South African Council for Educators Bill: hearings

Basic Education

22 May 2000
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Meeting report

SOUTH AFRICAN COUNCIL FOR EDUCATORS BILL: HEARINGS

EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
23 May 2000
SOUTH AFRICAN COUNCIL FOR EDUCATORS BILL: HEARINGS

Relevant submissions:
National Interim Steering Committee Association of School Governing Bodies
Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa
FEDSAS
NAPTOSA
SACE
SADTU
SAOU
South African Council For Educators Bill [B26-2000]


SUMMARY
Four main areas of concern dominated the inputs of the teacher unions, namely composition of the Council, appointment of the chairperson, funding of the Council and professional development.

The unions believe that the majority of councillors in SACE should be members of the profession, and they expressed opposition to officials of unions being excluded as representatives in the Council. Further the chairperson should be elected by the members and not appointed by the Minister. Their view is that the Minister's power to influence the budget of the Council would compromise its autonomy. Professional development is under-emphasised in the Bill. It is believed that educators should regulate the budget of the Council. It was pointed out that the Memorandum of Understanding agreed to by stakeholders and which was supposed to form part of the transition to the current Bill, is not reflected in the Bill.

Members expressed concern that the autonomy of SACE as called for by the unions would in fact leave it biased towards unions, and that unions should also relinquish control of the Council. Members said if funding from government is called for on behalf of SACE then the Minister should have a say in its budget. Members expressed the view that if educators alone constitute the majority of SACE councillors, the body might not be viewed as transparent.

MINUTES
South African Council For Educators (SACE)
Mr Rej Brijraj, CEO of SACE, expressed concern that SACE had originally not been invited to make a submission at the hearings. He pointed out that so far the Council has had no difficulty with its elected chairs and the process of elections. Experience has shown that the chairpersons enjoyed the full support of the profession and the Council. The Bill creates the perception that it is biased towards the Minister. The Council thinks there is no need for the appointment of its chairperson by the Minister and it is believed that this provision should be changed.

He said professional development is not sufficiently emphasised in the Bill, and an impression is created that discipline is more important. SACE's view is that the profession would not thrive if seen to be driven by bureaucracy and discipline. Mr Brijraj asked the committee to view positively the inputs received. He said nearly all of the submissions draw from the Memorandum of Understanding which reflects the Council's consensus on the way forward for SACE.

National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa (NAPTOSA)
Mr M Myburgh of NAPTOSA said the Bill restricts the selection of councillors representing educators, especially who may not represent educators and the composition of the educator representatives.

The SACE chairperson needs to enjoy the Council's support and confidence. A chairperson elected by the members of the Council is favoured. The proposal that the Minister appoints the chairperson is not supported.

The Bill is felt to place restrictive control on the budget and expenditure of the Council. Since educators are the only contributors to funding SACE it is felt budgeting financial control should be left to the Council. NAPTOSA said it is not against accountability of SACE to Parliament.

Suid-Afrkaanse Onderwysersunie (SAOU)
Mr Justus Prinsloo of the SAOU said it is concerned that some of the fundamental issues addressed in a Memorandum of Understanding agreed to between unions through the Educators Labour Relations Council and the Department and SACE, and which was supposed to form part of the transition to the current Bill, are not reflected in the Bill.

The SAOU emphasised its firm belief that SACE should be controlled by educators and that the Minister's influence be reduced to the minimum. It stated that the profession should regulate itself and to do that educators should be the majority members of the Council. The union is concerned that despite extensive input very little has changed in the Bill. SAOU believes there are major changes brought about by the Bill which constitute significant deviations from the previous position of SACE and from the Memorandum of Association signed by stakeholders. [The full submission of SAOU is appended below]

South African Democratic Teachers' Union (SADTU)
Mr Thulas Nxesi, General-Secretary of SADTU, said the object of professional development is under-emphasised in the Bill. Further the principle that SACE is autonomous is compromised. It is felt that the Minister's powers of appointment must not erode the independence of SACE. Mr Nxesi said there is no situation in the world where the government appoints the chairperson of a professional body. The Minister's power to control the budget of SACE should be removed from the Bill. SADTU believes the profession should regulate itself and educators should constitute a clear majority of councillors.

He said SADTU's view on representation is shared by other teacher unions and is reflected in the "Memorandum of Understanding" signed by all stakeholders in June 1999. SADTU believes it is crucial not to lose sight of the Memorandum if the legislation is to be embraced by all stakeholders. Currently the Bill has not given effect to some of the provisions of the Memorandum. SADTU is concerned that the consultation process has not been taken seriously by the Department and has merely been a process of "going through the motions".

