Overview of the TVET sector with respect to governance, management, teaching, learning & new campuses

Higher Education, Science and Technology

04 September 2019
Chairperson: Mr M Mapulane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Members received briefings from the Department of Higher Education and Training, the South African Further Education and Training Student Association (SAFETSA) and the South African College Principals’ Organisation (SACPO).

 

The DHET had been asked to brief the Committee on governance, management, teaching and learning, and infrastructure in the technical and vocation education and training (TVET) sector.

On governance, the DHET dealt mainly with the appointment process of college councils. Colleges had not assisted in making the process expeditious, because they were not reading the vetting reports of the nominees before submitting the names to the DHET. The late publishing of calls for nominations had also created delays.

The total budget amounted to R12.9 billion, of which R2.7 billion would be allocated to students eligible for National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding. The current 2019/20 enrolment plan was comprised of 562 006 students, against a planned target of 664 748. In the current financial year, the College Infrastructure Efficiency Grant (CIEG) budget allocation to colleges had remained equal across the board, but this would change in the next financial year, when 80% would go towards planned student enrolments, and 20% to costed maintenance plans. The funding allocation would also be based on student enrolments. The infrastructure programme consisted of 13 new college campuses and three colleges to be refurbished, with a total allocation of R2.5 billion from the National Skills Fund.

Subject curricula would be finalised at the end of 2019, and colleges would be supported in 2020 in preparation for delivery of these curricula in 2021. The preparation for delivery would involve lecturer training, development of student learning materials, and access to the required learning resources, such as plant, equipment, information technology (IT) infrastructure and consumables.

Both SAFETSA and SACPO touched on the issue of infrastructure as deterrents to improvements in the TVET sector. This was not limited to buildings, but to training centres, the internet, computer labs and other tangible assets required by students during their college careers.

SAFETSA was not satisfied with the manner in which principals ran colleges, asserting that most student bodies suffered from power struggles with the college councils. It proposed that the term of office for principals should not be permanent, to avoid colleges being run by complacent principals. It criticised the TVET curriculum, as it did not match what was required in the labour market. SACPO agreed that changes in the curriculum needed to be effected, and made a few proposals which included the phasing out of outdated programmes no longer related to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Members interrogated a wide range of issues, and expressed disappointment at some of the defensive responses from the Department. The denial of the current leadership on the issues affecting the TVET sector translated into perpetual problems, such as the large certification backlog, and the delays in updating the curriculum. The certification backlog was described as a national crisis, and it was agreed that the Minister should address the Committee on steps being taken to resolve the situation.

Meeting report

The Chairperson said the Committee had invited the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Council for Geo-Science (CGC) to the meeting. A letter had been received acknowledging the invitation, but had indicated that its delegation was unable to attend. The Chairperson suggested the apology should be rejected appropriately.  

Mr B Nodada (DA) agreed with the Chairperson. The Committee would like feedback on what would happen subsequently. The information the Committee required had to be provided in order for it to continue doing its work.

The Chairperson asked the Department to include some additional slides of the CGC to its presentation regarding governance. The Committee would follow up on the CGC and ensure that its executives came to account to it.

Department Higher Education and Training briefing

Mr Gwebinkundla Qonde, Director-General (DG): DHET, said the Department would comment on the governance, funding, infrastructure, teaching and learning and examinations at the TVET colleges. Each topic was about “the size of a day,” but the team would attempt to provide detailed and elaborate presentation.

The CGC was a voluntary organisation, and the Department would not be able to make any comments -- it was not funded by government, nor was it accountable to the DHET.

Governance

Mr Themba Msipha, Chief Director: Systems Planning, TVET College branch, took the Members through the section and said that the appointment process of Council Members was conducted in terms of Section 10(6). He described the process involved, and outlined the statistics based on gender and ethnicity, as well as other demographic factors.

