The Department of Basic Education (DBE) described its fourth quarter performance as a slight improvement in things achieved, but a vast improvement in how things had been done. It provided details of its achievements, with a particular focus on the incorporation of Early Childhood Development in the DBE, and how the transition would be managed over a period of more than two years.
The Committee was told that service delivery protests had resulted in school closures, with children being prevented from attending school and school assets being destroyed. The Department encouraged the involvement of the community in school activities in the hope that they would identify with the school and desist from disruptive protest action. It had also urged schools to report rumours of possible disruptions as a preventative measure, along with the fencing of their facilities.
Another challenge involved the provision of school infrastructure, with community members -- predominately in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape -- mobilising against non-local contractors that were being sourced by the DBE. In some cases, community members had demanded a ‘fee’ from non-local contractors. The Committee suggested political intervention in this regard.
Members expressed appreciation for the DBE officially stating on the record that they were committed to the comprehensive sexual education (CSE) programme. The Department had indicated that the evidence of CSE around the world had shown that delaying sexual education increased the probability of children engaging in sexual activity. Teaching abstinence was insufficient, as children were unlikely to abstain when they were told to, so they needed to be taught about safety around sexual activities. Teaching CSE and safe sex reduced teenage pregnancies.
Members expressed concern over comments by the Gauteng Member of the Executive Council (MEC) regarding the schools’ language policy, and the Western Cape MEC regarding school safety measures. They were also not happy with the sexual connotations of the DBE spokesperson’s “Read to Lead” campaign. The Department said it would investigate and take action on these issues.
DBE: Fourth Quarter Performance Report
Mr Hubert Mweli, Director-General (DG): Department of Basic Education (DBE) presented the fourth quarter performance report, and commented that there had been a slight improvement in targets achieved, but a vast improvement in how things had been done.
The Department had printed 61 424 745 workbooks for Grades R to 9, Volumes 1 and 2. A total number of 59 392 645 (96.69%) of Grades R to 9 workbooks had been delivered to 23 353 public schools. The printing and delivery of Grade 1 second additional language toolkits had been completed.
Early Childhood Development (ECD) had moved from the Department of Social Development to the DBE. Of the 42 000 Early Childhood Development (ECD) practitioners targeted to complete the on-line training programme on play-based learning, a total of 78 327 had registered and 54 068 had completed the course by 1 March 2019.
11 vacant posts had been filled, including the key post of Director: Logistical Services. Interviews for the Deputy Director-General: Teacher Development, had been held and the Cabinet Memorandum was submitted. Posts had been put on hold to give the new administration a chance to be part of the senior management. The Department currently had a total of 47 candidates placed in internships and learnerships.
School visits and desktop monitoring for the Incremental Introduction of African Languages (IIAL) had been completed in all 20 schools. The report had been prepared and submitted. The Reading in African Languages (foundation phase) manuals for IsiZulu, IsiXhosa, Siswati, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana had been finalised and submitted for design and layout.
The Second Chance Matric Programme (SCMP) had facilitated development of the self study guides in all home languages for distribution to 74 centres. It had targeted to reach 25 000 learners in all phases, but more learners (64 062) had been supported to complete the National Senior Certificate.
An Early Learning outcome measure on school readiness for Grade 1 had been conducted, and a memorandum of understating signed with a partnership agent.
Third quarter performance reports for all six conditional Acceleration Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) grants had been submitted to National Treasury, and a performance review meeting had also been held with Treasury
A total of 18 schools had been monitored on the provision of nutritious meals. On 26 February 2019, the DBE had partnered with the Centre for Social Development in Africa (CSDA) at the University of Johannesburg and the Tiger Brands Foundation to convene a learning forum to expand the provision of breakfast to learners who currently received the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) meal.
The content, lay-out and design of scripted lesson plans on comprehensive sexuality education educator guides and learner workbooks had been finalised for Grades 4 – 6 and Grades 10 -12. The Eastern Cape and Northern Cape had conducted comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) on-line training for educators in February and March 2019. The DBE had also developed a guide for learner support agents (LSAs) and schools on providing psycho-social support to learners.
A new issue had arisen in communities predominately in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and the Eastern Cape, where community members had mobilised against the non-local contractors that were being sourced by the DBE. In some cases community members had demanded a ‘fee’ from non-local contractors. The DBE, however, had been strict with tenders.
Impact of President’s SONA
The President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) had been significant, as it had compared 2014 to 2019 to highlight progress areas. The 2019 SONA had indicated that ECD was the focus, and that the DBE was developing a concept note that would provide more clarity on ECD under the DBE. The mandate, however, was to proceed with the process towards two years of compulsory ECD for all children before they enter Grade One. Early grade reading and counting would be foundation skills. Emphasis would be on the training of educators. The removal of pit latrines in schools across South Africa would lead to better sanitation. The need for better implementing agents was stressed, as contractors were hired and paid but little was done due to a lack of oversight by the implementing agents.
