The Department of Basic Education briefed the Portfolio Committee on its Second Quarterly Performnance Report for 2020/21 and presented an Updated Status Report on the Introduction of Coding and Robotics as a new component of the national schools curriculum.
Most of the Department’s non-achievement in the second quarter was related to the usual monitoring and face-to-face engagements being postponed or rescheduled because of COVID-19. The Department’s work was mainly focused on the reopening of schools and protecting the health and safety of learners, teachers, and other related staff in the sector. The Department had been required to cut R2.1 billion from its total budget allocation as a contribution towards funding COVID-19 frontline departments. The Department’s expenditure at the end of the second quarter was 55.3% of its budget, which was where it should be at mid- year.
The report on the introduction of Coding and Robotics detailed the process of finalising the curriculum and outlined where the Department was in that process. The Department is currently waiting for a report back on the proposed curriculum from the quality assurer UMALUSI. A pilot project will then begin with grades R-3 in 200 schools across all provinces and with grade 7 in 1 000 schools across all provinces. A national training team is expected to be trained in March 2021 and this team will train teachers in April. The new curriculum will be taught by existing teachers, after they have been trained. The Department will ensure that schools are equipped to teach coding and robotics as a subject and that all equipment and computers will be stored safely and securely.
Members’ questions covered a wide range of issues, such as the non-payment of educator assistants since December 2020; curriculum recovery measures; refurbishing desks; replacing pit toilets; underspending on infrastructure; infrastructure project completion; the Department’s handling of misconduct by teachers and the Minister’s utterances in the media on rape, and feedback from the working group formed to deal with Programme Performance Measures. On the coding and robotics curriculum, Members asked when feedback from UMALUSI would be received; how the Department would ensure safety and security for the identified schools in the pilot; whether School Governing Bodies and youth formations had been included in the Department’s engagements on the new curriculum; and about the details of the finalisation of the coding and robotics curriculum and its expected full implementation.
[The reasons for introducing an entirely new, separate and distinct curriculum on “coding and robotics” in schools (of equal status to the 3R’s) was given by the Minister of Basic Education in the answer to a Member’s question in December 2020. https://pmg.org.za/committee-question/15204/ ]
The Chairperson opened the virtual meeting, welcoming all present for the Committee to be briefed by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) on its Second Quarterly Performance Report 2020/21 and on the introduction of Coding and Robotics to the national schools curriculum.
The Committee Secretary said that apologies were received from Ms M Sukers (ACDP), who was not feeling well; the Minister, who had to attend a meeting of the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) and the Deputy Minister, who was on business monitoring visits to schools. Mr P Moroatshehla (ANC) would have to leave the meeting early to attend another meeting on amending section 25.
Mr Mathanzima Hubert Mweli, Director-General (DG), DBE, said that the Second Quarterly Report had two parts. Part A is a report on the progress made in the Department’s predetermined objectives and Part B is on financial expenditure.
Part A would be presented by Ms Carol Nuga-Deliwe and Part B by Mr Patrick Khunou.
The Department compared its second quarter performance in the 2020/21 financial year with the previous year. The DG said the comparison showed that there have been vast improvements. There were still areas of underperformance, especially where face-to-face engagements were planned for monitoring such as visiting provinces. This was because of the travel prohibitions caused by Covid-19. Some programmes such as the Second Chance Matric Programme reflect this.
The Department’s expenditure on legal services was quite high. The Department was taken to court ten times in the second quarter. One matter was struck off the roll and not heard; another involved feeding learners when schools were closed. In this regard, the Department contended that it would usually use school management teams and teachers to supervise feeding and it was going to be almost impractical or extremely difficult to provide feeding for learners when schools were closed. The Department was also taken to court by Equal Education and it went to defend itself in that instance. In the other cases, the Department was challenged on the reopening of schools. The Department managed to have the courts rule in its favour. The legal expenditure was incurred to get senior counsel and the team that supported senior counsel to defend the Department on its decisions around getting schools to reopen.
The DG said the presentation would reflect where work has been done in focus schools, the development of concept documents, frameworks, and so on. The Department also had to monitor the class of 2020, to get them settled after lockdown. It supported schools that were struggling and monitored provinces and districts.
Infrastructure was one of the activities that took a while to take off because of the necessary compliance with COVID-19 requirements, having fewer people working on sites, and preparing sites for construction under the COVID-19 requirements.