Describing the challenges, he said colleges were not reading the vetting reports of the nominees, and were submitting nominees to the Department with credit listings and other records. Colleges were not submitting all the annexures as required by the Government Gazette and Circular, but the Department was following up on those matters. The late publishing of calls for nominations by certain colleges created delays in achieving the full constitution of college councils. The CVs of nominees by colleges were not comprehensive. Lastly, the Minister was not obliged to concur with any appointment and there were instances where he could use his discretion.

The Chairperson asked for an explanation regarding the process that followed the recommendations to the Council, and about who conducts the process if the term of office of current Councils had expired.

Mr Msipha said that it was the five ministerial appointees, together with the principal of the college and the ex officio members of the council. Once they had all been appointed, they would determine the nature of the skills they needed. They were also responsible for nominating the appointees that would undergo the vetting process. Once the results came back, that team would then make specific recommendations to the Minister through the Department.

The Chairperson asked whether it was five plus the principal.

Mr Msipha confirmed this, and said they would then recommend the four additional external members with specified skills.

The Chairperson asked about the remaining six.

Mr Msipha said that the donor member would be appointed from a list of donors, and two members from the students’ representative council (SRC), as well as two members from academic and support staff, and one Member from the academic board. The guidelines for this process were provided by the Department in terms of how that process could be conducted.

The Chairperson wanted to know about the function of the Council.

Mr Qonde said that the function was prescribed by the Act, and the Act was clear. The Minister could invoke Section 46 of the legislation. By so doing, he could put the College under administration. So far, no challenges had been picked up and it seemed that the Councils were discharging their duties through the Act.

Funding

Mr Zirk Joubert. Chief Director: Financial Planning, DHET, outlined the budget of the TVET sector, which amounted to R12.9 billion, but with a shortfall of R1 billion (rounded figure). The amount for students eligible for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) bursaries amounted to R2.7 billion. The funding was regulated through the TVET funding norms. The current 2019/20 enrolment plan comprised of 562 006 students, against the target of 664 748 indicated in the annual performance plan (APP), hence the shortfall of R1 billion. The Department had requested the colleges to carry that burden.

The DHET had required R16.5 billion to fund the APP target of 664 748 students enrolled. It was sitting with a shortfall of R3.5 billion in relation to the APP target. The current funding level was at 78%, so it was important to keep to the trajectory of the fee-free higher education. There was a steady and stable increase in the funding level over the next two financial years, but it slightly declines in the 2022/23 financial year because the outer years of the medium term expenditure framework (MTEF) would grow at a lower percentage (5% plus 1).

With regard to the TVET College Infrastructure Efficiency Grant (CIEG) budgets, in the current financial year the budget allocation to colleges was equal across the board, but this would change in the next financial year. The 80/20 funding model would apply -- 80% towards planned student enrolments and 20% on costed maintenance plans submitted. The funding allocation would also be based on enrolments as cost drivers.

On budget versus expenditure, the actual performance in the second quarter was at 12%, against the 50% target. The lower expenditure by TVETs was due to:

  • Capacity constraints on personnel;
  • Lack of experienced and qualified staff to deal with infrastructure maintenance planning and execution;
  • Procurement for tenders taking a long time.

The Department had taken several steps to ensure that the funding allocated for infrastructure was actually spent on infrastructure.

Regarding TVET CIEG monitoring, the DHET had rolled out extensive TVET college training on national infrastructure asset management standards and maintenance planning. TVET Colleges must submit work package applications to DHET for approval before expenditure was incurred. This was to ensure correct application of funding and value for money in all instances. Once the Department had approved the maintenance plan, a cost item number would be issued on the work package, and the TVET college may start spending. The Department approved the spending of the funds in line with the approved costed maintenance plan, considering priorities and the criticality of maintenance. The DHET supports struggling TVET colleges with technical assistance, and TVET expenditure incurred was monitored on a sample basis by DHET teams, as well as by internal audit.

Construction of new TVET colleges

Mr Steve Mammen, Director: DHET, reported on progress in the construction of the new TVET college campuses. He said the programme consisted of 13 new colleges, including three existing colleges that would be refurbished. The total budget amounted to R2.5 billion.

Challenges on construction stemmed from business forums and civil unrest.

