Teacher Absenteeism & Learner/Teacher ratio at schools in the province
12 May 2020
Chairperson: Ms L Botha (DA)
Video: Standing Committee on Education, 12 May 2020, 13:00
The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) described the enormous challenges it would face when schools in the province reopen after the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions are eased. With reduced funding available, it would have to find ways to deal with overcrowded classrooms, find substitute teachers to replace those who were ill or in isolation, work out how to progress learners to the next level so that a year’s education was not lost, and reduce the stress levels that were already having a serious impact on teachers’ health.
The Department said one of the questions being asked nationally was how many classrooms would be required to cater for learners during the Covid-19 pandemic. If they were to have 30 learners per classroom, they would require 13 500 more classrooms. This would require 13 500 more teachers as well. However, the Department was not getting enough funding from the National Treasury yearly to cater for the growing demands of learners. This was why the Western province had the worst teacher/learner ratios (1:37) in the country -- the inflow of learners to the province was not associated with the inflow of money to the Education Department to cater for that increase.
One of the results was the effect on the academic performance in the province, and the fact that it could maintain its academic performance was because it had brilliant teachers. Covid-19 would affect teachers because it was coming on top of other socio-economic strains such as gangsterism, drug abuse, crime and violence in society. These factors were all affecting teachers, simply because schools were microcosms of society.
The pandemic would add to other issues, such as the ill-disciplined behaviour of the learners in schools and other socio-economic challenges learners were facing in their communities. Teachers would have to do more than just teaching learners. They would have to parent them -- something which their parents were not doing because they were not coping with the socio-economic issues they were facing. Parents were failing to prepare their children in their homes on issues such as discipline, manners, order, etc, for the learners to be able to go through their entire schooling career. All these disciplines were absent in most homes, and the whole responsibility fell into the laps of school teachers.
The Department reported that the teacher absenteeism rate was between 4% and 5%, which was the lowest in the country. Some of the major causes of absenteeism included depression, heart diseases, neurological, operations and maternity leave. Over the years, absence through depression among teachers had increased.
The province had been experiencing exponential learner growth due to increases in the population, urban migration, and relocation of families in search of employment opportunities and better living conditions. Contrary to this, the teacher growth was rather flat, meaning there were not enough teachers to meet the rising number of learners. The average teacher to learner ratio for 2020 was 1:37. The Department had taken measures to support schools to reduce large class sizes, including the allocation of 695 more teachers to schools, as well as a pro-poor approach.
Members’ questions were focused mainly on the Department’s response to Covid-19. Had any consideration been given to cancelling the entire school year? Was splitting classes into morning and afternoon groups (platooning) an option? How long did it take for an absent teacher to be replaced by a substitute? What steps would be implemented to ensure it was safe for both learners and teachers to return to school? The Department was also asked to explain why 583 learners were still unplaced at schools in the province.
The Chairperson opened the meeting by welcoming all Committee Members, the MEC, the delegates from the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), the media, and all who were listening through the YouTube channel.
Ms N Makamba-Botya (EFF) suggested the delegates should not waste time discussing issues about the absenteeism of teachers in schools, but should rather focus on education and the Coronavirus-19 pandemic.
Mr Leon Ely, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), WCED, said the teacher absenteeism rate in the province was between 4 -5% per annum. This was lower than in other provinces. Policy stated that substitute teachers were provided only when a teacher was absent for 15 working days and longer. Teacher absenteeism was measured by the number of leave days taken compared to the number of teachers’ actual teaching working days. However, the teacher absenteeism risk was low to moderate, and it was being monitored daily through an electronic system known as the People Management Practices System.
Over past five years from 2013 to 2018, there had been a downward trend in teacher absenteeism due to the concerted efforts made by the Department to address the unwarranted abuse of sick leave utilisation. Some of the major causes of absenteeism among teachers include depression, heart diseases, neurological, operations and maternity leave. Over the years, absence through depression among teachers had increased, followed by neurological and operation-related diseases. The Department had an employee health and wellness programme, where they provide professional support among teachers concerning some of the health and social issues among teachers. This included family challenges, finances, health and wellness, relationships, trauma, etc. This was managed by Metropolitan Health.