Independent Schools Association Of Southern Africa (ISASA)
Mr PL Anderson, Regional Director of ISASA, said all but one of their concerns which were carried in a letter to the Director-General in March 2000 have been addressed. ISASA would like to propose an additional clause to the provisions on registration of educators by SACE. The proposed clause provides that registration should also be open to religious educators in independent schools that have a religious affiliation. This is to allow imams, rabbis, chaplains and any other denominated religious leaders to continue their work as part of the teaching team.

ISASA would like the object of SACE to cover both professional and holistic development of educators.

Association Of Muslim Schools
Mr S Roomanay of the Association of Muslim Schools said they support the input of ISASA.

Response To Isasa's Concerns
Mr Hindle, Chief Director: Human Resource Planning in the Department of Education said the issue of religious instructors is covered by clause 22(8) which reads:
"Different categories of registration may be determined by the Council to allow for the special circumstances of different sectors in education."

Mr Mseleku, Director-General in the Department said the section was included to allow the Council to determine categories that might have been left out by the drafters but would have to be registered due to special circumstances of particular sectors.

ISASA indicated that they were happy with this provision, pointing out that they have raised the concern because they were not in possession of the new Bill when they formulated their input and before coming to the hearing.

Discussion with SACE
A member asked if SACE wants to remove the influence of the Minister completely from the Bill, and whether SACE could point out specific clauses that it views as problematic and what amendments it suggests.

A.) Mr Brijraj said SACE respects the rights of the Minister and Parliament in terms of SACE being a statutory body. He said the clause by clause proposed amendments to the Bill are contained in SACE's written input.

Mr R van den Heever (ANC) asked if it was correct to assume that the presentation by SACE is based on all the representations of the union organisations?

A.) Mr Brijraj said the position of SACE had evolved through many drafts and has been unanimous accepted by stakeholders in the Council. An agreement was reached that unions could mave additional inputs on the Bill.

Ms P Mothoagae (ANC) asked whether the reference in the submission to the 186 complaints SACE is handling are strictly from teachers or also from other stakeholders as well. She pointed out that there have been complaints that SACE does not even acknowledge some complaints that come to it.

A.) Mr Brijraj said there has been quite a range of complaints: from teachers, parents, students, and managers, but many of these were not the responsibility of SACE. One of the areas that SACE would like to engage itself in is educating the public so that complainants should be able to locate where their cases should go. He apologised for SACE not acknowledging some of the complaints pointing out that SACE is developing policy so that if cases need urgent attention they should be prioritised, in dealing with the backlog.

Discussion with SADTU
A committee member said SADTU had referred to councils elsewhere in the world and asked if it has checked the situation with other councils in South Africa, such as the Nursing Council and that of social workers.

Mr M Ellis (DP) asked if the Minister is to contribute to the funding of the Council, would SADTU still maintain that the Minister's power to influence the budget be removed?

Mr S Ntuli (ANC) said if participation in the Council could be according to the ELRC principle, other unions would hardly have equal representation in the Council. He also pointed out that some educators are not represented in unions. He said when teachers come to SACE they should be doing so as educators not as union representatives.

A.) Mr Nxesi said because of the understanding that was in the ELRC it was agreed that representation be proportional. He said figures in SADTU's possession show that 98% of all teachers are organised in unions.

Mr Nxesi pointed out that contributions for the funding of SACE currently comes from educators. He believes that the Department as the employer should be responsible for the training of the 85 000 unqualified and under-qualified teachers, the majority of whom are in the rural areas.

Mr Jon Lewis, a researcher for SADTU, said they welcome the oversight of funds in the sense of auditing financial statements and reporting to Parliament. Where SADTU would like to draw the line is for the Minister to determine SACE's budget and therefore its programmes. In any event the Minister's interests would be safeguarded by the five nominees in SACE.

Other councils had learnt the importance of ensuring public interest representation in South Africa. Although the basic concern is professional development of educators and autonomy of SACE, the Council would ensure public interest representation.

The matter of discipline in the Bill lends itself to the misconception that the Council is an extension of the employer's disciplinary wing. SADTU is happy with the rewording of the Bill that lists professional development as one of the main objectives of the Council. However, in line with the three functions of the Council there are the registration committee, the professional development committee and the disciplinary committee. SADTU states that the professional development committee is under-emphasised.

It is felt that Chapter 2 of the Bill undermines the autonomy of SACE, and this is indicated in the written input of SADTU.