The Chairperson asked whether there were any other infrastructure projects.

Mr Mammen said the programmes outlined were the main and new approved programmes for the R2.5 billion that had been allocated. There were various other programmes, such as new projects and campuses, that did not form part of the above programme.

There was also a grant received from China for R380 million to build a new campus in Tshwane. There were three projects that the Department was not able to continue with, due to the funding constraints of the R2.5 billion allocation.

Teaching and learning

Ms Arona Singh, Acting Deputy Director: TVET Colleges (T&L) said that currently two qualifications formed the core offerings at TVET colleges. These were the Report 191 programmes, commonly referred to as the National Technical Education (NATED) programmes, and the National Certificates (Vocational), commonly referred to as the NC(V).  

The Report 191 programmes had a long history of delivery in the TVET college system in the form of the N1-N3 and the N4-N6 programmes in engineering, business and services-related studies. The N4-N6 programmes culminate in a National N Diploma at National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level 6, following 18 and 24 months of internship for engineering and business/services studies respectively. The NC(V) was introduced in 2007, and caters for young people who wish to pursue a vocational career pathway after grade 9, and want to still achieve the equivalent of matric, at NQF level 4.

The updated subject curricula would be finalised at the end of 2019, and colleges would be supported in 2020 in preparation for delivery of these curricula in 2021. Preparation for delivery would involve lecturer training, development of student learning materials, and access to the required learning resources, such as plant, equipment, information technology (IT) infrastructure and consumables.

She added that in 2019, the Department had rolled out the Pre-vocational Learning Programme (PLP) nationally, following the pilot phase in eight colleges in 2018. The PLP was aimed at strengthening the learning foundations of those students entering a college without grade 12, and did not meet the entry requirements of the programme in which they wished to enroll. The purpose was to improve the pass rate of students in college programmes and qualifications.

Association of College Principals

Mr Sanele Mlotshwa, Chairperson: South African College of Principals Organisation (SACPO), said that the Community Education and Training (CET) Act stipulates that every college must establish a council, an academic board and a students’ representative council. There were municipal councillors who served on the councils as Ministerial appointees. This created a problem, because some of them came with their own political agendas. There was a Chartered Accountant who had run down the municipality and had now been appointed to be responsible for the financial aspects of the council. This continued to be a conundrum, and there was nothing that could be done because they were already appointed.

The majority of colleges had permanent principals, and only 11 were still in an acting capacity.

Regarding infrastructure funding, the majority of the colleges’ infrastructures were old. There was a lack of systematic capital investment to fund major infrastructure. However, many colleges in rural areas were under-serviced in terms of training infrastructure students. He was happy with the work that the Department had undertaken in the infrastructure space, but emphasised that more still needed to be done.

Challenges with infrastructure funding included delays in approvals for projects by the Department. However, this had been raised with the Department and some of those delays had been addressed. Some work had already started on infrastructure development.

SACPO said challenges on the relevance of the curriculum were:

  • The quality of examination papers was often a major issue.  Integrated Summative Assessment Tasks (ISATs) were sometimes queried for relevance by lecturers;
  • NCV numbers were dwindling;
  • The curriculum of the current ministerial-approved sub-fields of NCV and Report 191 were not responding appropriately to the needs of the workplace;
  • There was unfavourable comparison of former section 28 apprentice training towards artisanship with the newly introduced learnerships, which were not competitive enough.

Proposals for curriculum improvement were:

  • Phasing out of old programmes that were no longer on demand and introducing programmes that were relevant to industry’s needs and related on the 4th industrial revolution;
  • Report 191 needed upgrading and revision since some of the programmes were more than 10 years old;
  • PLP must be reduced from a one-year course offering to semester or trimester to minimise high levels of drop outs. Furthermore, qualifications must be awarded after completion;
  • Expansion and further roll out was required for centres of specialisation;
  • Occupational programmes must be funded by the DHET and students must have access to NSFAS bursaries;
  • NCV qualifications should be reduced from one year to six months per level;
  • Reduce the engineering practical room/workshop requirements to 1:15 to allow maximum exposure and participation for students;
  • The introduction of entrepreneurship across all NATED programmes.