Regarding the second presentation, in the State of the Nation Address (SONA), last year and the year before an announcement was made that coding and robotics would be piloted in schools after developing the curriculum and was to commence in 2020. This was disrupted due to COVID-19 and the presentation will provide a clear outline and plan on learners’ exposure to coding and robotics and further information on the development of the curriculum.
Presentation 1: DBE Second Quarterly Report (2020/21) Part A: Performance Indicators and Targets
Ms Carol Nuga-Deliwe, Chief Director: Strategic Planning and Research, DBE, took the Committee through the Department’s performance indicators and targets.
As a national department, it is responsible for the oversight of the sector and the Second Quarter performance indicators and targets consider what had been done under conditions of lockdown and then the easing of lockdown restrictions. There are highlights in the presentations; however, the way monitoring and oversight are usually done had to be adapted. A lot of work went to the reopening of schools and protecting the health and safety of learners, teachers, and other related staff in the sector.
There are five programmes in the DBE. More annual targets were set for 2020/21 than before. There were also better achievement levels than in the previous year. Most of the non-achievement was related to the Department’s usual monitoring and face-to-face engagements which had to be postponed or rescheduled.
Programme 1 considers administration, the management, and strategic direction of the Department. Some key indicators in the Quarter were:
- 96% of valid invoices were paid within 30 days, despite the disruptions of COVID-19;
- Misconduct cases were resolved within 90 days, there are quarterly indicators and reports in this regard;
- Several capacity-building programmes are offered to the DBE officials. Most of this training had to be moved to virtual platforms.
- Compliance exercises that are usually done once a year had to be done twice, revisions were tabled in August for 2021.
- The Department had quarterly reporting responsibilities which were done in the second quarter; the First Quarter Performance Report was submitted in this quarter.
- Interviews for senior managers for key senior management positions were completed; the HR plan and implementation reports were submitted; the Department also had to consider managing the effect of the pandemic on the Department as a whole and compiled a list of officials with comorbidities.
- There are ongoing legal cases – see slide 18.
- There was a heavy load for managing regulations and guidelines related to the Disaster Management Act and how the education sector would respond. Directives were issued concerning the education-related legislation being processed such as the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill, Regulations on Special School hostels, and admission policy. Regulations were issued relating to minimum uniform norms and standards for public school infrastructure.
- Other routine compliance issues, relating to financial and expenditure reporting were addressed – see slides 20-21
- Security and asset management focused on preparing the Department’s offices for occupation under the different lockdown guidelines.
- The procurement processes within the Department continued in terms of supply chain management.
- There was a lot of development around the presidential stimulus package and jobs were provided to 300 000 youth as Education Assistants.
- Work is being done in harmonising sector-wide indicators in ensuring that they are audit-proof and getting provinces to adopt these indicators and ensure that they reflect the Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) priorities.
- There was work done with public entities. The Department has internalised and institutionalised this work – see slide 27.
- There was work on ICT: generating service level agreements, and ensuring that the ICT within the department was ‘fit for purpose’ in terms of the requirements of the Department, especially in the terms of the current heavy online work.
- Early childhood language development and reading support has been further implemented, particularly in schools represented in quintiles 1 to 3 – see slide 29.
- Parliamentary and business processes: a lot of work has gone into operationalising the parliamentary system – see slide 31.
- There has been a lot of interaction with key stakeholders – see slide 32.
- The DBE received R7 billion for employment stimulus.
- There was interaction with international organisations and countries on their experiences and responses to the pandemic especially when those responses aligned with what this sector had experienced. Donations of water tanks, COVID-19 supplies, and laptops were received, amongst others.
- There was virtual work with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) – see slide 36.
- Several agreements that benefitted schools in terms of nutrition and other agreements with other key stakeholders to provide support to schools were developed and finalised.
Programme 2 involves curriculum policy, support, and monitoring.
This programme mainly considers monitoring implementation after the curriculum standards are set. Very little monitoring happened in the second quarter because schools were closed and due to the lockdown requirements within the sector. Quarter 3 and 4 targets were pushed forward, it will be seen that quarter 2 targets exceed what was expected. See detailed monitoring activities and targets in presentation slides 40-70
Programme 3 deals with promoting quality teaching and institutional performance through the effective supply, development, and utilisation of human resources. See detailed targets slides 83-94. [Ms Nuga-Deliwe skipped most of this section as the presentation slides are lengthy and finely detailed. See slides 95-102.]