Learner: teacher ratios
Mr Ely described the status of learner:teacher ratios for the Western Cape schools, and said that the budget was a key contributing factor that influenced the affordability of the teacher basket of posts in the province. Over the years, the region had been experiencing exponential learner growth in public ordinary schools from Grade 1 to Grade 12. This was probably due to population growth, urban migration, and relocation of families to the Western Cape in search of employment opportunities and better living conditions. This could be because of the economic growth in this province, which happened to be the second-highest in the country.
Contrary to this exponential learner growth rate, the teacher growth was rather flat, indicating that there were not enough teachers to meet the rising number of learners in the province. Therefore, the average teacher to learner ratios for 2020 were 1:36 for secondary schools, and 1:37 for primary schools. The average ratio was 1:37.
The average ratio differed from district to district within the province for various reasons, such as the size and location of the district, such as whether it was in an urban or rural area. This also included whether the school was a fee-paying or non-fee paying school.
The Department had also taken measures to support schools to reduce large class sizes. Measures included the allocation of 695 more teachers in schools as well as a pro-poor approach.
Ms Debbie Schäfer, Western Cape MEC for Education, said she was very pleased by the approach taken by the Department in improving the leave management plan. With the day-to-day electronic register, they knew exactly what was happening in schools daily.
The teachers’ health and wellness program would be instrumental in helping teachers more, especially considering the global Covid-19 pandemic challenge.
The number of teaching posts was not enough for what was needed in the province. Also, the teacher:learner ratio was a challenge, as it may not be a true reflection of all classrooms.
In some schools, principals did not take a full teaching load. There was also a need to ask for more funding from the National Treasury for placing more substitute teachers in the event of any teachers getting sick.
Mr G Bosman (DA) asked the Department to expand more on the patterns of leave, especially in relation to the column in the presentation headed “leave patterns and operations related category” and indicate whether this may include violence against teachers in schools. He asked about the prevalence of depression, which had been quite high among teachers in 2018, and therefore, wanted to know how many people opted for health support and how was this tracked to make sure that teachers got optimal support.
Mr R Allen (DA) asked for a breakdown on the patterns of leave. He wanted more clarity on the prevalence of depression per quintile in order to establish the top ten schools that were featuring high on depression among teachers. What was being done for such schools? On the teacher absenteeism rate, he asked where substitute teachers came from to replace absent teachers, and how many days schools lost before a substitute teacher was placed.
Mr M Kama (ANC) asked the Department to explain their model for depression used in 2018, considering that the numbers were quite high. He wanted to know what its response had been, rather than waiting for the individual teacher's response to the health and wellness programme. What model did it use for substitute teachers, and how many days were lost due to teacher absenteeism? Was it only after 15 days of absenteeism that a substitute teacher was considered for placement?
Ms N Makamba-Botya (EFF) first commented on the agenda for the meeting. She said that not all members of the Standing Committee were part of the COVID19 Ad Hoc Committee, and therefore needed to know what issues had been discussed in the Ad Hoc Committee concerning education for the province. She asked the Department to elaborate on the causes of depression among teachers -- where and why it was happening -- so that the Committee would know which areas to focus on.
Mr F Christians (ACDP) asked how long it took for the head of the Education Department to know about teacher absenteeism. He asked for more information about heart disease among teachers. He also commented that the metro-east had the highest teacher/learner ratios -- did this explain why this district had a low student pass rate? What was the Department doing to resolve this issue, considering that some schools in this district were struggling? He said that the principals in some schools, such as in the Elsies River area, were complaining that they could not teach and run a school at the same time. Could the Department explain why principals were also calculated as part of teacher/learner ratios while at the same time they were expected to do school administrative jobs?
Mr Brian Schreuder, Head of Department, WCED, said that one of the questions being asked nationally in the current engagement was how many classrooms would be required to cater for learners during the Covid-19 pandemic. If they were to have 30 learners per classroom, they would require 13 500 more classrooms. This would require 13 500 more teachers as well. The problem was that the Department was not getting enough funding from the National Treasury yearly to cater to the growing demands of learners. This was why the Western Province had the worst teacher/learner ratios in the country -- the inflow of learners to the province was not associated with the inflow of money to the Education Department to cater for that increase.
