Section 27 – Limpopo Sanitation Report
Equal Education Law Centre on Report of State of Education
Available here once adopted: BRRR 2019
The Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) presented an overview on its Report on the State of Education 2014-2019. The presentation provided: a brief background on EELC work; an identification of the key systemic challenges; and observations and recommendations on funding and spending trends in the sector, Early Childhood Development (ECD), learner transport, exclusionary admissions practices (EAP), and infrastructure and sanitation. Section 27 then presented an overview on the Limpopo Sanitation Report and its findings and recommendations. The Department responded to the two organisations.
The ensuing discussion included: eradication of pit latrines; risk imposed on children; lack of maintenance; presentations needed from all provincial departments; norms and standars versus priorities; monitoring provinical spending and concurrent powers; conditional grants; real spending per learner; learner transport; inclusive and special needs education; who was funding EELC and Section 27 and what were their motives; resolving historical challenges; migration of Early Childhood Development to DBE; systemic change in the education sector; and best interests of the child.
There was a discussion on the role of civil society organisations coming to brief Portfolio Committees on their research and the importance of this, despite some Members not agreeing with their recommendations.
The Committee adopted its Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR) 2019.
The Chairperson asked Ms D Van Der Walt (DA) to say an opening prayer.
Ms Van Der Walt prayed dear Lord, the Committee thanked Him as Members of Parliament representing communities of South Africa, especially those in the education sector making a life for our children in future, hoped He let them take the right decisions to benefit the children and the country and closed off with Amen.
The Chairperson thanked Ms Van Der Walt and said that the prayer was very progressive.
Apologies were noted from the Deputy Minister of Basic Education.
Report on State of Education for 2014-19 by Equal Education Law Centre
Ms Rubeena Parker, Senior Researcher, EELC, and Ms Precillar Mayo, Attorney, EELC, presented an overview on the EELC Report which identified key systemic challenges and gave observations and recommendations on funding and spending trends in the sector as well as on Early Childhood Development (ECD), learner transport, exclusionary admissions practices (EAP), and infrastructure and sanitation.
The EELC explained its work was split into movement lawyering, community lawyering, and research and advocacy. The purpose and scope of the EELC Report is to provide a five-year review of some of the key issues in education. The EELC Report does not address curriculum, post-provisioning, teacher development and training. These are however emerging areas of work which the EELC hoped to engage with going forward. The EELC Report provides an opportunity to look forward, engage and work with key stakeholders on some of the identified issues. Recent engagements with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) on the report findings is an example of such successful engagement. The key systemic challenges include: funding and spending; co-ordination; data systems and processes; and implementation barriers. This is across the thematic areas of ECD, learner transport, EAP, and infrastructure and transport.
On the challenge of funding and spending, the EELC focused on the National Norms and Standards for School Funding and the failure to meet per learner minimum thresholds. Despite nationally determined guidelines, provinces are empowered to determine their own levels of spending. In 2017/18 the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Mpumalanga allocated funds below the national threshold across all five quintiles. The EELC recommended that the Committee request that DBE provide a detailed, time-bound plan to address the failure of Provincial Education Departments (PEDs) to meet minimum per learner thresholds.
On ECD, the EELC focused on the requirements for ECD function migration plans. EELC is encouraged by DBE’s preliminary plans and recognised the complexity of the issues which are to be addressed by the plans. All levels of government, civil society, non-governmental organisations and private centre owners must be adequately consulted and engaged in the development and finalisation of these plans. EELC recommended that the Committee request information from DBE on: timeframes for finalisation of DBE plans; DBE plans and timeframes to address questions on ECD funding; and DBE’s ongoing plan to improve data systems for ECD.
On learner transport, EELC focused on the consistent implementation of provincial learner transport programmes. Failures to adequately prioritise and provision learner transport, and to accommodate learners with disabilities in transport system design appear to result from: poor data systems; and application of inconsistent criteria across provinces. Failure to prioritise and adequately provision learner transport results in underfunding of the programme. EELC has supported Equal Education in its numerous attempts to secure a conditional grant, which has been acknowledged by the Minister, but has not been structured and implemented due to poor interdepartmental coordination. EELC recommended that the Committee request information from DBE on: the status of the evaluation report prepared by DBE, Department of Transport (DOT) and Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME); DBE plans to clarify and confirm the roles and responsibilities of government departments in administering the learner transport programme; and the status of steps to impose standardised criteria on provinces.
On EAP, EELC focused on the implementation of the Screening, Identification, Assessment and Support (SIAS) policy. EELC observed clear challenges with the implementation of the SIAS policy including that: learners with disabilities are not being admitted to ordinary public schools and are not being reasonably accommodated; and once placed in special schools, learners do not receive adequate educational support. EELC also focused on undocumented learners, noting that undocumented learners in South Africa continue to face significant challenges in accessing basic education at the point of admission into schools. EELC recommended that the Committee request information from DBE on: the manner in which DBE will monitor and support the implementation of the SIAS policy, including the metrics to be used; and DBE’s steps to widely circulate the circular to all public schools; and what monitoring tools are in place to ensure school compliance with the circular.
Section 27 Towards Safe and Decent School Sanitation in Limpopo: Most Fundamental of Dignities
Dr Faranaaz Veriava, Section 27 Head of the Education Rights Programme, presented an overview on the Limpopo Sanitation Report. Mr Motheo Brodie, Section 27 Legal Researcher, provided insight into the infographic that Section 27 had developed. Lastly, Ms Samantha Brener, Section 27 Attorney, presented the Section 27 findings and recommendations from the Limpopo Sanitation Report.