A rapid review of coaching courses had been completed. Draft norms and standards for coaching were under development. A professional development course for literacy coaches was being put together. The first cohort of coaches and subject advisors would be trained through this course during 2020.
In response to the SONA call, “We also have to prepare our young people for the jobs of the future,” the DBE was introducing subjects like coding and data analytics at the primary school level. It had developed a framework for the development of a curriculum for digital skills that included coding and robotics. The writing of the coding and robotics curriculum for Grades R – 9 had commenced in March, and the curriculum for Grade R-3 had been, with Grades 4 -9 being completed in June. The DBE had interpreted the ECD function shift to entail taking responsibility for overall leadership and coordination, so it was of the view that Sections 92 and 94 of the Children’s Act needed to be transferred to the Minister of the DBE immediately. Certain sections of the Children’s Act, however, may need to be shifted to the DBE in the future, once the Department was ready to take over those functions and the liability involved.
Ms D van Der Walt (DA) said that according to the presentation, the ECD had opened online registrations and had expected about 42 000 applications. However, it had received 70 000 applications with approximately 54 000 completing the online training. To receive almost double the expected applications was an achievement. The concern was that there were still many non-registered ECD practitioners. What was the Department doing to ensure that more people got on board to do training? The Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) targets that had not been met was an incredibly serious matter, as ASIDI had been running for a number of years. She understood the issues faced in the Eastern Cape and KZN, as she had visited some of these schools in her constituency, but at some point political interventions were needed as adults were causing trouble and children were suffering due to the lack of schools, desks and classrooms. “Children need to get to school and adults must go and protest somewhere else.” People needed to get into the technical schools where they lived to acquire the skills needed in their areas.
She said the Member of the Executive Council (MEC) in Gauteng had said on 702 Radio that a decision had been taken in Parliament that there was no language policy in schools anymore. Thus, up until September, schools had to meet with parents in order to decide on a language policy. This had not happened in Parliament, and schools could not stop a policy until a new one was adopted. How could there be no policy in Gauteng? Many promises had been made which had never been met, such as 800 schools getting desks. How were the SONA promises being monitored and the executive held accountable for these promises?
Ms N Tarabella-Marchesi (DA) asked when an organogram would be made available to see what vacancies had been filled and those that were still available. What roles were interns being hired for in the Department? It seemed coaches were doing a lot of work, but it seemed their work was for short periods and was not constant assistance given to teaching reading. It was supposed to have been rolled out in 600 schools -- how would it continue to be rolled out? Was it in a pilot stage? Programme two referred to the SCMP, and apparently the Minister had dropped the multiple examination opportunity. Was this true? The distribution of self-study guides had exceeded the initial target of the Department, but how many had actually been targeted? Did the Funza Lushaka teacher bursary programme get funding from NSFAS? Would ECD practitioners get bursaries and opportunities to study? How much of the budget funds social cohesion -- and what was social cohesion basically? Communities closed down schools, which was a huge issue that was part of South African history. The Department should see this as an opportunity to educate the community. Learners that came through the schools became perpetrators that burned schools down. They needed to be taught respect and the responsibility to look after schools so that later on they were not perpetrators. She also wanted to know if decolonising the curriculum entailed the entire curriculum, or just the history component.
Mr P Moroatshehla (ANC) asked how the DBE was working with teachers with rare skills in order to retain them, as the private sector attracted them with high salaries after they had been developed through the Department. Regarding infrastructure, it had been highlighted that some communities, such as in the Eastern Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal, wanted local contractors, and this called for the wisdom of consultation rather than imposition. Labour peace was necessary. Service delivery protests were regrettable, as they could not be the baby of the DBE. Politicians had to bear this brunt as well. Safety in schools was a societal matter, but it was also a DBE priority. What could improve safety was fencing, as it enhanced discipline. He asked who was supposed to remunerate school security guards, especially at non-fee paying schools.
Mr S Ngcobo (IFP) said Grade R was being absorbed into the mainstream, and asked when the Committee would see something tangible in this regard. While the Department was spending resources and time assisting poor performing districts, the manner in which most district directors got appointed was the reason why it was facing its current issues. The Department needed to make sure people being appointed into these positions were of quality, with the necessary experience, and were capable of running their district.
Ms M Sukers (ACDP) said that children were not being placed in schools because there was no space in township areas, whereas privileged schools did not accept children from disadvantaged areas although their class numbers were much smaller than schools in disadvantaged areas. With protest issues the DBE was faced with, were there any community intervention programmes which it was embarking on? She expressed appreciation for the Department officially stating on the record that they were committed to the comprehensive sexual education (CSE) programme. What were the requirements for CSE specifically when it comes to life orientation?
