector. He described the targets for support to post-graduate students and trainees, as well as knowledge application products and commercial outputs.
For Programme 3, the Department’s goal was to attract R440m into the science system from partners and supporters. The target for the amount invested by international partners was R280m. He listed the targets for SA students accepted in international training programmes; the number of international partner organisations collaborating with SA partners; and international technical exchanges and co-funded projects. The Department hoped to attract R90m to invest in African regional and continental research and innovation programmes. It participated in African Union (AU) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) programmes, and expected to have 17 this year. It aimed to support four intergovernmental and multilateral decisions and to have four international leadership positions occupied by South Africans.
The targets for Programme 4 dealt with the funding of post-graduate students and researchers, as well as the publishing of articles. In Programme 5, the Department would produce two biennial reports on climate change. It also had public awareness programmes. The Minister would launch a Science Week the following week, and the Department would look at the number of participants. It hoped to reach 2.1 million participants annually. He listed the targets for knowledge products, decision-support interventions, learning interventions and fully funded postgraduate students. He continued by listing targets for knowledge and innovation products, high-level research graduates, interns supported, and the number of instruments funded in support of localisation and competitiveness. There was an indicator on the Department’s ability to process R&D tax incentives to the private sector, and it aimed to achieve its target of having the decisions provided within 90 days for 80% of applications. The Department aimed to support eight rural and provincial innovation programmes and produce six statistical reports on how the system was performing.
The Department had a number of infrastructure plans, but this would be shared with the Committee in more detail, since the programmes were quite big. The financial overview showed a breakdown of the finances, but opted not to go through the details unless the Members were interested. The financial overview included the audited outcome for the previous two years, as well as the Medium-Term Economic Framework (MTEF) estimates for the following three years. It also showed a breakdown of the budget by item, such as the compensation of employees, transfers, and capital and financial assets. 92% of its budget was transferred to the entities.
Summary of highlights
The Chairperson asked the DG to summarise the highlights, as it was important for new Members of the Committee to have a sense of what the Department was doing. He also asked the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) to speak to the budget, since this was important for the Committee.
Dr Mjwara selected three innovation areas that he wanted to share with the Committee. It had established a medical devices and diagnostic technology cluster. This work involves several institutions developing medical devices and diagnostic technology to help with relevant quick diagnostics in the country. It also developed a tuberculosis diagnostic test at North West University. It supported a public-private partnership to develop active pharmaceutical ingredients at Silverton. It also developed a programme for producing enzymes using a bio-catalysis programme. There had been technology licence agreements that had shown that industrial enzymes could be developed in South Africa.
He elaborated on the Department’s hydrogen and energy programmes. In partnership with the Department of Energy, iLembe and the Harry Gwala district municipalities, a multinational company named CHEM, and a local beneficiation company named Bambili, field trials had been completed to power 500 households in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). The fuel cells would be produced using 50% local content, including platinum. The post office had approached the DST to help them with hydrogen and fuel cells to extend the range of the scooters used for deliveries. It had also developed a new low-cost battery in partnership with a German company. The Department also provided decision support around energy efficiency research it had been doing.
Dr Mjwara spoke about innovation projects, commenting that scientists or people with ideas were unable to get people to finance them. The Innovation Bridge programme was a portal which helped those with ideas to access finance and launch these ideas. In response to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the Department was setting up a platform for researchers who wished to work on applications of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, including the infrastructure to support new ways of manufacturing and healthcare. He referred to the launch of the ZACube satellite on 27 December 2018, which was manufactured entirely at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). It orbits from the north to the south pole, and helps monitor what happens in the ocean in support of the Ocean Economy. It had now funded two other satellites, both of which would be built in SA. In Hermanus, the South African National Space Agency’s (SANSA’s) Space Weather Centre provided space weather information for all flights that fly globally. It was the only African space weather initiative which provided information to the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
Performance highlights in astronomy included providing upgrades to a number of its instruments, especially the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT). It continued to provide teachers and science communicators for indigenous astronomy story telling. The MeerKAT telescope was launched in 2018, and the receivers were currently being installed to enhance its capability.
The Department was embarking on two programmes dealing with Fourth Industrial Revolution research. The first was a converging technologies platform. It had been designated to host a World Economic Forum (WEF) centre on the governance of 4IR. The Department was already at the demonstration phase of 3D printing work at the Centre for Scientific Research (CSR). A mining research programme had been launched to develop R&D to assist with better extraction and achieve increases in productivity. The Biomanufacturing Industry Development Centre supported 29 SMMEs to improve and increase their products so that they could get them into the marketplace. The Department worked to support local economic development programmes, which placed unemployed graduates to serve in municipal local economic development offices. It supported 20 municipalities in using a rural innovation assessment tool, to support the use of science and technology. The Grassroots Innovation programme was being redesigned to have a footprint in the provinces. One of the former beneficiaries had secured industrial development funding for a manufacturing facility in a rural Eastern Cape town.
Ms Pretty Makukule, CFO: DST, said that the resource allocation model had been the same over the years, but she anticipated that the model may change as the Department aligned its budget in 2020. Currently, the allocation model was that most of the budget went to the programme which was responsible for R&D support. Most of these funds were transferred to National Research Foundation (NRF), mainly for human capital investment and the Square Kilometre Array. The second biggest allocation went to the Socio-economic Innovation Partnership. The third biggest allocation went to technology and innovation. The support programmes – Administration and International Cooperation and Resources -- received the rest of the allocation.
The 2019/20 baseline budget had been reduced by R97 million. Over the next MTEF, the aggregated budget reduction would be R265 million. The budget saw a nominal value increase of 4.6%, which was below inflation. This was understandable, given that the economy had not been growing at a desirable rate. The 2020/21 budget saw nominal growth in the budget of 5.8%. This seemed in line with inflation, but there was an indication that the following year’s budget was being reduced. The 2021/22 budget also saw increases at below the inflation rate. How would the Department cope with a budget growing below inflation? It would ensure it improved operational efficiencies through technology and prioritise funds within the existing budget from areas where there were spending inefficiencies, towards priority areas. She stressed that in terms of audited outcomes, and the 2018/19 budget which was currently being audited, the Department had spent more than 99% of its allocation.
The Chairperson thanked the delegation, and told the DG and CFO that the next presentation on the budget must be more detailed and must include allocations to entities. In future it needed to be broken down, as it was at too high a level.
