The Committee was given a detailed presentation by the Department of Basic Education on inclusive education for learners with disabilities. Most of the policy obligations in White Paper Six on provision of inclusive education in South Africa, DBE had been implementing over the years, which had been turned into strategies. A table showed increases in growth areas for access to education for learners with disabilities from 2002 to 2018. A key intervention to improve equitable access to basic education is DBE has a focused budget programme from National Treasury, known as Programme Four, for learners with special education needs, who are admitted to special schools. Further key interventions are: Screening, Identification, Assessment and Support; training of teachers in specialised areas of disability; and designation, conversion and resourcing of full-service schools and special schools as resource centres.
DBE began implementing the policy on Screening, Identification, Assessment and Support (SIAS) in 2015. It achieved the training of 4 999 district officials and 95 089 teachers from about 25 000 schools. This target was set for 2018/19, and DBE has covered all of the schools it set out to cover in the implementation of the SIAS Policy. The Policy is leaning heavily on the provision of professionals such as speech therapists, psychologists. The Department has facilitated the signing of an interdepartmental memorandum of understanding (MOU) between DBE, Departments of Health and Social Development.
The Education White Paper 6 entitled Special Needs Education: Building an Inclusive Education and Training System targeted the conversion and designation of 500 schools as full-service schools in 30 education districts (focusing on primary schools). By the end of 2018, provincial education departments (PEDs) had already designated 848 public ordinary schools into full-service schools; thus, DBE reached its target before 2021 (which was the year by which the target needed to be met). DBE has a database system of children in special care centres, and one for special needs learners who are currently at home and awaiting placement in a school.
As a result of a court case, National Treasury awarded DBE a Conditional Grant for Learners with Severe to Profound Intellectual Disability (LSPID) since 2016 to ensure children with severe to profound intellectual disabilities access quality public funded education and support. For the placement of learners with severe to profound intellectual disabilities, there are still challenges to find space for those with high level support needs, given the limited space in special schools. DBE is currently working on that challenge. Transfer of funds to provinces whose performance was unsatisfactory was withheld and to assist them to improve their performance, targeted support was provided.
The South African Sign Language: Home Language Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (SASL HL CAPS) for Grades R-12 was approved and implemented at 43 schools for the deaf in 2015. In 2018, the first cohort of deaf learners wrote the National Senior Certificate examinations in SASL Home Language.
To provide learner transport, DBE is providing subsidies for special schools through Programme 4. In each province, the provision of learner transport is different; for some the implementing department is the Provincial Department of Transport, while for others it is the PED. Key challenges for learner transport include insufficient funding and the location of the function which is shared between Transport and Basic Education so coordination and oversight between two departments is a challenge).
The management of waiting lists is still a challenge for DBE – as of April 2019, 2 352 children with disabilities are on waiting lists across the nine provinces. The provinces have their own strategies for managing waiting lists. DBE has been battling for a long time with giving children with autism access to education. DBE is ensuring that each special school has a unit for learners with autism.
In the discussion, Members asked about the list of criteria a school would need to have to be considered inclusive; how many specialist professionals were appointed to provide outreach services to schools; the consequences for provinces who did not spend the LSPID Conditional Grant; readiness of children with disabilities for the Fourth Industrial Revolution; and the non-standardised responsibility for the learner transport function. There were questions about the challenges of security for learners at hostels; if schools had been renovated to accommodate special needs learners; ratios of psychologists to learners with disabilities. The Chairperson read out the concerns of the Western Cape Forum for Intellectual Disability.
State of Inclusive Education in South Africa: Every Learner Matters
Mr Hubert Mathanzima Mweli, Director General: Department of Basic Education, said the briefing would track from a policy perspective the White Paper 6 regulating the provision of inclusive education and identify gaps and challenges that had arisen along the way. The Department would not hide anything, but would not claim easy victories. The presentation integrated responses that DBE had received from the Western Cape Forum for Intellectual Disabilities (WCFID). He said that in working with the Committee, DBE “had no choice” but to give all the technical details.
Dr Moses Simelane, DBE Chief Director: Curriculum Implementation and Monitoring, noted the strategic direction of the National Development Plan (NDP) that all South Africans should have access to education and training of the highest quality by 2030. According to Section 28 of the Constitution, all decisions made should be in the best interest of the child. A diagram was given of how the education sector plan relates to the SDGs and other imperatives. The sector plan is the Action Plan to 2019: Towards the realisation of Schooling 2030, with the key principles of access, redress, equity, inclusivity, quality and efficiency. Goal 26 of this plan speaks specifically to promoting inclusive education. One of the sector priorities was that of education of learners with special education needs (ELSEN). Another priority was partnerships, which includes working with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) with expertise in inclusive and special needs education.
Most of the policy obligations in White Paper Six on provision of inclusive education in South Africa, DBE had been implementing over the years, which had been turned into strategies. These included:
• Auditing, improvement and conversion of special schools to resource centres for district support
• Overhauling screening, identifying, assessing and supporting learners
• Mobilisation of out-of-school disabled children of school-going age
• Designation and resourcing 500 of 20 000 ordinary primary schools to full-service schools beginning with the 30 school districts that are part of the District Development Programme
• Establishment of district-based and school-level support teams to provide professional services.
A table showed improved access to education for learners with disabilities from 2002-2018.
• Number of full-service schools increased from 30 in 2002 to 848 in 2018;
• Number of special schools increased from 295 to 501 (447 public, 54 independent)
• Learner enrolment in special schools increased from 64 000 to 93 699
• Number of learners with disabilities in public ordinary schools increased from 77 000 to 121 461
• 6 654 children with severe to profound intellectual disability are supported in special care centres in 2018 where education is provided.
Data on learner enrollment in special schools was disaggregated by disability type and by province. Learners with an intellectual disability were in the majority. The breakdown of funding and expenditure per province was provided for 2019/20.