Mr E Siwela (ANC) said the Funda Lushaka bursary scheme seemed to have a slow uptake, and asked for a reason. Was it due to a shortage of funds, or a backlog due to the hiring of educators? Would the DBE be able handle the function shift in the prescribed period of two years? Educational management information systems equipment had been installed but was not running. When would the switch over occur?
Ms C King (DA) said the Committee had not received the report on the outcome of teacher assessments in maths, accounting and English, and what had been observed. Who audited the Department’s workbooks, as she had personally identified mistakes in Grade Three maths workbooks? She was pleased about the assessment for Grade Ones on entry, as it would allow teachers to know what to focus on for each learner. However, it would be better to administer this assessment at pre-schools. CSE was a hot topic. When and how had the public been informed of the curriculum content, and what had been their response? Pyscho-social services were important, but it seemed that educators were unable to cope with the socio-economic barriers, so the workbook was welcomed. Had it been introduced in hot-spot schools where crime and bullying was on the increase? With intellectually disabled learners, the Eastern Cape had returned over R6 million, yet they were in the news, promising to build three special needs schools -- but had said they did not have the money. What consequences would be put in place on provincial education departments that returned conditional grants? Had a pilot project been run on the breakfast programme, and had a costing been done to determine how much government could and would spend? ECD was starting to go into the right direction. Would the budget for the nutritional programme be able to cover the ECD learners as well? The SONA said there was a need to prepare learners for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and increase the retention rate of learners, but the DBE did not give computer skills, so how would they implement robotics and coding? It did not seem that quintile one, two and three schools would benefit.
Ms N Adoons (ANC) said that politicians needed to exercise political will and mediate with community members that were burning and looting schools. Unfortunate incidents had happened where learners were involved in motor accidents, and there had to be a meeting with other departments to resolve this issue that communities face. With the 11 new subjects introduced in technical schools, could the DBE elaborate on the plans to ensure there were teachers, equipment and other resources for these new subjects? With ECD being part of the DBE, would they also be transferring the budget to the DBE?
The Chairperson believed that infrastructure was an issue that would never be 100% solved, as there was always room for improvement, but where it could be worked on, it must be. The environment needed to be conducive for children. The issue of the DBE spokesperson’s use of scantily clad women to promote reading needed to be addressed not only by an apology, but with the necessary action. She had seen an interview with the Western Cape MEC on the issue of school safety, and she had given a careless and very arrogant response that must be condemned.
Mr Mweli said that 67% of Funza Lushaka bursaries had been rolled-out. The diagnostic report to which Ms King had referred, was intended to be anonymous.
Dr Mamiki Maboya, Deputy Director General: Basic Education, said only 54 000 applicants had completed the ECD online programme training. They had a rigorous advocacy programme that was aimed at mobilising practitioners to complete the course. With the function shift of the ECD, the DBE would be able to get more practitioners to participate and complete the training. With regards to the coaches, the DBE was developing a course for coaches, with the understanding that coaching was a specialised skill. Graduates from the course, heads of departments (HODs) from schools and existing coaches would be absorbed by the DBE to increase the pool of coaches. They were developing norms and standards for the criteria for the selection of these courses. It was still a pilot project which the DBE hoped to implement as a programme.
25 000 second chance learners had been targeted for self-study guides, but they had given more learners self-study guides.
Decolonising the curriculum was no longer restricted to the history aspect only. The content of the curriculum, how they assessed learners, and a whole range of other issues would be looked into.They had introduced Incremental Introduction of African Languages (IIAL) in schools that did not previously offer African languages as a mechanism for decolonising the curriculum.
Dr Granville Whittle, Deputy Director General: Basic Education, said that absorbing Grade R into the DBE would be a process, as it included the three years of schooling before grade one. The DBE had adopted a hybrid model that includes a comprehensive package of support. The DBE wanted 99% of Grade R facilities to be schools or registered centres by 2024, and all four-year-olds being registered in a centre or school by 2030. The function shift of the ECD to the DBE would happen systematically and would take longer than two years.
A panel of specialists audited the workbooks to ensure that they were aligned with developments made in the curriculum. The particular grant which the Eastern Cape had under-spent by R6 million had been used in such a way that even special schools could benefit from this grant. The budget was mainly for the compensation of employment, which included itinerant employment such as therapists. The grant was limited to a particular period of time, which was an issue for many provinces as their itinerant employees were hired over a contactual period. The DBE had raised this with National Treasury who had since resolved this matter.
The ECD was currently being subsidised by about R15 per child per day for nutrition. When the DBE takes over, they would merge these programmes with the pre-existing programmes and funding.
Robotics and coding was a new subject, and there were proper plans that would cover the issues of teacher training and resource allocation. Different models were available, with desktop studies nationally to ensure that poor areas would have access. The DBE was monitoring teacher training for the 11 new technical subjects being introduced. A maths, science and technology grant was being utilised to ensure that all high schools were equipped for the highly practical nature of these subjects.
