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SELECT COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND RECREATION
18 September 2003-09-18
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION ON HIGHER EDUCATION AMENDMENT BILL; EDUCATION LAWS AMENDMENT BILL: FORMAL BRIEFING
Documents handed out:
Education Laws Amendment Bill (B38B-2003)
Adv Boshoff (Director of Legislation, Department of Education) briefed the Committee formally on the Education Laws Amendment Bill (B38-2003) and the Higher Education Amendment Bill (B36-2003). The Committee had already been briefed by him informally, so only a short review of the Bills was provided. Members asked questions related to the Education Laws Amendment Bill regarding remuneration of teachers for extramural activities, the background and practicality of the Bill. No questions were asked regarding the Higher Education Amendment Bill.
The Chairperson explained that their meeting the previous week was an informal briefing, and that the current meeting was formal.
Adv Boshoff explained that the Higher Education Bill was probably currently before the NCOP, but as a Section 75 Bill, did not affect the provinces directly. The Education Laws Amendment Bill did affect the provinces directly and was therefore more important to the Committee.
The Education Laws Amendment Bill
Adv Boshoff said that the Bill amended four pieces of legislation: the SA Qualifications Authority Act of 1995, the SA Schools Act of 1996, the Employment of Educators Act of 1998, and the General and Further Education and Training Quality Assurance Act of 2001.
The first amendment (clause 1) allowed the increase from two to three members of the SA Qualifications Board. This was done because the unions representing teachers were now three, instead of the two when the original Act was written. The amendment would also allow the Minister of Education to extend the term of office of any member of the organisation to provide consistency on the Board.
Adv Boshoff flagged clause 2 until later because it was such a contentious clause.
Clause 3 sought to amend the Employment of Educators Act. The previous system of a panel making recommendations to the employer had been deemed unworkable. The new approach allowed the presiding officer to make sanctions. It was necessary for the employer to have the right to appeal to his/her case if sanctions were unsuccessful. The provincial MECs will set the benchmark for the sanctions. The result of this amendment was that many other clauses would be affected. These were clauses 4, 5, 6, and 7 that stipulated the rights of the employer.
Clauses 8 dealt with the General and Further Education and Training Quality Assurance Act. The name of the General and further Education and Training Quality Assurance Council (GENEFETQAC) had been contested. The Bill will change the name of the Council to 'Umalusi', meaning 'shepherd'. Clause 9 was also related to Clause 8.
Adv Boshoff said problems had arisen from the current legislation since parents found that they were paying teachers who are already paid by the state. There had also been was a court case after a school governing body decided to stop top-up payments and an affected employee took the Department to court. Initially the courts ruled that the governing body and the Department were responsible for remuneration. However, on appeal, the court ruled in favour of the Department since it had never given permission for the top-up salaries from the governing body. There was still a risk that if a governing body backed out of paying top-up salaries to state employees, huge legal problems could be created for the department.
Adv Boshoff continued that there also were other labour implications. Governing bodies had promoted teachers from level one to level three that had caused unhappiness among other teachers. It also created problems regarding the work of the teachers promoted since they spent less time in the classroom. The teachers need to do specific work, instituted by the governing body, but this was often part of their normal duties paid by the state. Teachers also become dependent on their top-ups. The proposed legislation only affected state-employed teachers and dealt with any form of remuneration and benefits, as stipulated by subclause 1. Adv Boshoff felt that when one deals with a system, there had to be formality and timeframes. The governing body had to apply to use state employed educators and to provide full details of proposed payment.
Subclause 5 dealt with the travel and subsistence allowances. This was currently uncontrolled and had to be brought into a system, linking it to comparable fees for state employees. Subclause 6 stated that an application should not unreasonably be refused, and that the employer (Department of Education) should consider applications within a framework of certain set criteria. This framework was provided by subclause 7.
Clause 10 acknowledged that it would be impossible to implement the legislation when the Bill came into effect, possibly by November 2003. Therefore it would instead allow current practices for one year. The onus was on governing bodies to get their houses in order during that period.
Mr Tolo (ANC, Mpumalanga) asked which extramural teaching duties would require extra payment, such conducting a school choir or coaching soccer.
Mr Raju (DA, KwaZulu-Natal) quipped said that Mr Tolo's question must be rhetorical, since teachers wanted payment for everything these days, even to get out of bed in the mornings! Adv Boshoff answered that the Educators Act spelled out the requirements of employment. When educators were required to do extra work, the employer should pay overtime. A governing body would count the examples Mr Tolo mentioned, since it put extra obligations on educators outside working hours. The system had to be controlled properly.
Ms Themba (ANC, Mpumalanga) wanted more background on the need to amend the Act. Adv Boshoff said that three very important criteria governed the amendments. First, there is no transparency regarding school budgets. Secondly, there were labour implications. A third person provided incentives and the Department would be held accountable if the governing body backed out. Persons promoted by the governing body superceded other state employees, and the time spent in classrooms by these educators was less than was required by the state. Thirdly, there had to be a link with the Employment of Educators Act. Nothing prohibited the governing bodies but they had to be part of a system that used public funds efficiently.
Ms Khunou (ANC, Free State) referred to subsection 2 of clause 3 and asked if it was practical to write to the Minister regarding disciplinary hearings.
Adv Boshoff reminded the Committee that this was an Amendment Bill that only dealt with the appeal process. It also gave the employer the right to appeal.
Mr Raju (DA, KwaZulu-Natal) asked what effect the legislation would have on teachers who gave extra classes after school hours. He mentioned instances where teachers gave half-hearted classes during school hours to entice extra classes that had to be paid for.
Adv Boshoff answered that this matter was covered by the Employment of Educators Act. A teacher had to apply to give extra classes. If instances like those that Mr Raju described arose, permission could be withdrawn and disciplinary action against the teacher could follow.
The Higher Education Amendment Bill
Adv Boshoff said that this Bill would be easier to deal with. It involved small technical amendments and it would also introduce one clause to give effect to the government's higher education plan. In clause 1, a wording mistake was corrected, and in clause 2, an omission was inserted.
Clause 3 involved the introduction of the Higher Education Institute in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape. Adv Boshoff emphasised that it would bring in a new provincial institutes to co-ordinate higher education and provide correct programmes, functions and funding. They would provide order in higher education in these provinces and would have to submit an Annual Report to Parliament.
The members did not have any questions and the Chair noted that all seemed to be pleased. He thanked the Department for its good work.
The meeting was adjourned.
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