Key interventions to improve equitable access to basic education are:
• Standardisation and institutionalisation of screening, identification, assessment and support
DBE began implementing the policy on Screening, Identification, Assessment and Support (SIAS) in 2015. It achieved the training of 4 999 district officials and 95 089 teachers from about 25 000 schools. This target was set for 2018/19, and DBE has covered all of the schools it set out to cover in the implementation of the SIAS Policy. The Policy is leaning heavily on the provision of professionals such as speech therapists, psychologists. The Department has facilitated the signing of an interdepartmental memorandum of understanding (MOU) between DBE and Departments of Health and Social Development (DSD).
• Training of teachers in specialised areas of disability
Most teachers already have much of the skills to teach inclusively but lack confidence. The intervention Teaching For All: Mainstreaming Inclusive Education In South Africa aims to strengthen teachers to recognise and respond to children with special needs and is being piloted. It trains teachers in how to manage children who are autistic. The Teaching For All initiative has been done in collaboration with the University of South Africa (UNISA), the British Council, and MIET Africa. It provided a 2018 research report on The State of Inclusive Education in South Africa and the Implications for Teacher Development Programmes. The intervention aims to build capacity from initial teacher education and implementation will start in 2020. DBE has provided training in South African sign language.
• Designation and resourcing of 500 full-service schools and special schools as resource centres
Education White Paper 6 Special Needs Education: Building an Inclusive Education and Training System targeted the conversion and designation of 500 schools as full-service schools in 30 education districts (focusing on primary schools). By the end of 2018, PEDs had already designated 848 public ordinary schools into full-service schools; thus, DBE reached its set target before 2021. However, in performing the education sector audit on full-service schools, the Auditor-General South Africa (AGSA) identified several shortcomings and weaknesses. To address the shortcomings, the DBE issued Circular S4 of 2019 to guide PEDs to undertake the following remedial actions:
- Assessing designated schools to establish the extent of resourcing and conversion required;
- Developing a business plan with a roadmap of what needs to be done by whom and by when to ensure designated schools are functional, with outreach services by special schools, where possible;
- Providing once-off funding to improve accessibility at the school and infrastructure;
- Developing and implementing a support programme for the school
- Implementing monitoring and support services to ensure it functions as a full-service school.
In addition, a task team was established to develop standard operating procedures for conversion and resourcing of full-service schools. As of 2016/17, 108 special schools were designated as resource centres and provide outreach services within their districts.
National Treasury awarded DBE a Conditional Grant for Learners with Severe to Profound Intellectual Disability (LSPID) to ensure children with severe to profound intellectual disabilities access quality public funded education and support. This was as a result of a court case in the Western Cape in 2010 where the court heard that the state made no direct provision for education of such children nor did they provide schools for such children. The court ruled that the state should take reasonable measures to give effect to education rights of children in the Western Cape. The DBE did not only focus on the Western Cape; it rolled out its response in addressing the plight of these children across the nine provinces. The presentation (slides 59-63) provided information on progress of the implementation of the Conditional Grant. Notably, the database system of children in special care centres allows DBE to tap into what is happening at a centre level. DBE started from 280 special care centres and increased to 428 receiving provision of services. A big step is that data on the audited special care centres has been captured on SA-SAMS (School Administration and Management System).
There is currently an absence of enabling legislation to transfer funds to special care centres. In terms of the South African Schools Act, the direct transfer of funds to special care centres is not currently allowed. Through services and paying salaries of the outreach teams, DBE could be said to be providing indirect funding. Perhaps when the Act is reviewed, DBE could look at the possibility of making direct transfers. DBE has funded services via procuring tools of the trade – such as vehicles, laptops, 3G cards which allow people to be accessible wherever they are. DBE is currently doing monitoring work (on expenditure and realization of the critical outcomes in the grant framework), and providing support on grant implementation. DBE teams visit sites in the provinces at least three times a year for provincial budget monitoring.
For the placement of learners with severe to profound intellectual disabilities (SPID), there are still challenges to find space for those with high level support needs, given the limited spaces in special schools. DBE is currently working on that challenge.
Transfer of funds to provinces whose performance was unsatisfactory was withheld in terms of the Division of Revenue Act (DoRA) and to assist them to improve their performance, targeted support was provided. In some instances, DBE considered transferring funds to those provinces who were delivering on the grant.
A November 2018 Roundtable on the implementation of the Western Cape Court order looked at going beyond the Conditional Grant; that is, what would be the role of the care centres when the grant is no longer provided for. DBE looked into that so that it could set up systems now while it has access to the funding, and look at reorganising, and reshaping care centres so they can provide quality education to these children. The Roundtable tasked DBE with the establishment of task teams to create implementable plans for its recommendations. However, it has taken time to form the task teams as fostering collaboration with departments is a “daunting task”. A legal task team is needed to look at gaps in the legislation, which could talk to the possibility of providing direct funding to the care centres. One cannot speculate at this point on the legality of direct funding. But DBE is moving towards ensuring that direct funding can be provided.
The majority of those enrolled in special needs schools are those children with severe to profound learning disabilities (SPID). There are 177 schools in South Africa for learners with severe intellectual disability. These schools have not had an official curriculum. The DG approved the establishment of a Technical Task Team and Critical Readers to assist in the creation of a curriculum for learners with SPID. Since the curriculum needed to be packaged per phase, to have started with CAPS Grades R-5 left a gap for Grade 6, which is the exit grade for Intermediate Phase. DBE has corrected the gap, and has already written the subjects for Grade 6. The inclusion of content for Grade 6 ensures the curriculum is aligned to the phases.
Key observations made during monitoring and support visits noted teachers were willing to implement the curriculum but there is a shortage of qualified educators for some subjects. The successful implementation of the curriculum will require a huge injection of resources (slide 78).
Dr Simelane reported on the progress in providing information and computer technologies (ICTs) and other assistive technologies to special schools. For example, DBE, in consultation with Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS) and the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) developed ICT guidelines for Special Schools, a school assessment form, and a process map. They have engaged with four telecommunications companies to do assessments of the specials schools about the ICT and devices that need to be provided.
