DBE, SACE, Umalusi 2020/21 special adjustments budget; with Minister

Basic Education

07 July 2020
Chairperson: Ms B Mbinqo-Gigaba (ANC) and Mr E Nchabeleng (ANC, Limpopo)
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Meeting Summary

Video: JM: PC on Basic Education & SC on Education & Technology, Sport, Arts & Culture 7 July 2020

Audio: PC Basic 7 July 2020 

Media Statement: Education Committees Commend DBE for Hard Work During ‘difficult Time’ of Covid-19 

The Portfolio Committee and Select Committee held a joint virtual meeting to be briefed on the changes to the current budgets of the Department of Basic Education, SACE and Umalusi due to COVID-19.
The Committee heard that the Department of Basic Education had to contribute to the government’s R500 billion COVID-19 relief package announced by the President. DBE had contributed about R2.1 billion and was left with R22 billion for 2020/21. DBE did not form part of the COVID-19 front-line departments that benefited from the COVID-19 relief package. DBE budget savings due to lockdown were noted for catering, travelling and subsistence and venue hire for meetings and training. The Matric Second Chance programme and workbooks will also have savings. The workbook project budget reduction of R71 million is not going to have a negative effect on the project. For the 2021 academic year, the workbooks that were initially earmarked for donation to poor private schools will no longer be donated to private schools but will now be sent to public schools due to the budget shortfall.

Members asked about the standards and expenditure on masks and other personal protection equipment (PPE). The Minister responded that provinces were given a choice on the type of masks, and that spending was appropriated at the provincial level. DBE has dealt with the 3 500 schools that did not have water. For schools that had pit latrines, it provided mobile sanitation units, which are serviced every week.
The South African Council for Educators (SACE) said it had to decrease its target for investigations of new cases finalised from 80% to 50% as most of the investigations are conducted physically and through physical contact with witnesses and the drafting of their statements. The percentage of disciplinary hearings on new cases finalised were adjusted from 70% to 30% due to the same reason. Its revenue reduction was R9m.
Umalusi told the Committees that its budget is not expected to decrease. Total revenue is estimated to decrease by R17.41 million. Umalusi estimates that it will be able to finance the shortfall in revenue by savings in expenditure.

The Committee commended the Department of Basic Education for the work it has done during the “difficult time” of COVID-19 with the reintroduction of schooling. There had been much criticism of the Minister’s decision to reopen schools.

Meeting report

The Chairperson said that the meeting would deal with revised budgets due to COVID-19. The country had witnessed the first phase-in of schools reopening on 8 June, and Monday 6 July saw the second phase of reopening. The Chairperson commended the Department of Basic Education (DBE) led by Minister Angie Motshekga for its hard work in difficult times. There is a lot criticism, but the Department is “standing strong”. Unfortunately, the DBE budget is reduced and it will give the Committees and explanation of how the budget has been reduced. The Department is facing challenges as well as finding itself with a reduced budget.

Minister’s Opening Remarks
Minister Angie Motshekga remarked that the Department is operating in a difficult environment where it has to procure things that were unplanned for. It is adjusting in a “very limited space”, but the Minister did not want to complain because it is “difficult for everybody”. It is difficult for the Minister of Finance to find money, but it also makes it difficult for this Department. The Minister thanked the Chairperson for the kind words, since the Department was working in a “stressful environment, and also with very limited resources”. The Deputy Minister could not join as she was not feeling well but she got her COVID-19 results and she tested negative. “If we don’t feel well, we feel that trouble has already arrived at our doorstep”.

South African Council for Educators (SACE) 2020/21 proposed budget changes
Mr Mabutho Cele, SACE Council Chairperson, introduced the SACE delegation: Mr Nkosiphendule Ntantala, Councillor: SACE; Ms Ella Mokgalane, CEO: SACE; Mr Morris Mapindani, CFO: SACE; Ms Tuzana Sophethe, Manager of Planning, Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting: SACE.

SACE is hard at work in trying to ensure that it takes its mandate forward under the circumstances. All South Africans will have to learn to live with the virus. SACE has been affected by COVID-19; one staff member had been infected and it had closed the office for a few days to disinfect, and thereafter would resume.

Ms Ella Mokgalane, CEO: SACE, showed the adjustments to the 2020/21 Annual Performance Plan (APP). Adjusting the plan was done in line with the support and guidance of the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME). The adjusted APP and budget has already been presented to the Office of the Minister, so that two documents, together with an addendum of changes, can be re-tabled to Parliament.

SACE is not changing anything in Programme 1: Administration, but there will be changes to the annual operational plan, because the entire programme budget structure is dependent on communication and ICT, and also on research, for it to be successful. Therefore, the number of ICT-related activities, including enhanced communication strategy and supporting research activities, will be in that particular programme to ensure that SACE deals with its work effectively. Programme 2: Professional Registration would not have any changes or Programme 5: Professional Teaching Standard.

Changes to Programme 3: Ethical Standards were outlined:

3.1.1 Percentage of investigations on new cases finalised for 2020/21: The proposed target is 50%, reduced from 80%. Reasons for review:
Ÿ Most of our investigations are conducted physically and through physical contacts with witnesses and the drafting of their statements (there is social distancing and schools not being open).
Ÿ Officers have to be in physical contact and at times even drive to complainants’ homes to obtain their statements or to interview them.

One cannot proceed with disciplinary processes if one is not dealing with investigations; therefore, the two are dependent on each other.

Since the beginning of the financial year, SACE has received 124 new cases. From an assessment, only 42 of those cases were relevant to SACE in terms of jurisdiction. The others belong to other areas; SACE had to send such cases back to the relevant institutions.

3.1.2 Percentage of investigations on roll-over cases finalized: These are cases from the previous financial year. The target has been decreased from 90% to 50% so that SACE can be in a position to deal with cases effectively. Reasons for review:
Ÿ Most of our investigations are conducted physically and through physical contacts with witnesses and the drafting of their statements.
Ÿ Officers have to be in physical contact and at times even drive to complainants’ homes to obtain their statements or to interview them.
Ÿ The schools being on lockdown has affected the performance of the indicator in the first quarter.

Disciplinary Hearings
3.2.1 Percentage of disciplinary hearings on new cases finalised. The target decreased from 70% to 30%. Reasons for review:
Ÿ The nature of the ethics work is one of direct physical contact between all parties involved. It is adversarial (hostile) in its nature and will remain supervised by a presiding officer to ensure that there is no foul play in the process, especially where disciplinary hearings are concerned.
Ÿ This allows presiding officers (PO) the opportunity to make observations of the demeanour of witnesses during the proceedings to enable the PO to reach a suitable decision among other things.
Ÿ The schools being on lockdown affected the performance of the indicator in the first quarter.

The process of disciplinary hearings is also dependent on the availability of presiding officers; some were “reluctant” to assist because of COVID-19.

3.2.2 Percentage of disciplinary hearings on roll-over cases finalised: The target was reduced from 80% to 30% for the same reasons as above.

