Community Education and Training (CET) colleges update

Higher Education, Science and Technology

25 February 2020
Chairperson: Ms N Mkhatshwa (ANC) (Acting)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) spoke to its mitigating strategies for the infrastructure, governance and management challenges at Community Education and Training colleges which were established in 2015. DHET had established five-year term councils and appointed managers as permanent employees of the Department. Student Representative Council (SRC) elections are held annually at the colleges. The term of office of the first cohort of CET councils lapses in September 2020. All nine CET colleges have functional councils that have been successful in developing strategic plans (2015 – 2020), annual performance plans and annual reports; managing the transitional period of having to performing oversight; establishing functional council sub-committees; reconfigure the landscape of CETs and satellite centres; and complying with the CET Act in convening elections for new chairpersons in the third year of their office.

Some of the challenges confronting CET managers and councils were systemic in nature:
- Inherent frustration in building a sector which lacks infrastructure identity
- Timely filling of vacancies due to exorbitant publishing costs
- Conflict between council and management arising from understanding of roles and responsibilities
- Limited staff component at managerial level
- Lack of staff to receive skills transfer relating to systems
- Limited budget
- Conditions of service of lecturers
- Lack of diversity
- Outstanding General Education and Training Certificate (GETC) certificates
- Functionality of SRCs.

Mitigating strategies to address these challenges included lecturer development; skills audit to gather empirical evidence of lecturer skills level and development of a Lecturer Development Policy. As for infrastructure, CET colleges utilised local primary and secondary schools within communities. However, these establishments lacked institutional identity and a conducive learning environment for CET students. The lack of infrastructure limited student-lecturer time on task which resulted in poor education, training and development outcomes. It also contributed to poor quality and integrity of examinations and assessments.

Committee Members were not pleased with the limited budget for the sector and asked if there was underspending of the budget. Members were concerned about the scattered classrooms across the country while the administration was in a separate place or building. Surely, the model impacts on oversight in a negative way? Members asked about the CET quality assurance and accreditation; utilising Public Work vacant buildings; plans to address infrastructure and acquire equipment for the learning environment; capacitating the lecturers; the CET financial model; relationship between CETs, universities and TVET colleges; the reason for separating the layers in post school education; double-dipping of lecturers; reaching the one million enrolment target for CETs; policy for CETs; backlog in certificating CET students.


Meeting report

The Committee elected Ms Mkhatshwa as Acting Chairperson.

Ms N Mkhatshwa (ANC), Acting Chairperson, welcomed everyone and submitted apologies from the Minister and Director General. She handed over to the CET Acting Deputy Director General to introduce his delegation and proceed with the presentation.

Community Education and Training (CET)
Mr Bheki Mahlobo, DHET Acting Deputy Director General for CET, said that DHET took on the function of CETs as assigned in the 2013 White Paper for Post-School Education and Training which aimed to offer skills to people that could not be served through universities and TVET colleges. There were 18 million people that completed primary and secondary education but could not study further due to various reasons. The primary objective of these institutions is to offer people skills, either in part or full qualification, but with those qualifications they should be able to study further. CET aimed at offering programmes that are of value to communities. This is primarily what distinguishes the CETs from TVET colleges. Examples are HIV education and some programmes involve cooperatives.

The funding follows the function, and the funding is taken from provinces and presented to DHET. Slide 9 does not include the budget for staff in office at the time. Those figures constitute transfers. Only this year has the budget changed in terms of allocation.

In the Strategic and Annual Performance Plans, it was decided that the system would not move until it has been prescribed what the college would offer. DHET decided that in the context of the National Development Plan (NDP), we do need to start this year with the enrolment of 375 035 students to reach the one million enrolment by 2030.

20% of the budget has been set aside for students with disabilities, 10% for those that will be travelling from far and 10% for infrastructure maintenance. The budget does not include compensation of employees as employees are paid by the Department.

Governance and Management
Ms Esther Kodisang, DHET Director for CET, said that DHET established councils for the CETs and a proper management structure for strengthened governance and management. A new layer - SRCs - was recently introduced. The councils serve a five year term and SRCs are elected on an annual basis.

The councils are constituted in terms of the Continuing Education and Training Act and there are 16 in total. Management is appointed in terms of the CET National Policy. DHET advertises these posts and they are appointed according to the human resources policies.