Prof B Bozzoli (DA) observed that the Minister had inherited two departments, one of which was essentially a welfare department which gave lots of money to poor people and paid very little attention to the rest of the operations of the sector. The Education Department was dominated by welfare requirements, while the DST was a developmental department dominated by the need to contribute to the initiative of developing the country. The DST had a much more progressive approach -- not in the sense of good verses bad -- but had forward looking and imaginative ways of connecting the Department to development. She did not feel that the presentation took this into account. The Department seemed to be thinking more about welfare and funding for students, and almost downplayed the developmental side, which was a huge worry. How would this be dealt with, especially in terms of budget constraints? The one Department was ten times bigger than the other, at R80 billion. If the R80 billion department squashed the R8 billion department, it would be the end of any developmental initiative. This needed to be seriously and consciously addressed. Was there a plan to address this? She was not convinced that moving towards a full merger was a good idea, because the larger Department would inevitably overtake the smaller one.
She suggested a solution, by moving all the student funding to the SA Social Security Agency (SASSA), which was a welfare operation. Let the DHET deal with how things run at universities and colleges. She suggested moving Community Education and Training (CET) colleges to the Department of Basic Education (DBE), as it was essentially at school level. The R80 billion department could be slimmed down by about R30 billion, which would protect the R8 billion department. She said that higher education had had massive increases in funding, while science and technology had had progressive decreases in real terms. She had noted the CFO’s comments about managing this through cuts and efficiencies, but felt that there was a limit to how much one could do this without damaging the Department.
A survey undertaken in 2018 showed that between 1996 and 2016, innovation in South Africa had been completely flat. She asked the DG to comment on this. She asked how much the Department was spending on consultants, which was small compared to other departments, but it was always a worry when consultants were being employed. She observed that most research chairs’ programme recipients were co-funded by other partners, with the partners dictating what research they did. Had this affected the Department’s ability to create chairs in areas that it felt were at the forefront of knowledge, rather than what self-interested funders felt were at the forefront?
Ms D Sibiya (ANC) referred to the mention of working with local governments, and asked how the Department planned on doing so.
Mr W Letsie (ANC) said he had noted the Minister’s comment on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, that all previous industrial revolutions had served mainly the rich and well off in this country. He hoped that the Department would disturb these patterns. He felt that they were on the nexus of the Fifth Industrial Revolution, and wanted to hear the Minister’s thoughts on this.
He asked for comments about fly-by-night colleges. He felt that with the targets mentioned, it would be difficult to achieve them while there were fly-by-night colleges. What was the plan to deal with these colleges?
Ms J Mananiso (ANC) commended the Minister for his overview. She felt that most people who got benefits from science and technology were well-off. The sixth Parliament should focus on the marginalised and ensure that they also got opportunities. She was happy to hear the Minister speak about rural development, youth and women. She suggested that the delegation should have touched on how it related to other Departments in its presentation, to ensure that young people benefited. She was concerned that the number of internships mentioned was too low. Improving stakeholder relations would help this. With more stakeholders, the Department could do more, and it should increase the number of internships. How would local government ensure that everyone learnt about the Fourth Industrial Revolution? How would the Department bring elderly people along into the Fourth Industrial Revolution?
Mr B Nodada (DA) asked how STI could be linked with basic and higher education in terms of curriculum, leading up to a discussion about the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Sometimes the Committee spoke about the Fourth Industrial Revolution, yet SA was still struggling with the second and third industrial revolutions. What was the linkage between the three in terms of that discussion? He had noted the different programmes in terms of astronomy, the green economy and the blue economy. Was there a conversation around refineries in the Department in terms of its strategic outlook, looking at sectors such as gold and diamonds? Was there a discussion about research around refineries?
He asked who did the Department’s research around the Fourth Industrial Revolution benefits. What was the involvement of the private sector in supervising post-graduates? When discussing the Fourth Industrial Revolution, what would form a large part of discussions in the Committee? How did one ensure that most of the country, still struggling with the second and third industrial revolutions, joined in the discussion of the Fourth Industrial Revolution? There needed to be a cross-cutting discussion with other departments about how to set this discussion up, and to link it in terms of getting the right outputs. Mention had been made of getting more pos-graduates, PhDs and researchers. How was this linked with Basic Education? Were the TVET colleges involved? Were the SETAs making a relevant contribution? How would this culminate into one department?
Mr P Keetse (EFF) expressed concern that the Chairperson had had to ask the DG to go back to a slide which had been omitted. This had been one of the most important parts of the presentation. It signalled a lot that was not being done, which was perhaps why the DG had decided to skip it. When one read those slides, most of the points centred on work in progress rather than work which had been achieved. He had a problem with the Department’s continued use of the term research, as if it was something to be applauded. Research was just asking a question and getting answers. Research on its own was not enough -- things needed to be done. In discussions about the Fourth Industrial Revolution, one got the sense that South Africans were waiting for technology to come from elsewhere. There was no hunger to have the production of innovation in SA, as it was always importing technologies. One of the objectives of the Department was equitable economic growth and enhancing service delivery. Very few of these objectives had been achieved. The Department could not constantly speak about research, especially when discussing the 4IR. He felt that the mining system in SA was old and risky, with people dying in mine shafts. There was no proper innovation to make mining safe and more efficient.
Mr B Yabo (ANC) commented that the Fourth Industrial Revolution may result in a loss of jobs. In a country like SA, which was already struggling with job creation, the adoption of certain technologies may fast track a further loss of jobs. He expressed concern that in the presentation there were no interventions around potential job losses. There were no plans around bridging the gap between the first and second economy, noting high levels of inequality in SA. How would this gap be closed, so that someone in rural KZN had the advantage of the uptake of information, innovation and technology? The knowledge economy must proliferate in all parts of the country, and he did not get a sense of this happening from the presentation. Perhaps the budgetary considerations were limited in trying to bridge those gaps. There was no sense that government was proactively taking an effort to support the creation of disruptive technologies. A case in point was that Facebook had been able to achieve what the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) wanted to achieve in 45 years, in six years. These were the types of things one wanted to see coming out of South Africa. Intellectual work should be able to achieve things which had been difficult for a long time. A deliberate effort should be taken to stem the negative economic growth the country had been registering. This Department sat at the cusp of being able to propel the economy by creating intellectual property (IP) which could be exploited for economic purposes for the benefit of the country. South Africa could be sitting on the creation of large industries on the back of a single idea which had been harnessed from cradle to grave. Developing and harnessing IP may help turn around Prof Bozzoli’s concerns about the different nature of the two Departments. The budget did not speak to any sustainable future for what the Department was trying to resolve and the social conflicts that existed. Innovation and technology must reach people in all areas of the country. The Department must get people from rural areas to be part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In some instances, South Africa was still in the second industrial revolution, and the gap had to be bridged.
The Chairperson observed that the topic of the Fourth Industrial Revolution was quite popular and would be the first topic dealt with at the next quarterly colloquium which would take place after the next recess. The Committee would invite the inter-ministerial committee to get them to participate. It would also identify a date for a thorough briefing about the White Paper.
