In a virtual meeting, the Committee met to consider the 2019/20 Annual Report of the Western Cape Education Department (WCED). The provincial Minister highlighted the fiscal constraints the Department faces which are evidently worsening each year. However, she emphasised the positive results the Department managed to achieve despite challenges brought on by COVID. The Department has continued with expanding subjects and seen steady improvement with the systemic test results from 2011 to 2019 despite the increase of the difficulty levels. The matric pass rate has increased from 81.5% in 2018 to 82.3% in 2019 and what is especially pleasing is the achievements within poorer communities – the province has once again achieved the highest percentage pass rate in the country with two Western Cape (WC) learners recognised as the top two mathematic candidates nationally. The WC also remains the province with the highest retention rate in the country. The Department is fully committed to the provincial safety plan and will be rolling out physical security fencing at 30 schools.
The Department spent 99.1% of the budget for the year under review. As one read through the Report, it becomes clear that the constraints are becoming increasingly complicated and with a lack of financial support, it is challenging to address the issues. The year 2019 was themed as the year of the learner and the Department focused on the importance of a learner-centric education. Over the years, the Department received international recognition for its work in dual levers for systemic transformation, one of them being e-learning which has become vital during the COVID-19 lockdown. The other lever is the transform-to-performance strategy which is related to improving societal values in education so that it can be improved throughout communities.
On part A, Members requested up to date statistics on the retention rates, number of learners that entered the province to enrol in schools starting from 2014 and the amount of new schools and classrooms that have been built, provide further details on the league tables, why some amounts have been flagged as uncommitted and if it will be surrounded to National Treasury and the reconstruction of the Knysna High School Hostel.
Members questioned what factors contribute to the relevantly poor performance of the Metro East on the National Senior Certificate and if there are any measures in place to assist the district, internal control deficiencies highlighted in the audit agenda, if any steps have been taken to engage with communities or the Department of Community Safety to ensure that new fences will not be vandalised again, e-learning and what instruments are used to measure the quality of education every learner receives as well as which factors are taken into consideration. Members also wanted to know what the Department was planning to do to address overcrowded classrooms and poor infrastructure given the limited budget – it was said it is important that the Department acknowledges the factors that are impeding learners from receiving quality education and indicate how it plans to address it.
Regarding Part B (performance information), Members discussed the availability of guidance counsellors in schools, number of psychologists and social workers employed by the Department; the action of social works to learners, and educators; along with how the Department planned to employ more social workers, especially in gang-riddled communities, increasing the class size of independent schools and the Department subsidising learners to take up these spaces, the age of the officials that have retired, along with the number of Senior Managers nearing their determined retirement age, leadership development progress, the vetting policy for teachers and the permanent placement Funza Lushaka bursary holders who completed their studies at the end of 2019.
Members appreciated the pro-poor initiatives of the Department however asked about the social factors contributing to the high levels of children aged 3-15 out of school, how many learners migrated into the Cape Metro from the Cape Winelands, and other regions across the province and decreased pass rates for grade 9 mathematics, and grade 3 language, and plans to overcome these challenges.
There was discussion on the enrolment campaign aimed at encouraging parents and caregivers of learners entering grade 1 and 8, and learners changing schools in 2021 to apply to more than three schools before 17 March 2020, admissions policies, schools that have remained on the list of poor performers for the past two years for the NSC, anti-bulling work and challenges and improvements associated with the online Education Management Information Systems.
Members asked about the terminations and staff which have left the Department in the year under review, employment equity and what was being done to increase the representation of women in senior management positions in the Department, particularly that of African women, cases of theft, fraud, bribery and corruption in regards to the examination and cases of improper, disgraceful and unacceptable conduct. Concern was expressed for the cases of sexual assault of learners.
The Chairperson welcomed all Members, guests and media present. She indicated that the meeting would only be dealing with Part A, B and D of the 2019/20 Annual Report of the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) whilst Parts C and E would be dealt with by the Public Accounts Committee. The Chairperson handed over to the MEC, Ms Debbie Schafer, to present on part A of the Annual Report.
Remarks by the MEC
As stated in the foreword of the Report, the MEC noted that there is once again increasing fiscal constraints which are evidently getting worse each year however, she argued that in light of this, the Department has managed to achieve phenomenal results. It has continued with expanding subjects offered, in line with the skills requirements of the economy, moving from STEM to STEM AAC, which incorporates agriculture, arts, coding and computer skills. This ensures that upon leaving school, learners are equipped with useful skills that can assist towards living a dignified life. The important performance areas in the Department have been largely successful considering the current constraints endured. Additionally, there has been steady improvement with the systemic test results from 2011 to 2019 despite the increase of the difficulty levels. The matric pass rate has increased from 81.5% in 2018 to 82.3% in 2019 and what is especially pleasing is the achievements within poorer communities where the matric pass rate increased by 1.55% in quintile 1, 5.8% in quintile 2 and 1.9% in quintile 3. This indicates that efforts to try and close the educational inequality gap are bearing fruit. Regarding mathematics, the province has once again achieved the highest percentage pass rate in the country with two Western Cape (WC) learners recognised as the top two mathematic candidates nationally. A 81.8% pass rate was achieved for physical science which is an increase of 2.3% from the previous year, and the top three overall candidates in the country were from the WC. The bachelors pass rate increased from 42.3% to 43.6%, which is the highest percentage achieved in the province. Significantly, quintile 1,2 and 3 schools also achieved impressive bachelors pass results with quintile 1 increasing by 4.4%, quintile 2 by 5.8% and quintile 3 by 2.8%. This is particularly impressive as the WC remains the province with the highest retention rate in the country. The more learners that remain in the system from grades 10 to 12, the greater the chances are of receiving lower results however, the Department still managed to retain many learners in the system.
Regarding her concern towards league tables, she argued that it might discourage learners from taking subjects that they think will bring down their average particularly mathematics and sciences, as she believes these to be important for the economy. The Department is fully committed to the provincial safety plan and will be rolling out physical security fencing at 30 schools. The transform perform strategy is also targeting the crime and prevention aspect in schools to mitigate against anti-social behaviours. It was noted that the Chief Evaluator of the School Evaluation Authority has been largely successful in making a difference and managed to change their methods of operating to adjust to COVID. They have been assessing how COVID is affecting schools, how they are dealing with it and assessing both teaching and learning time.
MEC Schafer noted that this would be her Head of Department’s (HOD), Mr Brian Schreuder’s, last Annual Report hearing which has lasted for over 40 years. She expressed her gratitude and thanked him for being an outstanding leader in the Department.
The Chairperson handed over to the HOD.
The HOD indicated that the MEC had covered majority of the Annual Report and would add a few points left out. He noted that the Department spent 99.1% of the budget for the year under review. As one read through the Report, it becomes clear that the constraints are becoming increasingly complicated and with a lack of financial support, it is challenging to address the issues. The year 2019 was themed as the year of the learner and the Department focused on the importance of a learner-centric education. Over the years, the Department received international recognition for its work in dual levers for systemic transformation, one of them being e-learning which has become vital during the COVID-19 lockdown. The other lever is the transform-to-performance strategy which is related to improving societal values in education so that it can be improved throughout communities.