Programme 4 involves planning, information, and assessment.
- This programme looks at infrastructure, and it will be seen that due to constructive concerns and delays during lockdown the targets for new schools were not met.
- There were many schools served with emergency water and sanitation.
- For most of the programme 4 indicators, the work is ongoing and on track for quarters 3 and 4.
- There is an ongoing mentoring programme.
- In planning to improve support for struggling schools, all nine provinces submitted a report on their support needs.
See detailed targets on slides 104-116.
Programme 5 deals with educational enrichment services.
- The backlog in the monitoring of the provision of nutritious meals was cleared.
- There was further catch-up on district monitoring of the implementation of the National School Safety Framework (NSSF) to make up for negative performance in quarter 1.
- Through virtual fora, the number of participants in social cohesion programmes was boosted.
- Ms Nuga-Deliwe asked Members to refer to the slides on programme 5 for the details.
See slides 127 -137
Presentation 1: DBE Second Quarterly Report (2020/21) Part B: Second Quarter Expenditure
Mr Patrick Khunou, Deputy Director General: Finance and Administration, DBE, said that the adjusted budget of the Department for the 2020/21 financial year amounts to R23.2 billion. 82% of that budget is allocated to transfer payments. The balance of the budget is allocated to compensation of employees and other Departmental expenditure – see slide 139.
The total expenditure for the Second Quarter was R12.8 billion of which R11.8 billion was transfer payments. Departmental expenditure amounted to R956.3 million.
The table on slide 141 breaks down the budget adjustments. The Department was required to reduce its planned budget by R2.1 billion of the total allocation. This was diverted towards funding COVID-19 frontline departments, making the final budget R23.2 billion. [Detail of reductions in presentation slides 142-143]
The table on slide 146 shows detailed expenditure to the end of the Second Quarter (September 2020), representing 55.3% of the budget. This is where the budget should be in the middle of the year. Under programme 2 the bulk of the under-expenditure was within the workbooks and the Second Chance Programmes. Most of the delivery of the workbooks was to happen in October 2020, this is after the Second Quarter. The spending under the Second Chance Programme was expected to increase after the lockdown. All transfers for conditional grants went through as planned.
The high expenditure under programme 3 was due to the full payment of the Funza Lushaka Bursaries to universities at the beginning of the year.
The table on slide 149 shows the same budget information but is broken up by economic classifications. Further detail is on slide 150.
Compensation of employees was lower than expected as the Department was still restructuring and during this period, a moratorium was placed on filling vacant posts. The moratorium has been lifted and vacant posts are in the process of being filled. This may continue throughout the year.
The low spending on goods and services was due to the impact of lockdown restrictions on inter-provincial travel. Monitoring could not take place as projected.
The low spending on the payment of capital assets was because most of the procurement for computers was not processed/ordered due to lockdown restrictions and most IT service providers were not operational. There is a general shortage of computers throughout the country.
Regarding low expenditure under the schools’ infrastructure grant, most of the construction companies were closed and no construction was taking place. However, since the lifting of the lockdown restrictions to lower levels, the construction has resumed, and expenditure is expected to accelerate in the third quarter.
Most of the earmarked funds were for monitoring purposes which include travelling to the provinces, which could not take place due to lockdown restrictions.
Spending on conditional grants was on par with the expectations in the middle of the year.
Other transfers: Most of the transfers are made to foreign organisations and they are paid in the last quarter of the financial year. The expenditure for this item will escalate in the last quarter.
Transfers to public entities also took place as scheduled.
The Chairperson asked the Department to proceed with the second presentation.
Presentation 2: Updated Status Report on Introduction of Coding and Robotics
Mr Seliki Tlhabane, Chief Director: Maths, Science, Technology and ICT, DBE, said that the presentation details the plans of the DBE to equip learners with skills that they would require to function as members of society based on the changes happening around them. This is a global phenomenon. The planned development ‘places digital skills into the basket of skills required by citizens to function effectively in the future world.’
Historically the skills required were reading, writing, and arithmetic. Recently, the DBE introduced life orientation to teach life skills as every responsible citizen needed to possess this skill. Moving to the future, if a citizen does not possess digital skills, they would not be able to function. Understanding how technology works will be very important.
The President had announced that the coding and robotics curriculum would be introduced in 200 schools across all provinces for grades R-3 in 2021. Slide 8 shows the breakdown of the number of schools per province. There will also be a pilot for grade 7 which will take place in 1 000 schools across all provinces. Slide 9 shows the breakdown of the number of schools per province.