Dr Nzimande thanked the Chairperson and Members for their questions and comments. He felt that Prof Bozzoli had raised an important point in terms of the size and scale of what the two departments did, which would need to be looked at. However, he did not feel that this ruled out merging. They would need to ensure that science and innovation would not be squashed under the overwhelming weight of higher education and training. He felt that higher education’s work was not welfare, but was developmental, as it was a way of investing in human capital. South Africa desperately needed to increase access to higher education. Who would one find for post-graduate studies, if one did not have undergraduates? The problem was that the focus had tended to be on undergraduates in the Department, as well as in the public mind and public discourse. TVET college skills were needed in abundance for meaningful participation in the 4IR. Funding higher education was not a welfare measure, but very developmental. The Department had been doing a lot to try and deal with fly-by-night colleges.
He disagreed with Prof Bozzoli’s conception of community colleges, which was old fashioned and outdated. It was incorrect that what SA adults needed was exclusively to finish school. The needs of SA adults were varied, and many of them wanted a basic skill to make a living -- this was what the research had shown. For example, a woman who left school may want skills in baking and cooking because she saw an economic opportunity. Basic education could not do this because it dealt with schooling. This was why the Department came up with the notion of post-school education and training (PSET), for those who had left school and were unlikely to go back. Putting community colleges under basic education would be throwing the colleges to the wolves.
A big weakness in the post-1994 education system had been adult education. The Department had not taken it seriously, partly through a lack of understanding. It had been felt that adult education could be an adjunct to the schooling system, which was not correct. He supported the idea of the colloquium, and the Department would support the idea and participate as much as possible. Some of the issues raised needed more time to be presented on. The concept of PSET was also something the Department would need to come back to, in order to deal with it more thoroughly.
Dr Nzimande agreed with Prof Bozzoli on co-funding, which was necessary since government could not sponsor all students on its own. Government would need the private sector to fully sponsor some students, the issue being that it should not allow a narrow agenda to dominate. Business would be concerned only about profitability.
He disagreed with Mr Keetse’s dismissal of research. Previous industrial revolutions were the result of scientific discoveries. There was no innovation without research. R&D was not a waste of time, it was fundamental. There was even a danger that the approach to innovation was simply by means of by-products, without realising where the research came from. This was why there were science councils. Some had argued that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) should become part of the DTI because of interest in its products which could be commercialised. This was important, but he felt that the CSIR must remain a science council.
He agreed with Mr Yabo’s comments about being on the cusp of a fifth industrial revolution. This was why everyone needed to be better informed to deal with this issue. He felt that there was a space for research. He was a big believer in basic research, including theoretical research. One could not have development without the development of theory. This needed to be funded and researched. There needed to be researchers unburdened by attending lectures, but unfortunately there was insufficient capacity. Good researchers were needed in class as well, but there needed to be space for people interested in doing research only. The colloquium was one platform to speak across departments. There was no use discussing it in isolation.
Dr Nzimande felt that community colleges could play a role in upskilling adults and elderly people to know how to use new technology. This was a potential function of these colleges. Anyone who wanted to learn something should be able to learn it at a community college. However, they were not there yet, but this was where they needed to get. Its original conception of community colleges in the White Paper spoke to this.
He responded to Mr Nodada, saying that his conception of education, science and technology was that it was one system, despite different departments. Knowledge and skills production should be approached as one system. If there were different departments, there was always the danger of creating silos. South Africa had one education system with different compartments and this should be the approach. He clarified that the Department supported a lot of work in trying to advance disruptive technologies. He gave the example of advances in hydrogen cells, but recognised that it was not enough because there were insufficient resources and human capacity. He concluded by stating that he appreciated critique and feedback from Committee members.
Dr Mjwara said the Department supported the colloquium, and should the Committee request it to come and present on the work it was doing, including its input on the future of work because of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it would be happy to do so.
Regarding Prof Bozzoli’s contention that innovation had been constant, he said that in late 2008, 2010 and 2012, a series of measures had been put in place around innovation. A survey had been done on the work of the National Intellectual Property management office, which had looked at the number of spin-off companies which had come out of the university system and what they were doing. The Department could show the number of patents that had been tracked since the introduction of these two policy levers, which gave them a sense of comfort that the Department was now beginning to turn the curve on innovation.
He agreed that there were not enough internship opportunities, but they were looking at demonstrating a model of how this could be done in the sector. The Department felt ready to ask others to partner with them on the internship programme. He suggested that the grassroots innovation programme be presented in full at a later date, including who the beneficiaries were and how the Department intended rolling this programme out.
He responded to Mr Nodada’s question about basic education and referred to the work done in Operation Phakisa on information communication technology (ICT) and the future of education. It was now having a discussion on how to introduce coding at institutions. He felt that private sector supervision was insufficient. There was a programme in government which was not administered by the Department which was designed as a human resource programme between the public research institutions as well as academics. It had been evaluated two years ago, but the feeling was that this was not enough. The White Paper was redesigning the relationship with the private sector to achieve higher involvement of research in the private sector, as well as supervising students who then spent time in the private sector. This went back to the point the Minister made about how to compact and partner with others.
He apologised to Mr Keetse for not giving the highlights, and clarified that it was not intended to undermine the Committee but had been done in the interests of time. He added an example of the Department funding research chairs dealing with poverty in South Africa. These research chairs were now advising the presidency on what the research was showing as the challenges. The work did not remain in research, but informed society. The Department was happy to share work done in the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) to show how research informed society and the private sector.
The Department would come with a presentation about disruptive technologies. It was putting together a consortium which would do quantum computing. The next generation of computing would not use chips. It was a big consortium, with South African researchers from the University of KZN, Wits University and the CSIR, which would work with the Department on developing this area. There were examples of areas of work being done at an early stage. SA’s natural resources include 80% of the world’s pure manganese. Batteries contain manganese, nickel and cobalt, and there was a pilot project to research a combination of nickel and manganese. If upscaled, SA could be at the leading edge of value-addition for these materials. However, there was not enough time to go over these details.
Mr Imraan Patel, Deputy Director-General: Socio-economic Innovation Partnerships, DST, said that all the questions required a longer presentation, and that he and the team would be making numerous presentations to the Committee in the following years. He clarified that the factory had been set up in Dimbaza, and this could be elaborated in full in a grassroots presentation. The Department worked with national, provincial and local governments in different ways. At the national level, it was mainly around very specific topics. It had strong relationships with the DBE and the Department of Mineral Resources. These were governed by memorandums of understanding (MOUs), and the Department tried to find common areas of focus.