Part A: General Information
Mr K Sayed (ANC) welcomed the inputs made by the MEC and HOD. Referring to page 6 of the foreword, under the second bullet point, he asked whether the Department has up to date statistics on the retention rates for other grades. Additionally, he also sought clarity on what factors contribute to the relevantly poor performance of the Metro East on the National Senior Certificate and if there are any measures in place to assist the district. The Department was ask to provide the Committee with various details such as the number of learners that entered the province to enrol in schools starting from 2014 and the amount of new schools and classrooms that have been built. Regarding the matter of league tables, he asked the MEC to provide further details on the matter and whether the Department has measures in place to ensure that there is no culling in the province. Given that the Report reflects the performance of the programmes, he asked the HOD to comment on the internal control deficiencies highlighted in the audit agenda.
Mr R Allen (DA) asked if any steps have been taken to engage with communities or the Department of Community Safety to ensure that new fences will not be vandalised again. Concerning underspending and rollovers, he asked that an explanation be given as to why some amounts have been flagged as uncommitted and if it will be surrounded to National Treasury. Referring to page 14, which states that R6.9 million was budgeted for the reconstruction of Knysna High School Hostel, he asked what will become of this project. An update was sought as to how far along the Department is with rolling out e-learning to all schools in the province.
Referring to page 7 of the foreword, Mr M Kama (ANC) asked the MEC what instruments are used to measure the quality of education every learner receives as well as which factors are taken into consideration. The Committee has brought up the matter of overcrowded classrooms and poor infrastructure in disadvantaged areas - as such, he questioned how the Department aims to address these matters given the limited budget. To achieve a quality pass rate, schools need to have a manageable class size, functioning scholar transport and guaranteed safety. It is important that the Department acknowledges the factors that are impeding learners from receiving quality education and indicate how it plans to address it. Secondly, the MEC states that in March, a comprehensive reading strategy plan was launched thus he sought clarity as to what work or preparation the Department had done and what engagements took place to ensure that this mandate is delivered successfully.
Concerning the retention of learners, Mr F Christians (ACDP) queried if the problem areas are grades 8 to 10 and whether this means that other areas are now under control. Further, he asked if anyone was engaging with communities to inform them of the extensive fencing cost and whether any awareness campaigns have been launched to educate them on the safety it provides to learners.
Response to Part A
The MEC noted that the questions directed to her would be better answered by the HOD, however on the matter of learner retention she stated that the Department does keep record of this and it has been identified that grade one repetition has become an issue. Responding learners entering the province from 2014, the Department does not have the exact figure but estimated that it was around 18 000 per year. If necessary, the Committee can receive these figures in writing from the Department as well as other statistics mentioned. Further, she noted that she did not have specific details of individuals trying to stop learners from writing certain subjects but has received an overwhelming amount of anecdotal evidence.
Responding to questions on fencing, she stated that the Department does engage with communities and that in certain areas, the neighbourhood watch has been assisting with the matter. However, it was mentioned that she would like to see more councillors coming forward to assist the Department as well.
On the overcrowding of classrooms, the MEC argued that the Department is doing as much as it possibly can considering financial constraints. Without financial support, the matter cannot be addressed adequately and new classrooms cannot be built despite the increase of learners each year. The Department has written many letters to National Treasury and the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to secure more funding and noted that they are open to any suggestions on how to deal with the matter.
The HOD called upon the Deputy Director-General (DDG): Institutional Development and Coordination, Mr Archie Lewis, to respond to the East’s performance. He explained that during the year under review, there were some technical challenges as the boundaries between east and north change where some schools from the east went to the north and vice versa.
The DDG responded to the matter of learner growth. On page 56, there is a clear indication of the escalation of learners over the years thus the information is included in the Report. Metro east is one of the eight education districts in the province however it is important to understand the context of each district. This district encompasses Khayelitsha, Helderberg, a large part of Delft, parts of Kraaifontein as well as Blue Downs, bordering on Mfuleni. It is clear that metro east covers a large part of disadvantaged communities and historically, everyone is aware of the unequal education these schools received. Reflecting upon the outcomes of metro east in 2019, despite being the lowest in the province, the matric results were better than in the previous year which indicates that the support granted to the district had been partly successful. Further, in 2019, there were serious safety issues throughout the Khayelitsha area to a point where additional funding was needed to address the issue which inevitably impacted the delivery of education. Subsequently, it was noted that most of the annual learner growth takes place within the Khayelitsha, Helderberg and Delft basin and the Department is trying to address these challenges to ensure that each learner is provided with quality education.
The HOD called upon Mr Salie Abrahams, DDG: Education Planning, WCED, to respond to the matter of transportation in Knysna.
Responding to Mr Allen, Mr Abrahams explained the cost of the project stemmed from the repair work that needed to be done as a result of the fire which took place at the hostile. The disaster management funding was received late however, the project was completed in October 2020 and the funds committed have been spent.
Concerning transportation challenges, he explained that for the year under review, there were two particular challenges which the Department continues to reflect upon. It was noted that the Department operates within a policy framework of transporting learners outside of the 5km radius however, in working alongside the HOD office and MEC, there have been approved exceptions to this due to safety reasons. Contentious matters did emerge in the year under review but they are different to the previous challenges the Department faced.
Responding to questions on fencing, he explained that they have established a multi-year programme to assist in strengthening the type of security used to ensure the calibre of fencing technology implemented improves. This is done in areas which have been recognised as high risk and have previous cases of vandalism and theft. Further, conversations do take place through the school governing body which is then filtered into the communities.
The HOD stated that he would be answering all remaining questions starting with the question of retention. It is quoted that the problem areas are grades 10 to 12 because after grade 9, education is no longer mandatory. The Department does have record of learners who move schools to repeat grades and noted that the Committee would be supplied with this information however it is indicated on page 56 of the Report. He asserted that the Department is standing strong on ethical education decision makers and have been vocal on its opposition to culling. In attempts to address the matter, the Department has engaged in continuous conversations with districts during visits and have discussed issues such as matric performance and the different understandings of the definition of culling versus retention. He reassured the Committee that the Department is closely monitoring the situation through examining dropouts that occur in grades 10 to 12 and noted that there are various reasons for this such as teenage pregnancies.
He apologies for issuing two different copies of the Report explaining that the second copy of the Annual Report was necessitated due to adjustments in the Auditor-General’s report thus it was deemed important to ensure that a correct, updated version of the Report was sent out. The costs for this were not exorbitant as the Department does in-house printing thus the only expense was the cost of the paper for 100 copies.