To introduce any curriculum, certain things are to be in place:
- There must be a written and approved curriculum.
- There must be trained subject advisors and orientated and trained teachers to teach the curriculum.
- There must be Learning, Teaching, Support Materials (LTSM) such as workbooks or digital resources.
- The schools that are offering the subject must be ready and equipped with the necessary resources (workshops, labs) depending on the subject.
- There must be clear guidelines on how the subject will be assessed.
The Director-General appointed a diverse team of writers to write the curriculum. This team included DBE and Provincial Education Department (PED) specialists, stakeholders with expertise and knowledge in the field of Coding and Robotics from business and sister government departments such as the Department of Higher Education, teacher unions, academia from five universities, and the NGO Sector.
The curriculum has been written and presented to the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) who approved it. The next step was handing the curriculum over to UMALUSI for evaluation and quality assurance. UMALUSI will then provide the Director General with a report on its findings on the curriculum. After this report, the curriculum will be strengthened based on UMALUSI’s recommendations. The Minister will also invite public comments on the curriculum. This public feedback and feedback from the teachers piloting the curriculum will be infused with the curriculum to strengthen it. Once this is complete, the Minister will then promulgate the curriculum as policy. It then becomes part of the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) and an official subject that schools can offer.
Training of teachers and subject advisors
All nine provinces were given the number of teachers, coordinators, and subject advisors to be trained. All provinces provided those teachers. There are to be three teachers per pilot school and all provinces have submitted the list of teachers to be trained from the foundation phase and grade 7. The training model will be both face-to-face and online. The Department is working with UNISA in this regard as a training provider. Teachers will receive credits.
In terms of the process, LTSM comes last because the curriculum needs to be approved first before the workbooks/textbooks are written. This is because, if resources are invested in a workbook/textbook and UMALUSI reports back with material input that requires changes to the curriculum; or if feedback by the public suggests major revamping to the curriculum, there would be wasted expenditure.
Other resources are being developed to assist with training such as lesson plans and teacher guides.
Very little work is required here because unlike other subjects requiring workshops and laboratories, this subject does not require dedicated rooms in the school to be taught. The approach that was adopted for physical science in schools will be adopted too, physical science requires laboratories, but it is known that in many schools there are no laboratories, but it has been able to be taught and produce distinctions in schools without laboratories. A lack of laboratories should not stop coding and robotics from being taught.
An audit will be conducted on schools’ resources so that schools will be able to have the basic resource pack to teach the subject. Guidelines on exams and assessments are being developed to assist.
The Department will present to the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC). This engagement is important because the plan has implications for labour, the school day, timetabling, and teachers may have to add this subject to their timetable.
There is an implementation roadmap showing what will happen from now to 2025 – see slide 27.
A management plan has been developed showing what has been done since 2019 and progress had been marked – see slides 28-33
The plan has been impacted by COVID-19. The National Training Team was to be trained this week; this team would then train teachers. The delay in reopening of schools has impacted this, as many persons in this team are officials currently monitoring the reopening of schools and the training has therefore been postponed. Similarly, teachers were to be trained during the school holidays, however, due to school holidays being pushed back, training has also been pushed back.
There will be ongoing monitoring, support, and evaluation – see slide 34.
Mr Tlhabane concluded by recognising the generosity of funding partners – see slide 36.
Mr Mweli said that the presentations from the Department were complete.
The Chairperson thanked the Department for its presentations and asked Members for their questions.
Mr S L Ngcobo (IFP) greeted all present and commended the Department for its inclusion of the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) in the engagement on robotics because this provides teachers with an opportunity to meaningfully engage with the Department and labour under one roof. He was also interested to know when the Department expects to receive input from UMALUSI.
