Education Laws, Higher Education, National Student Financial Aid Scheme Bills: briefing

Basic Education

21 September 1999
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

21 September 1999

Documents handed out:
Education Laws Amendment Bill [B44-99]
National Student Financial Aid Scheme [B48-99]
Higher Education Amendment Bill [B45-99]

Members of the Department of Education briefed the committee on three important Bills: The Education Laws Amendment Bill [B44-99] which incorporates and restructures four earlier Bills; the National Student Financial Aid Scheme Bill; the Higher Education Amendment Bill [B45-99]. The first and third Bills are amendments and are merely plugging gaps in the education system. Questions were on matters of clarity, not content, as it was an overview on the Bills.

Education Laws Amendment Bill:
Advocate Boshoff explained that this single Bill amends:
i) the South African Certification Council Act, 1986, because so many problems are experienced with exams.
ii) the National Education Policy Act, 1996
iii) the South African Schools Act, 1996
iv) the Employment of Educators Act, 1998

The South African Certification Council Act was a "very untidy" Act and no one is responsible for reporting exam results as well as irregularities. Now the functions of the examining body in relation to external exams is clearly defined. The National Education Policy Act, 1996 has small amendments. The South African Schools Act, 1996 has crucial amendments, specifically with regard to the closing down or amalgamation of schools, the composition of the governing body and the raising of funds on school property (Chapter fourteen). The Employment of Educators Act, 1998 deals with the employment of teachers which must occur within two months after a recommendation by the governing body (Chapter sixteen) and clarifies the temporary transfer of teachers.

Questions and Answers to the Bill:
1. The Labour Relations Act deals with time frames for governing bodies to make appointments
2. Farm schools can only be closed by the MEC of that province, not the farmer. There is a contractual arrangement between the two regarding the use of the building.
3. There are financial implications in moving teachers, but only with regards travel allowances, small in comparison to employing a temporary teacher.
4. On the question of how influential the teacher unions are when teachers are really professionals, it was pointed out that unions play a large role and educators are also part of the Civil Service.
5. Illiterate rural parents can play a useful role on governing bodies and in time training courses in literacy will take place.

National Student Financial Aid Scheme Bill
Ms N Badsha (from the Department) said the Bill provides for the management, grievances and administration of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme. It will be a loan and bursaries scheme for all tertiary institutions and responsible for the recovery of those loans. The scheme will be administered by a Board, which should be a statutory body. The main funding is from the Government (R390 million this year) because there has been a gradual decline in donor funding. It is crucial to recover loans so in terms of Chapter 21(3) a defaulter can be blacklisted, the defaulter's employers must make deductions and to make it operate effectively there must be a complete database.

Higher Education Amendment Bill
This amendment to the original Act of 1977, which needed to be tidied up in a range of detail, e.g. that the chairperson of Senate be the principal of that institution. It distinguishes between foreigners and permanent residents as this affects fees. The Minister can intervene if financial management is not properly done (Section six)

Questions and Answers to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme and the Higher Education Amendment Bills
1. The scheme of loans is linked to income, so if candidate is not earning, then the person is not blacklisted.
2. There is quite a high percentage recovery of loans compared with other countries.
3. Loans are not determined by career paths. Two criteria are academic merit and potential. But the applicant must be financially needy.
4. There are no quotas for admission of foreign students, but the institution is responsible for whom is admitted. At present enrolment has dropped so there is space for foreigners to enrol.
5. The Board controlling loans are made up of a person from the Departments of Education and Finance, eleven nominated persons by the public and appointed by the Minister. Some members can be co-opted.

The next meeting is planned for October 12th, after a visit to a school.


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