Section 27 is focused on ensuring that vulnerable learners access their rights. The School Infrastructure Regulations promulgated in 2013 no longer allow plain pit latrines. Section 27 interprets this to mean that the continued existence of plain pit latrines is unlawful. Government must therefore have an immediate and effective plan for the eradication and replacement of these latrines. The Sanitation Report found that there remained over 6 800 illegal plain pit latrines that presented an ongoing danger to learners. School Infrastructure Regulations require that learners and teachers must have access to latrines that are private, hygienic, safe and secure. Section 27 read out the names of learners, that they were aware of, who had died or been injured because the school latrines did not meet these criteria. An order of court declared that the Limpopo Department of Education develop and report on a plan for the replacement of all plain pit latrines in the province with safe and hygienic latrines. A problem with this report is that the Limpopo Department of Education will only complete this replacement by 2031. This means that learner will remain at risk until 2031. The Committee was implored to apply the necessary and urgent pressure to other tiers of government to ensure that there are immediate and effective sanitation plans in place to ensure no more learners are harmed in all schools across South Africa. Section 27 then provided insight into the infographic that it had developed, based on the research in the Sanitation Report. This made the point that as long as there is a lack of accurate data, the problem cannot be fixed, which further perpetuates the dangers that exist.
Some of Section 27’s findings of the 86 sampled schools revealed that there were: 33 schools with plain pit latrines and unacceptable sanitation; 10 schools with new sanitation and old pit latrines not demolished; 35 schools with inadequate latrines (insufficient for the number of learners); 3 schools with latrines that are not fit for purpose (not age appropriate or disability friendly); 11 schools with poorly maintained latrines; and 0 schools with no sanitation facilities. From the Conditions Rating Score (CSIR) research revealed that: the average rating was 2.5 (bad condition); 35% of schools scored less than 2.0 (needs replacement); and less than 10% scored 4.0 or higher (good/very good condition).
Section 27 recommendations included: a consolidated database (audit and database); improved responsiveness of district and circuit officials; protection for whistleblowers; and an effective plan for school sanitation in Limpopo and across South Africa. Section 27 gave key budget recommendations for where money could be found and targeted towards the improvement of sanitation conditions. These included: less fruitless and wasteful, and irregular expenditure; meeting the planning threshold to receive incentive funds; and a reallocation of funds by provinces so that more of their equitable share is directed towards infrastructure development and sanitation.
Ms Van Der Walt thanked the presenters and said there had been a lot of commotion. She was amongst Committee members who were at the Limpopo school in 2014 the morning after Michael Komape passed on. The undertaking by the Limpopo provincial department was that in that financial year over 800 pit latrines would be eradicated. Sadly, this did not happen. This was before Section 27 got involved in representing the family. The Committee’s concern was that the monitoring of budget allocations to the provinces is problematic. The Committee had asked Minister Motshekga how the Committee could monitor that spending. The Committee asked if the equitable share and all the money going to provinces could be made into conditional grants. This would go through National Treasury. The Committee knew that money was being used for purposes for which it was not intended, especially in poorer provinces. Pit latrines were life-threatening. When pit latrines are eradicated by the municipality, they do not close or take away the old system. This harmed children. The fact of the matter is that those schools that do have proper sanitation, do not maintain it and there is no prefect system where someone takes care of the bathrooms and what happens in those bathrooms. Thus, no money was spent on maintenance, no bin for sanitary towels, no toilet paper or soap. In addition, very often the other problem with sanitation is that there is no water at many of the schools – water is needed for proper sanitation.
She was curious to see that EELC claimed that real spending per learner declined by 8%. Can you explain how this was determined as DBE said that this was not true? Everyone was anxiously waiting for March 2020 to see the costed plan for the ECD function shift. The Minister had undertaken to brief the Committee as progress was made. When the introduction of Grade RR was announced, a quick study was made by civil society orgnaisations indicating that there were not enough teachers and classrooms. For Grade RR, there was a need for at least another 10 000 classrooms, 10 000 teachers and everything else that went with it. The Committee was just as concerned and agreed that ECD should shift to DBE. Obviously, this had to come with the resources and be run correctly from the beginning, otherwise there would be a backlash of problems forever. Thus, the Committee was also very concerned about what was happening here. There was a lot of challenges that everyone felt concerned about. It was not nice to visit a school and try and fix their bathroom and a month after fixing it, it is back to where it was because either there is no money or misappropriation of money to do maintenance. What are all of the community workers on this programme at the schools doing, as a success story had not yet been seen?
Mrs N Tarabella Marchesi (DA) suggested that the Limpopo Department of Education be invited to the Committee, to allow them to respond and provide accurate information specifically on the allocation of funding. Why had it not been allocating funding according to the threshold? It would also be good to invite all provincial department that were listed in the presentation. The Committee could have a day where each province could be interrogated to see if they have staff available to actually do the work and whether they are able to achieve their targets. Talking about Limpopo and not having Limpopo present to account did not help.
On the ECD conditional grant, the Committee did not know anything about what was going to happen with the ECD as they had no information on it. However, EELC mentioned conditional grants. ECD included infrastructure that is appropriate for learners, the type of teachers, the feeding scheme for learners. When EELC referred to conditional grants, what would it cover? In the areas of funding and spending in the province, which areas were impacted negatively? What should have been achieved? Were the actual figures available on how much was supposed to be allocated and how much was allocated and where it was allocated instead? Was money moved around using virements. Was DBE’s sanitation allocation used for other things? It was not very clear. She asked for clarity on this and on incentives. Limpopo and other provinces had missed the infrastructure incentives.
Ms C King (DA) said she had been waiting for EELC and Section 27 to address the Committee on this level. When looking at learner transport, most of the problems stemmed from no one being clear where this function of learner transport should actually lie. This creates a problem with the funding model. The Committee had raised this with the Minister during oral questions. They were told that it would be discussed amongst the Ministers. As of yet, EELC had also not received any feedback on what the decision was. Looking at the budget cuts this financial year, the Western Cape and Limpopo Departments of Education could not, even if they wanted to, decrease the kilometres to have more learners access transport. This was because they had a R2.5 billion shortfall and could not provide access to adequate transport for more learners. This in itself, when looking at the recommendation, indicates that a revised funding model needed to be looked at for proper funding to be put in place. In addition, proper norms and standards are needed for learner transport. This was agreed upon.