A situational analysis shows that the CET sector is at an embryonic stage. DHET in performing its support and oversight role has worked with councils and management to bring uniformity to systems, controls and governance policies. The current councils are the first cohort of councils since the establishment of CET colleges in 2015. Their term of office lapses in September 2020. The submission to gazette a call for nominations for new councils has been approved by the Minister.

All nine CETs colleges have functional councils which have been successful in the following areas:
- Developing the Strategic Plans for 2015 – 2020 as well as Annual Performance Plans and Annual Reports for the colleges;
- Managing the transitional period of having to perform oversight of institutions which, while establishing systems, the DHET continued to perform some of the functions;
- Establishing functional sub-committees
- Taking decisive step to reconfigure the landscape of community learning centres (CLCs) and satellite centres in pursuit of efficiency;
- Complying with the CET Act in convening elections for new council chairpersons in the third year of their term of office.

The scope of management entails ensuring that the colleges perform to the level of achieving excellent business operations. The management of all colleges is functional in so far as ensuring that teaching and learning happens at CLCs. In terms of support to achieve business excellence management, that is dependent on support staff. Given the limited capacity faced by colleges, DHET provides support through regional officials who are based in educational district offices - these are former provincial Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) employees.

It is important to note that the SRCs have an important role but this area is lagging behind.

Challenges confronting management and councils
- There is an inherent frustration of building a sector which lacks infrastructure identity. There is a negative stigma around this sector which makes it difficult for CETs to be accommodated at primary and secondary schools. The environment does not encourage adults to learn in that space. Operating in schools is limiting and the instability that comes with it is a major challenge.
- The timely filling of vacancies and the exorbitant costs for publishing in gazettes and newspapers.
- Conflict arising from understanding roles and responsibilities between council and management remains a challenge but DHET has kept this one managed.
- The limited staff component at managerial level as well as support staff impacts negatively on the capacity of colleges to deliver on the mandate to ensure colleges achieve business excellence.
- The lack of staff to receive skills transfer on systems developed through the SAICA project.
- The profile of lecturers as the current lecturers came with ABET when this function moved to DHET. The mandate of the sector has now changed and those lecturers are struggling to teach the content under the new mandate. So they need to be developed and re-skilled.
- Limited budget as the budget never changed to appreciate the new mandate which comes with new provisions; therefore, there is lack of programme diversity.
- Conditions of service of lecturers as the lecturers in different provinces are paid a different salary which is problematic and brings instability.
- Outstanding certificates for the General Education and Training Certificate.
- Functionality of SRCs.

Mitigating strategies include:
- Actively filling council vacancies
- DHET has facilitated, through its legal services, to mediate the CET Act and the roles and responsibilities of the councils. Councils have been oriented and subjected to leadership training.
- DHET is in the process of finalising the CET College organogram to address the limited staff complement. College management has been part of this drafting process.
- DHET is conducting a skills audit to gather empirical evidence on lecturer development.
- The Corporate Service branch is currently working on the conditions of service.

In conclusion, Mr Mahlobo remarked on infrastructure challenges and said these included teaching and administrative spaces. The lack of institutional identity as a public reference point and as an attraction to the students is not helping. The expectations for the sector are huge but there is no investment in it. There is also limited student-lecturer time on task. The CET budget is around 2% of the total DHET budget. Therefore, it is difficult to diversify programmes. About 92% of DHET’s budget goes towards compensation and only 8% is meant for the provision of quality education and programmes. It is not possible to deliver on the mandate. For example, to offer skill in plumbing, the CET must obtain accreditation and that accreditation requires skills, the right equipment and course work. Most of the centres are within schools and the infrastructure in schools is not ideal.

The Acting Chairperson said that during the January period she interacted with a CET college in Soweto and there are a lot of frustrations about the challenges raised during the presentation. There is a lack of institutional culture for CET colleges. The college principal spoke about the challenge of having to deal with children sent from high schools where they have failed multiple times and then referred to the CET college. It seems we are turning CETs into special needs schools. She asked for clarity on students that would prefer repeating their matric at a CET college.

What is the role of TVET colleges vis-a-vis CET colleges? What can be done to ensure that there is no duplication of the mandate.

A colloquium has been requested on CETs to ascertain why is it necessary to have separation between CETs and TVET colleges and what is government trying to achieve through CETs. Has DHET created a space where the CET students actually view themselves as adults? There is a lot of psychology that goes into it.