Dr S Thembekwayo (EFF) asked whether the working group that convened on 30 September 2020 (slide 26: 1st presentation) to discuss the Programme Performance Measures (PPMs) issues for finalisation had any due date to report back to the Department on the level of readiness, as they had been sent out to gather that information. Safety and security assessments are to take place between 1 and 5 March 2021 slide 31: second presentation). Safety and security has been a massive problem for schools in South Africa; if a safety and security problem is found in the identified schools what is the Department’s plan to strengthen the security and safety in these schools? During the first presentation [see the title slide], there was a theme that read that ‘Every child is a National Asset’ and she wanted to dwell on misconduct by teachers. She referred to the misconduct of Mr Motsamai Molete, an ex-teacher from Phahama High School who was fired for seven charges of sexual harassment and rape of seven different students. Upon discovery by the media, he was an acting principal at John Martin primary school, a Catholic school for that matter. Parents were concerned and so was the party (EFF) which intervened. Today, he is said to be on precautionary suspension. In 2014, the Member of the Executive Committee (MEC) for Education [in Gauteng] signed the form for his dismissal with immediate effect, but at the same time, the district under the DBE, aware of this matter, continued to hire this teacher irrespective of the findings made against him and the complaints by teachers and students of their safety. The district threatened the expulsion of teachers if this came out. This misconduct goes against the Minister saying that ‘educated men do not rape’; this was an educated man that did rape; what is the Department doing about this? How can the Department allow such misconduct to occur under its eye?
Ms N Adoons (ANC) greeted all present and appreciated the two presentations. In the Second Quarterly Report, the Department should be applauded for the progress it has made performing at 55 or 56% which was more than its [expected] performance by the end of the second quarter’ (slide 146). She also needed to acknowledge the feedback on the outcomes and progress of the legal cases and the part that the Department played in where we are as the country. The second presentation was insightful, and a lot of information had been presented. A lot of the work has not been done because of COVID-19 and she is worried that there are no new clear timelines on when the pilot project will be completed. Regarding the schools identified in the provinces, is there a special school also forming part of the pilot project? On the Department’s consultation or engagement, it is proposed that School Governing Bodies (SGBs) and youth formations in schools are included to ensure that communities and society are empowered. We are delayed in our preparation for the fourth industrial revolution and as and when the Department has an opportunity, SGBs and youth formations should be empowered as they are very important stakeholders for the sector.
Ms D van der Walt (DA) noted that in the presentation (slide 24: first presentation), there was a reference to the educator assistants, specifically the 300 000 that was appointed. In a previous meeting, the Committee commented on their payment. The Committee has begun its national oversight visits and on the day before [15 February], in Limpopo, it was found again that there are schools where these assistants have not been paid since December. The schools have no money to pay the assistants – when will these couple of thousand teacher assistants be paid? It is already the middle of February and the issue will not disappear. The Committee would like exact, factual details on payment. She had read the Second Quarterly Report thoroughly which was written and presented well. There is a reference to the years before in these programmes, but basic education is not in its usual comfortable space. The presentation lacks an overall adjustment to catch up on the curriculum since last year when COVID-19 hit – it cannot be ‘business as usual’. All these dreams can be written, and we can hope to achieve them, but there must be proper provision to catch up on the curriculum. Curriculum completion will take too long by attending school on alternative days. A lesson that could have usually taken teachers a day or 3 periods to complete will now take weeks. The Committee will pick up on this when it visits schools and checks everything. There must be an adjustment to the programme for the second quarter and then the other quarters to follow if we want to catch up and see fewer dropouts. Ms Van der Walt said she had often questioned the Minister on desks. During the visit to schools on the previous day, many old desks were seen piled in school yards. She had asked the Minister if the community could get involved to fix the frames and then get someone else to assist with putting desktops on those desks. There are still learners without desks, and this will hamper the COVID-19 social distancing efforts. The Minister always replied that there is a programme with the Department of Correctional Services, but there have not been any results. While there is a shortage of desks, what is being done with the desks lying outside in the weather? Also, we are lying if we tell South Africans that there are no more pit toilets when just a few kilometres away from where…
Ms Adoons interrupted Ms van der Walt and raised a point of order.
Ms Adoons said that she is disturbed because all Members went for these oversight visits for the reopening of schools and she is unsure if that should be discussed in the Committee meeting only when there is a meeting for a presentation on the reopening of schools. The present meeting was to deal with the Second Quarterly Report and the presentation on Coding and Robotics, yet Members could be tempted to present what was found at the schools visited. She humbly requested that the Committee sticks to the agenda.
The Chairperson asked Ms van der Walt to concentrate on the presentations of the meeting.
Ms Van der Walt replied that if the documents were read well, references to all points she raised could be found. She had a right to raise these issues as they are important, but she has said her ‘words’ and Ms Adoons’ were a bit too late as she was done.