Responding to the question of internal control deficiencies, he explained that as this organisation operates through a large chain right down to individual schools, these deficiencies come in various forms not just financial. For example, it is ensuring there are registers in place, checking that schools have the necessary textbook lists and a deep record of the textbooks that have been returned. The audit report is valuable as it highlights areas that need to be strengthened and the way in which to do so. The HOD stated that he writes letters to every programme manager, both financial and in the predetermined objectives or the non-financial matters, thus every programme manager is aware of their responsibilities and expectations. When shortcomings are detected, the HOD writes accountability letters or warning letters to the responsible individuals, and received feedback within the executive on the progress made with the financial improvement plan. Additionally, there are also internal audit recommendations which assist the Department in strengthening this mechanism. Being a large organisation there is a fine line between ensuring service delivery and over assurance of supply chain management processes. Thus, when speaking on irregular expenditure, this does not always include fraud and corruption but rather a delay In the supply chain which inevitably impacts all other factors.
On the issue of vandalisation, the HOD stated that there are ongoing conversations which take place at various levels however he believes that more efforts are needed. Referring to the vandalism of schools that occurred during lockdown, it is clear there were certain provinces that were affected worse than others. As such, the Department has recognised these areas as red zones and have strengthened security efforts where necessary. However, this is not the solution and the Department called upon communities to assist in protecting schools especially principals and circuit managers.
The HOD highlighted that all rollovers were approved. As the financial year does not run parallel to the school year, there are instances were no spending takes place during the dead schools month (December and January). The uncommitted funds were surrendered to Treasury.
Responding to e-learning, it is an ongoing project with a timeframe of 20 years with funding being allocated on a regular basis. Currently, every school is classified as a universal school with each one having access to connectivity, one lab and WIFI. There are continuous efforts to ensure that all schools have WIFI access and digitalised classrooms. On a yearly basis, there are a certain number of classrooms that are digitalised which is estimated to be around 160. Over and above ongoing teacher training, during lockdown this took place online to ensure digital teaching skills improved.
Responding to Mr Kama, he said it is a great question and noted the word “quality” is an elusive concept as quality for one person is not the same to another however the Department is inclusive in its understanding of quality. As such, the actual output indicator for quality education nationally is the matric results. However, the Department has argued to expand these indicators and over the past two years, under its guidance, this has been achieved and includes the number of bachelor passes, mathematics and science passes as well as retention rates. The HOD argued that an important quality indicator for him is whether learners are fed or not because hunger will impact their ability to learn. Additionally, the matter of resources and quality of teachers are significant indicators and this influences the level of education received.
Within the current context, early literacy is recognised as foundation phase or grade R. As such, the reading strategy that was launched earlier in the year was also moved online due to lockdown which focuses on aspects that are within the Department’s reach – this was the early learning phase. The preparatory work that has gone into moving the Early Childhood Development (ECD) sector (0 to 4 year olds) into basic education largely consisted of partnering with non-governmental organisations (NGO). Majority of the planning focused on moving functions which inevitably means moving people and financial resources. However, the HOD argued that in the view of the Department, it will not be sufficient in attempting to improve the quality of early learning stages.
The Chairperson thanked the HOD and asked if Members had any further questions on part A.
Mr G Brinkhuis (Al Jama-ah) noted the MEC mentioned that in the following year, the Department would be faced with even more challenges - as such he queried whether the Department had an idea as to where the additional funding needed will come from.
The MEC laughed and noted that Mr Brinkhuis had missed her budget speech where she explained there is no additional funding - this is a grave challenge the Department is facing. There is no funding to bail out schools and she called for support to mobalise funds as the provincial equitable shares have been drastically cut on the basis that national government expect to win a court case against unions. As such R97 million has been taken from the Department and if the court case was lost, there will be a shortfall of roughly a billion just on teachers’ salaries. Additionally, over R400 million had to be spent on COVID-19 safety measures and curriculum interventions to assist schools.
The HOD added to this explaining that due to the above, the Department has had to make cuts from other sectors such as infrastructure just to retain teachers. Thus, classroom sizes will inevitable increase and teachers will begin to suffer as well as the learners. He reassured Members that these challenges will be discussed in greater detail during the 2021 budget meeting.
Part B: Performance Information
The Chairperson noted that she would not table Part B of the Annual Report page-by-page, but Members are able to raise questions on a block of pages to be addressed in rounds. The first round would focus on pages 27 to 41.
Mr Allen noted that the HOD had correctly alluded to the socio-economic disparities in her opening remarks, along with early exposure to drug-related violence and gangsterism in some communities across the province having devastating effects on learners. Noting these facts, he asked whether each and every school in the province would have guidance counsellors or guidance staff.
Mr Kama thanked the MEC and the Department for the responses given so far. He drew attention to the service delivery environment discussed in the last paragraph of page 27, which stated that: “In 2019/2020, the Department supported 859 no fee and public ordinary schools and subsidised 22 162 learners at registered independent schools. These figures will likely increase due to job losses or reductions in family income due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on households.” He asked if any engagement around the possibility of independent schools increasing their low-class sizes, provided that the Department would subsidise more learners in that space, had occurred.
Regarding the organisational environment on retirements, resignations, and shifts within the Department, he asked to be provided with the age of the officials that have retired, along with the number of Senior Managers nearing their determined retirement age. Noting that the Department had stated that it had prioritised leadership development, he asked to be informed as to what the plan was, along with what progress had been made.
Further, he asked if the departmental policy on ‘Vetting of Persons Coming into Contact with Learners or Officials at a Public School on its Premises or at a School Activity’ that had been approved by the MEC had been implemented yet. He continued to ask if all teachers would undergo vetting guided by this policy as part of the selection process.
Mr Kama referred to the fact that the Department managed to place 45 or 8.49% of the eligible list of 530 Funza Lushaka bursary holders who completed their studies at the end of 2019 in permanent posts, and an additional 228 placed in contract posts. While this represents a combined total placement of 51.5%, he asked what plan the Department had to place the remaining 48.5%.
Mr Allen noted his appreciation for the pro-poor initiatives undertaken by the Department, such as learner transport and nutrition initiatives. While these are commendable, he called on the Department to highlight any other pro-poor initiatives that are on record.
Noting that within the province “an estimated 26.1% of the population is aged between 0-14 making a large proportion of those at compulsory school going age”, Mr Sayed asked the Department to explain what social factors contributed to the high levels of children aged 3-15 out of school. As the Department stated that these high levels where born out of the high learner ‘in migration’, he asked the Department how many learners migrated into the Cape Metro from the Cape Winelands, and other regions across the province.
Further, he stated that the eight education districts within the province where required to support schools through the services of a range of professionals, including psychologists, social workers. He asked the Committee to provide: the number of psychologists and social workers employed by the Department; the action of social works to learners, and educators; along with how the Department planned to employ more social workers, especially in gang-riddled communities.
Mr Sayed asked the Department to provide further details to explain the decreased pass rates for grade 9 mathematics, and grade 3 language. He called on the Department to fully explain what measures it planned to implement to overcome these challenges.
Noting the Departments stated goal of increasing the number and quality of National Senior Certificate passes, he asked the Department to provide an explanation for the decrease in the mathematics and physics pass rates when compared to the previous years.
Regarding the Department’s statement on page 41 that; “the management of absenteeism in the WCED is strengthened by the effective implementation of the Policy on Incapacity Leave and Ill Health Retirement (PLIR)”, Mr Sayed asked the Department to provide further reflections on the specific findings that motivated this statement. He noted that in the previous year, the Auditor-General drew attention to inconsistencies in the collation and reliability of the information on textbooks and on absenteeism.