Although some of the curriculum programmes were old and outdated, others were actually quite productive, according to the students.   

Briefing by SA Further Education and Training Student Association (SAFETSA)

Mr Thabo Mofokeng, SAFETSA Working Group, raised a number of issues in the Association’s presentation. These included:

  • If the profile of the principals was checked, the Committee would notice that it was people who came from secondary schools with a significant lack of experience and expertise in the TVET sector. In the previous presentation, it had been indicated that the lack of leadership from some of the principals was evident, and the way they ran the colleges in some instances was suppressive in nature.
  • SAFETSA proposed that there should be a term of office for principals; the post must not be permanent. For instance, Vice Chancellors at universities had terms of office.
  • Some of the council members over-stepped their authority, but there were also instances where principals undermined the authority of the council members.
  • SAFETSA proposed that there should be additional expertise in the councils, such as people with research capacity to assist them to respond to the needs of the regions where Colleges were based.
  • SRC constitutions were changed year in and year out without the consultation of the SRC body, and were aimed to suppress the SRCs from discharging their duties effectively. In some colleges, students were not allowed to wear their political regalia. In a democratic country, this was fundamentally wrong. In addition, there were colleges that did not allow the SRC elections to be conducted in a democratic manner. Some of these students were just hand-picked for compliance with the Department.

Much work needed to be done in the college governance environment to ensure that Colleges were run properly.

On infrastructure successes and challenges, Mr Mofokeng said that infrastructure was outdated on college campuses.  Most computer laboratories were either without computers or internet connections. Some libraries did not even have books, and some of the buildings did not have access for students living with disabilities. There was a significant lack of infrastructure management, and the budgets were much less compared to operational budgets. Only about 4% of the 10% of the budget allocation was used for infrastructure, and the remaining 6% would be utilised for operational pressures.

Regarding the curricula in the TVET Sector, the students graduate with inadequate experience. The textbooks used do not resonate with recent labour market conditions. SAFETSA proposed a review of curriculum should be done with businesses or industries, and that all college engineers had to be accredited.

Discussion

The Chairperson suggested that the Committee might have to invite the top ten poor performers (TVET colleges) as identified by the Department. It would be impossible to invite all of them. Perhaps the focus should be on the poor performers as well as the good performers.

He wanted to know about the plan for curriculum review. This had been raised by almost all the stakeholders. The curriculum needed to be relevant with what was happening in the market place in current times.

Infrastructure was another big issue. All the efforts and initiatives of the Department should have been included in the presentation. This would have painted a picture on the level of resources required to upgrade and maintain infrastructure in colleges. The issue of student accommodation was missing from the presentation – there was a need in the TVET sector for student accommodation.

Nothing had been said about the competence level and the qualification profiles of the lecturers of TVET colleges, although this had emerged several times in the Committee’s engagements.

Ms J Mananiso (ANC) commented that the overall presentations were about internal issues. She was impressed, but the gender presentation was focused more on the structures, and not on the general demographics of the students.

When would the process to appoint councils be completed? Challenges indicated that there were incompetent people employed in many TVET colleges. On the pending issue of the TVET organogram, this information should be provided to Members during the next engagement.

She asked whether all colleges had project managers and what their scope of work was. She also wanted details of the challenges experienced with infrastructure, as well as a breakdown of the student allowances.

She asked for details on the matters of emphasis from the previous year’s outcomes audited by the Auditor General (AG). Did the TVET have plans to consolidate programmes with internships or experiential learning?

On curriculum review, how was the Fourth Industrial Revolution going to be integrated into the system.

She told SACPO that the principals needed to pay attention to what the students spoke about. She asked for more details on the pending challenges they had identified. Were there any mechanisms that could be employed to build a relationship with SAFETSA?

Ms D Sibiya (ANC) sought clarity on the term of office of councils. She also wanted details on the poor performance of the Ingwe TVET College.