Dr Simelane noted that DBE had identified challenges involved in provisioning for learners with visual impairments as this area is “resource intensive” as DBE needed to provide ICTs with reader software, and provide equipment for the schools to produce their own Braille books at a school level. DBE then set up a Ministerial Advisory Committee to ensure that the provisioning for learners with visual impairments is appropriate. 223 Braille textbooks have been adapted, and Braille textbooks are procured by provinces directly from the Pioneer Printers and Braille Services.
The South African Sign Language: Home Language Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (SASL HL CAPS) for Grades R-12 was approved by the Council of Education Ministers in 2015, and implemented at 43 schools for the deaf in 2015. In 2018, the first cohort of deaf learners wrote the National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations in SASL Home Language.
The management of waiting lists is still a challenge for DBE – as of April 2019, 2 352 children with disabilities are on waiting lists across the nine provinces. The provinces have their own strategies for managing waiting lists. For example, the Eastern Cape opened four new special schools to accommodate learners on waiting lists. In Gauteng, children who are waiting for a placement are enrolled in public ordinary schools, full-service schools and special classes. DBE has been battling for a long time with giving children with autism access to education. DBE is ensuring that each special school has a unit for learners with autism.
To provide learner transport, DBE is providing subsidies for special schools through Programme 4. In each province, the provision of learner transport is different; for some the implementing department is the provincial Department of Transport, while for others it is Department of Education. Key challenges for learner transport include insufficient funding; location of the function which is shared between Transport and Education so coordination and oversight between two departments is a challenge; road safety; rationalisation of schools; lack of uniformity in contracting and remuneration; and inefficiencies in the provision of the programme. Remedial measures have been put in place to address these challenges (slides 117-119). A feasibility study will be done on the location of the transport function.
The Policy on Home Education – which has been in place since 1999 – was reviewed in 2014, and promulgated in November 2018. DBE is currently developing regulations to strengthen the implementation of the policy. The regulations are needed because the home education sector is “very volatile”. Having a policy is not enough – in some instances, DBE may be taken to court. Currently, there is litigation on the implementation of this policy. The regulations will thus be critical, because the implementation of the policy can be defended through the regulations.
Key challenges in implementation of the Inclusive Education Policy include: misalignments persist in the understanding of inclusive education; inadequate staffing at all levels; funding priorities remain inconsistent, leading to challenges in ensuring universal access; funding for the designation, conversion and resourcing of full-service schools is inadequate; watering down of national programmes which needs strengthened monitoring by DBE as the curriculum must be “implemented as designed by DBE; inclusive education is not understood as a mechanism to improve access to quality of education for all. Possible remedial actions were given (slide 123).
Dr Simelane said inclusive education as a policy seeks to ensure that the differences some learners have are not abused, and that they will not be ignored or left behind. Special needs education is not synonymous with inclusive education; it is a subprogramme of inclusive education. Inclusive education speaks to removing barriers to learning, and providing appropriate support to learners. Special education needs make up a quarter of all the barriers to learning that are addressed through inclusive education.
Key priorities in the Inclusive Education strategic focus for 2019-2021 was:
- Accelerated institutionalisation of the SIAS policy and and curriculum differentiation by filling of posts
- Mobilising out-of-school children with disabilities to access special care centres and facilitate gradual placement in schools. The target year for every child with a disability receiving education is 2021
- Finalise Guidelines for Resourcing an Inclusive Education System
- Monitoring of school-based and district-based support teams to ensure full implementation by 2021.
DBE responsibilities in the implementation of White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which is administered by the DSD were listed.
Ms N Tarabella-Marchesi (DA) noted that a lot of work is involved in inclusive education and that DBE is doing the best that it can to ensure that learners are included. She asked if she were to go to an inclusive school, what list of criteria she should have. For example, there has to be a ramp; there has to be a specialised teacher. Could the Committee be provided with those criteria? Does a school have to meet all of the criteria to be regarded as an inclusive school? If one had a child who is autistic, how long is the waiting list? What is the longest waiting period for a learner to be included in a school in Dr Simelane’s personal experience? For learners with disabilities in general, what kind of waiting period could be expected?
She asked how far DBE is with the SDG targets, and when would it be able to meet those targets?
What are the numbers of teachers who specialise in inclusive education? Is DBE able to meet the numbers of qualified teachers required to teach learners with disabilities? She was concerned about the waiting period. Learners with disabilities who were at home had been identified that needed to be included in a school. Currently those children are not receiving any learning. After the child is identified, is there a way to educate that child during the waiting period even if there is no space using a teacher in the child's area?
With the Early Childhood Development (ECD) migration to DBE from DSD, learners with disabilities will be “coming over” to the DBE. Has DBE thought about the type of qualifications that the teachers should have? There will be salary discrepancies and is there a timeline for this because people need to be paid accordingly. The same applies to the ECD practitioners as some provinces pay a different amount compared to others. She asked about the conditional grant, when DBE gave the grant to the provinces, did it enforce targets, or did the provinces decide what the targets would be? For example, did DBE tell provinces how many schools they had to build? How are provinces performing in using the grant? Since there is an incentive to use the grant in mainstream schools, is it applied in the same way to mainstream schools? Since the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) this afternoon would announce budget cuts, how would the cuts affect learners? She knew the budget cuts would affect education, but what would it mean for learners with disabilities?
Ms C King (DA) asked how many specialist professionals were appointed to provide outreach services to schools. With regards to having a team of specialists, how many of them were on DBE’s payroll? The Minister had previously said that she is not always aware of how provinces spend their grants – what consequence measures would be put in place for provinces that underperform, or do not make full use of the grant for learners with severe disabilities?
On transport, Ms King noted that it is not standardised who is responsible for this function. This would influence the funding model, since one would not know who should take control of the funding model for learner transport. The Minister had said that DBE would get back to the Committee. What would DBE’s response be on learner transport, and for learners with severe disabilities?
Ms King said that accommodation and hostels would “always be a challenge”. In their oversight to provinces, in most cases, the main problem with hostels is that there is no security. She had not heard anything about how these facilities would be secured for the safety of learners against assault. She asked if DBE had safety guidelines for the provinces to follow, and if security provisions were in the budget.