Ms Palesa Tyobeka, Deputy Director General: Basic Education, said that directors were appointed on the basis of competency assessments and their track record. This had been taken a step further by applying these assessments to existing directors. Circuit managers were being employed on the basis of relevant experience in schools, and a successful track record of managing schools.
Regarding disruptions at schools, all districts and schools had been asked in the first quarter to meet with the community to involve them in the school before an incident occurred. The DBE had compiled a register of the relevant number of incidents in an area as a means of incident management.
Mr Paddy Padayachee, Deputy Director General: Basic Education said that serving breakfast in schools was a pilot project and was being run in Gauteng and the Western Cape. It was funded by the DBE. Of the R15 that was subsidised for ECD, R65% went toward nutrition. Psycho-social support had about 3 000 LSAs across the country. The DBE was creating a standardised job description and wage.
The DBE was trying to make budget available for guards at schools that were in high risk areas and predisposed to crime,. Fencing had been prioritised in the last five years.
The DBE worked creatively with multiple partners to achieve its mandate, such as the Tiger Brands Foundation that helps to provide 95 schools with breakfasts in Gauteng. Woolworths wanted to do something similar in KZN. The Department encouraged these partnerships towards achieving social cohesion.
He said CSE had been part of the curriculum for the last 20 years. It was too late to tell girls about menstruation in Grade 8 when they were reaching puberty in Grade six. The evidence of CSE around the world had shown that delaying sexual education increased the probability of children engaging in sexual activity. Teaching abstinence was insufficient, as children were unlikely to abstain when they were told to, so they needed to be taught about safety around sexual activities. Teaching CSE and safe sex reduced teenage pregnancies. Principals had to report children who were pregnant, and if they did not, they would be held responsible. This was to manage the issue of statuary rape. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) was not funding CSE, and 16 other countries in Africa had committed to CSE being taught in their countries.
Mr Patrick Khunou, Deputy Director General: Basic Education, said that an organogram would be provided to the Committee. All Interns absorbed by the DBE were part of the administration staff.
Mr Mweli said that Treasury had allowed the DBE to present on six of the 11 priorities. Some were already being implemented, such as the reading policy. The Council of Education Ministers had taken a decision in 2018 that Multiple Exam Opportunities (MEOs) would no longer be available after 2019. Funza Lushaka was funded by the DBE, but was administered by NSFAS.
The training of ECD practitioners was funded by the provinces, and this would continue. Some ECD practitioners obtain a National Qualifications Framework (NQL) level 6, and some get level 5. What should happen in ECD centres was education. The two ministers had been meeting to create a document to clarify the shift. Health and Social Development would continue to fund and provide support.
Public problems required public representatives to intervene in situations such as school disruptions. The placement of learners in Gauteng and the Western Cape was an issue of migration into these provinces. The DBE appreciated Ms King’s advice, and Dr Maboya would look into it. The Department would also look into the issues raised by the Chairperson regarding issues involving the DBE’s spokesperson and the MEC.
Deputy Minister’s closing remarks
Dr Reginah Mhaule, Deputy Minister of Basic Education, said that the issue of migration had now become a policy issue. With the function shift, the existing budget, private social funding and partners would remain and simply be managed by the DBE. The Department would audit all the centres to see if they qualified to receive funds. The Children’s Act needed to be amended, and the process had already begun. The DBE would continue giving the Committee updates regarding the function shift.
Service delivery protests delay the implementation of programmes. When implementing a programme, the DBE would meet and engage with the community. New forums emerged continuously and those forums would demand meetings with the DBE, despite just having had a meeting. Then these people prevented children from going to school. The service delivery model which was being proposed may help the DBE a great deal as all projects would be implemented at the district level. She believed it was a brilliant idea.
A report on Funza Lushaka progress to date would be submitted, as much had been done. The programme was being absorbed by provinces, and it was obvious that it addressed the needs of the province.
CSE had also been well received. One had to consider those learners who did not have birth certificates. The DBE was expected to provide a solution, especially when it came to people who did not have papers to be in this country, and subsequently children stayed home and did not attend school. Interdepartmental collaboration made this easier, which she appreciated. The notion that CSE would teach children to have sex was unfair. Children needed to understand their bodies and the reason it responded a specific way to the opposite sex. It was a natural instinct, but they had to be taught how to control and understand these reactions. With teenage pregnancies, the Committee would ask how the Department was intervening in decreasing the rate of teenage pregnancies, and this was what the Department was doing. By teaching CSE, children would learn to appreciate and protect their bodies.
The issues concerning the spokesperson and the MECs of the Western Cape and Gauteng were being addressed.
The meeting was adjourned.