The Committee was briefed by the Department of Basic Education on the Minister’s executive undertakings. The Deputy Minister was in attendance. The presentation highlighted that the Department is working on the finalisation of the alignment of curriculum policies so that learners are not kept in a phase for too long. It is also working on addressing the high dropout and repetition rates by improving safety in schools, enhancing sports and enrichment programmes, managing the impact of pregnancy on schooling and improving the quality of learning. The new curriculum on coding and robotics is in the process of being implemented. The PLAY course provides free, online and accredited in-service training for foundation phase teachers. This course has been implemented in the Eastern Cape, Gauteng and the Free State. On built environment capacity, the Department has appointed a senior engineer as the Head of Infrastructure Planning and Delivery. An approach of formal professional induction, verification and vetting is being followed. As part of the vetting process, the application form needs to be amended to comply with the Children’s Act. A collective agreement has been signed expediting the arbitration of sexual offence cases.
Members raised concern about the high dropout rates in rural communities, sexual violence inflicted by teachers, safety in schools and the lack of infrastructure. Members asked the Department how it planned to deal with the issue of providing a safe learning environment for all. Members raised concern that quality teachers are taking up positions within the Department and the less experienced teachers are in schools, removing teachers who have a history of sexual abuse from the national education system and the destruction of property in schools. Members asked if the new curriculum has been finalised, if Early Childhood Development forms part of it, whether special needs learners are included and the timeline of when the new curriculum will be implemented in all of the provinces.
The Chairperson opened the meeting and noted an apology from the Minister and officials of the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). It was sad to see Departments only sending its Director-Generals to meetings. The presence of high-level officials are of the utmost importance. She then asked for the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to begin its presentation.
Presentation by the Department of Basic Education
Ms Mamiki Maboya, DDG: Curriculum Policy, Support and Monitoring, DBE, said the purpose of the presentation is to provide progress reports, plans and timelines of the Minister’s executive undertakings. On automatic progression in the foundation phase, the Department is working on the finalisation of the alignment of curriculum policies so that learners are not kept in a phase for too long. It is also working on addressing the high dropout and repetition rates by improving safety in schools, enhancing sports and enrichment programmes, managing the impact of pregnancy on schooling and improving the quality of learning. It is committed to improving quality in early grades through a collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the LEGO Foundation. There are about 160 000 Early Childhood Development (ECD) practitioners and foundation phase educators. The PLAY course provides free, online and accredited in-service training. This course has been implemented in the Eastern Cape, Gauteng and the Free State. 3 816 foundation phase teachers have been trained through this learning approach. There are 4 316 foundation phase teachers, 4 805 intermediate phase teachers and 2 693 senior management team members who are trained in reading methodologies through the Primary School Reading Improvement Programme.
Ms Maboya said the Department is working towards strengthening the curriculum content quality and relevance through the introduction of 26 technical occupational subjects for ordinary schools and schools of skill. 1 115 teachers from schools of skill have been trained on the new curriculum. On improving skills and competencies, it has connected 70.7 % of ordinary schools through the Universal Service and Access Obligation (USAO). 67 of schools for learners with special needs have been connected. 9 394 laptops and 112 728 tablets were deployed across provinces through the USAO and 298 620 teachers have been trained in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) integration. The curriculum for coding and robotics for Grade R to 9 have also been completed and there are plans in place to pilot it in 200 schools with full implementation of the curriculum for Grades R to 3. Entrepreneurship education is enrolled in 332 schools across the provinces. 667 teachers and 32 educational officials are trained in this across the provinces. It is planning to roll-out entrepreneurship education in 23 600 other schools.
Ms Maboya said the Department is refocusing on Infrastructure Planning and Delivery (IPD). This will focus on, amongst other things, the development of a mobile app for condition assessments. It is working on a digitized business process for infrastructure provisioning. The State Information Technology Agency (SITA) has provided a quote for system support on this. On built environment capacity, it has appointed a senior engineer as the Head of IPD. Various provinces have also appointed officials to be responsible for infrastructure. It is working on tightening human resource management in the basic education system. The focus is on the recruitment, appointment and promotion of educational specialists and teachers. This is necessary because the sector has faced multiple allegations of making incorrect appointments in schools and offices. It resulted in poor management and leadership. An approach of formal professional induction, verification and vetting is to be followed. The induction of office based educators has already started. As part of the vetting process, the application form needs to be amended to comply with the Children’s Act in order to check if the educator’s name appears on the sexual offence register. A collective agreement has been signed expediting the arbitration of sexual offence cases. The educators who were found guilty in such cases were placed on the sexual offence register by the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC). The Department is committed to strengthening provisions for the role of unions in the appointment process, providing eligibility for promotions into schools and office based educator posts and tightening the requirement around experience and competencies.
The Chairperson asked members to raise questions.
Ms C Visser (DA; North West) asked if mentally ill schools were included in the new curriculum. Rural communities have the highest dropout rates. What measures is the Department taking to tackle this? Some pupils end up not going to school on the basis that they do not have a school uniform. The education of a child is more important than the school’s dress code. There were a number of instances where pupils were sexually abused by their teachers and resulted in impregnating the child. Teachers who have such a history should be removed from the national education system and suspended from teaching anywhere in the country. There is an urgent need to develop the infrastructure of schools. Some schools are deteriorating and cannot be classified as safe and non-hazardous teaching environments. What are the Department’s plans to improve infrastructure?