Dr W Boshoff (FF+) asked whether the training workshops were part of the curriculum. From the beginning, it was surprising that the NCV had been included in the post school sector instead of basic education (Grade 10 to 12). This qualification was somewhat equivalent to the National Senior Certificate (Matric).  

On the NATED qualification, it had been suggested that it should be changed from a year course to a semester course, to reduce the dropout rate. It seemed that this was being done backwards. Should it not rather be made a longer qualification to reduce the dropout rate?

Were there any plans to invigorate the NVC, and had it been a good idea to say that they should not accept matriculants in that programme? The NVC provided a vocational experience. He asked whether there could be integration for schools to offer vocational courses. This could improve the employability of the students.

Was the NCV finding its niche in the NADET courses? Was the NCV getting a niche for itself, or was it fading out?

Mr P Keetse (EFF) suggested that the Committee needed to look at the role and responsibilities of councils. Many TVET colleges were performing poorly on governance, even though council members were being employed.

As for infrastructure, Members had seen some pictures in the presentation, and that was appreciated, but it was difficult to give credit because the country was facing a serious challenge in the TVET sector. There were many students that may not be able to access these campuses. Perhaps there should be regional campuses established across provinces to benefit the people who remained marginalised. Infrastructure did not relate only to buildings, but to computers and internet connection. Was this something that was being prioritised in infrastructure development and included in the infrastructure budget allocation?

The Committee had merely been told where the curriculum stands at the moment. Members had made it clear that they wanted to hear about the plans to address curriculum challenges in the TVET colleges, as well as the employability of students and how those absorbed in the work place were coping. The curriculum must respond to the needs of the country and the work place. What courses were provided at TVET colleges?

On the exam issue, there was a norm in the TVET colleges that exam papers were always leaked. He asked how that impacted on the credibility of the qualifications that students obtained.

Members had been appraised about the SRC elections matter before. What was SACPO doing about it?  What was it also doing about the TVET colleges that prevented students from wearing their political regalia? This was a serious matter, and it needed serious attention. Students should be able to express their political affiliation on campus.

Mr S Ngcobo (IFP) commented that the presentations had been both good and worrisome. The TVET college concept was a good one, but with the way in which they were run, the country seemed to be moving close to a crisis. The sector lacked leadership in a horizontal format. There was also a denial problem, because the leadership was not acknowledging the problems, and the lack of consequence management left people complacent. He said the lack of accommodation produced the current social ills, so it needed to be prioritised. Lastly, the issue of the backlog of certifications directly impacted on the challenges faced around examinations.

Mr Nodada said he was happy that all the stakeholders were present. For the past two weeks, he had been paying attention to the issues presented to the Committee. Based on all those issues, the common and general problem was that education was not being taken seriously at the political level, as well as in the sector.  It was time education was taken very seriously. People employed in the Department, the administrators, seemed to go into these jobs with a lack of passion. It was about time a skills audit was conducted on the personnel to check whether they were actually qualified to produce the results required.

He thanked SAFETSA for its presentation, and asked the Department to remove anything that made them think that young people were naive. That presentation would assist the Department significantly, but it would do so only if the Department refrained from viewing students or young people as naive. There were many solutions that the Department could extract from the young people, because they were the biggest stakeholders.

He asked about the criteria used by the Minister to appoint the councils, and whether any guidelines were applied. What was the role of Councils versus the principals? To whom did Councils report. and vice versa? Who reported to whom?  

He probed further about who conducted the vetting process, because it was concerning. Recently, it became known that there were people with criminal records working in state departments, and as a result, a gruesome crime was committed at a post office. A young girl had been raped and murdered. This was to illustrate the importance of ensuring that the vetting process was as thorough as possible. One should ask whether those appointed to the councils actually qualified to be in those positions.

He suggested that Members be furnished with comprehensive and detailed quarterly reports from the TVET colleges to ensure that they were up to date with the sector.

There was a lot of red tape when it came to funding. There was a need to start looking at how infrastructure was prioritised. There were a lot of colleges that lacked the infrastructural resources for students to do their practicals.  