She asked for the ratio of psychologists to the number of learners? Knowing the ratio would act as a guide on the impact made, especially in the inclusive school system. She asked if the Home Education regulations would come to the Portfolio Committee for input. In previous years, there was a misalignment between, for example, the Home Education policy and the regulations.
Ms King asked for the timeframe for resourcing an inclusive education system (since 2021 is “around the corner”). When could the public have input on the timeframe? In some schools she visited – especially in the Eastern Cape – the educators and school district did not fully understand what it means to be inclusive. Children with disabilities were being put into one class, that is, separated from other children when it was policy that discrimination had to be prevented. Discrimination is still happening in some schools.
Mr P Moroatshehla (ANC) thanked DBE for the “marathon” presentation. Education was a constitutional right for all learners, regardless of their condition. He did not hear about pregnant learners in the presentation. He had read that a pregnant learner was writing an examination and gave birth during the examination. This learner was writing with the other learners as no separation or discrimination should be allowed. The principal does not have the right to expel that learner. What is DBE’s take on such learners? What is DBE doing to equip teachers who get traumatized due to not being trained - unless some may have intuitive knowledge - to address this. A pregnant learner giving birth can happen at any time. He did not know of any policy directive as to how to handle such learners within South African schools.
He thought that the place and space for inclusive education is a basic education competency. He asked why it has been migrated to a higher education competency.
Ms D Van Der Walt (DA) said her first concern was the mobilisation of out-of-school children. She was not sure if there was a database of such children per province. How many children with disabilities were not in school? Wherever Members go, they find children with disabilities with no access to school. This coincides with the ECD move to DBE – how will DBE ensure that there are no out-of-school ECD children?
After one finishes studies in medical disciplines, such as occupational therapy, one has to do a year of compulsory service, normally at a hospital or medical institution. Surely there can be a proposal that occupational therapists can be placed at schools? Were there any negotiations and thoughts on that?
Ms Van Der Walt gave the example of Bela-Bela, where there were serious cases of disability in centres. She was not sure if education took place in such centres, but she was concerned about the grants to those centres. If it fell under Social Development, but education is involved, is there some sort of interdepartmental relationship? Bela-Bela is a good example of how grants are not always on time, and people suffer.
Are the learning and teaching support materials (LTSM) being delivered? The special needs equipment is very expensive, and some of the schools had very outdated equipment. Is DBE on par with the latest? She wanted a briefing on how DBE was doing with the equipment deliveries.
Ms N Adoons (ANC) showed appreciation for the presentation and said that she had similar concerns to those already raised. She asked how DBE collected data on children with disabilities who are not attending school. When it comes to special needs learners that need a special kind of transport, how are other departments involved in this, including the budget for such transport?
The Chairperson noted the questions in the Western Cape Forum for Intellectual Disability (WCFID) submission in response to the DBE presentation. On DBE's slide 60, how, and by when does DBE plan to ensure that learners at special care centres access public-funded education of an adequate quality? What plan has DBE developed to ensure that the President’s declaration will be fulfilled?
On slide 57, when and how, and with what funds, does DBE plan to implement the court order to provide education of an adequate quality to learners at special care centres (SCCs), in particular:
- Providing funds to special care centres for adequate facilities and the hiring of adequate staff?
- Providing transport to learners at special care centres?
- Providing training and accreditation for appropriate remuneration for staff at special care centres?
- Providing training for persons to educate learners at special care centres?
- When does DBE plan to roll out implementation to all provinces?
- When will DBE amend the regulations to enable it to comply with the court order more comprehensively, as decided at the November 2018 Roundtable?
WCFID’s third concern was that DBE and provincial education departments (PEDs) have only partially implemented the conditional grant for the education of learners with SPID. Teachers at special schools are not providing support services to learners at special care centres; outreach services to SCCs amount to 6 to 10 hours per quarter; in some cases, outreach teams have provided only 2-3 day training for SCC staff and/or delivered toolkits to SCCs. Learners are therefore not benefiting from therapy and learning support from the senior therapist and teachers in outreach teams.
- How many MoUs, beyond toolkits, has DBE concluded with special care centres?
- How many learners have been assessed? Do all learners have Individual Support Plans?
- Have learners’ details, their assessment reports and individual support plans (ISPs) been captured on the Learner Unit Record Information and Tracking System (LURITS)? If not, when does DBE plan to do this?
WCFID asked what consequence management has DBE introduced, in collaboration with provincial government; Education MECs and HODs, to ensure that provinces that fail to spend and implement the conditions of the conditional grant are supported and held accountable and learners at all special care centres access education of an adequate quality?
The Chairperson asked what are the Department plans to meet the announcement that by 2021 there will be no learner with a disability who will be excluded. She had the same questions as Ms Van Der Walt. She noted that in the Northern Cape the only special needs school was based in Kimberley. That province is very rural and very big. There are many children who do not access education because of their disability; they are at home. Those children are from poor families. It would be unfair to expect DBE to have schools in every town. But where the parents cannot afford to ferry children to a central place, DBE should be able to provide transport to and from the hostel.
On the conditional grant, how sure is the Committee that the grant is being used by PEDs to support and provide therapeutic care? Are there cases where the grant was used for something other than what it was meant for? Where the grant is used wrongly, are there consequences? The Chairperson’s take was that as long as PEDs do not have a directorate for inclusive education, DBE will not be able to do justice for those children. DBE needs to get in directors at provincial or district level, who deal with inclusive education.
The Chairperson spoke about home education and asked how a child with a disability would write the matric examinations at home? How will that process unfold? The Chairperson acknowledged and accepted the need for schools with hostels. Of the schools mentioned, how many needed infrastructure improvements?
She asked about desks and chairs. Does DBE have a budget for replacing old desks and chairs? She noted a visit to a school for the deaf and blind where they had to share Braille books between two children.