Mr S Zandamela (EFF; Mpumalanga) said there was nepotism in the basic education system where individuals who failed to possess the necessary teaching qualifications were awarded jobs to teach. There was a case of this in Kwaggafontein and KwaMhlanga. What is the Department’s specific role in ECD?
Mr K Motsamai (EFF; Gauteng) asked for more information on the Sedibeng TVET College. Students don’t have a place of residence. What is being done to help reintegrate students who were financially excluded on the basis of failing to pay fees? Can more information about National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and its role in aiding the students of Sedibeng TEVT College be provided to members? Security is a primary issue in schools. What is the Department doing to ensure a safe learning environment for all?
Mr I Sileku (DA; Western Cape) asked for an explanation on the School Management Programme. What role does it play in the Department? When would teacher training for the new curriculum take place? How will it affect normal classes? Who will be in charge of classes when teachers are on training? Which schools do not have implementation of sporting programmes as part of ECD? When will that implementation be carried out?
Mr A Gxoyiya (ANC; Northern Cape) said there was a case where learners in Grade R had been sent home without knowledge of the School Governing Body (SGB) and the school principal. It was stated that this was because of a matter concerning the safety of children in school. What measures are being taken by the Department in order to ensure a safe learning environment? There are other cases relating to violence in schools and destruction of property. Can a follow up be provided to members on this? There is a general feeling of safety in the Department who has heavy security but this is not the case at schools. On the assessment of learners, can be there any form of common national examination at the end of each phase? There is a problem with the career paths being chosen. Quality teachers are getting positions inside the Departmental offices leaving the lesser experienced teachers to deal with the actual teaching and learning process. What is the Department doing to retain quality teachers within the teaching cycle?
Mr T Dodovu (ANC; North West) asked how the Department was planning to integrate ECD into the new curriculum. Has the actual curriculum been finalised? There is a need to focus on Mathematics and Science. Can the Department comment on its plans to improve this? The Department needs to start incorporating sports into the curriculum. The international sports scene is known to produce quality sportsman who did not obtain formal education but rather focused on their talents. Can the Department look into the development of sports and arts in its curriculum? There should be an option of focusing on sports development for learners who want to follow that path.
Ms M Mmola (ANC; Mpumalanga) said there is a need to address safety around schools to ensure a safe learning environment. Educating pupils in a potentially non-safe environment is one of the factors that contribute to poor performance by learners. Has the Department put in place safety systems to deal with the issue? The new curriculum has been launched in only three provinces and in the other six provinces it is still pending. When will the other provinces be incorporated into the new system? What are the specific dates when the programmes will be implemented?
Mr S Mfayela (IFP; KwaZulu-Natal) asked the Department to comment on pregnancy at an early age in schools. Children are also getting sick. What is the Department doing to alleviate the matter? Most learners are dropping out of the schooling system after matric especially those who cannot make it to tertiary level. What is the Department’s plan to aid those learners?
Mr E Mthethwa (ANC, KwaZulu-Natal) said school infrastructure is a concern. In one case, a ceiling board fell on top of a pupil. When the school applied for renovations, they found there were 60 schools on the Department’s list awaiting renovations. What is the Department doing to renovate schools and ensure a safe learning environment? In one school, there was a bathroom being shared between males and females because it was the only bathroom in the school. What is the Department doing to respond to these issues?
The Chairperson asked if the new curriculum was finding expression in rural areas as they are the key areas needing development. Does the programme cater for people with special needs? Such persons also need to be incorporated into the plan. She asked the Deputy Minister to respond.
Dr Reginah Mhaule, Deputy Minister: Basic Education, replied the Department is responsible for all matters relating to basic education inside the country. It is going to expand its programme to include other provinces. At the core of its plans is the introduction of social cohesion and sports but there hasn’t been much progress in this aspect. It has established sporting fields but the communities are usually quick to build houses in the open fields. It is encouraging tournaments among schools so that those learners who are more sports inclined can get more experience and exposure. It is aware of the effects of diseases like HIV/AIDS and TB which kill the learning environments. There was opposition from the community for learners to be taught Sex Education. This is not a new subject but rather falls under a subsection of Life Orientation. Statistics show that levels of HIV infections and teenage pregnancy have declined. The Department has a sexual offence register for teachers who are found to have committed an offence. Such teachers are expelled and put on the list so that they may never again be considered for a teaching job anywhere within the country.
The Chairperson asked for the rest of the responses to be submitted in writing.
Dr Mhaule said the Department is committed to improving the basic education system and ensuring a safe learning environment for all of its learners. It is working to ensure a decrease in the number of drop outs by implementing an inclusive and diverse educational system.
Mr Gxoyiya said learners who drop out before finishing matric need to be helped in alternative ways. Is there a system in place to trace the learners who have dropped out?
The Chairperson thanked everyone in attendance. Education is the core of the country’s future and should be taken seriously. The Department was thanked for working towards improving the standards of learning in the country.
The meeting was adjourned.
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