Concern lay with Inclusive Education which is supposed to be implemented soon. When looking at what has been said, DBE was not ready to implement it yet. The first point was that if schools are going to take a child with a disability whilst not being properly equipped to have that child, it was on this basis that the child would be excluded. When looking at latrines and sanitation facilities, it is forgotten that there are learners with disabilities and they are not catered for in most instances. This was a concern as it was exclusionary as a child could access a school but due to facilities being unavailable, they are often kept at home or are referred to special-needs education when their intellectual ability actually requires them to be in a normal school. She was glad that this concern was raised.
According to the SIAS, it was alarming when DBE tells the Committee that each school only had one Learner Support Agent (LSA). In most cases one would find a minimum of 600-700 children at a school. This was not sufficient. There was not much funding being put into this part of the educational structure. How much money was being spent on psychosocial services to have enough psychiatrists. There was no data on the ratio of psychiatrists per school and per learner. These matters needed to be highlighted more so that the plight of learners with special needs is known, and they are not excluded, and the Committee should know how to address their challenges.
The Limpopo Sanitation Report by Section 27 had looked at spending. In some provinces, especially in the Eastern Cape, suppliers were not being paid and there were incomplete toilet facilities . She had been to numerous schools where she had seen suppliers take their supplies and leave, leaving kids having to use the bush. She was glad these matters had come up in the Limpopo Sanitation Report and hoped that the study would be spread to other provinces as well. The Minister especially needed to consider the structuring of the budget. She had looked at the budget and it made sense as more money was going to sanitation projects than non-sanitation projects. It was hoped that the Minister would look at and implement this plan.
Mr L Ntshayisa (AIC) said the reports were of great concern to the Committee. He started with the point about delivery. Members would know that there was a programme. DBE needed to deliver what they are able to, but nothing was being done. Even schools that had submitted correct information had nothing done. DBE said that the correct data was being waited for, but the information was there. Thus learners were suffering. Initiative needed to be taken to demolish the pit latrines once replaced. What was being sent out to communities? There was supposed to be a contribution from the community. Section 27 had reported to the Committee and had made recommendations and they should engage and advise communities and schools on basic sanitation. [1:15:00 – 1:18:50 inaudible]
Mr P Moroatshehla (ANC) asked if he could take an unorthodox approach in welcoming the two reports and their recommendations. As Members they needed to advise others properly lest they fell into the temptation of over-examination. Over-examination could be as helpful as it could be damaging. A black spot analysis should be guarded against which is when analysing anything, the danger was that sometimes it could be messed up by criticisms and negatives being overrated. For example, if a man married a woman, and every day he looked at her he saw everything bad and never appreciated the good parts of the woman; from a black spot analysis, this marriage is doomed and would end in divorce.
Ms Van Der Walt interrupted to say that she was divorced but that this was not in the report. Could the Committee stick to the report and research presented? Giving a philosophical analysis was not of any value.
The Chairperson asked if the Committee could be patient and tolerant of one another.
Mr Moroatshehla reiterated that he was taking an unorthodox approach and knew that it would raise eyebrows. He was not apologetic for this. Starting with Section 27 he had three questions. Who, according to the research and analysis, could be the cause of the lack of accuracy? Can it be said with authority that the government of the day really does not care? If so, could it be substantiated why? For EELC there were two questions. Who in essence is funding EELC? If it pleased the Chairperson, could EELC indicate what the funder could possibly be spending that was of benefit? Could this in a way be suggestive of the misuse of state funds? If so, did the Committee have insight of this within the Auditor-General’s full, detailed audit report? This was a negative function with the recommendations on such analysis.
Ms N Shabalala (ANC) asked why Section 27 was directly focused on sanitation. In terms of safety in schools, the focus was not on sanitation. Why did Section 27 not cover all areas of safety within schools? Is Section 27 a democratically elected organisation? How often does Section 27 hold elections? What is the composition of the organisation? This would be interesting to know. Is Section 27 politically affiliated or not? In terms of the study there are costs incurred. Who is funding Section 27’s studies? Why were the studies not done on other provinces where there is common purpose in terms of sanitation? For example, KwaZulu-Natal was one province where it was known that there is a relationship between local government and the province and local government provides sanitation that the provincial education department would pay for. Why did Section 27 not tell the Committee what was happening in these provinces, and what the difference between Limpopo and other provinces are? Section 27 should not give the Committee a half-baked cake that focused only on one province. This did not provide the entire picture of the country so the Committee could know exactly what needed to be done to address the challenges faced.
Mr S Ngcobo (IFP) said that Ms Shabalala had asked what he was going to ask. He was a teacher by profession and he was worried about what had been presented. In addition, he was a unionist and has been a union leader for over 20 years. Why is it that Section 27 was reporting more on Limpopo than on the other provinces? Is it honestly because problems are only in Limpopo? Or could it perhaps be that there are problems in Limpopo and that Section 27 had found a place which they could use to bash DBE more? He belonged to the IFP which was an opposition party – he did not belong to the ruling party, the ANC. Thus, he wanted an honest answer.
It was good to do was to tell the truth but there was something called reality, and money was needed to do these things. It was agreed that government has the responsibility to use tax money to provide for the citizens. However, the situation now was that there was no money for this. The Committee had the responsibility to take all issues that had been reported seriously. The Committee was not necessarily wanting to shield themselves and send Section 27 and EELC away. He supported the view of the Committee calling in the provinces and listen to them honestly stating their case – in particular those provinces that were in a lot of trouble. The situation the Minister found herself in was due to issue of concurrent powers. The provinces were acting the way that they were acting due to the problem of concurrent powers. It took time for the Minister to be able to arrest what was happening in the provinces. The Committee should find a way of getting the brothers and sisters responsible for the provinces to come and tell their story.