He acknowledged that while it may not be the time and space to raise the question, mentioning the Department’s policy goals regarding the appointment of new school principals, he inquired as to what progress had been made to fill the vacant principal position in Riviersonderend, as the post was first advertised in November 2019.
The Chairperson interjected and noted that as this specific matter was not addressed in the Annual Reports, that the Department need not respond.
Regarding the number of new principals appointed, the Chairperson sought clarity on how many appeals the Department had to deal with during the process.
Response by the Department (pages 27-41)
The HOD thanked the Members and acknowledged the MEC’s presence in the meeting, asking if she wished to personally respond to any of the questions raised.
The MEC declined the invitation and noted that the HOD and his team should proceed with the responses.
The HOD briefly corrected Mr Sayed, informing him that the statements made by the Auditor-General did not refer to textbooks, but rather to teacher absenteeism before handing over to Mr Matthys Cronjé, Director: Strategic People Management.
Regarding the retirements discussed on page 31, Mr Cronjé noted these individuals were between the ages of 60 and 63 when they retired from the Department. Linking this to the question relating to leadership development, he noted that over the past years, the Department has developed a comprehensive, and holistic approach to both managerial and leadership development. The managerial development is mostly focused on competency profiles, and assessments. This not only ensured that those who are successful continue to develop going forward, but also ensuring that those who are not successful receive feedback on how they can start to build these skills. By looking at each managerial layer, the Department has been able to ensure it build upon current capacities, along with ensuing competencies needed in the future are present.
Vetting was a requirement across the board including support staff and not just the educators employed by the Department. By requiring strict vetting in each and every process of recruitment, the Department prevents unwanted individuals from being employed in schools. While part of this process was conducted by the South African Council of Educators for registration purposed, the Department’s policy goes further.
Answering the question relating to Funza Lushaka, he indicated that the focus on the programme was continuous and not once off. While the Department had reported on the first three months of the year, the database is kept up to date and provided to schools on an ongoing basis when substitute or permanent positions are available. While the Department tries to place all these students within the WCED quickly, they may not meet up with the qualification profile required for the vacancies available within the province at a given point. The Department received weekly feedback from DBE on all vacant positions. As the students are required to provide the Department with an indication of their placement preferences across all provinces, if these they are not accommodated by the WCED at a given point, they become available for placement in other provinces.
Mr Cronjé said the Department would provide Members with the number of appeals received at a later stage, as he did not have the specific figures on hand.
Addressing the inconsistent reliability of absenteeism information, he noted that the Auditor-General’s previous findings addressed the matter broadly discussing the reporting of absenteeism levels as a subset of incapacity and ill health reporting.
Responding to the Chairperson, the HOD confirmed that the Department would provide the Committee with a written response addressing the specific number of appeals received.
Addressing the Department’s pro-poor initiatives, Mr Leon Ely, DDG: Corporate Services, WCED, noted the national model used by the Department allowed it to allocate up to 5% of their posts for pro-poor initiatives. The Department had used the maximum rate and could not provide any more posts under the current model. As per the DBE guidelines, these posts are allocated to quintiles one, two and three, ensuring that these schools maintain their no fee status. Additionally, the Western Cape is one of the few provinces that allocated compensation for fee exemptions for poor learners in affluent schools, with R58m allocated for the initiative. The province has 224 “top-up” or additional no fee schools in quintiles four and five, with a budget of R275m allocated to them. Across the board, the Department assists schools with municipal fees, with a primary focus on poor schools, with a budget of R60m allocated. About R46m has been allocated to subsidise hostel use for poor learners, along with assisting in allocating admin support staff to small schools in the rural areas of the province.
Addressing independent schools and their small class sizes, he noted that the Department’s policy only allowed it to subsidise schools when the school fees rose above a certain threshold and met set criteria. Concluding his response, Mr Ely noted that as the Department did not directly control the class sizes in independent schools, these schools would have to apply for additional funding after independently electing to accommodate more learners per class.
Adding to the response made by Mr Ely, the HOD noted that the Department only subsidised poor independent schools, and not their affluent counterparts. Only schools that have a low income, low costs; and specifically aim to serve learners in poorer communities, are eligible for subsidisation. By subsidising these qualifying schools, the Department allows them to take in learners that would have otherwise cost the state much more if placed in a state school. As the Department did not cover the full cost of tuition, its ability to influence the class sizes of independent institutions was limited. He added that even if the Department was able to influence class sizes, as many of these school already have large classes, further subsidies would challenge the quality of education received.
Addressing questions relating to the effects of the pandemic, the HOD noted there would definitely be an increase in poverty due to the new economic reality many face. While this was certain, it would be difficult to say what the exact impact would be, along with how the Department’s demands would change. He acknowledged the possibility that some independent schools might not be able to survive, stating that the Department would have to address such matters as they emerge.
Regarding the question raised by Mr Allen, the HOD noted that unlike in the past, no specific teaching post exists for a guidance counsellor, as career guidance is now expected to be done in the Life Orientation or Life Skills subject field with these subject teachers being expected to have some training in career guidance. Under this current system, as Life Orientation is compulsory - every school has someone trained to provide career guidance to the learners.
The HOD called upon Ms Berenice Daniels, Director: Specialised Education, WCED, to address the questions relating to psychologists.
Ms Daniels said that currently, Life Orientation or Life Skills teachers provide general emotional and psychosocial information or strategies of a preventative nature to students. This is also provided by the Growth Mindsets Programme that Members may have heard about. If a teacher picks up that a learner requires more emotional support, they may request additional support from the circuit psychologists or the circuit social workers. Currently, due to COVID-19, these consultations may be virtual, greatly improving the responses times especially in rural areas. This means that a psychologist or social worker is only a phone call away and can be contacted through one of the online platforms. However, should a learner require individual support, this could be provided by the circuit psychologist or social worker, with a referral sometimes being made to the Department of Health, the Department of Social Development, or various NGOs that provide psychosocial support.
In terms of the number of psychologists and social workers employed, there is one social worker and one psychologist for each circuit, so 64 of each in total. Currently, each pair of psychologists and social workers work with between 20 and 25 schools. In addition to this, in the high-risk schools that mostly exist in crime-ridden communities, the Department also has 165 individuals providing school-based care and support assistance. This is funded by the HIV Care and Support Programme. These individuals are able to provide lay and basic counselling, referring to the circuit psychologists and social workers should more support be required.
The Department has developed a psychosocial support pathway for accelerated access to psychosocial support during the COVID period and has placed a lot of the information about psychosocial support on its e-portal. There are also safe schools, with a toll-free number that learners may call to request support, allowing them to be referred to the Department’s psychologists and social workers.
Regarding Mr Sayed’s question on the high percentage of children between the ages of 3 and 15 out of school, the HOD explained that this general age cohort group included ECD learners who are not counted as going to school in StatsSA data. The Department is aware that at least 30% of Grade R learners are not in school. This number is likely higher when considering those in the ECD bracket, along with those in the Department of Social Development space. The Department is aware that often the dropout from schools in rural areas is driven by socioeconomic factors such as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, parental migration, and farm labourer migration. These factors make it increasingly difficult to keep small rural schools open, as the demand decreases as parents migrate to other farms for example.