Programme 4: Professional Development was affected by budget cuts.
Continuing Professional Teacher Development Management System
4.2.1 Number of educators supported on professional matters: The annual target was reduced from 50 000 to 36 000. Reasons for review:
Ÿ Reaching out to educators is now limited by the current conditions that forces teachers to focus on completing the curriculum when so much time has been lost due to school closures.
Ÿ The main support given to teachers will be predominantly virtual whose impact is limited and yet unknown.
Ÿ The programme budget has been cut.

4.3.3 Percentage of endorsed activities monitored: annual target reduced from 60% to 10%. Reasons:
Ÿ The limitations of movement and teachers focus on core duties limits professional development afforded to educators. This will also limit both the training events that will be convened and those that will be available for monitoring.
Ÿ The limited number of activities that does not involved face to face methodology. Not many programmes run on the basis of virtual methodology. Providers will be forced to resubmit their activities for endorsement using online methodologies to enable Council to monitor virtually.
Ÿ The budget cut will not afford Council the resources to go full throttle as had been originally planned.

The endorsement and approval of training providers have been left as they are. When SACE endorses activities, there are criteria it uses, and it endorses providers on the basis of the paper that they are presenting. To ensure activities are fit for purpose and the quality is assured, SACE goes to the providers and does physical onsite monitoring; this ensures that professional development is done. Due to COVID-19, SACE can only monitor online activities. From SACE’s analysis, there are not many online activities, therefore, the target had to decrease in line with the provision of continuing professional development by providers, and also by employers.

As these were minor changes to the indicators, SACE has been advised that it does not need to re-table the entire APP but merely attach an addendum which shows these amendments.

2020/21 SACE Adjusted Budget
Mr Morris Mapindani, CFO: SACE, presented the adjusted budget. The first column showed the budget which SACE presented previously. The second column showed the subtraction or addition to the figures (the adjustment). The last column showed the adjusted budget. SACE’s total revenue was reduced by R9 million from R110.7m to R101.6m. SACE is expecting a decline in registration fees due to the reduction of numbers who will succeed in registering with the Council. SACE is allowing only online registration.

There was a reduction in the Continuing Professional Teacher Development (CPTD) subsidy. It was reduced from R17 million which was later reduced to cover the pressure of COVID-19 and it was reduced further to R13 million. SACE reduced the salary budget due to deferred employment influenced by the current situation. Some SACE offices could not be opened. The travel and accommodation budget was reduced as movement is limited. SACE now uses electronic facilitation of meetings. The legal fees budget was increased to cater for the ongoing cases that SACE has, and the litigation arising from the prosecution of ethical cases. The reduction in CPTD funding had a direct influence on the expenditure for professional development. The CPTD subsidy was reduced by R8.1m.

The IT budget was increased to improve and maintain the infrastructure. SACE is continuing with what it has already started, which is the integration of different SACE operating systems. SACE will develop a mobile application to be used by educators to access SACE activities and interact with the organisation. SACE will develop a WhatsApp line, which will be used by educators to get automated responses. SACE will digitalize its telephone system to allow it to respond to call centre queries while staff is away from the premises. It will develop and improve systems to allow it to best operate should the current situation become worse.

R59 million is intended for acquisition of five provincial buildings to accommodate SACE provincial offices. The process of acquiring those buildings is almost at an end. The process only has to go through Council, and the bid committee will finalise the process. SACE will buy IT equipment to ensure that it stabilizes the infrastructure. It has created a contingency reserve fund, which is being maintained at R45.2m to be used as an operation reserve for contingency liabilities, as well as possible lawsuits should they arise.

Umalusi 2020/21 proposed budget changes
Dr Mafu Rakometsi, CEO: Umalusi introduced the delegation: Prof John Volmink, Chairperson of Council; Mr Ben Keet, Acting CFO; Mr Emmanuel Sibanda, Executive Manager of Qualifications and Research; Ms Zodwa Modimakwane, Executive Manager of Quality Assurance and Monitoring; Mr Lucky Tonyane, Executive Manager of Public Relations and Communication; Mr Dumisani Maluleke, Senior Manager of Finance and Supply Chain Management; Mr Mosimege, Senior Manager, Strategy and Governance.

Prof John Volmink, Umalusi Council Chairperson, said this presentation comes at a time when “the entire world is reeling from the far-reaching ramifications of COVID-19, which continues to spread at an alarming rate”. The world is uncertain because of a lack of predictability, and as the world is complex, it results in confusion on how to respond to challenges. In the current financial year, Umalusi Council plans to continue to support and ensure that Umalusi strengthens its administration and governance, its compliance to legal and regulatory requirements, its internal policy development, and to ensure efficient execution of its core mandate. Based on this moment of introspection on its budget, the Council plans to focus on addressing areas of weakness. The plans focus on how Umalusi can work smarter in the remaining months to develop strategies that will address the challenges. To this end, DBE and Umalusi agreed that there will be no further reductions. Umalusi continues to prioritise the safety of its staff. For example, Umalusi has reopened its offices on a limited and controlled basis. Public access is limited to appointment only. Most staff working from home have online access. Staff only go to the office when it is absolutely necessary, and all staff are screened when entering the office buildings. Social distancing is applied throughout the office building, and provision has been made for all staff to have PPE. He thanked the CEO and staff for their continued commitment to fulfilling Umalusi’s mandate. Despite the fluidity of the current situation, the staff perseveres and shows a great deal of resilience.

Estimated Changes in Revenue and Expenditure
Mr Ben Keet, Acting CFO: Umalusi, presented a table where the first column indicated the approved budget as it stands; the second column indicated the estimated changes to revenue that Umalusi foresees; and the third column indicated the restated budget for the financial year. DBE has not reduced Umalusi’s grant and it will stay at R 139 172 000. Certification revenue is estimated to decrease by R2.15 million, based on the results of 2019/20 and the effects of COVID-19 such as the cancellation of exams and less demand for certificates. Accreditation revenue will decrease by R2.7 million, due to COVID-19 as there will be no travelling or site visits, and Umalusi has extended the provisional accreditation of some institutions. Quality assessment revenue will decrease by R1.2 million as a result of the legal matter currently ongoing with IEB (Independent Board of Examinations). Umalusi does not foresee that IEB will remit its current year bill until the court case is finalised.

Other income and interest revenue will decrease by R5.35 million, due to a duplication error (interest received was included in sundry income and as a line item) and the effects of COVID-19 (such as reduction in interest rates). Estimated surplus funds utilised from 2019/20 will decrease by R5.94 million (as lower than estimated). Total revenue is estimated to decrease by R17.41 million. Umalusi estimates that it will be able to finance the shortfall in revenue by savings in expenditure.

Compensation of Employees
This is set to increase by R151 000. This is made up as follows:
Ÿ Umalusi takes its cue from DPSA in the annual increase in salaries (which is currently not happening).
Ÿ Increase of R2.4 million in medical aid contribution (done in the previous financial year to ensure the same contribution in line with other Quality Councils).
Ÿ The high levels of responsibility in the CFO position being responsible for finance, supply chain management (SCM), facilities management, human capital management (HCM) and ICT have resulted in the high turnover in this position in the last six months. As a result, the Council has decided to create a Corporate Services Branch that will manage strategy, HCM and ICT. The CFO will be responsible only for finance and Supply Chain Management. This will increase the expenditure by R2 million annually.