Mr T Malatji (ANC) started by appreciating democracy which allowed for opportunities where organisations could present their views to the Committee on how best to resolve the problems. A situation should not be allowed where faceless people who want to abuse the democratic process advance a narrative that has nothing to do with bringing solutions but more on exposing what had happened. This was the most important as a way of protecting democracy. Faceless people should come to the fore so the Committee can see who they are and what they want to achieve. The most important thing realised from the reports is that they affirm that poverty in South Africa is about colour, and the colour of poverty in South Africa is black. Even the kids used in all of the photos in the presentations were black. This is the high level of inequality in South Africa. The report does not state that inequality has caused such great backlogs. The only way to resolve inequality did not revolve around taxpayer’s money only, but private partnerships. Even the former multiracial private schools besides the government subsidy also received private funding and formed private partnerships. Who was funding them? What role are they playing in partnering with disadvantaged schools to ensure that they assist in resolving the historical challenges?
The challenges with sanitation and crime were all caused by a one sided delivery process during apartheid oppression. The majority of the money in the country is in the hands of those who had it during the time of apartheid. Those people were part of the oppression and caused the problems being faced today. What role are they playing to ensure they assist the government of the day to resolve their past conduct? Partnership is needed with the government of the day and organisations like Section 27 and EELC to resolve the problems caused within schools. The danger of not doing this is that after five years the same problem is faced. Even those who paid taxes were a minority. The beneficiaries of taxes were a majority. Tax within South Africa is developed to resolve problems caused by this inequality through the provision of social grants.
There is clear agreement that ECD is moved to DBE from Social Development and this process is to happen as fast as possible as learners were dependent on it. It was agreed that properly trained people assist at the developmental stage. This was a very important stage and if it is missed it might affect the whole system moving forward. He believed that they ensure that the process is resolved.
Provinces should come to the Committee to account for what they are doing as the Committee would not defend maladministration. If there is maladministration or corruption in provinces this had to come to the Committee. Whistleblowers had to tell the Committee about the corruption in provinces so action could be taken. Corruption reversed the gains of freedom. If someone steals the money meant for school toilets to be built, that person is an enemy of the country and action must be taken. The Committee could not defend anyone who had spawned corruption. Heads needed to be joined to resolve all these conflicts.
The Chairperson noted that DBE was present and would give an opportunity to respond, particularly on the recommendations as DBE would be able to speak to this. The DBE did not have to give responses as it was understood that provinces would have to give those responses. It was agreed that the provinces should come to the Committee and not only those identified but all provinces. Where there were good practices in provinces, the Committee should be able to get a grip on both bad and good practices. The Committee was not to forget that its mandate was to oversee and monitor the work of DBE. The Committee had looked very closely at DBE and had looked at its plans and the Committee itself had made recommendations on ECD migration, learner transport and EAP in the BRRR which would be adopted later today. The National Development Plan (NDP) outlined the education outcomes by 2030 and included safety, water and sanitation and resources. The Committee was to monitor these going forward.
Could EELC allude to the specification of the point that they were developing? On ECD migration, the Committee was still waiting for the DBE presentation on this. As Chairperson she acknowledged the issues raised by Section 27 on infrastructure, latrines and School Infrastructure Backlogs (SIB) programmes. The Committee had made recommendations to DBE on this. It was agreed that DBE was allocated R2.8 billion for SIB in 2018/19. If money that was supposed to have been spent on infrastructure was used for something different, the Committee needed to be made aware of this so it could deal with this. The Committee would never agree that where there is corruption it should continue. The Committee had been saying that infrastructure was very important, and it was something the Committee could not overlook. What Section 27 had said about what was happening to the kids was scary. One point raised by Section 27 was that in Limpopo there are school teachers who are afraid to report these matters to the district. She would welcome these teachers to report to the Committee so it can look into these matters, advise DBE and ensure the Minister takes action. If principals want to raise concerns, they are not to be afraid that something may happen to them.
She also wanted the Committee to revisit the issue of special schools. This was owed to the children and those who elected the Members to be part of this Committee, to ensure that DBE money is spent in the manner in which it is expected to. She handed over to DBE and thereafter EELC and Sections 27 could respond to questions specifically directed at them.
Mr Ramasedi Mafoko, DBE Acting Chief Director: School Infrastructure, welcomed the reports from the two organisations. DBE would look into providing extensive responses on the matters raised. However, DBE urged that both organisations, as EELC had indicated, meet with DBE Director-General and senior management to flesh out the issues contained in the report. DBE had met with EELC and indicated where they disagreed with the EELC Report. Section 27 was welcome to do the same as well.
There are quite a number of issues that DBE thought they would need to discuss and dispel in the reports. The Committee is aware that DBE is to report to them in the next month on infrastructure. Quite a number of the issues in the reports would be addressed quite extensively in that DBE presentation.
The President launched the R2.18 billion Sanitation Appropriate for Education (SAFE) initiative. This was over and above what was being done in SIB and what provinces were doing with the education infrastructure grant and equitable share funding. There was quite a lot that was happening in this space that could have been noted but, unfortunately, this was not reported on – especially in the Section 27 report.
DBE also wanted to raise that infrastructure needed to be seen from a holistic perspective. The Minister had indicated that sanitation is a priority. However, infrastructure was not only about sanitation as there was overcrowding in schools and additional classrooms were needed as well as school maintenance and attending to schools affected by disasters. It was thus a question of ensuring that, while sanitation and basic services were focused on, there was no disregard of other items that might cause danger to learners if they are neglected. This was a very delicate balancing act in terms of funding and programming of the infrastructure programme to ensure all issues are addressed.