This was causing strain, and one of the results was the effect on the academic performance in the province. The fact that the Western Cape could maintain its academic performance was because it had brilliant teachers. The second challenge was that it was going to affect teachers, because they were working under strenuous conditions. This was coming on top of other socio-economic strains such as gangsterism, drug abuse, crime, and violence in society. These factors were all affecting teachers, simply because schools were microcosms of society.
In response to the question about what the Department was doing about schools in the east district, Mr Schreuder said that teacher allocation was based on pro-poor, not on an equal distribution allocation. However, there was a waiting factor in the allocation of posts that weighed more on quintiles 1, 2, 3, and partly 4. The lower the quintile, the higher the waiting period. However, this did not cover the issue adequately.
The situation of the principals was a reality on the ground. If they were to take the school principals out of the teacher/learner ratios, they would be much higher – such as 1:40 -- than the current 1:37 ratio. For now, this problem could not be solved unless there was more money to build more schools and hire more teachers.
The cause of heart disease and depression among teachers was also associated with the strain issues discussed earlier. This was because most of the teachers were working under pressure, and was why the Department was offering health wellness care programmes for teachers. However, teachers needed to make use of these services.
With the Covid 19 pandemic, issues of heart disease and depression were going to increase even more among teachers. This was because the pandemic would add to other issues such as the ill-disciplined behaviour of the learners in schools and other socio-economic challenges learners were facing in their communities. Teachers would have to do more than just teaching learners. They would have to parent them, something which their parents were not doing because they were not coping with the socio-economic issues they were facing. Parents were failing to prepare their children in their homes on issues such as discipline, manners, order, etc, for the learners to be able to go through their entire schooling career. All these disciplines were absent in most homes, and the whole responsibility fell into the laps of school teachers.
All sectors of society, whether they be socio-political, religious, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), etc, have to start talking about this. In the Department’s report, this was one of the indicators that were included, indicating that teachers were facing these social challenges among learners which were negatively impacting on their health and coping mechanisms.
Mr Schreuder responded to the question about substitute teachers, and said that in the past the Department used to provide a substitute after about five days of absenteeism. Now, because they were not getting enough money and were trying to save teaching posts so that the classes did not get bigger, the Department was saving money by saying that schools could now get substitute teachers only after two weeks of teacher absenteeism. The impact of this was that for those two weeks, learners did not have a teacher. It either meant that discipline “went to pot,” or if the schools were organised, they got a volunteer to supervise the classes. This was something that schools needed to do. Many people were not employed, and even parents could help to supervise in such situations, even though everybody wanted to be paid for such services.
In countries such as the United Kingdom, there was a pool of substitute teachers so that when a teacher was absent, they could phone in and ask for one of them to fill the gap. This was what ought to happen in the Western Cape, but they needed money for this to happen, which they did not have at the moment.
A concern with the Covid-19 pandemic was that there was going to be a significantly increased amount of teacher absenteeism. A high number of teachers were likely going to contract the virus that would take them out for two weeks of quarantine time, or even more than that.
Teachers would also need to isolate themselves, because they were likely going to be in contact with those that had the virus. Such isolation would take the teacher out for a considerable number of days. This meant that not only ill people would be out, but also some people who had been in direct contact with other ill people. In such a scenario, the Department was looking at the possibility of sending a substitute the moment a school identified a vacancy because of illness or absenteeism. The Department would try to put the substitute teachers in within a day or two, and not wait for 14 days as in the past.
However, this meant that budgets would be under tremendous strain. It also meant that the Department would have to monitor carefully, because there would come a time when they would have to say that there was no money left to hire substitute teachers. In such a scenario, they would have to say that both the substitute teacher the full-time teachers got half a salary each. This would require the Department to think out of the box for new solutions for the situation they were now in. If they were going to get school learning going again, they would have to get people into those spaces when the full-time teachers were absent for one reason or another.
MEC Schäfer said she wanted to emphasise what the HOD had said about teachers -- that they were working under immense pressure, as the figures in the presentation had indicated. Even though the Department was getting funding, the budget cuts over the past few years due to the financial situation meant they had not been getting the required amount to meet the demands of the increased learner growth the province was experiencing. This was putting immense pressure on the teachers and some principals.
In certain schools, principals did teach, but they were certainly not expected to take a full load of teaching. The Department was fully aware of the concerns of some school principals that they were overloaded with teaching and running the school at the same time.