Goods and Services
Ÿ Reduction in travelling, accommodation, catering and car hire expenses of R7.34 million, due to COVID-19.
Ÿ Umalusi estimates an increase in communication expenses of R683 000 for data and communication, to ensure the majority of staff can work from home and have online access and communication capabilities.
Ÿ Reduction in Computer Services of R1 million due to decrease in access to the mainframe programme at SITA, which houses student results and information.
Ÿ Reduction in consulting fees and honorarium for assessments, site visits, evaluations and research of R12.73 million, due to inability to perform these activities during COVID-19.
Ÿ Additional expenditure of R2.33 million on COVID-19 related expenditure such as PPE and screening.
Ÿ Increase of R500 000 for laptops and online connectivity for staff to work and communicate from home.
Ÿ Total expenditure is estimated to decrease by R17.41 million.

Ÿ Total estimated reduction in revenue of R17.41 million will be financed from savings in expenditure.
Ÿ Other expenditure changes are expected to be self-financed. For example, the cost of online moderation of question papers will be covered by reduction in travelling and associated costs of doing it on-site.

Department of Basic Education (DBE) 2020/21 Special Adjustments Budget
Mr Mathanzima Mweli, Director-General, noted that all senior managers were part of the DBE delegation. DBE had undergone a budget reduction to fund the R500 billion COVID-19 relief package that the President had announced. All departments at national and provincial level had to contribute towards the package. A Member had asked if the Department had received funds from the relief package but DBE had not received anything from that fund; instead a portion of its budget has gone towards funding that relief package.

Programme Allocations
DBE programmes had the following adjustments:
Ÿ Administration was reduced by R14 360 000.
Ÿ Curriculum Policy, Support and Monitoring was reduced by R181 157 000
Ÿ Teachers, Education Human Resources and Institutional Development was reduced by R20 390 000.
Ÿ Planning, Information and Assessment was reduced by R1 812 009 000 (which was the biggest cut). This is where the infrastructure budget is also located. The R600 million that DBE is using for emergency water and sanitation also comes from this amount. The CFO will indicate how the Department is putting together R600 million to provide emergency water and sanitation to 3 500 schools, and emergency sanitation, particularly to Limpopo and the Eastern Cape.
Ÿ Educational Enrichment Services was reduced by R67 282 000.
Ÿ In total, the Department lost R2.1 billion which leaves it with R23 billion.

Programme Reasons
Programme 1: Administration:
Ÿ The reduction is mainly on travelling, catering and venues and facilities. The reason for reduction is mainly due to non-travelling as well as hosting of meetings as most of the meetings will be done virtually. There is less travelling due to COVID-19.

Programme 2: Curriculum Policy, Support and Monitoring (core business of Department):
Ÿ Reduction is mainly on the Matric Second Chance programme, workbooks and other items within the programme. The activities of this programme were mostly face-to-face, thus there has been a large reduction in this area. The Department has identified savings of R71 million, which it is reinvesting.
Ÿ The other reductions on catering, venues and facilities.

Economic Classification Allocations
The following adjustments were made:
Ÿ Compensation of employees stayed the same at R584 252 000.
Ÿ Goods and services was reduced by R281 856 000.
Ÿ Interest and rent on land stayed the same at R42 418 000.
Ÿ Transfers and subsidies (most affected area) was reduced by R235 334 200
Ÿ Payments of capital assets increased by R540billion. The increase on this item is for water tanks procured for COVID-19 support to schools via the Schools Backlog Infrastructure Grant.

Economic Classification Reasons
Savings will be realised on items such as:
Ÿ Catering, travelling and subsistence as most of travelling will not be taking place due to COVID-19.
Ÿ Training will not take place as well as catering for meetings.
Ÿ There will be no need to hire venues for meetings as teleconferencing/virtual meetings are utilised.
Ÿ Earmarked funds such as Matric Second Chance and Workbooks will have savings.

Ÿ The current budget reduction of R71 million is not going to have a negative effect on the workbook project. For the 2021 academic year, workbooks initially earmarked for donation to poor private schools will no longer be donated to the private schools but will now be sent to public schools to fill the budget shortfall.

Mr Patrick Khunoe, CFO: DBE noted that R2.1bn was cut by the Supplementary Budget. The reason DBE has to have budget cuts is that it is not part of the COVID-19 frontline departments, which are Health, Department of Social Development (DSD), Department of Justice and Correctional Services and the Department of Defence. The President announced that R500 billion has to be found to fund these frontline departments. As DBE is not one of the frontline departments, it is a “donor department” because that money has to be found within those departments which are not on the frontline. Treasury came to the Department and said that the calculation for DBE is a budget cut of R5 billion. Initially, DBE had proposed a cut of R600 million. Through discussions, the Department agreed on a cut of R2 billion. One of the reasons DBE agreed on R2 billion is that Treasury ultimately felt that it was uncomfortable about arguing the Department’s case in front of the MTech Committee and the Budget Committee of Ministers that DBE should have a R2 billion reduction instead of a R5 billion reduction.

Transfers and Subsidies include the Education Infrastructure Grant (EIG). For DBE, this is the major expense item, and if it were to reduce this in a significant way, the EIG would be targeted. The Schools Infrastructure Backlog Grant (SBIG) has increased by R540m. In terms of the Division of Revenue Act, it is the only grant that DBE could use for the procurement of water tanks and provision of water to schools. This is a function that could have long been happening at schools or at municipalities, but due to COVID-19, DBE felt that it couldn’t wait; it had to use the EIG. The Department took R600 million from the EIG, and put it through to the local grant within DBE. It could to this because it is allowed by the Division of Revenue Act. However, the SBIG ordinarily does not have such funding so DBE had to transfer the funding from Transfers and Subsidies, which is move from the EIG to the SBIG. It is not R600m but R540m as Treasury targeted the SBIG and reduced it by R60 million.

Economic Classification Reasons (continued)
Second Chance Matric Programme (SCMP): The budget allocated for other SCMP activities has been reduced to fit into the new budget of R37 million. These activities may be not or partly implemented:
Ÿ Out of nine Career Outreach events, only four will be organised instead;
Ÿ Monitoring of face-to-face classes will be limited to data collection through a tool by centre managers;
Ÿ The appointment of the officials to coordinate the SCMP in provinces will not be done;
Ÿ Development of study guides for additional subjects to increase SCMP subject offering will be done;
Ÿ The appointment of a psycho-social service provider to conduct research and develop online materials will not be done. Materials will be developed internally to provide for those purposes;
Ÿ Project to convert the current Mind the Gap Study Guides into educational short videos will be done;
Ÿ Budget for the communication project will be reduced. The project intends to use media platforms to raise the awareness about the offerings of the Programme;
Ÿ The printing of promotional materials will be reduced;
Ÿ Public road shows will be cancelled.

Another reason for using EIG funds is that due to COVID-19, there is an expectation that construction would not move as planned; DBE has lost three months already. Even if the lockdown levels are being scaled down, DBE has not gone back to full production to construct schools.