DBE still had to provide laboratories and similar items to learners. For now, there was a constrained amount of funding so DBE had to chip away at these kinds of challenges progressively to ensure that they reach their objective. DBE would be able to provide extensive responses to the Committee.
Ms Marie-Louise Samuels, Director: ECD, DBE, stated that on 18 September when EELC met with DBE, they were able to clarify the areas agreed upon in the reports, as well as those areas not agreed upon. This was a beneficial meeting for both parties. The invitation was reiterated, which was that if Section 27 did the same they would be an opportunity to engage the issues raised in the reports in a substantive way. The DBE was aware that the issue of migration would need to be presented to the Committee when DBE had the concurrence of the plans with the Department of Social Development (DSD). Currently, DBE had been working hard at ensuring that they were able to take forward what they had. In the report presented by EELC, they had highlighted some of the issues DBE had raised with them. It had been indicated that DBE would be able to bring to the Committee, by the end of December, the implementation plan with all of the relevant details. There was a lot of work happening at the moment at national and provincial level in preparing the system for the migration of responsibilities. EELC would be aware of the consultation that was currently happening with civil society. The DBE would continue to do this and as soon as they had the plan ready for comment they would be able to then again go on another round of engagements with civil society, businesses and government departments. The DBE noted the recommendations made in EELC Report and indicated that, in terms of all of the issues raised and recommendations made, DBE was working on these areas and would be able to provide a detailed response to all of them.
Equal Education Law Centre Response
Ms Parker addressed the question of per learner funding. In EELC Report the 8% that was referred to was based on research conducted by education researcher, Mr Nic Spaull, who EELC had engaged with on this. He had outlined that the 8% was ongoing research. Some of the things that had informed the research and this number included taking into account factors such as spikes in birth rates, increased enrolments in schools, and increases in teacher’s salaries and wages which far-exceeded inflation. As was mentioned, there was disagreement on this statement by DBE. In response to the EELC Report, DBE indicated that they disagreed with the statement and pointed out points of agreements. This was in the sense that Mr Spaull and his research was known to DBE, as they had collaborated and worked together on the analysis and there was disagreement on the tools used to measure this. For example, Treasury said that per learner spending was not declining but was stagnant. However, even if it were stagnant this was a problem in and of itself.
Where there was agreement was that DBE was saying that the fact that wage increases were exceeding inflation was problematic. It had the effect of crowding out prioritisation on underspending per learner spending and was something that DBE needed to continue to engage on. During engagements EELC had tried to move away from the 8% number and come to a common ground and agree that there are factors which are hindering per learner allocations as it needed attention, whether or not it was declining or stagnating.
The second question around the ECD conditional grant concerned clarity. To be clear there was an ECD conditional grant currently in existence and there has been one since 2016. This grant had two components, a per child subsidy component and infrastructure component, which were currently being administered by Department of Social Development (DSD). In considering the funding implications of migration from DSD to DBE, one of the questions that needs to be considered is how the ECD grant would continue to be administered going forward, taking into account some of the challenges that DSD was currently experiencing in spending the grant. In the EELC Report, it was noted that in the year under review and in the year before as well, the ECD grant had been underspent in many provinces which was problematic. These were the considerations that would need to be taken forward when thinking about the funding of ECD if it is to be taken on by DBE. The ECD conditional grant was just one of the considerations in EELC’s engagement with DBE, and certainly the considerations might go wider into general models of funding.
On the question about a policy being developed by EELC, Ms Parker asked for clarity and the Chairperson explained that in its opening remarks EELC had mentioned that it was dealing with policy development.
Ms Parker replied that that was just a general statement. One of the components of EELC’s work was that their research was often focused on legislative and policy development and one of their aims was to work towards working with the relative departments.
Ms Mayo replied about the difficulty of not knowing under which department the function of learner transport fell. One of the recommendations made was to recognise the challenges that were there and the need for a close relationship between the DOT and DBE to navigate the difficulty in dealing with transport. One of the things that EELC’s sister organisation, Equal Education, was pushing was the idea of a conditional grant to deal with transport. This was something that seemed to have the support of the Minister and provinces saw the idea of a conditional grant as something that could be quite beneficial to them in dealing with the gaps that existed in the amount of money they received. This could go a long way in addressing transport challenges. EELC called on the Committee to continue to push both Ministers to resolve this tension and put forward the idea of a conditional grant as something that could make a meaningful difference.
Ms Robyn Beere, Deputy Director, EELC, addressed the comment on inclusive education. Inclusive education has been implemented in South Africa since 2001 when the White Paper 6 was put in place. It was worthy to note that there have been some considerable success stories around inclusive education. Many ordinary public schools admit and support learners with a wide range of different learning needs quite successfully. The Committee was encouraged, when visiting their constituencies, to find out about these success stories as they could really be quite easily replicated. This was not to say that there were no significant challenges, particularly with children with disabilities, in accessing ordinary schools. The SIAS policy had been mentioned and one of the recommendations in the EELC Report was to urge DBE and the Committee to monitor the implementation of the policy quite closely – as this was a policy that could actually provide meaningful inclusion of all learners into ordinary schools.
One of the difficulties that was also raised was the funding of inclusive education. Again, national norms for inclusive education were developed and put out for comment – unfortunately they were only approved as guidelines. However, it was very important that inclusive education is adequately funded to ensure that ordinary schools are able to accommodate and support learners with different learning needs. On this point, EELC also made a recommendation on reasonable accommodation. This was a duty on every single ordinary public school to first look at what they are able to do to provide support to a learner. Often these accommodations are not complex or expensive but are small adjustments that can be made to the learning environment and teaching so that children do not need to be channelled to special schools.