It had been engaging with local government, and there had been a few good developments in the recent past. One was through strong support from the DST team. They had managed to institutionalise innovation as part of the local economic development agenda. It had started working with Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), because when the Department read the local economic development strategy, it felt that COGTA was going to be left behind. It had worked with COGTA to institutionalise a focus on innovation in the local economic development framework. There had been a workshop that COGTA and the SA Local Government Association (SALGA) had organised to talk about this.
The DST worked on building institutional capacity to deal with innovation. Increasingly, some local governments set up people who were specifically focused on innovation and worked with the Department. It provided support through the HSRC to look at the opportunities within particular areas. There was a very successful programme called the Innovation Partnership for Rural Development, which worked with a number of local governments to pilot and test new technologies in water, sanitation and energy. These things sometimes worked, and at other times they did not. This was how innovation worked. They worked with people to see what was possible, and to move from their own strategies on economic development. The Department worked with provincial governments on their strategies. Gauteng and Limpopo had developed provincial innovation strategies which were supported by the Department.
Mr Patel responded to questions about basic education. Through Operation Phakisa, it worked with the DBE on ICT in education. This was not just about connectivity, but also about using devices and what strategies to use. It had continued working with the DBE to look at how it could work with local and international partners on models for instituting ICT education. ICT could not be used in the same way for all topics and subjects, and research chairs were looking into this.
He felt that there was too much to share about the 4IR, but they would work with the colloquium. In the fifth administration, the DST and CSIR had been brought in to bring experts to the table. Work had been done on policy measures at the HSRC. The Department had worked with the World Economic Forum (WEF) on technology governance and with the DTPS around connectivity and other issues.
The Department had several programmes at all levels, but there was a need to focus on PhDs and Masters degrees, which built capabilities in robotics and quantum computing and the like. There was a data science programme to expose 90 students in a short-targeted programme. The Department worked with several of the coding players. He was pleased that there would be less for them to do in the future, since it had been acknowledged by a few provinces and DBE that they wanted to integrate coding into the curriculum. It had worked with many partners on the social compact concept, including Microsoft, Google and development banks, to establish youth innovation precincts where people would be able to touch and feel the technology. They also wanted to have access to training programmes.
A lot of work was being done internationally on how to deal with long-term learning issues through technology. For example, people who had not matriculated could play games to develop latent ability through technology or find out if people had an affinity for particular kinds of skills. Technology could assist in learning, and work was being done in the private sector on this. He felt that the Department should partner smartly with trades that were doing this and look at upscaling this in support of the President’s ambition to touch the lives of two million young people. He felt that this was possible if the partnerships were developed. He concluded by stating that there would be an opportunity in future sessions to share information about these programmes.
Ms Makukule responded to Prof Bozzoli’s question on consultants. The Department spent R34.7 million on consultaants, which constituted 6% of its national budget, and 0.4% of its total budget. The Department had implemented a consultant reduction strategy, as proposed by the National Treasury. There were certain criteria where it assessed what work needed to be done by the consultants, and compared this to the in-house capacity. This helped ensure it did not outsource work which could ordinarily be done by officials.
Ms Rebecca Maserumule, Chief Director: Hydrogen and Energy, responded to questions about fuel cell deployment in KZN. The DMR’s household electrification strategy had noted that around 10%, or 500 000, households would be off-grid. In response to this, the DST had done a study on where fuel cells could play a role in the electrification of off-grid households/communities. It had found that in the Eastern Cape, KZN and Limpopo, there were a few areas where it was appropriate to deploy fuel cells. This was based on the distance from the grid (between 10-12 km), the size of community and terrain. She highlighted the difficulty how difficult it was to drive in certain areas the Department visited, due to the terrain. After figuring out which areas were appropriate, it had been approached by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR), which had wanted to highlight certain areas where it thought clean energy would spur economic development. Harry Gwala had been chosen by the DRDLR about a year prior. It had also approached Department of Energy, and the DST had had to work with those districts which had a history of infrastructure deployment. Harry Gwala had a good history of receiving funds and spending them as per scope. Once a decision was made as to which areas would be focused on, it had met with the leadership in those areas at both district and local level, and had to get a decision from the council. She reminded Members that the infrastructure could be down for years, so it was a long-term commitment. A task team had been put in place, and the DST would bring the disruptive technologies and the funding towards them. She told the Committee that these areas had schools without plugs or wiring at all. The DoE would fund reticulation and lights, which would be part of the community, as part of their mandate. These households had never had electricity. The municipality assisted in hiring on-site community liaisons such as security guards to protect the infrastructure. The Department prioritised working with broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE) rated companies, and worked with global organisations only if they were willing to manufacture in South Africa. Those that were chosen for the demonstration were involved in manufacturing the Dube train port, which was close to those areas.
This was the first of many opportunities. In the future, the Department was expecting local manufacturing and jobs, particularly high-skilled jobs. It had prioritised areas with TVET colleges to train the college graduates as well as University of Technology graduates to work in the area for the maintenance and deployment of technology. There were discussions with local municipalities to expand the programme. It started with science, but had to look at the social ecosystem around deployment in support of the technology. Local innovation systems were critical, given that local government, rather than national, was at the coalface of delivery. The deployment of funds occurred at the local government level. The long-term goal was for even small municipalities to take up the disruptive technologies, and this was something the Department was serious about.
The Chairperson thanked the delegation for the responses. He reminded the Committee that this was a presentation of the APP, although there was a need for the Department to provide context. In the main, the presentation was about what the Department planned to do in the year ahead. He hoped that the next presentation would focus more on the targets. He criticised calling the funding of higher education a welfare activity. He felt that this showed a difference in ideological background, since some considered this developmental. The issue of the decline in budget allocations was concerning, since any economy must be able to fund R&D to develop new ideas and innovation. He understood that there were competing interests in the country and there was slow economic growth, but he felt that these were issues the Minister should investigate and convince Treasury, since Science and Technology was an important Department which did a good job.
He commended the engagement, and closed the meeting for a break before the next briefing.
Department of Higher Education and Training: 2019/20 Annual Performance Plan and Budget
Dr Nzimande said the DHET had adopted a new White Paper on PSET in 2013 which had been approved by the Cabinet. At the centre of the White Paper, and as part of the outcomes of the fifth administration, was the goal to achieve a skilled workforce to achieve economic growth in an equitable, non-sexist manner. There was a mandate contained in the NDP which this Department had been tasked with. The challenge the Department faced was that 82% of the budget goes to university education. Only18% goes to dealing with the rest of the needs for PSET. He stressed that this background was important to set the scene. Of all the students who write matric each year, only 12% go to university. A large number of young people were not in employment, or in education. If there was one national priority, it was to rapidly expand the college sector. He was deliberately saying the college sector, because the college sector needed to be expanded rapidly, particularly TVET colleges, if the number of young people sitting at home doing nothing were to be absorbed.