Conditional Grants Allocations
The total adjustments add up to 2 348 604 000. The difference between this amount and the economic classification allocation is approximately R4.7 million which is the SACE reduction of R4.7 million. As SACE is a transfer and not a conditional grant, that amount is excluded in the presentation, but when DBE talks about transfers, SACE is included.

Conditional Grants Reasons
Learners with Severe to Profound Intellectual Disabilities Grant (LSPID):
Ÿ 13% reduction on LSPID grant is to fund procurement of PPE, COVID-19 essentials and sanitation for caregivers and therapists.

Maths, Science and Technology Conditional Grant (MSTCG):
Ÿ The MSTCG will be using the R30 million to prioritise the promotion of social distancing (COVID-19) and provision of virtual classrooms which will require the procurement of gadgets or devices (tablets for learners, laptops for teachers, and connectivity tools, including data bundles).

Education Infrastructure Grant (EIG):
Ÿ R600 million has been reprioritised to School Infrastructure Backlogs Grant for procurement of water tanks.
Ÿ Over and above the planned and committed infrastructure projects, COVID-19 demands Provinces to provide mobile classrooms, address vandalized schools, provide emergency water supply (tanks & water delivery), sanitation (chemical toilets), address storm damage, as well as basic hygiene packages.
Ÿ Provinces are in the process of revising their business plans for approval by DBE to address all these matters. This may result in the postponement, suspension or even termination of projects.

National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP):
Ÿ The NSNP 2020 feeding calendar has been adjusted in accordance with the phased-in approach of schooling and the nutrition programme was re-opened for all learners when Grades 12 and 7 were welcomed back to schools in June. R50 million has been reprioritized; it is not money that has been taken away; DBE has indicated to provinces that from the funds still sitting with the provinces, they should reprioritise R50 million for the procurement of PPE.
Ÿ The Sector planned to provide meals to a total of 1 288 275 (803 290 Grade 7 and 484 966 Grade 12) learners in all provinces as part of readiness to re-open schools in a phased manner. The key objective is to ensure food security and cater for nutrition needs during the lockdown due to COVID-19.
Ÿ The plan is to guide provincial education departments (PEDs) towards planning for feeding all learners in line with the recovery plans (phased approach). Procurement models influence what can be implemented rapidly (for example, centralized model in Western Cape with three service providers versus over 100 in KZN). There is a huge risk due to need for social distancing; hygiene and food security; safety and security as well as the risk of theft.
Ÿ Some provinces are putting plans in place to feed learners “not attending school” in a phased in approach as per directives; either with meals being collected at schools or the provision of food parcels.

HIV/AIDS Life Skills Conditional Grant:
Ÿ Printing and distribution of COVID-19 prevention material. These will add to the existing LTSM that would have been printed and distributed to schools.
Ÿ Prioritise advocacy and social mobilisation with parents and school community members, prioritising COVID-19 prevention (as parents will have to understand and be supportive of schools in the event that a learner is returned from school due to COVID-19 infection).
Ÿ Appoint and place Learner Support Agents (LSAs) in schools to support vulnerable learners, but mainly to assist with screening of learners for COVID-19, as educators would be busy preparing to teach and catch up.

There has been an “argument between the DBE and Treasury” over the reduction of the HIV/AIDS Grant; some of the activities that would have been planned in normal circumstances will not take place during COVID-19. That is why there has been a reduction on the grant.

Other Transfers Allocations
There was a total adjustment of R4.7m, which was taken from SACE. There was an agreement with SACE that it was prepared to give up R4.7m due to COVID-19 restrictions on bigger gatherings and travelling, some money will be saved from its travel, accommodation, conferencing, and subsistence allowance.

Earmarked Funds Allocations
NSNP was reduced by R1 000 000. Matric Second Chance was reduced by R23 805 000, while workbooks were reduced by R71 884 000. The School Infrastructure Backlog Grant increased by R540 million.

The Chairperson noted that the DBE had a reduction of about R2 billion; Umalusi has a R17 million reduction; and SACE has a R9 million reduction.

Ms N Tarabella-Marchesi (DA) thanked the presenters. The budget cuts within DBE are not really a reflection of the budget cuts within the provinces; can the Committee get a ballpark figure of the budget cuts for the different provinces? The provinces will be quite impacted by the budget cuts. The provinces were having budget debates today; perhaps DBE had an idea of what the impact would be on the education budget allocations to the provinces.

She asked DBE and Umalusi, that given that South Africa is in the middle of a pandemic and there is no sign of reduction in cases, one could see more schools being closed and then opened again - as seen in the past few weeks. These will be a setback for DBE’s plans. Going forward, what does DBE have on the table to ensure that learners write in November as planned? Or should there be an extension for certain schools that are impacted? Some schools were delayed for about 14 days. This could be a trend at various schools.

Ms Tarabella-Marchesi had been to some schools in Bloemfontein, and she was concerned about how some masks had loose strings, especially in primary schools. That kind of masks seems to make it difficult for learners to keep it tightly tied behind their ears, and to keep the masks on for the entire day. Was there a standard that the mask manufacturer had to abide by? Was the standard set by DBE, or was it a case of “everyone doing their own thing”? That could be a problem. In one school, she saw that some learners were not wearing masks, or the masks were loose and hanging down.

On tennis at school, the tennis fraternity has sent Ms Tarabella-Marchesi some emails, where they said that the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture (DSAC) has declared tennis to be safe, because there is social distancing but there has not been tennis training at schools. What plans does DBE have to ensure that tennis is reinstated at schools? She ended by thanking the Minister, Department officials and DBE entities.

Ms N Ndongeni (ANC, Eastern Cape) said that the DBE adjusted budget amounted to R23.3 billion after a decrease of R2.09 billion. What are the long-term implications of the budget cuts? Does DBE have plans to mitigate the budget shortfall? How will DBE ensure that assessments are not compromised? She had a question for SACE: How is the adjustment budget assisting SACE in effective service delivery? For Umalusi, the anticipated budget cuts and the increased mandate – how will its functioning be affected? How is Umalusi planning to avoid unnecessary overloading of staff, which could lead to delegation of services to consultants? Given the increased mandate by Umalusi, how is that going to be managed?

Ms N Mashabela (EFF) said it is no secret that there are as many as 3 800 schools, mostly in rural areas, that still rely on pit toilets and over 3 005 schools are without adequate access to water.“The Department is not ready to start reopening schools, because many schools from rural areas did not reopen on 8 June. [Audio cut out 1:17:46.6-1:17:57.6].

Instead of attending to the challenges, which affect the Grade 7s and Grade 12s, DBE decided to reopen schools for more grades. A concern is that while learners continue to receive schooling - mostly those in private schools are moving forward with their education - learners from schools in rural areas are at home. If DBE insists on reopening schools, let all schools be treated equally. Is there a proper plan to address these challenges, so that all schools, and all rural schools, can be able to go back to school?