Ms Nurina Ally, EELC Director, briefly commented on infrastructure, saying that she was supporting Section 27’s recommendations on data collection and transparency. One of the EELC recommendations was for DBE to provide information on allocations, spending and targets – distinct from ECD. This was something that EELC had still not seen but was encouraging. On the question of the EELC funding sources, EELC was an open book. The funding sources were listed on their website as there was nothing to hide on their side. However, it was necessary to place on record that the question was deeply disheartening. EELC was present as an organisation that was motivated by the best interests of children, the right to education, and ensuring that the rights in the Constitution are realised. EELC was not present as enemies, and neither were they driven by ulterior motives or appearing as faceless individuals. EELC was present to substantively engage and critically lead in the role that the Committee was to play. EELC encouraged that these opportunities are utilised to their fullest, that the content of reports and contributions are substantively engaged upon, and that they are not dismissed on the basis of supposed ulterior motives.
Section 27 response
Ms Veriava said that the comments about calling the provinces to the Committee to speak about the report findings was a very good idea. The Komape judgment handed down in 2018 noted the lack of spending that had occurred on sanitation when sanitation could have been addressed but led to the death of Komape. It had mentioned that a report had been made around the plight of school sanitation. National Parliament was urged to speak to provincial government and see why the plan could only be realised in 2021. Surely this was a matter of more urgency? Comments were noted about norms and standards. Again, this was very important. The previous special rapporteur on the right to education in the United Nations developed a report on improving the quality of education in countries all around the world. One of the main recommendations was the importance of minimum standards and the importance of developing national norms. National norms had been spoken of under transport. National norms was very important, and whether or not they were guidelines or norms around non-educative provisioning in special schools. This was an issue that Section 27 was dealing with, where there were learners in hostels in schools in the Umkhanyakude district in KwaZulu-Natal. Thus, Section 27 did not only focus on Limpopo. The issues there were also very serious as learners were being neglected due to the lack of care in these hostels. Therefore, Section 27 would definitely support them.
On the question asking why sanitation and why Limpopo, as had been mentioned, Section 27 was not just sanitation and not just Limpopo. To provide some history, as would be known, Section 27 was involved in the textbooks case in 2012 where there was non-delivery of textbooks. When Section 27 got involved in the textbooks case, many of the schools they had been working with came to them about the really terrible sanitation in the province. Section 27 has been working with their client schools in Limpopo province since 2012. Komape died in 2014 and Section 27 then represented his family. There was a long history on sanitation. Similarly Section 27 worked at Umkhanyakude in KZN for many years. It was not certain which Members were in the previous Committee, but Section 27 did not come to present on sanitation only. Section 27 had previously come to the Committee to present on other research. Thus, Section 27 did not go about this in a way where they just ran to court.
One of the tools that Section 27 used was advocacy and they believed in advocacy and a constitutive and participative democracy. Thus, Section 27 came to the Committee and tried to meaningfully engage with Members to speak to their findings and recommendations. On funding and whether Section 27 is democratically elected, as with EELC, it was also thought that the question raised in the combative way that it was, was unfortunate given that South Africa had a participative and constitutional democracy. Section 27’s funders were also an open book and on the internet. Section 27’s mandate was taken directly from the Constitution and the organisations that were present in representing civil society had very similar backgrounds where they believed in the Constitution and human rights. Section 27 therefore represented human rights and did not represent anyone else.
Speaking to her own personal history: she came from a family that was involved in the student uprisings in the 1980s, her father went to jail for this, she went to an apartheid school, she was the only girl in her school that made it to university. It was always a dream of hers to be a human rights lawyer and fight for human rights given the apartheid history. Due to the importance of education, she had chosen to work on education rights, and she had a doctorate in education rights – this was what she represented.
In terms of whether or not Section 27 was elected, they were not elected because they were a public interest legal organisation. She could probably work at a big law firm but did not want to. Section 27 wanted to provide legal representation to people who cannot access the big law firms, which was why they were here today. Section 27 provided legal representation to all the children that had been seen, as each of their families had contacted the organisation – Section 27 did not contact them. Section 27 represented the families because they would not be able to go to the Big 5 law firms.
On the issue of principals that had been victimised, there were many as the principals did get very scared and were intimidated by district officials. The principals did withdraw when they came to Section 27 with their cases which was why they often represented School Governing Bodies. However, Section 27 would try and bring the issues to the Committee in the future. It was agreed that infrastructure is not only sanitation, but sanitation is very important as this was where learners were dying. Section 27 was not present to only speak about sanitation. If the next day there were issues on bullying and corporal punishment, and they had researched and made recommendations, Section 27 would definitely come before the Committee on all of these issues.
On why Section 27 was present, why they had not written to DBE and why they had not approached DBE first, Ms Brener could speak to this more. However, Section 27 had written to DBE and had asked for meetings to discuss the Sanitation Report. Section 27 had engaged quite a bit on textbooks and had a very good relationship with DBE. For example, this was seen in national and provincial departments in the reporting of textbook shortages. Section 27 had been dealing with braille and the publication of braille materials. They would have liked to engage the Committee more on sanitation and noted that the Committee had invited them to the session today.
Ms Brener spoke to the questions on the budget analysis in the report. Section 27 was asked if it had done an analysis on spending, budgets being used for what they had been allocated for, virements and money being moved around. An analysis on unauthorised expenditure had not been done. Section 27 specifically chose to focus on fruitless and wasteful expenditure and irregular expenditure. Essentially, the overarching question was if there was money available to be doing a better job than what was being done now. What Section 27 attempted to do was to analyse the places where money might be available that was not being spent at the moment. Fruitless and wasteful expenditure, so defined in the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), is money that should not have been wasted. Money that is irregularly spent is money that is not spent in accordance with the PFMA – this could include corrupt spending, but did not necessarily always mean corrupt spending but proper procurement processes were not followed so it is classed as irregular. Section 27 thus chose to analyse these two categories of spending because it was very clear that this money could have been more productively spent elsewhere, such as on improved sanitation in schools.