In reply to Dr Simelane noting that the children were using Braille machines, the Chair said that the children should not share a Braille machine as each child should have their own machine for effective learning. With the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), all children with disabilities will need devices that respond to the phenomenon of the 4IR so they are able to enter the employment sector. How ready is DBE to ensure that children will such equipment?
The Chairperson noted that teacher assistants, especially in the Foundation Phase, were not being permanently employed by DBE in most provinces. These assistants are on contract, and have been on contract for a “very long” time. That is not fair on the assistants as individuals, or on learners who are supposed to be taken care of in those schools.
Ms Van Der Walt added to the Chairperson’s statement that DBE cannot be expected to have a school for these learners in every town. If she looked at the map where the schools had been marked with dots, she saw that in Limpopo, for example, most of the schools were clustered bordering Gauteng. There were very few in the Vembe area. She asked for an explanation for the distribution of schools in a province.
Ms King noted the Accelerated School infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) and Sanitation Appropriate for Education (SAFE) programmes. How many of the inclusive education schools had been revamped so the facilities would accommodate learners with disability such as toilet facilities. How many schools in the SAFE project have been done in that way?
Ms Tarabella-Marchesi noted that ECD is now moving to DBE. Has DBE looked at the ECD programme to say how it can be stretched to accommodate learners in age-appropriate infrastructure? The presentation showed learners with disabilities per province at school. She asked for data on learners sitting at home.
The Chairperson asked if the DSD was implementing White Paper 6. Was there any integration between DBE and the DSD?
Ms Adoons asked about learners from other countries. At a previous meeting, someone asked about learners who come from bordering countries, collect material and leave. Do we have learners with special needs who do the same?
Director General response
Mr Mweli said that perhaps the Committee needed a whole-day workshop on the topic of inclusive education. It is an important topic because it is a matter that affects the most vulnerable members of society. He was “humbled” by the approach of the Portfolio Committee, and he thanked the Committee for the reminder that these children are the most vulnerable members of South African society, and said that DBE’s approach must take that into account; it must be as comprehensive as possible.
Mr Mweli replied to the Chairperson that he had indicated in one of the Portfolio Committee meetings that when DBE started implementing the pro-poor policy of government, for some reason, it escaped DBE to include the most vulnerable learners in the system. The reason was that subsidies had been provided to the schools, which is “much more” than the subsidy provided in other schools. DBE assumed that they were adequately provided for.
After the President's 25 June State of the Nation (SONA) Address, DBE asked, “to what extent have we created a safety net for learners with special education needs?” The planning branch team in which the pro-poor policy was engineered under Mr Padayachee then looked at the funding for learners with special education needs to see if they were adequately funded, and if DBE would be able to declare them, within the immediate future, as no-fee-paying schools, “expensive as they might be”. DBE was advised by some members of the Association of School Governing Bodies not to head in the direction of no-fee schools, because that type of education is “very expensive”. The fact remains that these children are the most vulnerable members of society. “If education is not free for them, why should it be free for other learners?”
Very soon, the team will be able to indicate to the Committee that even learners with special education needs [can receive free education]. The team said to Mr Mweli that the preliminary assessment on resourcing indicates that DBE can declare learners with special education needs to be part of the learners who are deemed to be in no-fee-paying schools. Mr Mweli said that “it will definitely be done”; it would include the entire package of picking up the learners from home, and taking the learner to a school. DBE has been doing that for many schools located in commercial farming areas. DBE picks up learners from home, and takes them to school. On Monday mornings, the busses pick up the children, and on Friday afternoons, they are dropped off in their communities, all free of charge. At school hostel facilities, the state is covering them completely. If DBE can do that for those learners, then it can do that for the 447 public special needs schools. In Mpumalanga, some of the large farm schools are “as big as FET [further education and training] colleges; some are as big as universities”. The Mpumalanga Department of Education has invested in those farm schools, and DBE believes that it would not even require a quarter of what it invests in those institutions to cover learners with special education needs.
On 4IR, the presentation states that the first thing is connectivity, to ensure that all special needs schools are connected. The Minister in the budget speech prioritized two groups of schools – one is learners with special education needs; the second is multi-grade schools. DBE has gone further and said that within these two groups, group one is learners with special education needs. That is why Dr Simelane said that the Minister is meeting with the telecommunications companies (TELCOs) on 8 November, to say to them that “we now want you to ensure that before the next SONA, all schools for learners with special education needs are fully connected”. Of the 447 schools, some are already connected. The schools are provided with connectivity, and with relevant equipment to support the disability that exists there as deaf learners would require a different ICT package to blind learners.
In reply to Ms Marchesi, Mr Mweli said that he and his DBE colleagues had for the past two weeks visited Rochester University in the United States where 11 000 of its 119 000 students are deaf, and the university provides a “state-of-the-art” education. Between 9 000 and 10 000 computer programmers graduate per year and the students come from all over the world. DBE is looking at partnering with Rochester University in training South African teachers, and getting South African schools to get its learners ready to pursue their studies at university level. In South Africa, there are currently very few learners with disabilities who pursue an education at university level. DBE is trying to ensure that if it talks about inclusivity, then inclusivity should be “wall-to-wall” and not only up to school level, but “inclusivity for life”.
On learners sharing the same Braille machine, DBE would like to get details to properly follow that up, and find out if it is a norm or an anomaly, so that DBE addresses it. He noted that desks and chairs are provided based on the needs of the schools. The manager on a school board would know what needs to be replenished. DBE did not have the data at their fingertips on how many hostels had been renovated, but they could go back and find out how many have been renovated.
Mr Mweli pointed out that "home education" is meant to provide for the particular needs of a child who because of objective circumstances cannot attend school. If a group of children are educated at home, then it is "home schooling", which is a form of independent schooling. People abuse the system by calling "home schooling" type of education “home education”. Such people start to bring children together, and it becomes a fully-fledged school, when it is not supposed to be like that. These could be people opposed to the new policies. DBE strengthened the home education policy which makes such people “very uneasy”, since they can no longer gather children and call it home education when it is home schooling. This policy has “no place for home schooling”; it is home education. On the question of how home education allow for writing of the NSC at home. If a parent registers their child for home education, the parent has to link up with a qualified service provider who will be able to provide support to the learner, who will ensure that assessments are done according to the required standard, and that the registration for exams is done. Then UMALUSI will have to assess if what has been provided as facilities for exams does meet its requirements. The NSC can only be written in a registered examination centre which meets the requirements.