Ms M Sukers (ACDP) appreciated what is being required from the Minister and DBE at this time. She thanked Umalusi for its stated commitment to good governance. She asked SACE about the impact of the investigations currently on hold. What process is in place to ensure the safety of learners at schools? There were 42 cases mentioned as being outside its jurisdiction; what was the nature of these cases referred to other institutions? Umalusi had a “massive saving” of R17 million; where was this saving made? On the DBE non-appointment of a psychosocial support provider: What form of psychosocial support is now going to be provided by DBE? Instead of the external service providers, materials will be developed. What materials does this refer to? “All of us are experiencing the trauma of COVID-19”. Is it only going to provide information on how to deal with trauma or stress?

In terms of the maths, science and technology cut, how will the gap left by this impact be filled, in light of DBE’s objective to improve outcomes in this area? Are there measures that can be implemented in the interim, either in the private or public sector, to ensure that there is some kind of programme, or funding, to ensure that DBE’s objective is reached?

On the HIV/AIDS life skills conditional grant: There is a stigma related to HIV, especially for young teenagers who are living with this reality. Ms Sukers had raised this with the DG before, and he had made a commitment to addressing it. What kind of support is DBE providing for young people living with HIV? Learners are now asked to state their co-morbidities on a form; this goes back to the stigma issue she highlighted. In addition to dealing with COVID-19, teachers have to deal with learners having to identify their conditions which they are not equipped to deal with.

Ms N Shabalala (ANC) said that DBE's presentation on the budget cuts made it clear the budget had been revisited and there would be savings in some areas due to COVID-19. She thanked DBE for its hard work.

Ms C King (DA) asked DBE if it has it budgeted for extra educators that will be required. She foresaw that the DBE might face challenges when it comes to the educators that have co-morbidities and those over 60; as such educators might relinquish their posts and go into full retirement. On school nutrition: Are suppliers asking more money, because of food prices have increased? This means that suppliers might not be able to buy sufficient food with the money they have received. Have suppliers indicated this, and will additional funding be made available? She saw that there is “not really much” that will be going to the school nutrition programme. When it comes to PPE that DBE acquired, were specific regulations sent to provinces on how much provinces are supposed to spend per mask and per litre of hand sanitiser? Today a statement went out that the Eastern Cape is spending R5 000 for 25l of hand sanitizer. It is actually R899 if one were to buy sanitiser from a store in town.

Ms King noted that SACE will have challenges with investigations and disciplinary matters because it needs physical contact. What measures will SACE put in place; will cases be dealt with on virtual platforms? The Committee does not want to have a situation where some learners re-live their trauma over and over again, because of a delay in these cases. For SACE vetting new educators that might be coming on board, how will that be handled? Does it have enough capacity to do that? Is the vetting process budgeted for? She asked Umalusi if it had budgeted for extra moderators and markers and venues due to social distancing needs.

Mr W Boshoff (FF+) congratulated the Minister on partially opening the education sector when there was significant pressure on her not to do so; he thought that opening was in the interest of the children and the country as a whole. He further remarked that the reopening has been successful so far, and hoped that it would continue in such a manner. It will be increasingly important that the centralised approach where all schools should be dealt with in exactly the same way (disregarding the local circumstances) be abandoned in favour of a much more localised approach to education. Mr Boshoff thought that that was a “huge improvement” and he and the FF+ applauds that. He wanted to know who decided that the DBE is not a frontline department. To him, the DBE should be there alongside the DSD, police and others. On the budget adaptations that had to made for this emergency budget: To what extent are these changes permanent? Are these changes in light of a decreased fiscus due to the economic contraction? Is the reach of DBE going to be shorter? Will one have to get used to DBE not moving around anymore and doing more via virtual platforms than in person?

Ms D van der Walt (DA) wanted to know from SACE and Umalusi whether the two entities contributed to the Solidarity Fund; if so, what amounts were contributed? The Minister was quoted on a news bulletin saying that she might consider scrapping the current school year, when grades that were supposed to start on Monday 6 July could not start. Has the Minister given that any consideration? What would the Minister’s motives be? When will the public know? Surely there is a lot of planning that goes into that, especially now that Government is in the budget period; surely this would affect the budget if the school year is scrapped?

Dr S Thembekwayo (EFF) said that both SACE and Umalusi have included in their adjusted budget allocations for travel and accommodation, yet DBE stated that no travelling will take place under COVID-19. Can the travel budget be reduced to zero, so that that money can be used for important matters? The infrastructure grant should be fairly distributed, specifically to benefit the schools that have severe infrastructure problems. The Committee has sent the names of schools that need the Minister’s attention; these schools need urgent attention. Schools that are still not schools [audio cut out 1:34:40-1:35:07]. To date, the Committee has not any received feedback, and the Committee needs the report on what has been done. How effective is DBE in its engagement with provinces where cases of COVID-19 are reported? The Committee was informed that there is a weekly meeting with the MECs of Education in the provinces [audio cut out 1:35:42-1:36:35]

Ms N Adoons (ANC) asked about the support SACE provides to teachers, both for COVID-19, and the “second pandemic”, gender-based violence (GBV) and femicide. Is there any support that SACE has made provision for if any members or clients need such support?

On Grade 12 examinations, the Minister said that DBE is not going to change the question papers, because the papers were set a long time ago. “But the challenge we are faced with is that everything has had to be adjusted, hence we are even now dealing with adjustment budgets”. Is there a possibility between Umalusi and DBE looking into adjusting the question papers for Grade 12? Daily, the Committee is seeing schools closing and then reopening, and not adhering to the timelines set by DBE. What is DBE’s plan now?

Minister's response
The Minister started with the question of provincial budget cuts. When budgets are appropriated at a provincial level, such budgets are counted at that level. Provinces do not account to the DBE for the budgets which were appropriated at that level. The DBE is only presenting the budget that it would have appropriated through the Committee in Parliament; that is the only budget which the DBE is responsible for. Where DBE has information, it can check, or share with the Committee. With infrastructure: As the national Department, its main function is policy, monitoring and evaluation. When DBE gets involved in infrastructure, it is only for special projects. The budget that DBE was referring to was the one that is responsible for. It is the budget for [unclear 1:40:59.0], which is a specific budget for mud schools in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, and a few other schools in various provinces. It is not a generic school budget. If the name of a school is sent to the Minister with the request that DBE build it, then she would have to say that DBE does not build schools. Provinces are the ones who are responsible for the building and maintenance of schools. The Department tells the provinces what the norms and standards are, and monitors, evaluates and supports where it can. Infrastructure is a provincial function.

The Minister said that she had responded to the tennis issue. Because of the difficulties that DBE operates under, DBE’s understanding is that it has to manage health and education at the same time. One cannot just give a general policy for schools. Each school will have to see if it can add anything on top of what it is doing. If schools still find it difficult, and are still trying to find their feet in getting the balance right between health and educational considerations, they are allowed to do that. There will not be a blanket statement to say that sports have opened up, and tennis has opened up. It will depend on the schools’ ability to do more than health and education.

The Department discussed assessment proposals to say that now that it estimated that it lost almost 40% of school time, what will be the assessment model? The Department has found a resolution for that issue. The Department said to provinces that despite those challenges and difficulties, they must make sure that there is no child who is left behind.

On the schools that are not ready: It is a “moot question”; schools are open. When DBE opened schools, there were about 4% of schools that it could not open because of infrastructure challenges. Other challenges included schools that were vandalised. [The Minister experienced technical difficulties at 1:43:42.4].