The HOD stated that he did not wish to speculate as to why learners are moving from the Cape Winelands into the Cape Metropolitan region. However, the HOD stated that “the Cape Winelands is the more densely populated rural area in neighbourhood to the metro, so it’s the logical next migratory move.” These movements are not as noticeable in the West Cost and Overberg regions, but increasing demand in the West Coast region indicates that it is occurring. It is not clear to the Department if this migration is from out of the Metro region, or if it bypassed the Metro region entirely.
The HOD invited Dr Peter Beets, DDG: Curriculum and Assessment Management, WCED, to address questions relating to performance decreases. Responding to Mr Sayed’s question relating to the mathematics performance of the Grade 9s, Dr Beets agreed that the performance levels were a problem. However, the graph on page 37 indicated that over the last five years, the Department has been able to support an improvement, allowing these pupils to sustain their performance. The Department’s analysis indicated that one of the main contributing factors was the inadequate early numeracy skills received by learners in schools. While the grade 3’s are performing adequately, the decreases in performance as they advance to grade 6, then grade 9, clearly indicates that absence of fundamental numeracy skills. This problem worsens the longer learners are in the system as there is a shortage of well-trained mathematics teachers, especially in the senior phase.
Dr Beets said the Department is now in a position to be able to determine exactly what areas the learners are underperforming in, allowing targeted support to be provided. Currently, the Department provides teachers with targeted professional development, and improvements have already been seen. The Department has also focused its resource provision, now providing each learner with SASOL workbooks which clearly track progression and deal with any gaps learners have. Additionally, the Department has also focused on parental involvement, and in April 2021, it will launch a programme aimed at helping parents support learners by teaching mathematics at home.
Addressing the Grade 12 mathematics pass rate, Dr Beets noted that while the number of pupils taking mathematics had decreased due to a number of reasons, it is important to indicate that the Western Cape had the highest pass rate in the country of 70.2%. The lower pass rate, along with the decreased performance of learners in mathematics, could be linked to the continued increase in the standard of questions asked. By ensuring that learners are on par with these standards, the Department ensures that if they [learners] go further in higher education, they are adequately prepared. The Department conducts a detailed analysis of the performance of its learners, providing the basis for strategies to be developed to provide targeted support.
The HOD informed the Chairperson that while a written response would be provided, of the approximately 173 [principal] appointments done in 2019, no more than about three appeals were received. The HOD noted that if there is someone unhappy with the process, it generally become slightly newsworthy as they tried to find a variety of mechanisms to get it challenged. However, despite this, the actual number is a very small percent.
The Chairperson said that as the number was so small, t the Department need not provide a written response to the question raised.
Addressing the question on the identification of talent for future leadership in the Department, the MEC noted that Mr Ely, Dr Beets, and Mr Cronjé where currently working on how to better identify people at different stages of their careers as very often, teachers at schools do not always give opportunities to young, up-and-coming learners who wish to further their careers. The Department aimed to create a platform where people could identify themselves as wanting further development and further opportunities. This would ensure that the gatekeeping sometimes seen in the Department does not occur. The MEC noted that hopefully in the new year, the Department would be able to make an announcement regarding the project.
The Chairperson thanked the MEC for their response and called for a 10-minute break in proceedings.
Resuming the meeting, the Chairperson invited Members to raise question relating to pages 42 to 60.
Part B: Performance Information (page 42 to 60)
Mr Sayed thanked the Department for its responses to the previous round of questions. Referring to page 43, he drew attention to the enrolment campaign launched in 2020 aimed at encouraging parents and caregivers of learners entering grade 1 and 8, and learners changing schools in 2021 to apply to more than three schools before 17 March 2020. He asked the Department if it is aware of any parents who applied on time to three different schools, yet their children have still not been placed - this information has been brought forward to the Member.
Mr Sayed asked the Department if there were any discussions relating to how it would deal with the admissions policies at many schools which, in his personal view, is a form of gatekeeping.
The HOD sought the Chairpersons permission to interject, asking Mr Sayed to clarify if his first question referred to the 2019/2020 year or the 2020/2021 year.
The Chairperson informed the HOD that Mr Sayed had mentioned the 2019/2020 year, but also alluded to 2020/2021 moving forward.
Mr Sayed confirmed that the Chairperson had correctly clarified the question on his behalf.
Mr Allen noted that he wished to add to Mr Sayed’s questions regarding the enrolment campaign discussed on page 42. He commended the Department, noting that the traditional and social media figures in terms of reach where remarkable. Considering all that has happened since 27 March in terms of COVID, he asked if any plans had been put into place to ensure that people would be assisted to enroll, especially considering that potentially many would not be able to physically go to school due to COVID-19.
Commenting on page 57, Mr Kama invited the Department to react on the enrolment at public ordinary schools for the period 2005 to 2009. Concerned, Mr Kama expressed his worry about what possible factors contributed to only half the cohort that enrolled in grade 1 12 years ago sitting for NSC exams on time. He asked the Department to explain where and how these learners where being lost in the system, along with how it was working alongside other departments to ensure that this is prevented.
Regarding the comparative NSC results for 2010 to 2019, looking at the school with a pass rate of less than 60%, Mr Kama asked the Department for the number and details of schools that have remained on the list of poor performers for the past two years. Additionally, he asked the Department what measures had been put in place to assist these schools. While the number of schools with a pass rate below 60% had decreased from 78 in 2010, he asked the Department how it is responding to the increases that have occurred since its lowest point in 2016.
Referring to page 43, Mr Christians stated that while he was a Member of the previous Parliament, he was involved in numerous discussions regarding the anti-bullying campaign. Having read all about the campaign and the measures it aims to implement, bullying still occurs on a regular basis. Noting the presentations that had been heard by the Committee, discussing different methods, such as getting artists to perform at schools, he asked the Department if it believed it was doing enough to stop it. Fully aware that bullying is a major problem in schools, and aware that it is getting some attention, he did not believe the Department was giving it enough attention. These learners already had to deal with many other problems so anti-bullying initiatives will ensure t they do not still need to deal with depression and embarrassment caused by bullying.
The Chairperson asked the Department to clarify if every school had benefitted from the rollout of the online Education Management Information Systems mentioned on page 42. She called on the Department to discuss some of the challenges faced when rolling these systems out, along with some of the improvements that the Department will implement to address these challenges going forward.
Response by the Department (pages 42-60)
Addressing the loss of many students between grade 1 and Matric, the MEC voiced her concern stating that the HOD would provide additional details regarding the grade 1 repetition rate. She explained that this challenge was part of the Departments “whole of society” approach to the Western Cape - the Department will now implement its “whole of life” strategy from the first 1 000 days onwards, to try and ensure too many students were not lost. Noting that there are many reasons why these students do not stay in school, the MEC said the Department did not necessarily look at the grade 1 figure, and rather used the grade 2 figures. While the Department wanted more and more students to stay in school for as long as possible, this comes with other risks. The MEC informed the Committee that this would require more school space, and more teachers, which there simply was not funding for currently.