In the last few years the opposite had happened – large sums of money going to universities. Parliament had a joint battle. The university system must be grown smartly. It could not be that the large numbers of students on National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding were doing programmes which made them unemployable. The problem was that SA had a system like nowhere else in the world, where whoever qualified to go to university and was poor was given funding. Funding had to be given in line with development and economic objectives. Statistics for NSFAS would tell one that possibly 70 % of students on its funding were not doing any maths or science. Ideally, it should be the opposite. Virtually half of first year students fail. It did not mean that the Department was not doing anything. It had pushed a lot of resources into assisting first year students because of societal inequalities. Those were some of the contextual problems. Despite this, the Department had made lots of progress.
The Minister said that the DHET had a huge number of entities and a variety of stakeholders. He felt that it was important for the Committee to engage the stakeholders and entities so they had first-hand experience of what the entities were doing and not doing. This was why he was emphasising the issue of capacity for stakeholder management. During the 2015/16 “Fees Must Fall” period, the Department learnt some hard lessons about how it was not creative in meaningful stakeholder engagement.
It had put a lot of effort into the TVET college sector. Ideally, in a country like SA, there should be four TVET students for every one university student. In Germany, there were there apprentices for every university student. Currently, SA had four university students for each TVET student. The most common vacancy in many websites was fitting and turning, but the country was not producing qualified people in the numbers needed. He felt that co-founding was a good thing that the Department had done. These were called centres of specialisation for artisans such as brick layers, boiler makers, electricians etc. People did not believe that there was a shortage of welders in SA. The Department wanted coded welders who were going to be able to weld in sophisticated structures. SA imported welders for big products – 2 000 welders had been brought in a few years ago from Asia.
The other issue was work placement for TVET college students or graduates. It was a huge challenge, and the Department would like the Committee to focus on that. There had been some deliverables. The Department had improved its information gathering on skills. A draft regulatory framework for university fees had been produced. What had happened in the past was that the more NSFAS support was increased, universities would also increase their fees so that one hardly saw a difference. The Department was developing guidelines for student funding and NSFAS, which was now a bursary rather than a loan scheme. It was developing regulations to support and strengthen the TVET college sector and the capacity of community colleges.
He opted not to repeat the opportunities in bringing the two departments into a single portfolio, despite the dangers raised in the earlier discussions.
Mr Gwebinkundla Qonde, Director-General, DHET, said the Department drew its mandate from Section 29 of the Constitution, which he read. The 2014-2019 MTSF entrusted the Department with the responsibility of ensuring a skilled and capable workforce to support an inclusive growth path. It had developed a White Paper and a national plan for PSET. The national plan identified six goals which he listed. He also provided an overview of the PSET system. The staff establishment of the Department was 27 970, which included CET and TVET colleges as enshrined in the Community Education and Training Act. He clarified that universities were autonomous.
Mr Qonde presented the five-year goals of the Department’s current strategic plan from 2015-2020 and the areas of focus over the five-year period covered by the strategic plan. He also outlined the overview of the 2019/20 APP. The Department provided monitoring and support to institutions around infrastructure development and maintenance, given their limited capacity to roll out infrastructure. He listed the key delivery outputs of the Department in terms of the 2019/20 APP, and said it aimed to develop clear mechanisms in several areas. It would produce management information and statistics on the performance of the system so that it afforded the system and government an opportunity to use evidence to develop policies or determine the required interventions in the system. The Department produced reports to inform decision making in relation to policy, planning and institutional funding.
Mr Qonde elaborated on Programme3: University Education. He read the objective of the branch and the key NDP 2030 targets, which were aligned to the White Paper on PSET. The need for a new generation of academics was important, given the average age of academics was around 61. Interventions had been put in place to address this. He listed the key targets for the branch for 2019/20. The Department sought to guarantee that all tuition requirements and learning materials were fully funded, with accommodation and travel being subsidised in an accessible manner. The DHET had been assigned the responsibility of coordinating international scholarships. Other departments or municipalities would send students abroad, and would approach the DHET if there were problems. The ministerial statement on university enrolment planning for 2020-2025 sought to determine enrolment targets and other outcomes in the system, which were made in consultation with the councils of institutions. The University Capacity Development Programme looked at supporting institutions to ensure curriculum development and transformation at the institutional level, support staff development and provide support to students to ensure that they became acclimatised to the university environment and to provide psychosocial support for students on how to manage university programmes with respect to attendance, assignments, stress and time management, and study methods. There was a need to intervene to support students as they entered the system, given the statistics mentioned by the Minister.
Mr Qonde presented the performance indicators and targets to the Committee. He clarified that the figures were a year behind due to the need for them to be audited and the validated figures for 2018 would be received only in October 2019. He listed the university system performance indicators and read the actual numbers as well as the 2019/20 and five-year targets. He elaborated on universities offering TVET college lecturer qualifications. The Department had initiated a programme with all the universities since there was a need for a dedicated focus to train qualified TVET college lecturers. Three universities were rolling this programme out, while six were accredited. The DHET should reach its target of ten universities.
He felt that the Department was doing well with its university education system targets, and was already meeting its transformation targets. The target for the number of additional first-time black and female entrants to the academic workforce was a Departmental target. The actual number was as a result of each institution having its own targets in this respect. As such, it had exceeded its targets.
Mr Qonde read the objective and NDP targets for Programme 4, which focused on TVET colleges. The Department sought to address the need for lecturers who were qualified to lecture in TVET colleges through workplace exposure, so that what was being taught in class was informed by the needs of industry. He read the key targets of the branch for 2019/20. There was an aggressive drive to redesign the TVET curriculum towards occupational programmes which would afford students measurable exposure to the workplace. This would ensure graduates were ready to access employment or work for themselves.
The CET Act of 1996 stipulated that as much as colleges were not subject to the prescripts of the PFMA, they must develop policies which were not inferior to the PFMA. He listed the TVET system targets, noting the actual numbers as well as the 2019/20 and five-year targets. The workplace exposure indicator for TVET colleges had started in 2018, the intention being that after 2019/20 all TVET lecturers should undergo workplace exposure, but must be done in a way which did not disrupt teaching and learning.
Mr Qonde elaborated on Programme 5: Skills Development, spelling out the objective of the branch as well as the key NDP target and priorities for 2019/20. He outlined the key targets, explaining that it took three years to train an artisan. This year they would be finishing their third year. It was already achieving its target for new artisans for 2019/20, and the NDP target of 30 000 would be surpassed.
Programme 6 (CET) was a new institutional ‘child.’ The Minister had commissioned a study to look at the type of skills CET colleges should be training and producing. Initially this was under Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET). An adult may need to be trained not only in literacy and numeracy but would require a skill as well. This was the intervention in respect to developing this sector. Mr Qonde read the programme objective and key NDP targets, as well as details of what the DHET would be monitoring in the current financial year. The Department had developed a memorandum of agreement with TVET colleges with capacity to assist CET colleges to procure goods and services on its behalf. Many CET colleges did not have the policies and structures to undertake that responsibility. The Department was building that capacity continuously.