On the need for a directorate for inclusive education in all provinces, that afternoon, Members will hear the Minister of Finance give the MTBPS and hear to what extent DBE would have to scale down on some of the functions that are provided now. New directorates are unlikely to happen. Expertise and the requisite services are not necessarily provided at directorate and chief directorate level. Mr Mweli said that he subscribed to the notion of having “more foot soldiers than generals” in the organisation. Foot soldiers go out to provide services, while the generals are located elsewhere and give commands. Directors direct. More people who can go out and do the work are needed than those who issue instructions. Nonetheless, he took the point that expertise was needed at provincial and district level, where “the rubber hits the tarmac”.
On the consequences if provinces do not spend the conditional grant, DBE has struggled to get provinces to spend, even on learners with SPID. Expenditure has improved, and it has gone up by 50%. In 2018/19, it was the highest performance so far. Mr Mweli predicted that this financial year should be much better.
It was difficult to appoint specialist teachers permanently, because the conditional grant did not provide for that. DBE had been able to overcome that problem. The bulk of expenditure goes to paying salaries of the specialists. If one does not have enough specialists, one “cannot pay, because they are not there”. Mr Mweli agreed with National Treasury that specialists should be appointed on a permanent basis. If any province says that they were unable to spend because they could not appoint, DBE will not accept that.
Mr Mweli stated that it is part of the pro-poor policy of government for learners to be entitled to the same package that is provided to learners in the commercial farming areas. The Portfolio Committee needs to partner with DBE so that the learners who are sitting at home can be taken to where they can be provided with quality education.
On what plans are in place to realise the President's injunction, Mr Mweli said that the team had looked at a package that DBE thinks can be implemented for learners with special education needs to ensure that those learners fall within the pro-poor policy of government. On whether DBE has concluded the MOUs, Mr Mweli requested that DBE be allowed to respond to the WCFID in writing.
Mr Mweli reminded Members that the special care centres fall under DSD. DBE understood the 2010 court order to apply not only to DBE, but government as a whole. DBE reached out to all government departments that were implicated to say that all those departments need to work together to ensure the imperatives of the court order are realised. The responsibility of DBE is to deliver quality basic education to the centres. The day-to-day management of the centres is DSD's responsibility. Health and Transport have a responsibility there. Even when DBE started unfolding its plan in implementing the court order, it brought all those departments together. Departments working closely together are DBE, DSD, and Health, as they have been working together on a number of programmes for years now. DBE is “struggling to get others on board”.
Mr Mweli noted there was an earmarked learner transport fund called “Strengthening of Inclusive Education”, which started in 2008. DBE was able to provide transport for individual schools for learners with special education needs. That is why many of those learners still benefit from that transport. If they were able to replenish what they had, that was a different matter. Were it not for that fund, “we would be in a deeper crisis than the one that we are in”. Public transport does not make provision for learners with special education needs. Even the learner transport provided does not provide for learners with special education needs. He had made this very clear in previous Committee meetings. It is an area that needs to be addressed. The transport function was located either with the either Department of Education or the Department of Transport in the provinces. The Council of Education Ministers discussed this and requested MECs to go back to their provinces to address this matter, as it is a decision of the provincial Executive Council. The Minister of Education has no authority over the provincial Executive Council. The Executive Council is expected to take the decision of where the transport function should be located. A decision will need to be made on whether or not DBE provides the service via a conditional grant so that resources used for transport are protected.
On how far DBE has gone in implementing the court order, the presentation indicated this. DBE would provide a response to the WCFID’s question about slide 60.
On how DBE collects data on out-of-school learners, Stats SA collects data every year for its General Household Survey, although the results arrive a year later. It is the best data available to DBE. It depends on what is collected by Stats SA. There are NGOs who collect data; DBE compares that with Stats SA data, to give a sense of how many learners are out of school and what are the reasons.
Sister departments’ involvement is comprised mainly of the DSD and Health. Transport is involved to an extent as well. Other are involved, but it is mainly those three departments.
On learners from other countries, Mr Mweli replied that is “uncharted territory”. DBE has “not paid specific attention to that”. It is a matter that DBE “needs to pay more attention to”.
On the clustering of special schools, that links to the point that would say why are the majority of special schools in the Western Cape. Mr Mweli did not know if there was an explanation for that. He had heard some people say that it could be to do with the provision of special education before 1994. The democratic government is trying to address the spread of special schools. The Gauteng provincial government has “gone a long way” in trying to address the spread. In the past, special schools were not found in certain provinces due to South Africa’s history. He could not give a logical reason for that. People say that the previous administration chose that the schools must be located in certain places. Neither an educational nor a demographic reason could be given for the location of those special schools.
On the provision of the latest Braille technology to learners, the answer was “yes”, in replacing traditional Braille with ICTs. Limpopo and Gauteng have done that by replacing traditional Braille with a computer programme. At Rochester University, they use ICT in doing everything. Learners have laptops and iPads in front of them, instead of the old machines and Braille textbooks. DBE is replacing old machines with computers in South Africa, which works better for both schools and learners. The complaint that came from Blind South Africa in Gauteng and Limpopo was that teachers and learners were not properly trained to use the laptops and computers provided. DBE took that up with Gauteng and Limpopo. DBE wants all 447 special education schools to be connected and provided with equipment, to help ease this burden of using the traditional Braille texts.
Mr Mweli said that he did not know about occupational therapists doing community service. He knew about doctors doing so, but he would have to find out more about occupational therapists doing community service.
In reply to Ms Van Der Walt added that her daughter did community service as an occupational therapist, Mr Mweli said that DBE could benefit from having occupational therapists deployed in schools.