While the Department would respond in more detail on the anti-bullying campaign, the MEC stressed that “schools can only do so much, and people really need to start emphasising the role of the family as well in bullying.” While bullying had been around since Members of the Committee were at school, the MEC pointed out that it takes many different forms today, with cyber bullying adding an entirely new dimension. The MEC called on families to “start taking responsibility for their children, teaching them values at home, and not expecting teachers to be everything to everybody, left to sort out issues instead of just teaching the children.”
Addressing admissions, Mr Louis informed the Committee that this would remain a challenge for the Department as long as it does not get sufficient funding. However, he stated that he “did not want to speak about that because that’s a parliamentary debate” however, the Department would manage the outcome of parliamentary decisions regarding the budget.
Mr Louis said that to a large extent, the WCED is its own enemy as the stability of, and outcomes received from, education in the province invite the migration of learners into the province. While “absolutely nothing was wrong with this,” he highlighted how the Department, through its schools, principals, and teachers, had created an atmosphere where parents sitting anywhere in the country foresee in the province better prospects of learners completing their education. The resulting annual growth of about 18 to 20 000 learners every year is something that the Department is constantly managing, despite the “headaches” its causes. The greatest headache the Department is facing is firstly the issue of providing appropriate accommodation to learners in appropriate locations. Secondly, learner growth also brought a demand for more teaching and teacher resources. As the Department’s budget in real terms decreases every year, there are huge risks to accommodating all learners as this would result in overcrowded classrooms stretching teaching and teacher resources even thinner. Additionally, such a situation would not be good for the morale of teachers.
Mr Louis said the advocacy around admissions had gone very well - by the end of March 2020, 154 000 learners had registered online for admission for 2021. Most of these parents applied for admission to more than one school as recommended by the Department. While some parents did in fact apply for admission at more than three schools, this did not cause any challenges as the online system allowed for this. Currently there are still about 24 000 learners that have not been placed for 2021.
The Department is pulling out all the stops to ensure these learners are placed by 25 January 2021. Further, support has graciously been provided from colleagues in the infrastructure section, in the form of additional classrooms where a further 10 000 learners can be accommodated. While the Department did not wish to speak to the matter, since June 2020, following the reopening of schools, there have been a number of learners who have not returned. As more learners may not return to school, space might open up allowing those learners that still need to be placed. However, this is not a proper solution as many of the learners who have not yet returned to school since June, may choose to do so in January.
Mr Louis said most of the learners who applied to three schools have already been placed with some having not yet been placed. He reassured the Committee that the Department is pulling out all stops to get all learners placed by January.
Speaking further on the enrollment and admissions policy, the HOD said “all policies of schools and School Governing Bodies (SGBs) are requested to be reviewed and the district assists in reviewing policies.” The Department is currently discussing its inclusivity and diversity strategies, ensuring that they are more inclusive going forward. Despite engaging with a number of schools over the last few years and created partnerships with the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, there are 1 500 schools and this was a slow process. Despite this, the Department is engaging with those matters, and is determined to address admissions policies that are used to exclude or to gatekeep. He noted that the “South African Schools Act does make admissions policy the role and function of governing bodies, and until this Act changes, that is the determinant of that space.”
Responding to Mr Allen’s question, the HOD said “who knows what March of next year will bring” indicating that the Department has instructed all schools, in all districts, to plan for potential disruption. As COVID-19 is still among us and whilst parent enrollment is scheduled for February and March 2021, contingencies have been put in place to change these dates, and support schools should the need arise. In addition to parents enrolling in March, the HOD reminded Members that there are also SGB elections scheduled for March. All planning is proceeding as if 2021 will be a ‘normal year’ but the strong leadership of the Department will provide the necessary guidance to manage all matters that may arise.
The HOD said that while Mr Kama’s statement that half of the grade one cohort sits for NSC exams was an over exaggeration, the point made is correct. As stated by Ms Daniels, if learners exit to schools of skills, as this curriculum is not currently within the CAPS 12-year arrangement, these learners are not counted. Despite not being in the grades of 1 to 12, they ought to be included, as this would make the table slightly different. Referring to the cohort that begun grade 1 in 2008, and entered grade 12 in 2019, he explained that a significant number of these students did make it to grade 12. However, while many make it to Matric, not all do so in the same year, as the South African school system makes provision for learners to repeat grades. Repeating grades is considered okay as it strengthens these learners. He noted that the Department focuses on the dropouts. The challenge of dropouts is being dealt with through a number of ways including helping learners catch up in literacy and numeracy skills. The Department has introduced baseline assessments in grade 1 and grade 8 in order to establish where learners come into the system with poor performance levels.
The HOD noted that the Department is aware that less than 70% of learners are in ECD, meaning that one cannot accurately track progress made between grades 1 to 12 over a fixed time span i.e. there are sometimes learners in grade 1 that are underage or should not otherwise be there yet. This was reflected in the MEC’s statement which explained why the Department looks at grade 2 figures rather than grade 1. While the Western Cape has good figures compared to other provinces, the Department would not be complacent in dealing with the challenge.
Addressing the request for the number of underperforming schools, the HOD said this data was provided on page 113 – the Committee has yet to deal with this section. As a net figure, underperforming schools decreased by one in the year under review. The Department is currently involved in a number of engagements and has strengthened interventions. There is a high school intervention programme specifically geared at identifying underperforming schools. In identifying these schools, the Department does not just look at those with a pass rate below 60% but those who have high dropout rates. Over the past two or three years, the Department has sought to identify specific learners in grade 12 who have only progressed because of years in the phase, only barely scraping through grade 11 and those who face challenges in passing grade 12.
The HOD said one cannot ignore the socio-economic factors of poverty, gangsterism, and the lack of school attendance, all of which have large implications on learners. Looking at specific subject performance, the Department provides targeted subject support to schools where two or three specific subjects cause learners to consistently fail grade 12. Further, the Department examines the teachers employed to ensure that they not only have the required qualifications but also the necessary dedication needed to teach.
While he did not have the figures on hand, the HOD indicated that a vexing issue lay beneath the decrease of the underperforming schools. Beneath the net decrease, the Department’s progress in moving schools out of the underperforming range is being undermined as other schools fall into that range.
Discussing the anti-bullying campaign, the HOD said that “bullying has been with us for ages, it’s not a recent phenomenon, it’s not even a post-94 phenomenon. However, bullying and anti-social behaviour of the youth and learners has exacerbated and expanded with growing lack of discipline in homes. With growing lack of values in homes the nature of the bullying has increased the extent, the veracity, and the sharpness of bullying at schools.”
The Department has seen great success in its anti-bullying campaigns, such as the communication campaign run in 2019 where it addressed learners through a video programme. Following the video programme, the Department received feedback from learns who said they were unaware that standing by while a child is being bullied and not standing up for the victim made them part of the problem. These students also admitted that they were unaware that undermining or belittling other children who were the recipients of bullying in turn made them bullies.