Enrolment targets were worked out according to the capacity of a college per province. There were more enrolments for general academic study. The Department wanted to change that picture to produce more skills than general academic programmes, to address the needs of the unemployed.
Mr Qonde explained the need for new national norms and standards, which would be a way of dealing with inequities inherited from the provinces, and to respond to these challenges. In April 2015, the national norms and standards for funding CET colleges were put in place as an interim measure when the function became a national competence. The Department had to undertake rigorous work to ensure the policy was published in 2019 for public comment. Disparities were reflected in personnel costs, with some people being employed on a permanent basis, with others on a contract basis. The new norms aimed to address this.
Programme 2 (Planning, Policy and Strategy) was about assisting the entire PSET system and to develop tools and systems to plan better interventions per sector. He highlighted the gazetting of proposed amendments to the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Act for public comment. The NQF Act could be used to promote skills. It was not merely a compliance mechanism, but was a tool to develop youth.
There had been development of a Master Skills Plan. The President had pronounced on key priority areas that the government should focus on. The question had been asked as to whether it could support all the key areas with the required skills, to implement programmes. The Department was analysing each key priority area and programme to determine which skills were required. It would continue to monitor, coordinate and improve the implementation of the work it was currently doing and ensure that research informed policy, planning and decision making. A lot of work was being done with Treasury to source funds, particularly for infrastructure.
Programme 1 (Administration) was more of corporate services function, ensuring that the Department was filling vacancies, resolving disciplinary cases timeously, and ensuring that its system processed valid invoices and paid creditors within 30 days. Another key target was to achieve an unqualified audit opinion, as well as approving a remedial plan on audit findings. The Department sought to improve on network connectivity uptime in the system.
Mr Theuns Tredoux, Chief Financial Officer: DHET, said he would look at three areas – the budget structure, budget trends over the past few years, and the Department’s allocations. The information was based on the budget information tabled by the Minister of Finance in February 2019. The Department’s budget consisted of two funding sources -- voted funds and direct charges. Voted funds consisted of the budgetary allocation through the National Revenue Fund (NRF), while the direct charges consisted of a direct commitment of the skills levy revenue collected by the SA Revenue Service (SARS) for the funding of sector education and training authorities (SETAs) and the National Skills Fund (NSF). He provided the Committee with the medium-term expenditure estimates for the two funding sources.
He described budget trends and presented the figures for the budget trends. He also read the budget trends in terms of the skills levy, and provided the skills levy allocations. The ratio was 80% for the SETAs and 20% for the NSF. The budget was dominated by university education, which represented 82% of the budget in 2019/20. This included the subsidy payments to universities and the NSFAS scheme. The budget was dominated by transfer payments. 111 institutions were funded or subsidised by the Department, from universities to TVET and CET colleges and public entities, including SETAs and the NSF. Transfers in total were close to 89% of the Department’s budget.
He emphasised that applying all the regulatory requirements, given the large amount of money and transfers was difficult, given the Department’s limited operational budget. He presented some of the figures for allocation per economic classification and details of transfer payments. He emphasised the substantial growth in NSFAS and university subsidies. The growth in TVET colleges included the infrastructural grant for them. He elaborated on the funding distribution, observing that in terms of normal operational expenditure, a mere R602 million was allocated to managing and monitoring the system. This was less than 1% of the budget. He concluded by stating that the Department had regularly raised these concerns with Treasury to ensure that there were sufficient funds for monitoring and evaluation.
The Chairperson said he was happy with the details in terms of the financial information provided by the DHET. The DST would have to return with its financials.
Prof Bozzoli said that the top jobs in demand were for management, not for artisanal skills. Had a study been done on what the shortage of artisans was? How many were needed? The 30 000 figure in the NDP seemed like a thumb suck -- had it been scientifically verified? She expressed concern that only 65% of artisans in the survey were employed. Was there really a shortage or artisans? Did they really know what the situation was? She expressed concern with the growth in budgets for university and TVET student funding, as the budgets were increasing without the number of students also increasing. This was especially true of the TVET sector, with very little increase in student numbers planned. Where was this money going?
She was worried about the lack of proper targets for SETAs. There were five vague “feel good” targets for every SETA, with no hard targets. How many qualifications would come out of each SETA, and at what cost? R18 billion was being spent on skills, in addition to the allocation to TVETs, but the Committee had no idea of what was coming out of SETAs, nor how many formal qualifications they were producing. When added to the TVET money, it totalled R30 billion. She felt that it was shameful that only four students were being paid to go abroad. The 100 top academics should all be getting international experience. The worst thing to do as a student was to do your first, second and third degree at the same institution.
Prof Bozzoli commented that the Department was predicting that the number of students funded by NSFAS would go down. They were only in the second year, but in the third year a whole new cohort of first years would need funding. The numbers should be going up, unless the failure rate among second and third year students was such that large numbers were dropping out. If this was the case, it was a real problem.
She suggested NSFAS should be its own pot of funding, with university subsidies being another pot, and TVET subsidies and SETAs being their own pots. This would give the Committee a clearer idea of how much was being spent in these areas. It was not true that 80% of funding went to universities -- the money went to students.
Mr Nodada expressed concern about the curriculum, and how to link the curriculum of the DHET and the DBE to science and innovation. The output would show that the integration was not as tight as they might want it to be. Higher education institutions were dealing with a 12-year problem, with students coming out of a basic education system that sets them up for failure, or with difficulty in accessing higher education. All three of these were linked together, whether one liked them or not. How did the basic education curriculum link with the higher education curriculum to achieve the desired science and technology outcomes? Doctoral graduates and people who could contribute to 4IR would not come out of nowhere. How did one best develop a linkage between these three sectors which would ultimately produce what was wanted? There had to be a link between what was being taught in the education sector and the skills the economy demands.
Mr Nodada criticised the funding of TVET colleges, giving the example of Lovedale TVET college, which was supposed to teach engineering. In the mechanical engineering classroom, one may find that the lecturer had a BSc in geography. If one was looking for information outside of the classroom, one would find that the library was outdated and there was no broadband. If the Committee was going to discuss radicalising the TVET sector, it needed to be honest with itself – should it put the funding behind it? Access was one thing, but in funding access, was there equality in that or were they setting them up for failure? Was it simply a case of broadening access in numbers? This was a curriculum discussion that needed to happen, to ensure that the skills taught at TVET colleges contributed to the economy, and that people were not being taught something which was incorrect or outdated.