On the question of the missed incentives of the education infrastructure grant, the Committee asked whether any other provinces had missed the incentives portion. In the year in which the report was analysed, financial year 2017/18, the only province that had missed the incentive was Limpopo. All of the other provinces had met the threshold and so received the pocket of money. This information was publicly available and could be done for any financial year.
Questions were asked about suppliers not being paid, where facilities were half built and abandoned, and whether Section 27 should advise communities and schools to demolish pit latrines to ensure safety. The point that Section 27 tried to get across in the report was that the duty to ensure the fulfilment of the right to education lay squarely with the provincial and national departments. Whether departments were using implementing agents, contractors, builders and architects to build the schools, ultimately those people are being hired so DBE can fulfil its constitutional duty to build those schools and fulfil those rights. It was therefore DBE’s responsibility to ensure that the contractors are managed, deadlines are met, and schools are built. Similarly, it was ultimately DBE’s responsibility to ensure that learners are safe in schools. There was a duty to ensure the safety of learners in a school setting – their safety was the responsibility of the school in which they are placed and DBE who was responsible for that school.
On the question of why Limpopo was chosen, Section 27 had a presence in Limpopo. In a lot of ways this was a pragmatic question. Section 27 worked in Limpopo, it was where they had presence on the ground. Since they had presence, they could bring the Committee information from the people on the ground. This was in no way a suggestion that Limpopo was the only place where these issues are problematic.
Ms Brener closed with statistics from the President’s Office, where the numbers came from the end of 2018. To reiterate, the presence of pit latrines was not the only problem with school sanitation – it was one of various problems as there were lots of problems. Using the presence of pit latrines as a measure, there were three provinces that were doing particularly badly. The first was the Eastern Cape where, according to the statistics from the President Office, there were over 1500 schools with pit latrines only and no other form of sanitation; in KwaZulu-Natal there were over 1300 schools with pit latrines only and no other form of sanitation; and lastly, in Limpopo there were 507 schools with pit latrines only and no other form of sanitation. It was a purely pragmatic reason that Section 27 had focused on Limpopo. However, these issues were severe, they were severe in other parts of South Africa as well and needed to be dealt with at a national and provincial level.
Mr Moroatshehla provided a point of privilege on the KwaZulu-Natal number of pit latrines and mentioned that he did not have this report.
MsTarabella-Marchesi spoke to norms and standards. It could be remembered that long ago there was a case in the Eastern Cape which had been won in terms of minimum standards for infrastructure. She spoke specifically to the priorities based on this, as it put a lot of pressure on different provinces in ensuring the minimum standards. It was known that EELC’s norms and standards were based on international standards, but this basically took away from priorities as a lot of pressure was being applied to provinces to get rid of pit latrines and asbestos when the structures are in perfect condition. Thus, provinces would have to prioritise these schools instead of building more schools and looking at other various challenges that are more pressing in provinces. Has this been looked at as it was a very big issue? She had been to a school in the Western Cape that was perfect, but because EELC and Section 27 were putting pressure on them, the province now had to prioritise and say that instead of building another school they had to look at this school. Have the various priorities actually been looked at to say that pit latrines are more important because they kill children? Could this be looked at? There were schools in the Eastern Cape where learners were failing and there were dangerous schools that could actually harm children. Has this been looked at?
She noted the comment made about EELC and Section 27. These organisations were extremely independent, and it was unfortunate that they were being seen as funded by a certain elite. This was an unfortunate comment.
Ms Van Der Walt mentioned three things. While everyone was talking, she had reread some of the documents that she had on budgets. Limpopo’s budget was capped for the next financial year by R1.2 billion – almost 7% over the MTEF. This was a lot of money given that there was a huge backlog. There could be no doubt that the apartheid system particularly hurt education. This was known but there could be no excuse for the fact that, 25 years later, the dignity and safety of learners at schools had still not been dealt with. This needed to be acknowledged. It was agreed that the Committee should be grateful for the briefings. She did not always agree with the EELC and Section 27 reports. The fact of the matter was that the Committee should be grateful for all of the reports that they received because it gave the Committee, as politicians, the opportunity to drive the issues and fix it so that poor people could get better. This was what the Committee was supposed to do; they were not to come and play games. It did not matter who funded whom. The Committee needed this information to become better at what they were doing within DBE.
Ms N Adoons (ANC) mentioned that she did not know who was playing games. It was believed that Members had raised many important questions, but she wanted to make follow ups on two of the questions that were asked during the two presentations. The first question concerned policy development, where EELC responded to say that they had engaged with DBE on how to develop and improve development policies. EELC said it was seeking systemic change in the education sector. Could this be explained? The second question was to Section 27. The Committee was shown some photos of school children. Did the parents give Section 27 the right to use the photos of the children in the presentation? Section 27 provided a report until July 2018. What was the progress Section 27 had collected to date? Was there any improvement? Lastly, as the ANC government, they were doing very well with all the challenges faced. It had only been 25 years and a lot of backlog was being dealt with. The Committee would not be apologetic about the progress they were making and would not lose focus. In South Africa there were many illegal entities, such as fly-by-night schools, colleges and churches. It was thus within the Committee’s right to check if these organisations were working in the best interests of the children and country. The Committee was thus not apologetic about this.