Mr I Vadi (ANC) said training of teachers should be a "self-responsibility". Why should that be the primary responsibility of the State? He said he could not conceive of SACE running training courses for teachers, that should be left to teacher colleges. He said it is possible that it would be confusing SETA functions with those of SACE if the latter were to be involved in training.

A.) SADTU said they are not confusing SACE functions with what SETAs have to do. The Department of Education has to make sure it contributes to development of the profession though SADTU agrees teachers should develop themselves as individuals. The union is aware SACE cannot ensure that all teachers are trained

Mr M Mangena (AZAPO) pointed out that when one talks of the autonomy of SACE, this should also refer to independence from union influence as well. The Council should not be seen as just an extension of the unions or a bargaining council.

A.) SADTU said they would like to emphasise that government should not control SACE. Unions had agreed to participate as educators and not as unions per se in SACE. The consensus is in line with the principles and objectives agreed to at the conception of SACE.

SADTU is arguing that to determine the eighteen educator representatives in SACE, proportional representation or vote weighting should be used. The ELRC would then be used to prevent a deadlock necessitating the Minister's intervention to appoint the 18 representatives.

The Chairperson asked whether SADTU suggests that the number of educators representatives be raised.

A.) SADTU said it has not come up with a particular number but the majority of the councillors on the Council should come from the profession.

Discussion with SAOU
Mr Vadi (ANC) pointed out that SACE is no longer a voluntary association as it was made a statutory body in terms of the Employment of Educators Act, and is independent of the Minister and the Department. He emphasised that SACE would now fall under the Bill but the composition would be different, it would not be just redressing the old SACE.

Mr Gaum (NNP) observed the Department would have a direct interest in SACE because the body is different from, for instance, the Law Society in that the Department of Education pays the teachers while this is not the case with the law profession.

Mr Ntuli said the Memorandum of Understanding was a transitional document which suggests that it is "not cast in stone". The composition of the Council is bound to be different now because the body is not where unions come as unions, but it is a body of educators which must stand above union politics and dynamics.

A.) Mr Prinsloo said if officials of the union are to be excluded from SACE then by the same token the Department must be excluded to ensure the independence of SACE. The constituent body represented in SACE is in agreement on how SACE should be governed, and the SAOU is appealing to the Portfolio Committee that they should take note of this.

The composition of the 18 seats erodes the powers of the educators to choose whom they want to represent them. The concern is that the Memorandum of Understanding is not developed in the current Bill.

Ms M Njobe (ANC) said the composition of other councils has shown that people with specialised knowledge of law are required. She said her view is that SACE needs a legal specialist and suggested that it should be one of the five representatives to be chosen by the Department.

The SAOU acknowledged that most councils have a resident legal expert as a member.

Discussion with NAPTOSA
A committee member asked how many members does NAPTOSA propose should represent the educators, since it is opposed to the number 18?

Mr Vadi asked whether NAPTOSA is in support of the weighting of votes. He asked for clarity on the union's position regarding the appointment of the SACE chairperson by the Minister rather than being elected.

A.) Mr Myburgh said the view of NAPTOSA is that the Council is for educators, but other stakeholders have an interest as well. The view is that 75% of representation in SACE should be dedicated to teachers.

On weighting, Mr Myburgh said although NAPTOSA still believes that representation should broadly be along the lines of the ELRC there are a number of educators not represented by unions, a reference being made to those in private schools.

NAPTOSA feels that the exclusion of union officials is an unnecessary restriction on who may represent educators in the Council. It also believes that SACE councillors could choose the best possible person for chairperson.

Regarding funding, although NAPTOSA does not make its stance clear as SADTU does, the object is that SACE should have control over its own budget and programmes. The State has a fundamental duty in as far as professional development is concerned, NAPTOSA does not believe SACE would necessarily be doing training itself but it would exercise an oversight role.

Mr E Mogale (ANC) said 60% of Council members in SACE are representatives of teachers. Does NAPTOSA not see this as an advantage to promote a better image of the profession and show transparency?

A.) Mr Myburgh said NAPTOSA believes the Council should not be a secretive body; the unions agree that teachers should form a large majority of Council members in SACE.

The Chairperson indicated that FEDSAS and the National Interim Steering Committee Association of School Governing Bodies (NASGB) have submitted written inputs but made apologies. He offered an apology for leaving out SACE from the list of stakeholders invited to make submissions at the hearings pointing out that this was due to an omission and was not intentional.

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