The Minister resumed her response to questions later. She was saying that schools are open, and DBE is aware of the ongoing challenges. That is why it reported on the challenges, and is working on them, and reducing the number of challenges. Not only has DBE successfully received Grades 6 and 11, but there are plans in different provinces to keep on receiving learners. The whole Department is working very hard. As the national Department, the DBE did not buy PPE, because it is the provinces that run schools; the budgets came from the provinces. What DBE did through the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) was to ask what the minimum costs are for PPE; some provinces were able to negotiate below that. DBE would not be able to account for what one province had bought as the money appropriated at the provincial level.

SACE response
Ms Mokgalane replied about the adjusted budget and its impact on SACE. The only programme that is being funded through the fiscus at SACE is the CPTD management system. Due to COVID-19 and the national lockdown, in quarter 1 SACE was “already off”. SACE does not see any major impacts in funding that particular programme, because SACE is going to cut the physical contact activities. SACE made some adjustments, had discussions with DBE, and it is fine about the CPTD programme funding.

On investigations of reported cases: SACE will not do nothing with regard to the cases. SACE is only reducing the target because of the implications of not being able to achieve them due to COVID-19. SACE has put in place a protocol on dealing with the cases virtually. The process has limitations, and the policy is not yet finalised through SACE’s internal structures. But SACE will test the virtual process with one to three cases to see if it will work, and what the disadvantages will be. SACE did receive 124 cases at the beginning of the financial year. Forty-two of those cases were in SACE’s jurisdiction. In line with the trends of the cases that it is receiving, four of the cases were on corporal punishment, about three or four were on sexual harassment, and the rest were on various issues such as theft, racism, and other unprofessional conduct-related matters. The ones that SACE referred to other institutions because the cases were outside SACE’s jurisdiction were cases dealing with parents and public members who were sending information and queries about why parents were paying fees when schools were closed. Some cases were about teachers having challenges with higher education institutions with regard to certificates that were not arriving. SACE needs graduate certificates to register teachers; however, SACE managed to deal with that particular matter, and it has been resolved in terms of the certificates.

On the safety of learners: This matter is not within SACE’s jurisdiction. Currently what it did was to say, because of the phased-in approach of opening schools, SACE started with cases that were adult to adult. For example, there was a case of teacher-on-teacher assault, and also a case of teacher-parent in terms of physical assault and related matters. Those are the cases that SACE started with, so that it can test the social distancing and COVID-19-related compliance matters. It is looking into cases in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West because of proximity, and the fact that it is still waiting for open access to other provinces. The abovementioned provinces are around Pretoria, where SACE is located. That work has started, and SACE will be able to provide feedback on how it goes. It will not be easy, because one is working in a period where people want to take advantage to say, for example, “would SACE be able to give us the equipment; we are going virtual; would SACE be able to pay data costs for us?” Those are the challenges that SACE is dealing with in that process, but the process of testing cases which follow social distancing requirements has started.

On vetting new registrants: When SACE reported earlier in the year, there is no way that SACE is going to register anyone if there is no police clearance. Despite COVID-19 and the national lockdown, SACE is continuing with police clearance. SACE has reported that there is an organisation that has been gazetted by SAPS that has been forwarded to SACE to be able to work with it. Currently, that particular organisation is assisting SACE greatly in working closely with the teachers and applicants with regard to police clearance. SACE is testing vetting against the Department of Justice sexual offenders register on a pilot basis. It will be in a position to report next year whether that process is effective or not.

On teacher support: One of the things that SACE did previously was to introduce the programme on teachers’ rights, responsibilities and safety. At the time, the programme was focused more on safety in terms of school-based violence. SACE has tweaked that programme to focus more on support for teachers with regards to COVID-19 such as psychosocial support and related matters. There is an organisation that came on board to assist SACE with repackaging that programme to be able to deal with teacher support. SACE ran a survey on teachers’ needs in the time of COVID-19 for the last two weeks throughout the country. Within five to ten days, SACE received close to 19 000 responses from teachers. SACE is analysing that data (although the closing date is in the next week or two), so that it can use that data to say where it is directing its energies.
There is money that it has put aside from savings on travel and accommodation, which it can redirect to supporting teachers; that would include GBV. Unions are “very interested” in working with SACE on GBV, particularly as unions have been working on that and SACE “does not want to reinvent the wheel”.

Mr Mapindani responded to the budget questions. On the travel and accommodation budget: SACE managed to reduce that budget; however, it could not reduce that budget to zero, because that is not practically possible. South Africa is already at lockdown level 3 which allows travelling, and travelling is already happening in this financial year, and even last week - although SACE staff do take precautionary measures while travelling. SACE is moving in unknown terrain in terms of COVID-19 and the financial year still has a long way to go up to March next year. SACE is aware that the budget cannot be adjusted on a quarterly basis; therefore, it had to ensure that it has money under that line item that should the environment change and allow it to travel, it will be able to do that towards the end of the financial year. However, SACE did cut its travel budget.

On the Solidarity Fund contribution: SACE has not yet discussed how it can contribute. The budget cut was done by Treasury, which came to SACE in writing, indicating that the fund is intended for a similar purpose, so to some extent it did contribute. The matter of contribution is still going to Council for deliberation. Council will take a decision on this matter.

On the types of masks: There were different types of masks which were recommended; the one type had elastic and the other had strings to tie it. The masks with strings had been recommended; they are strong, but the Minister did not think that such masks were easy for children to wear. The ones with elastic are good, but the disadvantage is that sometimes if the elastic is not strong, it easily breaks. That is why there was a choice to use a mask with strings. The Minister saw ones with strings in Mpumalanga last Friday; for most learners such masks are good, but for younger learners, if the masks drop, it might be a challenge to re-tie them. The different types were recommended, and most provinces have chosen one or the other. Moving forward from experience, schools will know which one is better for younger learners, and which ones are better for older learners. The Minister thought that older learners do not want the masks with elastic; they want the one with the strings. The cost of the masks was paid for by the provinces, so DBE will not be able to say how much the masks cost. In some provinces, they bought through the provincial treasury and in other provinces it was bought as part of the whole PPE package through its health department. The provinces used different methods for procuring PPE, but DBE can ask for each province's PPE spend.

Umalusi response
Dr Rakometsi replied that Umalusi is flexible when it comes to the time-tabling for the examinations. It will take its cue from what the Minister and DG say in terms of how the situation is panning out. It will then be able to do quality assurance accordingly. The pandemic makes the class of 2020 a unique cohort. We are concerned as Umalusi about how the disruption caused by COVID-19 is affecting the entire sector. We truly sympathise with the class of 2020. There is no doubt that COVID-19 has proven to be a game changer in how we conduct our business as a sector. While Umalusi is concerned by the difficulties caused by COVID-19, it does not advocate downgrading the quality of the examinations, in particular, tinkering with the content of question papers; it does not support that line of thinking. The budget can be adjusted, but standards cannot be adjusted, because one has to have parity of esteem in terms of the currency of the qualification from one year to the other. It cannot be in a particular year that Umalusi has dropped the standards. Once it does that, those children will be “stigmatised for life”. Parents, children, universities, and employers have certain expectations on standards.