Ms King provided a comment on what had been previously said about 'faceless organisations'. This called for the Committee to have workshop on all of the responsibilities of this Committee. What happened today was very unfortunate in that they had civil organisation who came and reported on how they saw things. It was not necessary that there should be agreement with these organisations, it was just their outlook on how things were on the ground. It would strain engagements going further in the next five years, if this was how the Committee invited guests to be treated in this manner. This Committee was a very important Committee and politics should try and be divorced from it. The Committee was not present to chastise DBE, but to hold them to account and see where better oversight could be done from what the Committee received from other organisations, not only DBE, to broaden the Committee’s understanding of what was going on.
EELC and Section 27 response
Ms Brener answered the first question saying that in KwaZulu-Natal, according to the President’s SAFE initiative, there were 1365 schools with pit latrines only and no other form of sanitation. There were an additional 1477 schools who had proper sanitation, but their pit latrines have not yet been demolished so the safety hazard remained.
Ms Parker gave clarity on what was meant by systemic and sustainable change. EELC had mentioned from the outset that one of their roles was to work with DBE and others to improve the education system. In their meeting with the Director-General he had mentioned six priorities DBE was focusing on that included access, inclusivity, equality. These were all aspects EELC was working towards improving, and it identifies challenges within the system which are replicated, are particularly persistent and can be worked towards improving to achieve access, inclusivity and equality.
Ms Mayo replied to the question on norms and standards and priorities. The best thing about this was that it was a law that the Minister drafted and the public participated in. It was thus something that had come from government itself and the law did provide priorities of some form. It provided a standard approach where it said that for the first five years after 2013 X needs to be done, and then provides something for the next five years etc. It tries to stagger things so that DBE could try and reasonably prioritise. What Section 27 was talking about when it came to pit latrines was that the law clearly stated that plain pit latrines and inappropriate school structures are unlawful and should not exist. These were meant to fall within the priorities that government was meant to start with and ensure they had dealt with it within that timeframe. This was a really good law as it made one look forward by setting reasonable standards by setting time frames of a certain number of years so that schools had access to items such as laboratories and fields. By the end of the timeframe this law should have ensured that acquiring these items was reasonable. Every school in South Africa should look like former Model-C schools. The priorities were quite clear and were achievable. However, so far it was known, deadlines had already been passed and had not been met.
Mr Brodie replied that Section 27 had received permission from the parents. These pictures would not be used without having received consent from the parents.
The Chairperson thanked EELC and Section 27 for their presentations. They were an eye-opener, and this was not to be underestimated. It was important that the stakeholders that worked with DBE were known. If EELC or Section 27 felt offended by the comments by Members, apologies were extended on their behalf. She did not think that Members had meant to offend anybody as a question was a question but she did not think that Members should bring politics into play. What brought everyone together at the meeting was the child. Whether the child was black or white, a child remained a child and the Committee wanted what was best for all children irrespective of colour.
If the Committee did not invite EELC and Section 27, they were to remind the Committee to invite them. The Committee wanted organisations to come and tell the Committee what was happening, especially that which the Committee was too short-sighted to see. Matters that the organisations looked into were what the Committee would take many years to get to. This would frustrate the Committee’s route and they would thus really appreciate further presentations.
DBE Budget Review & Recommendations Reports (BRRR): consideration and adoption
The Chairperson presented the Committee's BRRR and noted the following:
- Page 1 illustrated the purpose and role of the Committee.
- Page 2 listed the core functions of DBE and process followed by the Committee in arriving at the report.
- Page 3 illustrated the National Development Plan (NDP) and Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF).
- Page 5 noted the 2018 State of the Nation Address, DBE strategic goals, BRRR recommendations for that year and the responses to recommendations.
- Page 9 gave an assessment of financial performance and reasons for deviation per programme.
- Page 11 showed further deviations and mitigation measures.
- Page 12 illustrated the report of Auditor-General on DBE’s audit outcomes, which continued until 4.10.
- Page 15 showed financial performance per quarter and expenditure per programme.
- Page 17 assessed service delivery and programme performance until page 23.
- Page 25 assessed financial performance.
- Page 26 listed the reasons for deviation per programme.
- Page 28 discussed the Auditor-General’s audit.
- Page 29 noted audit improvements on irregular expenditure, challenges on school infrastructure initiative.
- Page 30 showed the audit outcomes for DBE performance information.
- Page 31 provided the Committee’s overall observations. It was taken that Members had time to go through the report. Audit outcomes were also dealt with per programme.
- Page 33 spoke of conditional grants and statutory bodies: Umalusi performance and reasons for deviation
- Page 37 indicated the issues of Human Resources, providing tables for what had already been spoken to.
- Page 38 showed the statement of financial positions of entities.
- Page 39 dealt with the current issues and way forward for Umalusi.
- Page 40 dealt with performance and challenges per programme.
- Page 49 depicted the annual financial statements and analysis of the financial position and audit
- Page 53 are the Committee observations.
- Page 55 provides the recommendations.
The Chairperson said that the BRRR needed to be considered for adoption. It was detailed and all issues that the Committee had raised had been dealt with. Are there any interactions on it or can it be adopted?
Ms Shabalala said that the report covered all the matters that the Committee had dealt with and moved for the adoption of the report.
Mr Moroatshehla supported the adoption unequivocally and the BRRR was adopted.
The Chairperson discussed the programme and the Committee agreed to a presentation by Inclusive Education South Africa on Wednesday 30 October 2019.
The minutes of 15 and 16 October 2019 were adopted and the meeting was adjourned.
- Equal Education Law Centre on Report of State of Education
- EELC Report on the State of Education
- Equal Education Law Centre submission
- EELC - Report on the State of Education 2014-2019 presentation
- Section27 - Towards Safe and Decent School Sanitation in Limpopo: The Most Fundamental of Dignities
- Section27 Report - Towards Safe and Decent School Sanitation in Limpopo: The Most Fundamental of Dignities
- Section27 Analysis of the Norms and Standards Report for Limpopo 2018/2019