Concerning the Department’s social media campaigns, Ms Daniels noted that that any solution needed to be multi-pronged. Society needs to foster kindness and respect diversity in children as this is not just the Education Department’s responsibility.
The HOD highlighted that the bullies themselves are outcasts seeking recognition thus providing activities that occupy the minds of learners, such as sport at schools, is critical. By ensuring that learners are involved in sports at school, it will allow them to utilise their pent-up emotions and energy productively. Additionally, the Department is working to ensure that learners are assisted in their subject choices, as a learner that achieves success and progresses is usually not a bully.
Ms Bronagh Hammond, Director: Communication, WCED, noted that the biggest anti-bully concern currently is cyber bullying. This is unfortunately the result of the increased use of technology in schools, along with the increasing number of students who own cellphones. Over the past two to three years, the Department has maintained an e-learning directory that has a cyber wellness campaign, along with training children and learners on how to engage responsibly with social media. In collaboration with Google and other entities, the Department launched an Online Safety Curriculum for grade 8 and 12 students earlier this year. This was an extremely important measure, as it will be incorporated into the general curriculum ensuring that students are knowledgeable on how to be responsible users online.
Responding to the Chairperson, the HOD noted that the WCED had done substantial work regarding the development of digital resources. The best-known digital intervention by the Department was the digital or online curriculum resources provided via its e-portal. The digital online enrollment of learners has, over the last two years, taken away much of the effort required from schools and teachers. This has not only made the process easier for parents but also for teachers. The Department has also implemented an online system giving SGBs the ability to nominate teachers and receive information faster. While there is still a large amount of paper-based action in the education space, the Department hopes that as bandwidth and connectivity improves, the process will be refined as more user-friendly.
The Chairperson granted Mr Sayed’s request to ask a follow-up question regarding one of the responses made by the HOD.
Mr Sayed asked what the Department was doing to follow up with the parents of the learners who have not returned to school since June.
The HOD replied that the Department had requested follow-ups from school principals who unfortunately reported that in many instances, they have not been able to trace the children. For example, if a child’s family had returned to the Eastern Cape, it would not be clear to the Department if the child had also returned or not. While this has complicated the matter further, all schools are trying to track learners that have not returned. As the directives of the national Minister had allowed school attendance exemption applications made by parents to be approved under certain conditions by the HOD, the Department was not referring to these learners.
Part B: Performance Information (pages 61-81)
Regarding the collaboration schools discussed on page 63, Mr Kama asked how the Department aimed to address the complaints that collaboration schools are in contravention of the South African Schools Act, as they give more representation to non-parents in the SGB.
On the collaboration between the Department and the Department of Arts and Culture regarding school sports infrastructure projects mentioned on page 72, he asked what the Rand value of the collaboration was. Further, he asked if there were plans to accelerate these infrastructure projects in quintiles 1, 2 and 3, especially in the rural parts of the province where many schools do not have any sports facilities.
Referencing the Mass participation; Opportunity and access; Development and growth (MOD) Programme conducted in collaboration with the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sports (DCAS) discussed on page 71, Mr Sayed asked what plans the Department had to increase the number of MOD centers in the province. He noted that he placed his question in context of the financial and budgetary constraints faced by the province. He continued asking what the breakdown of these were across education districts, along with the number or percentage of MOD centers in rural areas. Mr Sayed commended the Department on the MOD centers, stating that they have made a huge difference in many schools and communities.
Addressing programme two: Public Ordinary School Education on page 74, Mr Sayed asked the Department how exactly the COVID-19 pandemic affected the delivery of smart classrooms given that it started on the last month of the reporting period.
In line with Mr Sayed’s questions on the MOD centers, Mr Christians noted that sometimes, there is no transport available for children to use a MOD centre in a given area, making it more dangerous going to a MOD than going home. He asked the Department to clarify how it allocates the MOD centres.
Responses (pages 61-81)
Responding to the question on collaboration schools, the MEC noted that legislation had been passed in 2018 that is being challenged in court by the SA Teachers Democratic Union (SADTU) and Equal Education. The court papers have been filed, and the Department is awaiting an outcome. Referring Members to section 146 of the Constitution, it stipulates that provinces are allowed to make their own legislation that could in fact be contradictory to national legislation. However, the Department’s legislation is not in contradiction to national legislation and can go together with the Schools Act as this was a different type of school not provided for. The Department is currently waiting for a date for argument in the court, as the case has been postponed again until next year and that the National Minister had not yet joined the proceedings in opposing the Act, stating that they would abide by the decision of the court.
Regarding questions relating to DCAS, the HOD said that if the Department had budget cuts going forward, the reality was that it would have to ask itself “do we cut core? Do we cut teachers? Do we cut the building of extra classrooms? Do we cut MOD centers?” As such, there is the possibility that it would have the ability to accelerate the MOD process further. The HOD agreed wholeheartedly with the impacts of these after schools programmes, but due to the cost factors, the only sustainable way going forward was to have after-school programmes run by teachers in schools.
Mr Ely informed the Committee that R122 million had been budgeted for the MOD centre programs for the year under review. With R106 million spent, a rollover has been requested for the remainder of the funds.
The HOD informed the Committee that this was not the entire budget for the MOD programme as funding had also been received from DCAS, details of which should be found in the Annual Report. Providing a general breakdown of the Department’s actual expenditure on the MOD programme, Mr Ely stated that R3.9 million had been spent on tutors, over R2 million on MOD equipment, R49 million on MOD feeding and R50.4 million on infrastructure.
The HOD added that the funding of expenses, such as coaches, also came from the DCAS budget.
Responding to Mr Sayed, the HOD indicated that the Department would provide a written response to his request as he did not have the figures on hand.
Addressing the rollout of smart classrooms, the HOD noted that this would form part of the next Annual Report as it did not fall within the current reporting cycle. However, for the year under review, the rollout of these classrooms were delayed due to COVID as the components required were supposed to be imported from countries such as China. Subsequently, the Department is requesting a rollover of these funds for components already on order to continue the rollout of smart classes.
Regarding transport to MOD centers, the HOD noted that more accurate information should be requested from DCAS. Recognising the challenges of transporting learners from the MOD centres, he clarified that DCAS had been tasked with this and called on the Committee to “assist the Department in advocating that all schools consider introducing after-school activities, and that teachers play a role in sporting and cultural events after school, as is required in the Personnel Administrative Measures (PAM).”
Continuation of Part B Questions (page 82-128)
Mr Sayed thanked the HOD for his response, especially on the MOD, and said Members are finding resonance with the proposed new approach which they can definitely support. Referring to page 109, programme 7 on the examination and education related services, in light of the recent news, he asked what the Department’s reaction was to the leaking of the matric final mathematics and science paper.
Referring to page 110, specifically matters around exam timetables, he asked what were the reasons as to why 3 000 learners were reported not having written their National Senior Certificate examinations in 2019.
Mr Kama referred to page 84, progamme 3, and queried how many funding applications were received, how many were declined and the reasons thereof.