Umalusi is engaged in continuous discussions with various assessment bodies on possible changes in the exam time tables. It is willing to show flexibility in these proposed logistical arrangements by accommodating all parties concerned. The Umalusi Council will be abdicating its responsibility if it allows changes to be made in the quality content of question papers. Umalusi is a standard-setting body, and it is a creator of statutes. Umalusi has been created through the General and Further Education and Training Quality Assurance Act of Parliament, and it has been created through the National Qualifications Framework Act. Umalusi has to act within the parameters of those pieces of legislation. It cannot afford to do anything outside the stipulations of those pieces of legislation. If Umalusi were not to do that, it would be acting ultra vires, and it could be arrested for it; it would be breaking the law. For Dr Rakometsi, it is possible to salvage the academic year if all work together to achieve this goal. The education sector must work tirelessly to make it possible for the class of 2020 to do well in the final examination. What is key when it comes to good assessment is accountability and standards. It is stakeholder satisfaction. Assessment standards should account for the delivery of outcomes. The outcomes of assessment are used to account for delivery. When it comes to standards, assessment is used to improve standards of delivery; how far do people trust the standards? Stakeholder satisfaction is key; stakeholders have to be happy – parents, learners, higher education institutions, and employers. One also has to note that South African learners are “competing in the global village”. It cannot be that the 2020 cohort can be stigmatised with the label of “you wrote your matric in 2020 when we had COVID-19" and the standards were lowered as a result.

On budget cuts and staff being overstretched: The Umalusi staff are already overstretched; COVID-19 comes at a time when Umalusi had already, for the past three years, been overstretched. Umalusi is not employing consultants because it is overstretched; it needs consultants, and that is the understanding that it has with Treasury and the DBE. It needs consultants because of the nature of its work, which is seasonal in some instances. It is seasonal in the sense that extra moderators cannot be employed permanently at Umalusi, because they only moderate papers at a particular time of year. Examinations monitors are also taken as consultants, as well as evaluators of accreditation. Since some aspects of Umalusi’s work is seasonal, it needs to have these consultants. The use of the term “consultant” is a misnomer; such workers are supposed to be called seasonal workers; they do the functions of external moderation, monitoring and evaluation.

On travel: Savings have been made on travelling, which amounts to R7.3 million. Savings were also made on Honorarium, which amounts to R12.3 million. Those savings are going to be used on unexpected expenditure related to COVID-19, because Umalusi had some contingencies that were not planned for. Umalusi is currently not fully operational; it is not going to enjoy the benefits of the income stream that it gets from accreditation, certification, and suchlike. Those savings will make up for that budget shortfall.

On examination dates: Umalusi does not deal with the logistics of examinations; DBE deals with it. Umalusi does oversight, and it monitors compliance. With moderators and monitors, Umalusi has increased its capacity, because the May/June examinations and the November/December examinations have been collapsed.

Umalusi did not contribute anything to the Solidarity Fund as its budget is already overstretched.

On having a zero budget for travel: Travelling will happen later. At the time when examinations will be written, Umalusi will still have to travel to the venues to monitor how the examinations are conducted, namely whether they are conducted according to policy, and how the restrictions that have been brought to bear on the system because of COVID-19 are being managed. Umalusi people will travel to different parts of the country to the different marking venues to verify marking and to monitor marking.

Prof Volmink added that Umalusi monitors the writing of the exams and the marking, but the logistics are done by the DBE. After all the marks have been collated, the marks get sent to Umalusi. For about two weeks, Umalusi “ponders over those”, and standardises, so that resulting can take place. The last two weeks post-marking will be solely Umalusi; for that it has an assessment standards committee that does that work.

DBE responses
Mr Mweli said that Ms Tarabella-Marchesi was correct; the Basic Education Vote 16 budget cuts are just the tip of the iceberg. The contribution is about making up R500 billion. If one looks at what the sector would have contributed collectively, from the equitable share, it would have been much more than what DBE contributed. The DG could get those figures for the Committee.

There are shared responsibilities in the NSC. The DBE is an assessment body. The DBE’s responsibility is to ensure that learners are ready to write the exams, and that the system is ready to administer exams. Umalusi will then oversee the administration of the exams, and then carry out quality assurance responsibility.

Members will recall the Merafong, Vuwani, Olifantshoek disruptions. Those challenges gave DBE experience in providing support to learners and ensuring learner readiness for assessment. DBE is preparing these learners not only for South Africa. The horizon of these children is the SADC region, the continent and the world. DBE does not want these learners to carry a stigma, and have to justify that their skills and competencies are authentic. There are many avenues through which the DBE is assisting to ensure learners are supported and are ready when they sit for exams. He has “so much confidence” in these young people. The previous groups going through disruptions have instilled this confidence in the DBE. Some of the learners wrote exams after being taught for only two months, such as Merafong.

On the long-term implications of budget cuts: The DBE is redirecting money to virtual activities. The positive element of this is that the DBE is also creating a COVID-19 legacy of using ICTs for teaching and learning, and also extending access to ICTs, particularly to the poor and most vulnerable. With respect to the MST grant, part of that allocation has been redirected to fund activities for ICT support for learners, for broadcasting solutions, and a number of initiatives that are virtually-driven, which are intended to support learners while they are still at home.

On contingency plans: The difficulty is that with COVID-19, one’s world moves under one’s feet as one is making plans. The baselines are no longer guaranteed; baselines are likely to shift as things go forward. The DG was unable to answer Mr Boshoff’s question on who decided on the four frontline departments. Perhaps he could ask the Treasury or other authorities, they could tell Mr Boshoff what the criteria was for choosing these departments. Mr Mweli surmised that these were the departments involved in an ongoing, day-to-day basis in COVID-19 activities. Perhaps the DBE is perceived as being coincidental by virtue of reopening schools; if it was not for the reopening of schools, the DBE would not be affected in terms of the cost of activities related to COVID-19.

The Department has looked at ways to adjust practical assessments without compromising them, and it has also looked at adjusting school-based assessments, including the Grade 12 National Senior Certificate (NSC). DBE could look at the timetable. However, Mr Mweli agreed with Dr Rakometsi that the NSC examination should remain sacrosanct.

He replied that the Department has dealt with the 3 500 schools that did not have water. For schools that had pit latrines, DBE provided mobile sanitation units, which are serviced every week. The DG extended an invitation to the Committee to sit in on the morning meetings so that it could hear updates from service providers.

On psychosocial support: “This is an extremely difficult one, because one is never 100% prepared with psychosocial support”. When one has gone through the difficult time of losing a loved one, one does one’s best. The Department has looked at its school-based and district-based teams, it has looked at its staff appointed at a district level and provincial level, and it is working with NGOs. The Department has also looked at the capacity of faith-based organisations as there is an amazing capacity there for psychosocial support”. The Department has agreed with provinces to tap into the capacity of faith-based organisations. It is working with HDIs as well.