Dr W Boshoff (FF+) wondered if the model for the CET college was actually the correct one. The classrooms are dispersed all over the province but its administration is in a separate building. It must make it difficult to conduct proper oversight over these different places of learning.

He asked if there is a possibility for TVET colleges to be accreditation centres and the churches and local schools are then utilised and remunerated for their services for teaching to take place. Does DHET have disciplinary problems? The SRC seems to be impossible to conceptualise because how do you elect SRCs in different places from the students they are supposed to be representing?

Ms J Mananiso (ANC) commented that there is a lack of belief that this could be the core of education. She asked if there is a plan to deal with lack of infrastructure. Is there a plan to ensure funding to acquire equipment required in the classrooms? She asked about the learning and capacity building programme for lecturers. She raised gender-based violence and noted that most of the learning at CETs takes place at night. She asked if incidents of gender-based violence had been reported to DHET, particularly by CET students travelling back home from classes at night. 

Ms D Sibiya (ANC) said that everything seemed to be limited and lamented that as a result CETs struggle to carry out their mandate. How are the lecturers being capacitated if there is a lack of funding? She said that the Minister should have been present to address the Committee on CET funding.

Mr B Nodada (DA) had visited a South Coast site in Kwa-Zulu Natal. He asked if the qualifications are quality assured and by whom and who accredits the courses offered. Secondly, in 2018/19 92% of the CET budget went to compensation of employees. Is this a sustainable financial model. What is the current figure for compensation and what is the remaining funding for student development? Is there any relationship between CETs and universities or TVET colleges. Is it necessary to have all these post school education layers so separated? It seems there is a gap in the linkages and collaborations for skills development in the post school sector as a whole.

Mr T Letsie (ANC) commented that the perpetual apologies for absence by DHET senior people creates a serious problem for the Committee. Mr Mahlobo has been acting in the CET branch since 2015. This is a question that needs to be directed to the Executive or the DHET accounting officer. However, the point is that one cannot expect a fully functional CET sector if the Deputy Director General of that branch has been occupying an acting position for so many years. The lack of permanent structure creates perpetual problems.

The majority of the CET lecturers work as basic education educators during the day and as lecturers at night. When asked about this ‘double-dipping’, the DDG previously said that he did not want to upset the system by removing them. There is a high rate of unemployment in the country and in that pool are individuals that possess the qualifications and skills to take on these jobs. He felt that the ‘double-dipping’ is problematic. Sometimes government departments seem to be running things in contradiction to what the ruling party stands for. He asked the DDG to provide clarity on double-dipping.

He asked why the conditions of service for lecturers were different between colleges or provinces.

The National Development Plan prescribed one million enrolment target of students for CETs by 2030. So, how far is DHET in reaching this target and what are the challenges that have been experienced so far that obliterate reaching the target? Have the enrolment targets been achieved for 2020 and what was the target for the current year? Were there any challenges faced so far?

He asked if DHET has developed a policy for CETs. It was made clear that R2.5 billion is not adequate, but has the programme utilised all its provided funding? If some of the money has been returned, why was it returned? DHET has appointed under-qualified and inappropriately qualified lecturers at CETs. Has the skills audit been conducted yet on the lecturers? Has research been conducted to ascertain who appointed these lecturers?

The lack of infrastructure means conditions of learning for adult students are not ideal and DHET has not put enough effort into ensuring that the learning environment is conducive. There are buildings that are owned by the Department of Public Works across the country. DHET should have approached the provincial Departments of Public Works to utilise those spaces and suggested that DHET do so.

He asked what the lowest NQF level offered by CETs is. The certification backlog is a serious problem. What are the challenges in certificating CET students and which stakeholders were involved in the certification value chain?

Mr David Diale, Chief Director: CET, replied that one of the issues that must be remembered is that we are talking of a problem that speaks to second and third chances. The implications of this system mean that the programme will be diverse. If one has not completed schooling as a 16 year old, you are unable to go back to school. When a 16 year old drops out of grade 9, they cannot go back to school. Therefore, the plan is always channeling these youngsters to CETs. If you have not completed schooling in the country, kids have no option but to go to a CET college. There are indeed challenges, specifically around capacitating the lecturers to deal with the diversified needs of students.

To accept students into the CET college, there is a Placement Assessment Policy in place that requires a previous report or certificate showing previous schooling before accepting a student. However, it does need to be strengthened.