He sought clarity on whether the TVET colleges were actually funded by government and who was responsible for administering funds from NSFAS at the colleges? At the new sites, were there Wi-Fi connections, clinics and student accommodation and all the relevant resources that were required for a student’s well being?

Mr Nodada said he would be travelling to Taiwan to do a study on how their system linked basic education based on technical skills, theory and innovation. It seemed there was no linkage between basic education, TVET colleges and universities. The TVET colleges were doing their own thing and so were the sector education and training authorities (SETAs). Regarding teaching and learning in curriculum, there was a list of scarce skills in the country. Various technical skills were needed. How often did the Department in the TVET sector look at the scarce skills survey and develop the curriculum to respond to the scarcity of skills?

What was the link between those scarce skills and curriculum with basic education, universities and the job market, and what partnerships had been established with the public and private sector to channel these students intothe required skills? If one went to Ingwe College in Bizana, they had built a test centre for mechanical and electrical engineering, but the centre was not accredited. Who was responsible for accrediting these centres?

The excuse around exams was useless -- there should be just better controls against the leakage of exam papers. That excuse was used to not give students their certificates – how were students supposed to find employment if they did not have certificates? What was the plan to fast track the issuing of certificates?

When was the process of reviewing the curricula for TVET colleges going to be concluded? When that process was concluded, were the lecturers going to be up-skilled and capacitated to be able to teach that curriculum?

Department’s response

Mr Qonde said TVET colleges had been managed by provincial administrations up to 31 March 2015. When that function was made a national competence, the Department had conducted a study that sought to establish a baseline with respect to the state and functionality of a TVET college in a country. In 2015, the Department had appraised Parliament about the state of affairs at that time. He requested, through the Chairperson, that they pull out the briefing from the archives, because it provided detailed information about the status quo, as well as the response to the TVET sector.

The DHET had been advising the Committee on the question of funding, that 82% of its total budget goes to universities. R78 billion goes to universities and R12 billion remains available for TVET colleges. There were 26 universities and 50 TVET colleges in the country with a rural footprint. There was no adequate funding to carry all the responsibilities for the TVET colleges. He appealed to Members that in their suggestions on intervention, they took into consideration that 80% funding would be reached by 2024.  

The infrastructure funding came from National Skills Fund and the SETAs. The Department continued to raise funds from everywhere, and the R1.3 billion infrastructure budget was the first allocation for TVETs. However, he cautioned that Members should refrain from painting all TVET Colleges with the same brush, because some colleges were actually performing better than the others.

The curriculum review was an on-going exercise, and it was in the nature of any education system to be on a continuous basis. Challenges were highlighted, such as the lack of sufficient work placement component. There had been a huge challenge for work placement due to the shortage of absorption by companies and industries. The only alternative was more assimilations by government departments and municipalities. At times there was no assistance from municipalities to conduct workshops, and the Department had to improvise.

The Department had embarked on a programme of intensifying industry/college partnerships, and there have been advances. However, it had not been adequate.

The current process for the appointment of councils was system-based, which meant that the Department or the Minister and the vetting process were not privy to the candidates’ faces. Advertisements were made public for everyone to apply, and then applicants would be checked to ensure they met the criteria. Then the vetting process would take place. The outcome of the vetting would lead towards the recommendations and appointments.

As the South African post office was not the DHET’s responsibility, he could not comment on why someone with a criminal record had been employed in a state entity.

Further discussion

Mr Keetse said he was not happy with the DG’s responses. He argued that the DG was being defensive. On every point he raised, he spoke as though he was the only smart person in the room. His responses lacked detail and candidness.

Mr Nodada shared the same sentiments as Mr Keetse. He also touched on the point that the DG was out of order and insensitive in his response about the post office example. He clarified that he had raised the post office incident to illustrate an example, and the fact that the DG missed the point showed he did not listen to understand, but listened to respond. The failure to pick up on the criminal history of the individual who was employed at the post office had resulted in the employment of the individual, and a subsequent gruesome crime had been committed at a state entity.