Commenting on the university curriculum, he said that if a student were to study for a BEd, how many of the 26 institutions had a curriculum which was relevant for someone to become a teacher in the TVET sector or community colleges?. If someone were to be an educator at those institutions, were they studying what they were supposed to know? Would they acquire the skills and knowledge to transfer to the students? How was what one studied as an educator linked to being able to take that knowledge into the TVET sector? He mentioned someone who studied Biblical Studies who was teaching agriculture in the TVET sector. There were unqualified educators occupying positions merely because they needed a job. This was why 30% of NSFAS students were not studying anything channelled towards maths, science and innovation.
Mr Nodada agreed with Prof Bozzoli’s suggestions about funding. He had noted the Minister’s comments about fully funding tuition and books, but providing subsidies for housing and transport. These were essentials for any student. He compared a student at a college at Mount Frere with someone at Nelson Mandela University. The accommodation allowance of the student at the TVET college would be different, as if they were staying in different buildings or a different country. Similarly, there were differences in transport allowances, despite them having to use the same modes of transport. Broadening access was one thing, but the unfair allocation of funding to students could result in high dropout rates and unemployment.
He asked how the 27 970 staff in the DHET was broken down to service the institutions the Department served? He concluded by asking what accountability and reporting mechanisms for measuring the outcomes of SETAs the Department or Committee had, especially given that SETAs had a bigger budget than CET colleges. How did the Committee know which skills they had developed in line with whatever policy document? If one sector was left lingering and said they needed to do it on their own, the sector would find itself in trouble. SETAs must begin to incentivise the private sector to identify which skills were needed in the market and link that space within the Department with the private sector so that there were measurable skills. Within the higher education space, the issue of entrepreneurship needed to be looked at as a skill on its own. Young people did not always want to rely on the state for some sort of survival tool. but would rather prefer to survive on their own.
Mr Keetse asked about the six universities which were offering qualifications for producing TVET lecturers. There was a big problem with lecturers in the TVET sector, with instances of someone doing an N6 qualification lecturing N3 students, which was unacceptable. If the Department was serious about producing skills, it needed to take skilling the lecturers very seriously. There needed to be discussions about the type of education TVET students were receiving. He noted the proposal to expand the TVET space, which he agreed with, since there were very few prospective students who got to institutions of higher learning after matric. Many graduates in TVET colleges still did not have access to their certificates or qualifications.
He felt that the Committee needed to play a bigger oversight role on TVET colleges, since some of them were literally collapsing. WiFi and computers were sophisticated things for some TVET colleges, with some struggling with bathroom facilities and switches. Infrastructure remained a big problem.
He agreed that research was important, but stressed that work should not end in research. He suggested research be done on the education system’s relationship with the development of South African education. The Department could not always pump money into an education which created people who were unemployed. This did not assist anyone. He agreed that many NSFAS-funded students were doing courses which were insignificant, yet government continued to pump money into these courses, which did not help the country. The curriculum needed to be looked into. How would the country move swiftly into a decolonised education? If the education remained as it was, the Department would spend money for nothing. He felt that the number of electrical engineers far exceeded the number of posts advertised.
Mr Keetse urged that the allocation of NSFAS funding needed to be investigated, especially around late payments. When students failed, there was a perception that they were not serious or were wasting money, even though they may have received their funding very late in the year. He felt that the centralised way NSFAS operated was a problem, since students would constantly be referred to the NSFAS national office in Cape Town. The funding allocation model must be improved so that students received their money on time.
He felt that stakeholder relations needed to be improved. There was a big gap between student leaders and the Department. He did not think that the Department appreciated the work of student leadership, where some of the work was done on behalf of the Department. He gave an example of student evictions from landlords of accredited student accommodation because NSFAS was unable to pay. Students were kicked out in the rainy season. Whose responsibility was this? Who must ensure that the money was available on time? Student leaders were called on in the middle of the night to intervene. The relationship between the Department and student leaders must be strengthened. It should not be treated as a cat and mouse type of relationship. There did not need to be a perception of students being unreasonable, and student leadership could assist in this regard.
Ms Mananiso felt that TVET colleges should be professionalised as much as possible. She said the target of 100 additional black or female academics should include people with disabilities. There had been mention of developing mechanisms and policy on gender-based violence (GBV), and she suggested that a policy be developed on gender transformation, as GBV was just one component of gender transformation. She asked for a report back on the students who had recently returned from Cuba. What was the Department doing to deal with violent student protests and the destruction of property at TVET colleges? What tools were being used to evaluate whether higher education was on the right track?
Ms N Mkhatshwa (ANC) agreed with the expansion of TVET colleges to make them more effective. There was a need for funding beneficiaries to enrol for classes which suited the economic needs of the country -- what was being done in this regard? In terms of social inclusion and social cohesion, how was the Department following through on the calls for decolonisation at universities? She was hoping for a national perspective on what decolonised higher education would look like in South Africa. How was the central application system working? If it was not working, what was the way forward? She expressed concern about 82% of the budget going to funding, yet the higher education system was not working. She felt that the call for young black women to enter academia should be extended to include them in university management, since those governance structures were very patriarchal and very white, particularly at the historically white universities. She asked for an update on the sexual harassment and sexual violence task teams at universities. She suggested giving free bus tickets to alleviate the pressure on funding. Could there be more spaces, possibly at CET colleges, for students to catch buses to their higher education institutions for free. The Department needed to be more imaginative in creating dynamic ways of finding solutions for the education system.
The Chairperson said he hoped the delegation was making notes.
Dr Nzimande said the Department would note all the questions and would come back to the Committee to provide more information. He clarified that merely giving information would not satisfy everyone, so the Department needed more time to come back with more information and provide an opportunity to engage with it.
Mr Qonde replied to the issues around the TVET colleges. When the Department approached these sectors, it would be a little unfair to paint all TVET colleges with the same brush. It would help to categorise them as the Department had done. Some TVET colleges were doing excellent work in training and financial management. However, there were TVET colleges with challenges, and others with very serious challenges in terms of capacity and capabilities.
He said that NSFAS was not doing well. There were three areas of challenge. One was the capacity of some institutions to administer NSFAS at the institutional level. The second was the incompatibility or unsuitability of information provided by students to process payments. Thirdly, there were issues related to incapacity at NSFAS, and therefore it was under administration. He highlighted instances where incorrect information or changes in information were not reported to NSFAS. In some instances, at some institutions, the management and support to students was pathetic. The Department, along with NSFAS, had visited institutions with pertinent problems one by one. These issues were being resolved. Some programmes the students were insisting on for funding were not programmes which were funded. Others had discrepancies between the registration at the NQF level and what the institution was offering. Again, the Department was assisting the institutions with this.