Mr Mweli said DBE knows how many ECD learners are out of school. It knows these numbers via the Stats SA household survey. For example, Stats SA told DBE that it is currently providing for 900 000 ECD learners. This is close to 90% of provision for learners who need ECD. Stats SA can provide information on how many learners are out of school per province.
Mr Mweli said that DBE does have a policy on learner pregnancy which has been in place ever since the time of Prof Kader Asmal. The policy states that where it is in the best interest of the learner, and the baby being carried, that the young mother should be at home, she should be at home. But that should not be used to preclude the learner from benefiting from education. Parents are being involved. Some schools will work with parents, and with nurses, to monitor the learner on a regular basis. These nurses (who are located in the community) advise when the learner is close to term and should be at home and not at school. Mr Mweli admitted that this would not happen with all learners and in all schools. Ideally, there needs to be interaction between the parents of the pregnant learner and the school to assess the situation on an ongoing basis. In other countries, there are facilities where pregnant learners are referred where they receive education. In South Africa, DBE cannot afford pregnant learner facilities at the moment. DBE has advised that there has to be communication of the Learner Pregnancy Policy to the parents of the learner and the school assesses the situation on an ongoing basis. DBE will “try very hard” to ensure that the policy is understood by all stakeholders and that all parties act in the best interest of the learner. Mr Mweli said that unfortunately, it is girl learners who are affected – “where are the fathers?” Constraints are placed on girls, even if the father is at the same school.
In reply to Mr Moroatshehla saying he had never seen the Learner Pregnancy Policy, Mr Mweli said that DBE would make the policy available to the Portfolio Committee.
On the renovation of schools to accommodate learners with special education needs, DBE did not have that information readily available. DBE would have to get that information.
On timelines for Guidelines on Inclusive Education System, Dr Simelane will provide the timelines for that. Mr Mweli noted that the regulations for home education had been tabled in Parliament on 12 June 2019.
On the ratio of psychologists and multidisciplinary teams to learners, Mr Mweli was not sure if it was the ratio for learners with special education needs, or if it is the ratio for teams located at district level. DBE does have a policy that provides a ratio for specialist services at schools. DBE does not always meet that ratio due to financial constraints and the difficulty of attracting such specialists to some places.
Mr Mweli agreed about the challenge of security at hostels. The South African Human Rights Commission had submitted a report to Parliament looking at the School for the Blind in the North West and the report suggested that DBE needed to pay attention to security and safety. DBE was responding to the SAHRC report. He was sure the DBE response would come to the Committee.
On consequence management for inability to spend the Conditional Grant: The easiest solution would be to take the Grant to provinces that are spending, but DBE has not done that as yet. However, there would then be an increase in disparities amongst provinces. Mr Mweli’s view was that an option could be that DBE spend it on behalf of the province instead of moving it to another province.
On age-appropriate infrastructure for the ECD move, DBE has not made provision for this as it follows the idea of “funds follow functions”. If the function comes over to DBE, it must come over with funds. Treasury and DSD have been talking to DBE, and both have assured DBE that if the function comes over, it will have to come over with funds.
Mr Mweli stated that the budget cuts would run through the grants, so there will undoubtedly be an impact. A grant that has not been spent - the grant for learners with SPID – will be cut. That afternoon, the Finance Minister would probably indicate that it will be cut.
The performance of PEDs in using the grant is in the quarterly reports. These reports provide information on how provinces are performing. DBE's targets linked to this grant deal with appointing therapists, psychologists, etc. The quarterly report would indicate how DBE is meeting these appointment targets.
Mr Mweli replied that he knew that there are salary discrepancies in ECD practitioner salaries for Grade R. Provinces were providing a stipend which varies from one province to the other. DBE is now addressing this to ensure that the stipends are uniform across provinces. In North West, Grade R teachers have the same qualification as other teachers, so they get the same salary. The challenge was that some practitioners were not suitably qualified; they did not meet the definition of a teacher. That is why DBE makes provision for practitioners – because they do not necessarily meet the definition of a teacher, since they do not have the requisite qualifications. DBE has trained many practitioners, some of whom have qualified.
On ECD migration, eight work streams are looking at various aspects of the function shift from DSD to DBE. There is a work stream that looks at practitioner qualifications. Some of practitioners in charge of 0-4-year-old children do not have Grade 12, and DBE is looking at that. DBE will set minimum requirements for these teachers once the function shift has happened.
On learners at home and ensuring they continue to receive education, DBE has not looked at that, but going forward, especially for those on the waiting list, there should be a way for DBE to provide education until such children are absorbed into the system. DBE would look at that. The waiting period varied from one province to another. DBE would have to go back and find out what the longest period was. It would vary from the response one gets from an official to the response one gets from a parent, for example, a parent might say they waited for two years, while the official would say that it was a year.
On the list of criteria to determine if a school provides inclusive education, such schools are called full-service schools. A ramp is one requirement, but it is not the only thing that should be there. A full-service school does not provide for all learners; it provides for “minor disabilities” that can be managed in full-service schools. Learners with severe disabilities will not be part of a full-service school because they need a special arrangement.
Chief Director response
Dr Moses Simelane replied on the list of criteria for designating ordinary schools to full-service schools. DBE has a guideline document “Guidelines for Full-Service Schools”. School governance should be “on top of their game” about the criteria. Schools should look at infrastructure so that the base is not too low from which DBE starts to include and convert those schools to full-service schools. The guideline document has been mediated across all provinces. Provinces have been trained in understanding the criteria so that they continue with the designation.
In meeting SDG and NDP targets, Dr Simelane noted the implementation of the SIAS policy where DBE has covered all public schools already. Teachers from all public schools have been trained. DBE has met the target on increasing the number of schools where at least one educator has been trained in inclusive education. DBE reports on that indicator on a quarterly basis to DPME. DBE is still working towards realising other targets. Its strategic interventions on inclusion have managed to bridge some of the targets.