The Chairperson commended the Members for being so robust. However, in the process of the responses, they should not prescribe how the responses should be presented. They should give the person a chance until they concluded, after which they could express their dissatisfaction.

He urged the DG to refrain from responding in a similar manner on the post office issue.

Mr Qonde said that there was no council member that the Minister had appointed with a criminal record through the verification process. However, if that information came forth after the process had been conducted, the verifications would be done again.

Mr Ngcobo said the lack of leadership was problematic and the issue of denial in leadership contributed to it. The DG’s responses were indeed quite defensive on the issues that had been raised by Members. They needed clear and comprehensive responses.

Mr Keetse said that Members felt undermined by the answers provided by the DG. He needed to be frank about the lack of resources in addressing the issues. Some of his own colleagues had made admissions of the on-going issues, but the DG continued to be denial. Challenges needed to be made clear to Members so that they could take effective steps to ensure that those challenges were resolved. If there was a denial of the challenges, that would not assist in expediting a process to resolve them.

Mr Nodada said if there were no practical solutions that came from these engagements. then they would remain fruitless.

The Chairperson said that he understood the DG to be providing a context to the challenges in his responses. However, if Members felt differently, he appealed to the DG to come out frankly about the issues.

Department’s response

Mr Qonde said that the issue of vetting was the only mechanism available to the Department for verification.

Mr Msipha said he had noted the Members comments on the governance issues. The team had also taken note of the need for statistics on gender composition and once compiled, the Department would furnish that report to the Committee.  

The plan was to finalise the appointments of councils at the end of August. Notably, 33 out of 48 had already been appointed and the process was anticipated to be completed by the end of the month.

At Westcol College, there were two council nominees scheduled for vetting tomorrow, and the process would take about 48 hours for the results to come. Another issue with Westcol was related to an investigation which had been finalised, and a report had been furnished to the Minister. This was why the appointments had been delayed.

He had noted the comments about the recently appointed council members from municipal backgrounds, particularly those regarding their competence. The former Minister of Higher Education and Training had rejected a number of nominees, but a detailed analysis showing the councillors’ backgrounds and profiles would be prepared and submitted to the Committee.  

Regarding people failing the vetting, it was the first time that council members were being taken through the vetting process – it had not been the case previously.

The term of office for councils was five years, and when the term of the entire council expired, it would apply to all members. He suggested that this should be legislated because in some cases, the terms of councils did not run concurrently.

The issue of the standardisation of SRC elections had been noted.

The roles of councils and executives were outlined in the CET Act. The responsibilities were clear in the Act, the main one being the oversight function over the executive and principals.

Principals had no role in the appointment of council members. Council members were solely appointed by the Minister. The principal could play a facilitating role in the process, but the CVs of the council members came to the Department, not the colleges.

Historically, there had been one university that focused on training lecturers and academic staff. There were now two universities that were doing that. Through the continuous professional development programme, there were partnerships that would be forged with various institutions.

Principals were recruited through a public process. The candidates would be taken through assessments and interviews. The term of office was fixed – it was permanent.

The Chairperson advised that the concern was mainly around the defensiveness about the difficulties that were continuous in the sector.

Mr Joubert referred to the under-funding of the TVET colleges, and said that it was directly linked to the under-utilization of the 10% infrastructure allocation. If there was inadequate funding to cover the enrolments, then the Colleges were susceptible to using that money for operations and enrolments. The direct transfers and subsidies were quarterly payments to TVET colleges, and the DHET was waiting for data on special needs. Data was collected from TVET colleges for students with special needs, and that would form a baseline for funding adjustments. The centres of specialisation and enrolment plans would be finalised, which would inform the utilisation of the funds. The unallocated subsidies would be allocated in September.

The AG audit outcomes on TVETs had been a broad assessment, and a detailed analysis could be furnished to the Committee. However, there were five out of 50 colleges with disclaimers, 15 with qualified audit opinions and 30 with unqualified audit opinions.