She referred to the Ad Hoc Committee issue, and said this had been broadcast on YouTube. She was not sure if all the Committee Members were aware of this. Maybe in future, the legislature needs to make sure that all Members were advised as to when and where these meetings were going to be broadcast. This would help to ensure that no Members were left out.
Mr K Sayed (ANC) referred to the challenge of teachers falling ill and substitute teachers being needed to fill the gaps, and said that because of the budget problem, the teaching capacity was going to be a severe strain on the Department once the schools reopened. He therefore asked if there was any serious consideration to look at the option of cancelling the school year.
The MEC answered that if they cancelled this school year, there was also going to be the same amount of pressure trying to catch up with the lost workload in the following academic year. Apart from this, there were going to be new cohorts of grade one learners next year, so either way, there was going to be some strain experienced. At the moment, the Department was frantically busy, preparing and getting the safety precautions in place, in the hope of saving this academic year, even though this would not be in line with the way it was planned before. At the moment, steps were being taken to cut the curriculum down so that the Department did not put additional pressure on both the teacher and the learners. There was a very strong feeling across the province and the whole country to make sure that they saved this academic year as far as they could.
Mr Schreuder added that conversations were going on about sending letters to schools, informing them about the kind of phases envisaged for the next term. The Department was also coming up with suggestions of having some options -- for example, using alternate dates and alternate groups.
There was a global perspective that learners from disadvantaged communities were the worst hit by the extended school closures. Society had to understand the reality of the gaps that existed between rich and poor schools. Over the last few of years, the Department had narrowed the gaps that existed between the rich and disadvantaged schools. If it now extended the closing period, it would also be expanding the gaps it had closed over time. Therefore, it was important to find everything in its power not to simply cancel this academic year. Furthermore, the implications were huge, because if one cancelled the school year, one was simply saying that everyone must repeat it. What would then happen to the cohort of over 100 000 grade one learners who were coming into the province every year? Cancelling a school year went against every bit of educational grain, so the best thing to do was to make sure that they did not cancel this academic year, even if it meant cutting down on the content of the curriculum. They needed only to ensure a concentration of the conceptual requirements, competencies and skills, as opposed to content.
Mr Ely answered to the question asked by Mr Bosman regarding leave patterns and operations, and said this referred to other diseases such as cancer, intestinal problems, etc. It was therefore difficult to include factors such as violence against teachers in this category.
The health and wellness programme was a free service to teachers who were employed by the Department, even though most of the employees were not making full use of this it. As a result, the Department did not have a full range of data available on this.
Responding to Mr Christians’ question about the daily attendance register and the absenteeism of teachers, he said the Department submits a weekly report to the districts to assist them in understanding about leave patterns at particular schools.
He said it was difficult for him to give a scientific explanation about how one gets heart problems, but he understood that one became diabetic first, then this developed into cholesterol and one ended up having a heart disease. Stress and one’s lifestyle were some of the contributing factors to heart problems. The Department of , as one of the biggest employers in the province, reflected some of the things that were happening in society, such as people’s lifestyles.
The metro east was one of their bigger districts, with fast population growth. The Department had responded to the challenges faced in this district by providing a food programme for high schools from grades 10-12. They also had a school improvement programme to assist learners to deal with the challenges they faced in passing their grades, and also for catch-up as well. This was an immense task for the district officers, as they had to provide these extra services to learners either after hours or over weekends. They also made available additional teacher/tutors for those particular schools, mostly for the matric learners.
Mr Sayed asked if in future the Department could provide the Committee with data on how many teachers were using the teacher health and wellness services so that they could relate to the correlation.
Mr Ely said that they would do so, since they already had data on that.
Second round of questions
The Chairperson asked if any teachers had needed support in dealing with substance abuse before the beginning of the lockdown. Were there any teachers in rehabilitation because of substance abuse?
The Standing Committee had gone on an oversight visit to the Thembalethu primary school and Crest Secondary School in the Eden part of the Karoo district. At these schools, there were extremely large classes, and they indicated that they had applied to the Department for extra posts. Had these posts been granted? How many learners were still on the waiting list to be placed in schools in the province?