The Minister had highlighted the question of centres of specialisation with a view to changing the curriculum regime of TVET colleges. Members of the Committee could visit the 26 TVET colleges where this programme had been rolled out to see for themselves what the nature of the programmes were, so it could build on that with a view towards a more targeted focus in the deployment of programmes.
The Department was interacting and collaborating with the DBE and DST and aligning programmes in many respects. This related to training and the development of school teachers. It aligned the curriculum with schools and TVET colleges. It reviewed its policies at the TVET college level to align them with the DBE. It worked with the DSI on post-work programmes. It assisted the Department with research to inform policy interventions in the system.
Mr Qonde clarified that there were many engineering fields, not just electrical. It would be important for him to get the details from Mr Keetse, to work on making an impact.
He said that SETAs were established in terms of the Skills Development Act. The Department enters into service level agreements with SETAs with respect to the targets it feels the SETAs should be focusing on and the skills they should produce, which was informed by the Department’s own research. SETAs work was informed by the Skills Development Act. It monitored the work of SETAs, but he acknowledged this may not be adequate.
Regarding the funding of TVET colleges, the Department had assumed responsibility for TVET colleges in April 2016, and had made a presentation to the Committee then about the baseline in terms of what it had inherited. At that time, 80% of funding was from the government, and 20% was from fees. Out of that funding, the Department was able to fund at 54%, with colleges having to fend for themselves to make up the shortfall. These were the engagements which had happened in government. In the current financial year infrastructure, which had never been a feature of TVET college funding, had been included. The Department was monitoring the impact it should be making in the utilisation of those funds.
Dr Diane Parker, Deputy Director-General: University Education, said that there were seven universities accredited to offer TVET lecturer programmes. There were 13 institutions getting accredited to offer these programmes, and they were working with the TVET colleges. There was a policy in place around the minimum requirements for TVET lecturers, which enabled the Department to support the development of the curriculum for the lecturers so that it was in line with what was needed. She felt that it would be helpful to send reports to the Portfolio Committee.
There had been a recent lekgotla with a major focus on entrepreneurship development. The New Generation of Academics Programme (NGAP) had been developed and supported new academics. Everyone on those programmes was supported in terms of mobility, international experience and networking. She concluded by elaborating on enrolment planning, and said the Department looked at the skills required by the country and engaged with universities on that. The places available at universities were linked to that process.
Mr Zukile Mvalo, Deputy Director-General: Skills Development, DHET, commented on artisan employment levels. According to the quarterly labour review, the biggest number of people were employed in artisanal trades, which showed the biggest growth in employment when comparing the fourth quarter of 2017 to the fourth quarter of 2018. A study by the HSRC confirmed that the country needed artisans, with around 70% of those trained in artisanal trades finding employment.
Ms Aruna Singh, Chief Director: Programmes and Qualification, DHET, said that the curriculum was incredibly important. The best way to conceptualise this and make it meaningful was to look at learning pathways for those with matric, and for those without matric. At grade 10, young people must take a decision on what subjects to do, and this could be used to stream students. The Department used a culture-intuitive approach, going to schools in certain areas and asking who the highly performing students were. Students with problem solving skills would be needed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. There were initiatives to form some sort of modelling to do those different pathways from the schooling system into TVET colleges, and then the workplace.
She confirmed that TVET students received lower allowances than university students. In 2017, the Department had made the biggest strides towards aligning the allowances. It had managed to get them as close as possible with the available budget, but it did not have the budget universities had to disburse to students. Increasing the amounts disbursed could result in fewer beneficiaries. In 2019, every qualifying TVET student gets at least two allowances – either an accommodation allowance and a personal allowance, or a travel allowance and a personal allowance. There was an attempt to close that gap. Lecturer quality in TVET colleges was concerning, but the Department needed to find a regular flow of TVET lecturers from the universities.
A DHET official gave details of Department officials. 16 690 were in the TVET colleges, and 9 632 were in community learning centres. At head office, there were 1 670, and there were employees at the provincial and district level supporting the CET colleges.
Dr Nzimande suggested that there needed to be anther colloquium on decolonising education. It had been a slow burn, and he had hardly heard the content of it. The Committee needed to tackle this issue and start to set benchmarks. What did one mean when one talked about the decolonisation of the institutions? A lot had been done around TVET colleges, but there were bigger systemic issues. One intervention was infrastructure, and the expansion of delivery sites or campuses. Another was ICT, as well as the training of lecturers. These were significant interventions in the TVET sector. The President had felt that the government needed to zoom into each of the 44 districts and see what was happening in each. What institutions were there? What offerings were there? It may be better if interventions were guided by what was happening in the districts and municipalities.
The Minister said that he knew of no other country in the world which had expanded university education to full time students with food and books -- even Cuba. Cuba had expanded university education by using existing infrastructure for afternoon and evening classes for workers. Other universities utilised the blended learning model to increase online education. Wanting to expand higher education by providing all these things would slow progress. The Department needed to think creatively and open the discussion about the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
He felt that the Department was unfairly criticised about employment. It had a role to play in producing students who were work-ready, but the employment of people who had left institutions was no longer its responsibility. He referred to the nature of the economy and the high number of retrenchments. The Portfolio Committee had a duty to look at the entire chain. What contribution could the Department make towards employment? What could the Ministry of Labour do? He lamented the fact that blame was levelled at the government and not at the capitalist system. South Africans could not blame only the government for unemployment. Part of the reason the Department was not producing work-ready TVET graduates was because it could not get work placements.
He acknowledged Mr Keetse’s comment about the gap between the Department and students, but hoped he would have provided ideas. It had been a criticism levelled at the Department for years. Social cohesion at universities called for innovation. How did one solve the problems in the country? How did one improve accessibility? Students may want to stay in university education because the situation at home was bad. The suggestion of having students use community colleges for internet access was the kind of creativity and ideas the Department needed. He reiterated that the Committee should hold the Department to account, but it also welcomed ideas.
The Chairperson thanked the Minister and the delegation from the DHET for their responses. The Parliamentary term had only just started, so there were a lot of ideas. The Committee had five years to go. Members would be inducted into the Committee on 17 July, and from there it had identified colloquiums as a platform for the sharing and contestation of ideas, and as a platform for the Committee, government and civil society.
He welcomed debating the notion of decolonising education. Some of the issues raised had not been responded to, but the Committee would engage with the Department. He agreed that the TVET sector needed to be expanded, and the issue of insufficient lecturers at TVET colleges needed to be resolved. NSFAS had to be discussed at some point so that the late payment of student funding could be resolved. The Committee needed to do oversight of all the entities in the Department, and it would have to see how to progress. There were many entities, and it could not invite them all to Parliament.
He concluded by agreeing that a stakeholder relations capacity needed to be developed.
The meeting was adjourned.