Mr B Nodada (DA) said that it was unfortunate that the Minister was not present in the meeting. He intended to begin with the remarks the Minister made in the media which the Committee received. As a leader of this Department, it was disappointing that she would publicly state those utterances on rape. As an oversight body, the Committee would have asked her to publicly retract them in the meeting and apologise. Rape is a very sensitive matter, and the Minister and her Department’s focus should be on the issues faced by learners and teachers on the ground, such as awful conditions without water and sanitation, learners not having the school nutrition programme delivered to them, and various others. In the Second Quarterly Report, there is an underspending of R1.7 billion for programmes 2 and 4. There is an indication that there has not been a transfer of the Maths, Science, and Technology (MST) grants which were lower than projected at R43.2 million. [Not clear that the information referred to by Mr Nodada was from the slide presentation, which has different amounts.] This is concerning because we have been scoring very low for those subjects and the Committee has been doing oversight on the challenges in maths, science and technology. He wanted to raise this concern because this was done because of the special adjustments made to the budget during this period where money was given to “ridiculous” entities like SAA. The infrastructure grant was where most of the underspending was. He acknowledged the point of order raised by Ms Adoons but the reality is that the report itself speaks to the situation on the ground and the issues raised by Ms van der Walt. The R1.5 billion making up 20% of underpayments for capital assets and ‘infrastructure assets for the infrastructure backlogs in schools and the transfers of subsidies to education entities for infrastructure’ is concerning [Document references were not given]. Why was the R1.5 billion lower than projected? What effect has this had on those infrastructure projects? Was there a plan in place to ensure that those projects resume and are completed, and that underspending is utilised? The schools still have pit toilets. The Committee visited Limpopo, Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal and this is not a “story that was made up” so when there is an underspending of R1.5 billion it becomes a concern, and it is unacceptable that the transfer of the education infrastructure grant was lower than projected at R1.1 billion. R570 000 was spent on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). [Document references were not given]. Has the Department found any irregularities and has there been any consequence management for them? On coding and robotics, Mr Nodada wanted to know when the curriculum would be finalised and approved to ensure that there is a full rollout. When will all schools benefit? When will the lessons from those piloted schools, in the form of a report, be shared with the Committee? How are the plans to ensure that teacher training prepares prospective teachers in this type of initiative and has that started? Is there a timeline for this; how will they be trained and through what, considering it being on the curriculum?
Mr Ngcobo asked the Department to address the problem of laboratories in schools. Acknowledging the past, and the inequalities that existed for schools, we have come a long way. While, in the past, schools had to operate without them, by now we should expect that all or most schools have laboratories.
Mr Mweli thanked the Chairperson and the Committee for their questions and comments raised. He requested that Ms Simone Geyer and Mr Thlabane address questions on the first presentation, Dr Whittle would address school security and safety; Mr Khunou could comment on expenditure and he would address the questions raised by Mr Nodada on infrastructure and Ms van der Walt on the curriculum.
The Department’s presentations have the answers to the questions asked and the Department would demonstrate this in its responses. For example, the curriculum recovery plan has been presented to the Committee and the Department had addressed how curriculum recovery could be ensured after the curriculum was trimmed towards the end of 2020. The Department will again respond to those issues. Ms Geyer and Mr Tlhabane were asked to begin the responses.
Mr Tlhabane said that the guidance by the Committee in terms of involving School Governing Bodies (SGBs) and student formations is appreciated.
The timelines for the implementation of coding and robotics are detailed in the management plan that is part of the presentation. The slide on the roadmap [slide 27: second presentation] indicates when full implementation is expected. Full implementation will take a phased-in approach, for example, for Grades R-3 and grade 7 will be January 2023, for grades 4-6 and 8 in 2024, and grade 9 in 2029. The Committee can refer to the roadmap and the timeframes later.
On the response from UMALUSI’s evaluation report, the Department is unable to say when this will be received because UMALUSI must have completed its evaluation and satisfied itself. The Department has not given UMALUSI a deadline but as indicated, it should not take years. Once UMALUSI has assembled its team of experts, a response could take about six months where UMALUSI should be able to present the Department with a report and thereafter infuse its recommendations and public comments into the draft curriculum which could take less than two months. Those are the indicative timeframes for how long the curriculum finalisation could take.
On training teachers, the management plan [slides 30-33: second presentation] indicated exactly when teachers would be trained; in the second presentation it was indicated that teachers would be trained during the school holidays from 26 to 30 April 2021, there is a public holiday on the 27th and the plan accommodates this. Before this training, the national training team will have their training from 8 to 19 March 2021. This team will be responsible for training teachers who will all be existing teachers.