Mr Sayed asked if the Department had looked at the option of preparing learners during this year for the next grade, without them having to write the exams. This was one of the suggestions that was going round in public discourse. He was aware of certain situations where there were high numbers of teaching staff, teacher assistants and other non-teaching staff doing administration jobs at schools. This resulted in principals and their deputies getting free periods, but often with teachers being over-burdened with work, which could lead to their burnout. What measures were in place to make sure there was an equal and fair distribution of the workload in schools?
He asked the Department to give a breakdown of the learner growth at former model C schools in comparison to the quintile one, two and three schools.
To cope with the Covid-19 pandemic, what was the Department doing to source funds to reduce the teacher/learner ratio and class sizes? Had it looked at the proposal the Committee had made at the beginning of the year regarding the former model C schools’ class sizes? What progress had been made concerning this proposal?
Mr Christians asked the Department if they had considered splitting learners into two groups, with one group coming in the morning and the other in the afternoon. This was how things had been in the past when it was faced with a shortage of classrooms or a high number of learners. This could be applied to meet the social distancing requirement of learners during this pandemic period. What was the Department doing about the high teacher/learner ratios in certain schools in the metro east that often led to a poor pass rate of 40% at some schools?
Mr Ely said there were about four educators who had used the employee health and wellness programme before the lockdown started.
The Department was dealing with the request for extra teaching posts of teachers, knowing that various schools were in a difficult situation. It would give a separate answer for the school in question. However, it was trying to deal with those requests as far as possible.
He said that they still had unplaced learners who were on the waiting list for this year.
Mr Archie Lewis, DDG: Institution Development and Coordination, WCED, said that before the lockdown, the Department had about 583 learners unplaced, and the lockdown had stopped any efforts to place them. Even if schools opened up on 15 June, it did not mean that they would be at schools, because it would depend on what grade those learners found themselves. The metro north had 272 learners, metro south had 99, and metro east 93. The Department had identified schools where these learners would be placed, and as soon as schools reopened, letters would be sent to them requesting admission of these learners. If schools refuse, the Department had already prepared letters that would be signed by the Education Department Secretary-General to be sent to the very same schools requesting them to admit those learners. They had identified these schools on the basis that they were English-speaking schools and could accommodate most of these learners. If schools still refused to take then, then they would request the parents to exercise their right in terms of the South African Schools Act to appeal for admission to the office of the Provincial Minister. As soon as schools reopen, they would make a renewed effort to place these learners if they were still around.
Mr Ely answered the question about preparing the learners for the next grade by requesting the Committee to address it in writing to the HOD.
Referring to the high numbers of non-teaching staff and unequal job distribution, he said that in that situation, the school management had to liaise with the school principal or deputy principal on how to deal with such issues. Where there was a perception that school principals and their deputies were trying to abuse the system, this needed to be reported to the circuit manager.
He said the Department would try to obtain information about the growing number of learners at Model C schools compared to quintile one, two and three schools. However, Model C schools were now very different to what they used to be in the past, and some of them had completely changed their demographics or composition. Nevertheless, they would try to obtain the requested information for the Committee.
He said the Department raised the need for additional funding every academic year with the Provincial Treasury (PT). They were always told that they could not get the requested funding because the economic growth in the country was problematic.
Mr Christian’s suggestion about morning, afternoon and weekend sessions, was referred to as ‘platooning’, and there was a possibility of going in that direction. However, this would require extra teachers as well. It was either the full-time teachers who would have to do the double shifts, or the Department would have to employ extra teachers to do the platooning. This was because it was unfair for teachers to teach both sessions for the same salary package -- and could cause more stress among teachers. Although there was a possibility of platooning, they had to work on the practicality of how to do it.
On the question concerning the poor results from high schools in the metro east, the Department had engaged with circuit managers in the districts around their particular schools, and looked at the reasons for the drop in the pass rates. What they had found was that the pass rates kept on changing. One year they were up to 60%, and the following year they fell back. They had therefore asked the schools to compile a high school improvement programme, and the district had to model that. This required close intervention by the district officers to monitor a school’s performance, particularly those with low pass rates. Feedback was also required from the circuit managers to know exactly what was happening at those schools. There was quite a robust engagement to ensure they were going to improve. If they did not, what were the reasons for failure?