Grants have been reorganised to deal with COVID-19 challenges and to provide for COVID-19 essentials. Treasury provides a list of prices for every COVID-19 essential. For example, the maximum price per mask is R25. In DBE, masks can be bought at R18 to R19. There were instances where DBE was able to push suppliers to R9 based on economies of scale. Prices are set by Treasury for all COVID-19 essentials. The CFO can make that information available.

The Department will take up the HIV/AIDS stigma. Another emerging stigma is COVID-19; it is another challenge that DBE needs to deal with stigmatisation of learners, educators, and non-teaching staff.

On the stated co-morbidities on forms: The Department’s hope is that this information will only seen by people who are entrusted with that responsibility to ensure confidentiality. For decisions to be made, certain information has to be disclosed. The Department stands to be advised by Members as to how it can best deal with these matters without compromising the future and the current learning of learners.

On extra educators: The Department has posts that are set aside for substitute teachers. Provinces have already indicated that “those posts are getting depleted”, particularly in having to fill posts of teachers with co-morbidities. It is almost impossible for teachers to work from home. One needs very expensive facilities to beam lessons from home, and very few teachers in South Africa would be able to do that. The substitution of teachers is a very expensive item in Basic Education; it is becoming “increasingly unaffordable”.

On food prices: All that DBE could do is that when it finalises allocations for grants, such as the NSNP, is factor in the [unclear 2:28:12.3]. Beyond the CPIX, the DG’s sense is that COVID-19 has brought in a new dimension, which increases the CPIX that DBE worked on. The DG was sure that DBE would have to work with Treasury to see how DBE protects learners who benefit from the NSNP. Prices for COVID-19 essentials are set by the Treasury. These prices can be made available to the Committee.

It is DBE’s responsibility to appoint markers based on set standards. The role of Umalusi is to monitor whether that has been complied with, and play the role of the quality assuring body. DBE does not anticipate that it will appoint more markers. What is likely to happen is that instead of spending the usual amount of days marking, DBE is likely to spend 15 to 20 days marking. This is because there are 1.1 million candidates. More days for capturing the marks might be needed as well.

On the question of to what extent are these changes permanent, things are likely to get worse before they get better. South Africa is likely to have COVID-19 for the next two to years. That is why departments are encouraged to learn to coexist with the new environment, although many people do not seem to believe that. Some people think that by September, COVID-19 will be gone. The economy might improve slightly, but not enough to give DBE the ability to improve the allocation in education. One needs to find ways of doing things differently. The legacy of COVID-19 is 'virtual' activities.

On the contribution to the Solidarity Fund: DBE does not contribute, but the Minister contributes as an Executive Member. The DG contributes as a member of the Forum of South African Directors-General.

On scrapping the academic year: Cabinet was very clear in allowing DBE to reopen schools; but first it must save lives, then reconstruct and save the academic year. Reconstructing and saving the academic year does not necessarily mean that everything will happen in 2020; there may be spill over into 2021, which is already indicated in the NSC exam activities. The staggering of the grades is a case in point of how DBE is very flexible with its plans.

On travelling: The Department has not stopped travelling completely. There will be a drastic reduction in travelling activities because face-to-face activities have been replaced in many respects by virtual activities.

On the school infrastructure backlog grant: Provinces are responsible for infrastructure rollout. What comes from the DBE is a national intervention for a specific time period that is likely to cease. Provinces will have to build in within the equitable share of money allocated directly to provinces to deal with infrastructure, particularly maintenance.

On cases referred to DBE: The DG will follow up with matters that Members brought to his attention. He does not bring everything to the attention of the Minister. The DG is responsible for the administration. If it has nothing to do with policy formulation, then the DG does not take it to the Minister – the DG deals with it and refers to provinces in dealing with a matter. The Department is dealing with those matters with provinces, and the DG will ensure that DBE reports to the Committee in the shortest time possible. The Committee needs to emphasise in communities that parents have the choice to home school, although the reality is that many parents did send their children to school. The reality is that life must continue amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr E Nchabeleng (ANC, Limpopo), Select Committee Chairperson, said that the presentations were very good and thanked DBE and the Minister. This is the continuation of many meetings to happen, where the Committees will get briefings about the plans, particularly with the new mandates that have been added such as Early Childhood and the General Certificate of Education.

Ms Sukers said that she heard the DG say that the co-morbidities form "is what it is" and he hopes the information disclosed is confidential. She reemphasised that this is a serious issue for parents and children living with the stigma of HIV/AIDS. The Committee cannot let DBE hope that such information will be kept safe within the school context. She had requested DBE provide the form which she did not receive. She got it from a school. It clearly states that the co-morbidity needs to be stated. It is problematic for people to disclose their status in a school environment that is unsafe. Teachers are not equipped to deal with this. Children are already suffering as they are ashamed of living with this disease. Ms Sukers had seen the impact of this on children. The Committee needs to strongly bring it to the attention of DBE; it needs to tell the Committee what it is going to do as this has an emotional impact on children, especially teenagers who are living with HIV/AIDS.

The Chairperson said that what Ms Sukers said needs to be raised again with DBE, because the response would be that provinces would be responsible for that. Awareness must be raise with the provinces of how there is dissatisfaction in terms of stigmatisation of people who have HIV/AIDS.

Committee business
The Committee adopted the minutes of the 30 June 2020 meeting.

The Committee Secretary presented the revised Committee Programme as the session was extended to deal with the adjustment budgets. He said that 14 July will be the last meeting of the Committee and it will adopt its report on the DBE adjustments budget. For the rest of the month, there will be mini plenaries for the National Assembly to adopt the adjustments budgets. A few Committee members will take part in the budget debates. After the week of 28 July, there will be a constituency period.

The Committee adopted the programme.

Ms Adoons said it was clear what will happen. Her challenge was oversight visits. She proposed that the Chairperson speak to the House Chair to see how best the Committee can do oversight, especially problematic provinces such as the Eastern Cape and Western Cape. The Committee needs to do oversight on the ground to ensure that whatever is reported has been addressed by DBE. She proposed asking the House Chair to approve oversight of provinces.

The Chairperson said this would probably be the week of 28 July.

Ms Sukers said that she serves on the Health Committee, and they did do oversight visits to hospitals. What that Committee found with oversight was that as many Members have co-morbidities, there has been a request to do online meetings with MECs. It was a combination of physically going to places and online.

The Chairperson said that the Committee will decide on oversight next week. She would ask the secretary to check Members’ availability for oversight. She would check which Members preferred physical visits versus online meetings. The Committee would check which Members have co-morbidities. When the Committee had gathered that information, it can come back next week to say which way will work better.

Ms Tarabella-Marchesi said the Committee should be wary of putting Members on the spot when it came to asking if they have a co-morbidity. She said that provinces such as the Eastern Cape should be a priority because the Committee has noted a particular school where there was no PPE, and there was infection in that school. The Western Cape and Gauteng have high infections, but it does not necessarily mean that they are unable to manage the infections within schools. The priority needs to be those schools which do not have the infrastructure and have not been able to comply with the regulations.

The Chairperson said that the Committee will consider next week whether Members will go to places to do oversight. Mr Brown will interact with Members to see who is available.

Mr Nchabeleng said that since it was a joint meeting, the joint decisions taken would be binding to everyone.

The meeting was adjourned.


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