Looking at page 90 on the special schools resources, the Chairperson noted that the HOD had mentioned the issues identified by the district therapist in conjunction with the provincial therapeutic services programme manager, such as the need to improve accessibility in existing schools. Thus, she asked how many schools in how many different districts was referred to. Subsequently, there is also mention of an evaluation report and she asked whether this report can be made available to the Committee Members.
Response to Continuation of Part B Questions (page 82-128)
Ms Daniels indicated that 40% of the special schools are converted into special school resource centres. Each of them possesses a multi-disciplinary outreach team who support learners either in full service schools or ordinary schools so that learners are able to remain in their neighbourhood schools.
Responding to accessibility projects in ordinary schools, she said this is led by the needs of learners. For example, if a learner in a wheelchair enrols in an ordinary school, they will examine the feasibility of providing simple ramps. However, every district has identified these schools throughout the province and these statistics will be provided shortly.
Regarding the assessment of full service schools, the Department started in March of 2020 during the first term with the West Coast district visiting five schools. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 lockdown, the Department was unable to progress on to other districts. There are plans to conduct baseline assessments and then work with schools to put in place capacity building. This is still being conducted however the timeline had to be extended to 2021.
The HOD commented on the above indicating that the Department is proud of the special schools resource centres and full service schools as they are initiatives created by the Western Cape. Under the leadership of Ms Daniels, the National Department has taken it on board and is attempting to roll this out in all provinces nationally.
Ms Daniels noted that a national moratorium has been placed as there has been slow progress in provinces with regards to converting schools into full service schools.
The HOD responded to Mr Kama stating that he did not have the information at hand and would supply the Committee with the information for the year under review.
Responding to Mr Sayed, he said that it was in fact 2 989 learners that did not write the NSC and that each year, out of all the learners who register for these examinations, approximately 2 500 to 2 800 do not complete the exam for a number of reasons. Majority of learners fall ill in the month-long period and do not write a single paper - if one paper is missed, it means the examination set is incomplete. Further, some learners do pass away, although not many, and according to new data, some do dropout.
Concerning the leaking of exam papers, he indicated that the Department is taking the matter very seriously and said the WCED is at the forefront of managing the situation. The Department has initiated a security system and mechanism, which it will not speak on in greater detail, which leads to nationally securing exam papers. However, no matter what security system is utilised, if it involves people, there will always be the potential for breaches to take place. When there is a leak, as seen in previous years in various provinces, if the investigation is able to quickly contain the spread without a doubt then in these circumstances, the rewrite should only be applied to the affected areas. However, as a result of the rapid advancement of technology, if these papers are shared throughout Whatsapp groups, then it is impossible to identify how far it has been leaked and whether it can be contained. In this case, evidence indicates that the exam had been accessed throughout the entire country. The Western Cape emphasises that the credibility of the examination is paramount and every year, the province has instructed that every learner must be available until the end of exams or thereafter in the event of a potential rewrite.
Part D: Human Resource Management
The Chairperson reminded Members that parts C and E would be dealt with in January during SCOPA. .
Referring to page 161, Mr Sayed sought clarity on the reasons and causes for the high amount of contact terminations. Additionally, on page 163, table 3, he asked why the staff had left the Department during the period of 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020 and how many these resignations or deaths were a result of COVID-19. On page 165, specifically the matter of employment equity, he asked the Department what plans it has in place to increase the representation of women in senior management positions in the Department, particularly that of African women.
Looking at page 177, on the cases withdrawn, Mr Christians noted that details on the matter was not necessary however he asked if they were fairly withdrawn or if there was evidence of coercion. Further, on page 178, it mentions that there is theft, fraud, bribery and corruption in regards to the examination and he asked if there were any individuals who were found guilty for these crimes. Regarding the sexual assault of learners, it is mentioned that the threat of assault is around 278 270 which is highly concerning. On the cases of improper, disgraceful and unacceptable conduct (103), he asked if the Department could provide the Committee with a written report on these issues.
The Chairperson sought clarity on correctional counselling and asked if this was referring to 62 counselling sessions or 262 staff members that had to undergo correctional counselling.
Responses to Part D
Responding to the staff leaving the Department, the HOD explained that none of this was a result of COVID at that stage and took place before it hit South Africa.
Mr Cronjé responded to the termination of contracts, explaining that the majority of teachers are nominated on a quarterly basis, which the Department is trying to change, to allow them to be nominated for longer periods. This is the reason for the perceived high turnover as only 25% of this represents the real number of teachers. It also includes teachers who terminate their services in terms of resignation or retirement at any given point in the year.
The HOD provided further clarity stating that if one teacher is employed on a quarterly basis, and employment is repeated in the second, third and fourth term, technically that teacher’s contract has come to an end four times.
On the issue of employment equity, Mr Cronjé said it is part of the Department’s process to always take representation into account however this also depends on when positions become available. In terms of management and leadership development plans, the Department is focused on these specific areas to ensure that talent pools are established which are necessary for future employment.
Regarding the correctional counselling, he explained that it represented 62 staff members for various reasons, such as the assault of learners. However, the necessary categories will be provided to Members in writing. Further, the other cases mentioned in table 3.12.3, looking at the specific areas mentioned, the outcomes depend on the severity of the cases and if it falls under Section 17 or 18. This will also be provided in writing.
The Chairperson followed up on her queries on page 177 under dismissals asking how many of the 83 quoted are educators and how this impacts the number of educators left. She also asked whether these positions have been filled.
Mr Cronjé said that he did not have the specific details on hand but noted that whenever an educator service is terminated, immediate replacement is provided. Classrooms will never be left without supervision.
The HOD said the Department has a workforce of over 42 000 people thus with this context in mind, Members must realise that the Department does react to matters that require immediate attention.
Responding to Mr Sayed’s question on representation, the HOD noted it is an important question and the Department is working hard to achieve this goal. For example, succession planning matters do not always work out as one would hope - there are 50 senior management positions in the entire organisation, 30 of these being director levels and 15 are posts filled by women. Thus, 50% of this is allocated to women at a senior level. At the top management position, there are 13 positions three of those are run by women and three additional female members have been placed in TOPCO. Within EXCO, there are five males holding positions alongside two women. However, the higher up one moves, the less opportunity there is to achieve the desired outcomes The Department recognises this matter and is working hard on it. It is worth noting that the principals in schools are majority female as well as at a deputy and HOD level however the Department is concerned that there are not enough males in the education system any longer.
The Chairperson thanked the HOD and noted that if Members do not have any further questions, she would close part D of the Annual Report.
The Chairperson expressed her gratitude to the MEC, HOD and senior team for their work over the year as well as all teachers and staff for their dedication and commitment to education within the province. As this was the HOD’s final Annual Report with the Committee, the Chairperson wished him well on his retirement. She called upon the MEC and HOD for any closing remarks.
The MEC agreed with the Chairperson on her remarks on teachers as it has been a very difficult year. She thanked the Members for a good engagement as it was highly constructive and productive.
The HOD spoke on behalf of the entire executive team and thanked the Committee for their kind words.
The Chairperson released the MEC and her team and asked Members if there were any recommendations with regards to the meeting.
All Members noted that there were no further recommendations.
The meeting was adjourned.
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