Mr Sayed asked about the unplaced learners that were still on the waiting list, with no gaurantee that they were going to be placed even if schools resumed on 15 June. This report was very worrying, because the Committee had asked for a blueprint in February as to how the Department was going to do this. He asked the Department if there was any plan they could put in place now to ensure they could report to the Committee next month, and not get the same response again. He also said that the Committee had made a plea to the Department to look into Model C schools in terms of their class sizes
On the sick leave issue, he asked if the Department had a record of the number of learners and teachers that had underlying illnesses. How was the Department going to manage the absenteeism due to Covid-19? What standard safety precautionary procedure was going to be followed when schools were reopened? Were teachers and learners going to be screened and sanitised at the gate? The Department had already had responses from the ad hoc Committee last Friday, but he wanted to get some more detail on the Covid-19 school preparations.
Mr Christians asked about the 583 learners that were unplaced. When had the last application for placement come from a learner? The Committee had previously been told by the Department that all learners would be placed. The question was, were the initial learners placed? Were the 583 unplaced learners additional to the original number? At the last Committee meeting, the Department had promised to place all learners in schools.
Mr Kama asked if the Department had an admissions time frame model which determined the closing date for the submission and acceptance of learner placement applications.
The Chairperson asked if there were any matriculants among the 583 learners that were on the waiting list. Considering that these learners were not placed at any school, it also meant that they were not on the e-learning platform.
Mr Lewis said that there were no matriculants among the 583 learners that were on the waiting list. All the learners in the country had an access portal to the e-learning lesson site, whether they were placed in a particular school or not.
The placement of these learners when school reopened in June would not be possible, simply because it would be only grade 7s and grade 12s that would go back to school. The other groups of learners would be phased back in as late as the end of August or September. This meant that even if they found a place for these learners, it did not mean that they would automatically go back to school when they reopened in June.
The answer to the question about the 583 learners -- whether they were new learners or those who had applied last year – was that it was a mixture of both. There was a list of learners that had applied from last year and they could not be placed, as well as a list of learners that had entered into the system from January.
The reason why these learners were not placed timeously in schools was that the Department did not have a place in the school infrastructure. Even if they had places, they would still have to struggle with the load at schools. There were a few places in schools here and there that used Afrikaans as a mode of teaching, but learners that were on the waiting list were looking for places in English-speaking schools. The Department could not place these learners in Afrikaans schools, otherwise they would be preparing them to fail. It was an issue of infrastructure, and the Department did not have sufficient funds to provide the infrastructure. It all started with the budgetary problem that must be resolved to address the infrastructure situation, and only then could they place learners. Covid-19 made it even more difficult going into 2021, because some of the infrastructure budgets had been shifted to provide for the needs demanded by the pandemic, so they would have even less money in the future for the provision of infrastructure.
Mr Kama asked if any grade seven learners were on the waiting list.
Mr Lewis answered that the Department would provide the Committee with a breakdown of the numbers.
Mr Ely said that the Department was in the process of collecting data which would be available only once the learners were back at school.
Regarding underlying health problems, there were issues around confidentiality and questions about access to information, so the Department would treat that information in confidence. On the issue of co-morbidity, they were waiting for a circular from the Department of Basic Education (DBE) which spet out which co-morbidity it applied to, and also the indicators as well. For instance, if one was becoming diabetic, one’s blood sugar level should be about 7.5mmol/L for six months. It was very specific, but the Department was waiting for that directive from the National Minister and the DBE. They could only spell out what was to happen. This applied to the learners as well. The Department was, however, collecting data about diabetic problems among teachers.
Mr Sayed asked the Department to give Members a breakdown of the amount of money that had been intended for new school infrastructure that was now being diverted to pay for the needs that had arisen because of Covid-19, and where this money had been taken from. He also asked the Department to give a breakdown of learner numbers and teaching posts in the former Model C teaching schools.
Mr Ely answered that they received the go-ahead advice and guidelines to use the Infrastructure Grant (IG) from the DBE for the purchase of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). The Department did not have final figures yet, and they have to go through the whole process to establish the exact data. This meant that they would have to come back to give a full breakdown report to the Committee. Only then would we be able to indicate which particular project would be affected.
The Department would try to extract the information about educator/learner ratios at the Model C schools, or former model C schools, for the Committee.
