Implementation of Tirisano: briefing

Basic Education

21 February 2000
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Meeting report

EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
22 February 2000
IMPLEMENTATION OF TIRISANO

Documents handed out:
Transcript of Minister's address to the Committee (Annexure 1)
Implementation Plan for Tirisano ("Working Together")
Legislation for introduction to Parliament in 2000 session (Annexure 2)
Notes on meeting of Curriculum Review Committee, Pretoria, 21February 2000
Memorandum on the Business Trust Initiative (Annexure 3)
School Calendar for Public Schools for 2001
Regulations for school quality improvement and a new 'supervisory' service

SUMMARY
The Minister of Education, Professor Kader Asmal, briefed the Portfolio Committee on Tirisano, a programme which encompasses the Ministry's priorities for the next five years. The implementation plan has been organised into five core areas and programmes have been developed around those areas.

MINUTES
The Minister read from his address which introduced the Department's five year implementation plan, Tirisano. The Department's nine main priorities have now been integrated into five programme areas.

Additional comments made during his address were:
HIV/AIDS Programme (1)
An important component of the programme is the life skills project which aims at dealing with sexuality and sex education particularly with sexual activity starting at a younger and younger age. Questions which have to be addressed are: what is the incidence of AIDS among young people and teachers? What role can the non-governmental organisations play in this programme? The Minister highlighted the fact that Ms Willemhina May has been appointed as National AIDS officer facilitating the Department's initiatives to combat AIDS.
School Effectiveness and Professionalism (2)
The National Teacher Awards and Most Improved Schools Awards have been initiated and have been met with interest. Regulations have recently been published that encompass norms and standards for educators. To further promote professionalism there are school review mechanisms which will assist the Department in systematically evaluating school performances. There are also individual teacher appraisals. What is expected of teachers and indeed the entire system? For instance, the Minister suggested that there could well be a legitimate expectation that teachers be involved in after school sports activities. There is currently limited physical education in schools.
Literacy Programme (3)
John Samuel, as part of the National Literacy Agency, will be coordinating and directing the national literacy campaign.The Minister stressed that there must be mobilisation and national support of the campaign.
Further and Higher Education (4)
The Department has formed a partnership with the Business Trust in this area.
Cooperative Governance (5)
There is a need for Departments, national and provincial government to perform fully and effectively.
Other activities
White Paper on Education for Learners with Special Education Needs - soon to be taken to Cabinet
Adult Basic Education and Training White Paper - soon to be released

Questions
Mr Molewa (ANC) commended the Minister on his clear report indicating the Ministry's vision. He asked what the current status was regarding the redeployment of teachers. Further he asked whether the Department had any plans for an AIDS pilot project and how they would complete a survey.

Minister Asmal replied that redeployment had arisen because of staff inequalities in schools. The National Education Policy Act had fixed ratios in schools and provinces had had to take these into account. Unfortunately, a consequence was that schools found themselves overstaffed. An agreement had been undertaken with the unions that there would be a closed list from which schools had to appoint teachers. Schools could only look outside the list if it did not contain a suitable candidate. The Minister said he had ordered that the practice be stopped.

He said there were still deficiencies of Mathematics, Science and Biology teachers. A National School Scholarship Fund had been established to assist students who wish to study these courses with a view to teaching. For now, however, the Minister was asking whether retired Mathematics and Science teachers could be asked back, if only on a part time basis.

The Minister confirmed that there must be pilot projects to determine the incidence of HIV/AIDS. He saw it as important that there be no compulsory tests for students. People should feel comfortable enough to volunteer information and to get the treatment they needed. Unfortunately there was still a phobia about disease in our society.

Mr Aucamp (AE) commenting on neutral education, said that it was like a square circle - incompatible with the values of our Constitution. He asked whether we should not give more room to our children's principles, such as Christian Nationalism.

The Minister responded that there was no such thing as 'neutral education'. Furthermore he pointed out that Christian National education was invented by Dr Verwoerd while Christian education is something entirely different. The issue is: what is the value system in the school? In his mind, he said, it had to be the fundamental values of the Constitution such as the right to practice one's culture, language and religion, having regard to the values of equality, non-discrimination and the right to dignity (Article 1), values so entrenched that more than a two thirds majority was needed to amend these principles in the Constitution. Those practicing traditional African religions, Jews and Agnostics were not to be excluded. He said that the mores of the school should not exclude children because alienation results in aggression. The bonding exercise in schools should therefore be Constitutional values and principles.

Mr Mogale (ANC) asked what the Department's plan was regarding children with special needs.

Minister Asmal said that as yet there was no plan or national policy dealing with the large number of people with special needs who were not in educational facilities; for instance, should there be special schools or should they be integrated.

Adv Gaum (NNP) asked when performance-related remuneration for teachers would be implemented.

The Minister said that it was among those conditions and terms of employment which must be negotiated with the unions.

Secondly Adv Gaum asked whether the Council on Higher Education would make a recommendation on the language of instruction when it reports in July.

The Minister said that time was needed, at least six months.

Thirdly Adv Gaum commented on the use of resources by the Department. He said that the success of its plans would depend greatly on how the Department balances personnel and non-personnel expenditure. He also expressed appreciation that the Minister had identified project managers to drive projects since administrators are usually mere paper pushers.

Regarding resources the Minister said that the Department would have to use targets and would have to make some unpopular decisions. He spoke of setting up a liaison committee to target important areas and to set priorities. He said that non-personnel expenditure took a large part of the budget and felt that it should take only fifteen percent of the budget. If we have that he felt that the school-building programme could be managed.

Mr Ellis (DP) asked the Minister for his interpretation of tertiary institutions' autonomy.

The Minister said that there was great pressure on him right now to appoint university administrators to some institutions, in fact he was making his first appointment on Friday. In South Africa, he felt, university autonomy is respected but there is enormous pressure from students and the public to stop financial mismanagement. Already large amounts of money was spent on audits. Where does autonomy and responsibility begin? He illustrated the point by saying that the salaries of vice chancellors are set by council yet there is a great public interest in it. On the one hand the legal authority of council in higher education must be recognised while allowing for free enquiry and the quick intervention which the public expects from the Department.

Ms Benjamin (ANC) said that schools in Black areas have not been built for certain sporting activities. She asked whether there was a standard for the design of newer schools. Also, did this standard take into account social problems such as vandalism?

Minister Asmal noted that often schools are built in the wrong areas with no protection. He said that although there was no standard design a planning unit had been set up in the National Department.

Mr Mpontshane (IFP) said that what the Ministry is envisaging largely depends on capacity. How could the Department build capacity? Also, if a province is failing to perform, what would be done about it?

Minister Asmal said that a new spirit was needed in the civil service and commitment should be brought into the system. Even re-training may be required. In response to the second question, he said that when government fails, the system fails. They had to bring about improvement. The governing bodies should be aware of their rights and responsibilities and identify persons who could become involved.

Ms Shilubana (ANC) asked whether the current work done by former President Nelson Mandela to build schools was related to that of the Department.

The Minister said that Mr Mandela has indicated that he wishes to work within the framework of the Department and use his capacity to attract investment. The Minister felt that this had to be part of a nationally targetted plan.

Mrs Shilubana also asked whether Curriculum 2005 was addressing the educational needs of young people.

The Minister said Curriculum 2005 had to reflect the national approach to education and he stated that scrutiny of it is required.

Lastly, Minister Asmal drew members' attention to the Education Budget Debate on 14 March. The meeting was adjourned.

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