The difference between TVET colleges and CETs is that the TVET colleges do not accept students without completing the Basic Education qualification. The student must fulfill entry requirements to enter into a TVET college. CET colleges do not require that. The target audience is out of school youth that do not fulfill the entry requirements to get into TVET college or university.

The second chance system requires social cohesion – there must be linkages within the PSET sector amongst all the stakeholders. This is how the CETs would start to gain more traction.

The comment on institutional culture was noted. If one compares the South African model with other countries in Africa, the current model is much more complex because it requires linkages with other partners for delivery purposes.

All colleges have processes in place to deal with discipline. As for the lecturers, there is a directorate in DHET that deals with lecturer development. It provides oversight on up-skilling, re-skilling, support, creating new curricula and lecturer development. The directorate plays that linkage role. The Durban University of Technology (DUT) is currently upgrading our lecturers on a new teaching technique qualification and teaching methodologies. There is a five year Lecturer Development Plan that focuses on strengthening and capacitating the lecturers.

On the certification backlog, the Portfolio Committee has engaged with the DHET National Assessment and Examination Directorate which is the same Directorate responsible for the CET qualifications. State Information Technology Agency (SITA) is also responsible at national level for the GETC qualification certificate.

Currently, the CET provides two qualifications which is NQF Level 1 and it is quality assured by Umalusi. The second one is NQF Level 4, a matric equivalent or Senior Certificate. It is also quality assured by Umalusi. The current arrangement is that examinations are located in Department of Basic Education with CET colleges registering students to sit for that qualification.

During the period of transition in 2015, one of the agreements made with the provincial departments was that the function of examinations that year was not transferred to DHET due to lack of capacity on the part of DHET. That function is still within the provincial basic education departments.

In its recent engagement with the Portfolio Committee, SITA and Umalusi briefed it on Certification Backlog Day Zero to deal with the backlog.

On the double-dipping of lecturers, at the moment we are busy with the standardisation of conditions of service which will assist in having dedicated lecturers within CETs. There are also new lecturer qualifications which will include a CET related qualification. This means that one cannot become a lecturer without a CET qualification. The double-dipping concern will be accelerated. This matter was inherited in 2015 but the message from Members was clear on dealing with this matter.

The appointment of lecturers is within DHET but we must distinguish between what has been inherited or not. The inappropriate qualifications concern is more an inherited matter.

The Occupational Skills Programmes will be quality assured by the Quality Council of Trades and Occupations. At the moment there is a transition between the Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) quality assurance process which function is going back to the QCTO. There is a process of renewing qualifications via the QCTO. The QCTO has been quality assuring legacy qualifications. The target is more around skills programmes and much shorter programmes for CETs and there is a partnership with the QCTO in that space.

Ms Kodisang replied that CET policies have been developed such as the Service Delivery Framework, Framework for the SRCs, Curriculum Policy and CET National Plan for implementation of the White Paper. This is the role from now to 2030 and through this we will be able to achieve this. Colleges have been given the enrolment targets that are programme-based. As at 31 January, there was an enrolment of 182 830 and more enrolments will be collected at the end of February where we will see how far it has gone up.

On the practicality of the SRCs, this is a requirement in terms of the law and DHET had to make it work despite the challenges. We put a framework in place to ensure that guidance is provided from election level (CLCs) up to the top level (College SRC). For the past two years, we have made use of the IEC for the election of SRC members which was helpful.

On infrastructure, DHET asked the councils to identity a number of schools that have been closed in their communities. These schools were identified but when DHET visited them it was found that community members had started making use of the infrastructure and had occupied them, operating churches and so forth. DHET has tried to initiate processes with Department of Public Works to use non-utilised government structures and more effort needs to be put into that.

Mr Mahlobo explained that he started acting in 2010 when DHET split from Basic Education; he was the acting head of the Vocational Educational and Training branch. In 2015, we submitted a recommendation to split the two because the TVET colleges and CETs have a different mission. He started Acting as the DDG in 2016 to date. Only the Executive Authority can explain why he has been acting for so long.

When this function came on board, it was a constitutional requirement in terms of section 69 and the content of the function needed to vary. The then Stats SA figures reported about 18 million would benefit from the programme. In Kokstad we are using a centre that was used by the municipality as a Skills Centre and we are doing the same in Cala in Eastern Cape. So gradually the programme will come to full fruition. Ever since the programme started, there has not been any under-spending. Under-spending and over-spending is a crime in government. Unfortunately, given the limited budget we do not have tenders.

The meeting was adjourned.



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