On laboratories, while we are not where we should be, there has been great progress in ensuring that schools have laboratories. No new school in the country is being built without a laboratory being included as a standard in the school’s design. Through recapitalisation, the Maths, Science, and Technology (MST) conditional grant, and the infrastructure grant, the Department is also providing laboratories to schools in the provinces, there is progress.
The input and guidance from the Committee were appreciated.
Mr Mweli asked Mr Padayachee to the comment on the Basic Education Employment Initiative (BEEI) and observations made by Ms van der Walt.
Mr Paddy Padayachee, Deputy Director General: Planning, Information, and Assessment, DBE, said in reply to Dr Thembekwayo on the PPMs that their development is an annual process. The post-provisioning establishment must be declared by 30 September by the MECs responsible for basic education in provinces. That is then given to schools based on the indicative budget. We are now in the current year and what has been done in September last year is being implemented.
Replying to Ms van der Walt, it is correct that there are assistants that have not received their stipend for December and January and there are various reasons for that which he would not get into. The issue is that their stipend was not paid—this is in Limpopo and four other provinces totalling just under 10% of the total number of assistants contracted. The majority has been paid. The Department has been in engagements with the provinces since early January. There are weekly meetings with provinces, the Director General has also had meetings and the Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) have reported in that respect. The following week [starting 22 February 2021] will be the last working week and there might be an issue with February payments. However, provinces have said that they have plans to effect payments.
In a meeting with the project management team [on 15 February 2021], it was agreed that the CFOs of the Department would have a meeting with all CFOs before Thursday [18 February], because there is a meeting with the Minister requiring a report back in that regard. The Department is working on eliminating the issues and it is key to ensure that they do not continue in the months to follow.
Mr Mweli asked Mr Dawid van der Westhuijzen to comment on infrastructure. There was no response from Mr Van der Westhuijzen.
Dr Whittle was asked to address school safety.
Dr Granville Whittle, Deputy Director General: Educational Enrichment Services, DBE, said that the security issue referred to in the second presentation is the safety of the equipment that will be provided to schools regarding coding and robotics. The Department works closely with the South African Police Service (SAPS) and recently, they have finalised an app with Sanlam, one of its partners, that would allow the reporting of incidents at various schools in real time and then for the police to respond adequately to that. He is working with Ms Simone Geyer’s branch: Planning and Delivery Oversight, to look at specific measures to be taken for the pilot schools to ensure that the equipment provided to those schools is safe.
Mr Mweli said that the Department would do its best to address the concerns that were raised. He would follow up with UMALUSI to ensure that it does not take too long.
The Department is addressing the issue of laboratories and this is related to safety. The Department is advising schools to go for laboratories that can be secured somewhere, and many schools are going for ‘lab kits’ instead of a traditional four-walled laboratory. Some schools that have broadband and electricity are using virtual laboratories.
He and Dr Thembekwayo would have to work together, as they usually do, to follow up on the acting principal situation [at the John Martin private school in Gauteng] to provide feedback on the matter and how it has been addressed.
Ms Adoons was thanked for commending the Department’s performance.
The Committee may have missed the timeframes included in the roadmap and management plan. The Committee’s advice will be taken and the SGBs, professional bodies, and others will be involved.
On payment of assistants, Ms van der Walt was spot on. The Department has weekly meetings with provinces and its “biggest fight" is the payment of the assistants. It is correct that several of them have not been paid since December. He has also received calls from all over the country of assistants not being paid. This matter has not been fully addressed and he agreed that it will not go away. The only way to address it is to ensure that the assistants are paid.
On the adjustment of the curriculum [in the light of COVID-19 disruptions], a recovery plan had already been presented to the Committee. Looking back at it, teachers reported to schools on 1 February, which is two weeks before the learners started. The purpose of getting learners back on the 15th was to factor in the 13 days less than would have been allocated in the original school calendar which has now been amended. In one-on-one meetings with provinces, the Department has asked what teachers have been doing in these two weeks. The response was that they are trying to factor in the amendments in the annual teaching plans brought about by the minus 13 days from the school calendar. The Department will continue to monitor this. He was pleased that Ms Van der Walt has given feedback from the Committee’s side as there may be gaps in the information received by the Department. Unions are also doing this and have conducted two surveys so far, the first was on 18 January and they shared it with the Department on 27 January and the second was received the previous Saturday [13 February 2021]. This information was shared with all senior managers in the Department, including provinces to fill any information gaps as well.