The Chairperson asked Members to put forward any recommendations or raise an issues requiring further explanation from the Department concerning the meeting they had just had with the WCED.
Mr Christians said he wanted more information about the 583 unplaced learners, considering that the WCED had promised to place them the last time they were in Parliament. The Department needed to explain that. They also need to give the Committee and the parents out there a clear indication that all learners would be safe by providing them with Covid-19 protective equipment. He also recommended that the Department should provide their plans for the metro east schools that had a poor academic performance.
The Chairperson said she did not want the Committee to sound as if they were duplicating the work of the Ad Hoc Committee dealing with education, since they were also waiting for the report from the WCED. Therefore, she requested that as the Standing Committee for Education, they should wait for the responses first before they asked the Department for the same information.
She asked the Procedural Officer to put up the minutes for the last meeting.
Mr Christians said that he had been referring to the R200 million that was made available. They had said that they had already taken R50 million from this amount for buying the masks and sanitiser for the learners and teachers in schools, so he was asking for that information just to assure the parents about the safety of the learners when they went back to school.
Mr Gillion asked if they could have detailed data on the employee health and wellness system regarding how many teachers had received support from the WCED. The Department should also expand more on what they meant by ‘operations-related,’ and explain fully what constitute ‘neurological-related.’
Mr Allen asked for a response in writing about the leave patterns.
Mr Kama wanted the Department to provide an admissions time frame which indicated when they would stop accepting applications from learners requesting school placement.
Ms Makamba-Botya asked if the Department could give the Standing Committee the breakdown of the causes of depression among teachers by region and quintiles. This would help the Department to ascertain the focus points.
Mr Christians asked if the Department could give them more information about the teachers’ management system. He was not sure if the current system was working, considering that teachers could be absent for some days and yet receive a full 100% salary at the end of the month. The teachers' managers should give the Committee information as to when they receive information about the absenteeism of teachers at schools.
The Chairperson recommended that the Standing Committee for Education should organise an unannounced school visit when schools for grades 7 and 12 reopened in June.
She then asked Ms Wasiema Hassen-Moosa, Procedural Officer, to go through all the recommendations that the Committee Members had made.
Mr Christians added that he just wanted details on schools that performed below 60%, and not all schools in the metro-east district.
The Committee adopted the recommendations requiring the Department to give them detailed written information on the matters raised by the Members.
The Committee adopted the minutes of the meeting that took place on 18 March. Mr Christians was the proposer, and Mr Allen seconded.
The Committee examined the contents of the draft Committee programme that had been circulated by the Procedural Officer to see whether they should add or remove some of its contents.
Mr Bosman said that he would propose a change in the programme, considering it was planned before the current Covid-19 situation. Now with the social distancing requirements, it was not possible to carry out some of the things that were in the programme. He therefore proposed that the Committee give the Chairperson and the Procedural Officer the authority to readjust the programme in light of what was possible, because visits to schools would not be possible under these circumstances.
Mr Allen supported the recommendation of Mr Bosman.
Mr Sayed also supported the proposal, and added that when adjusting the programme, they should focus on the Covid-19 situation and context.
The Chairperson said that she was very cognisant of the Covid-19 situation, and was also very aware of the Ad Hoc Committee that had been established to look into Covid-19 matters involving education. As far as possible, she would not like the Standing Committee on Education to duplicate matters that were in the programme which, at the time they were discussed, had been so important for them to focus on. She therefore promised Members that she and the Procedural Officer were going to look into the programme with that in mind, and anything that was to be handled by the ad hoc committee would still be handled by them.
In response to Ms Makamba-Botya’s concern about Standing Committee Members not being aware of what issues had been discussed in the Ad Hoc Committee concerning education for the province, she said it had been only the Ad Hoc Committee Members and the alternatives that were supposed to get the information. However, any Member could get access to this information about the agenda of the Ad Hoc Committee. She also promised that if there was an education slot shortly that the Ad Hoc Committee would handle, she would make sure that all the Members of the Standing Committee would get the information.
The next meeting would be held on 19 May.
The meeting was adjourned.
Botha, Ms L
Allen, Mr R
Bosman, Mr G
Christians, Mr F
Kama, Mr M
Makamba-Botya, Ms N
Sayed, Mr MK
Schäfer, Ms DA
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