On teachers who are qualified to teach special needs learners, DBE has been enrolling teachers at universities to study specialised areas, such as teaching through Braille and South African Sign Language. Some teachers have already graduated from university. DBE has been running training on autism in collaboration with Autism South Africa. DBE is working to provide more in-service training so teachers are able to deal with learners who are autistic. The numbers of teachers trained to deal with learners with autism can be provided.
On how a parent can ensure that they can teach a child at home, in this case, home education is provided by the South African Schools Act. Section 51 does make provision for parents to opt to educate their children at home. It is up to the parents to decide what is in the best interests of the child. Some parents have abused the legislative provision to educate their children at home for reasons other than what is in the best interests of the child. This has happened for purposes of religion, which can go into the territory of indoctrination. In KZN, a family was keeping their children at home and educating them in Rastafarianism, which was not serving the interests of the children. That is why DBE has come with regulations for the implementation of the Home Education policy, so that it can argue against such practices when they come about.
DBE is ensuring that ECD practitioners are at NQF 4, which is the equivalent of matric but the appropriate level of qualification is NQF 6, which is a diploma in education.
On salaries, the Committee may have noticed in the implementation of the Conditional Grant for Learners with SPID, there are provinces not paying these specialists at the level determined by DBE, which is in the grant framework. That is being addressed because it constitutes a deviation from DoRA, the framework of the grant, and the provincial business plan submitted and approved by DBE before implementation. Through DBE monitoring, it is progressively picking up these challenges and dealing with them.
On whether DBE is setting targets for provincial departments, it may be difficult for national to set targets for each provincial department. Through the grant framework, DBE determines national targets, and then provinces are given the budget for meeting the national targets each year.
DBE currently has 280 outreach service providers across the nine provinces who have been appointed.
There is an interdepartmental forum that deals with providing transport to children with SPID, especially those in special care centres. The relevant department is doing something to provide services as per its mandate as a department. In this case, it still remains with the Department of Transport in the province to provide transport to these learners to go to the special care centres. Those going to school are already benefitting from the learner transport that DBE provides. DBE has already started placing learners with disabilities in schools.
The ratio of psychologists to learners is in the Guidelines for Resourcing Inclusive Education. There is one psychologist to serve 100 schools.
Regulations are about to be completed. The Home Education has been sent to Cabinet. The Minister wrote to the Speaker in June this year to say that she is ready to present the Home Education policy to Cabinet for consideration. As soon as the Speaker has identified the date for presenting the Policy, Members will be able to interact with and guide the implementation of the Home Education policy.
On the timeline for implementing the Guidelines for Resourcing Inclusive Education, DBE is currently finalising the guidelines, and it is within the guidelines that the declaring of special schools to be no-fee-paying schools is encapsulated. If all goes well, the Guidelines implementation will start in the next financial year. As a sector, including provinces, plans have been put in place for the Guidelines implementation.
In reply to WCFID question on when learners will access public-funded education – that is already happening. That is why 280 therapists, psychologists, special needs teachers, are assessing these learners in the care centres, and have trained caregivers to provide the learning programme which DBE has already developed. The presentation mentioned 9 000 learners with access to education, and breaks it down between learners with and without intellectual disabilities.
On MOUs with care centres, that has not been taken into account, because at the moment, the centres are under DSD administration. It would be difficult for DBE to enter into that partnership, but DBE is working closely with DSD and Health Department. The MOU speaks to the use of the resources provided by DBE, for example, the toolkits for delivering the learning programme; how are they being used? Some centres are provided with laptops, so it is important that they are used for the teaching of the learning programme.
Learners had already been captured in SA-SAMS; LURITS gets the information from SA-SAMS. DBE is using an online system to capture the data on learners in care centres.
On whether provinces are using the grant allocations for their prescribed purpose, DBE is doing monitoring. DBE compiles a quarterly report which it gets from the provinces and submits that to National Treasury, to see if the business plans are in line with the grant framework. Otherwise the business plans are not approved if they deviate from the Conditional Grant framework and DoRA. If provinces want to spend on other items, they have to write to the Director General and request approval to deviate from the approved business plan. The province would be informed in writing if the request is approved.
Ms Van Der Walt added a story about a matric learner who went into labour during her exam but wanted to finish writing. That case showed desperation to finish the school year. With the assistance of DBE, the learner should get opportunity to write and not leave without Grade 12. She was concerned that census data was outdated. Years ago, there was a project that used to fetch old school desks and fix them. There are many desks lying outside at schools across the country. There was to be a project with Correctional Services to fix desks. She wondered if that was happening, and if not, why not use some of the learners who are unable to find jobs because of some disability to assist. The project would help to keep them busy. She was stopped from taking desks by a provincial department because she was deemed to be “stealing” assets of that department.
Mr Mweli replied that the pregnant learner should not be disadvantaged because of circumstances. DBE would follow up. The exam system has matured over the years. For the learners who did not write, justice will be done. UMALUSI says that the interest of the learner is paramount.
Dr Simelane heard that in Mpumalanga a learner delivered her baby two days before the exam. She was in hospital but DBE made sure that she wrote – she had a space in the hospital where she could write. DBE takes papers to prison. DBE is “desperate” to make sure this opportunity is used by learners. It will provide alternatives to learners unable to write.
Mr Mweli replied that they would collect the desks. DBE met earlier this year with Department of Correctional Services in a strategic planning meeting as DBE wants to get that project running in all nine provinces. DSC said that they will indicate when they are ready and then the two departments would work together.
The Chairperson thanked DBE for the comprehensive presentation. The thoughtful inputs by Members told DBE that Inclusive Education was a matter close to their hearts. Members are parents. The Medium Term Budget Policy Statement will be delivered this afternoon; hopefully DBE is ready for the budget cuts.
The meeting was adjourned.
- IOL news article 26/09/019: Advocacy group heads to court as 600 000 disabled school kids forced to stay at home
- Western Cape Forum for Intellectual Disability v Government of the Republic of South Africa 2010
- DBE - State of Inclusive Education in South Africa
- Western Cape Forum for Intellectual Disability submission
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