The DHET recognised that red tape imposed very stringent conditions, particularly in respect of infrastructure funding. The aim was to not delay the funding, but that the funding must be utilised for what it was intended. The DHET was now individually approving work packages for the colleges, and that would unbundle the red tape and make it much easier for procurement. The Department had to involve its auditors in the application of the funds, and if the auditors approved, the funding would be provided.

The current infrastructure fund of R1.4 billion did not include student accommodation. Repairs and maintenance issues at the student facilities and accommodation was top priority right now, because there was no funding available at the moment for accommodation.

The DHET received allocations from the Treasury which consisted of student fees and allowances, and that money was transferred to NSFAS, together with allowances. The colleges then submit the registration data to NSFAS for eligible students. NSFAS had two models, which include disbursing the funds to the college and then the college disburses to students, and the e-wallet model which was a direct transfer to the student. The DHET prescribes standards and guidelines for the utilisation of those funds.

Mr Mammen said that the new infrastructure sites had student accommodation in the plans. Two of the sites nearing completion had student accommodation.

Regarding the broader student accommodation initiative, there was a process in the DHET that had identified three colleges for consideration -- King Hintsa, Northlink and Motheo. Of the three, Motheo was not found to be viable, so the Department had had to look for a different model, but King Hintsa had been ear-marked for 800 beds. The process had begun to put in place the box services. Northlink had provided its development plans at the site but there was no sufficient funding for the capital expenditure.

There was two part process for ICT. The first one was funded by the National Skills Fund (NSF), and there was an initiative under way that was linking all the sites, which would be linked to the South African National Research Network (SANReN). This was at the tender stage at the moment, and this project would make available pipes into each campus. Parallel to that was the Wi-Fi and connectivity on the new sites. It would take about two years for most of the sites to be up and running.

Ms Singh said the Department had made some strides in dealing with the certificate backlogs after the DG had established a “war room” specifically to address the issue. One of the challenges that came up strongly had been the lack of capacity. The issue of the IT infrastructure dependency on SETAs was also raised. The SETA had lost some key technical personnel, such as programmers, and there were complex issues around combinations.

There were also technical issues around qualifications requirements. Most of the students did not actually qualify for the qualifications.

The Chairperson interjected and asked the DHET to not give Members responses that created more confusion. It should outline the problems associated with the backlog, and why students were not being given their certificates.

Ms Singh said that SETA was the main concern, as it was not in the position to assist in resolving issues around certifying students. The SETA system could not pull the historical records to ensure that the candidate actually qualified to get a certificate. The matters were being resolved as they arose. Although there had been progress, the DHET was not satisfied.

The DHET had a system that was hosted by SETA, and it was the Department that held the students’ academic records, not the colleges.  

Mr Mofokeng said that the explanation was confusing because there would be students that had completed their courses with no failed subjects. Each and every semester, students would receive academic records from the college, and every year students would also receive a statement from the DHET confirming the records that had been provided by the College. The two documents could be reconciled, and they should communicate with each other in terms of the records. He asked the DHET to explain why it was still difficult for students who had not failed any subjects to receive their certificates.

Mr Mlotshwa said that the exams were managed nationally, and they were centralised. The colleges fed results into the Department once the exams had been written. The Department had made progress, and it was supporting the colleges, but there had been instances where the information that was provided was incorrect.

The Chairperson asked how long there had been a certificate backlog.

Ms Singh said that it had been on-going since 2011. However, the Department had been able to make corrections upon receipt of the correct information from the colleges. For business studies, from 2015 to 2018, out of one million students, the outstanding certificates to date were 4 296. For engineering, from 2015 to 2018, out of 1.5 million, 22 000 were outstanding. The DHET was engaging with the colleges and obtaining information on the corrected information.

The Chairperson said that NSFAS had great difficulties, and there had been the intervention of an administrator that had worked. He did not understand why there had been no intervention on this matter. From 2011 until now, the figure of outstanding certificates was still shocking. This was a serious problem, and the Department should not attempt to explain it away. This issue needed to be elevated to the Minister, because it was a national crisis and he had to do something about it.

The Minister should be invited to brief the Committee on this matter and speak on the interventions that would be sought.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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