On refurbishing desks, an important point was made which he fully identified with. He was once involved in running a project of this nature when he was in education in the North West. The Department of Correctional Services has made an undertaking to do that work and the DBE has been meeting with them. There are instances where there has not been cooperation with provinces and the DBE is trying to ensure that there is cooperation. This could save the government lots of money as those desks at schools could be collected and refurbished.
On pit toilets, he was not sure where the Department had said that there were no longer pit toilets. The pit toilets are still there and may continue to run for another year or two. A problem faced by the Department is that even after replacing these toilets, it has been struggling to get schools to demolish them. For example, there was a tragic event in the Eastern Cape where a learner was found in a pit toilet no longer in use. A new toilet was built, but the pit toilet was kept. The Department is trying to ensure that once toilets that replace those pit toilets are built, the pit toilets must be demolished. He travels to all nine provinces, and the reality is that pit toilets still exist. The intention is to eradicate them. The Sanitation Appropriate for Education (SAFE) programme will not end until there are no longer pit toilets. A number of these pit toilets have started to be replaced and there is a meeting with the Minister and the Deputy Minister every Friday to report to them on this.
On underspending in infrastructure, what the Committee might have seen in previous years might not be seen this year. The Department wants to link the expenditure with several projects. The Department has been pushing implementing agents to complete projects at 75% completion of construction, and projects left with final touches. He meets with implementing agents individually on Mondays, Mr Dawid van der Westhuijzen [DDG Infrastructure, DBE] meets with them on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and on Thursdays, the Department meets with CEOs and heads of implementing agents to present a report to them that then goes to the Ministry on Friday. That is the pressure that the Department has organised to ensure that there is better performance in infrastructure rollout this year.
On the MST grant, he was not sure of the question but if it referred to cuts; the Department has had cuts throughout including other allocations and grants. He does not anticipate that the Department underspent in the MST grant.
To Mr Nodada, attention must be brought to the fact that the scores in the Trends in International Mathematics & Science Study (TIMSS) report presented in December showed trends that there has been an improvement in scores for international maths and science studies for grade 5 but there has not been much improvement in grade 9. It is agreed that more can be done if all resources are put to good use.
Mr Mweli said he has spoken on the infrastructure grant extensively. The Portfolio and Select Committees have had comprehensive meetings with all nine departments and the DBE on PPE. The first and second reports of the Auditor General were presented to the Portfolio and Select Committees and we were told where there were areas of irregular expenditure and so on. It was extensively discussed in the Portfolio Committee and that information is still available.
Mr Tlhabane responded to concerns on coding and robotics. The curriculum is complete. The Department is waiting for UMALUSI to approve it as the quality assurer which is part of the process. He would follow up to ensure that the wait for approval is not too long as the pilot goes on. The roadmap is clear regarding when all learners will benefit. The details are in the second presentation in the slides on the management plan. The same applies to teacher training. If an issue was not addressed it was a mistake, he thought everything that was raised by Members was covered. He thanked the Chairperson and the Committee for its oversight.
Mr Tlhabane said “on a lighter note” that he knew that UMALUSI would release the [matric] results because he had seen the legislation. He was not happy with the way the results are released. [Mr Tlhabane referred to the judgment of the Pretoria High Court, on 11 December 2020, to set aside the DBE’s decision to have a “leaked” physical science paper and a maths paper rewritten]. To be honest, the court decision last year created a difficult situation as the results of some learners have to be released while the investigation continues. Some learners may get their results or certificates withdrawn while they are studying. The right thing to do globally in education is that if the extent of the leak cannot be identified there should be a rewrite. There have been extensive investigations, since the court ruling. There have been about five investigations and the extent of the leak cannot be found. The logical thing to do is a rewrite. The Department has tried to ensure that learners are not placed in a difficult situation. Their results must be released while the Hawks and the service provider specialising in IT continues with the investigation. [See Spies and others v DBE and others http://www.saflii.org/za/cases/ZAGPPHC/2020/734.pdf ]
Mr Tlhabane said the utterances by the Minister were “above his level” and he was sure that the Minister will address the issues raised by Members when she has time. She had issued a statement and people had not responded well to it, but he knows that she will address it.
The Chairperson thanked Mr Mweli and asked the Committee for any follow-up questions. There were no follow-up questions.
The Department was thanked for its thorough response to the questions asked.
The Department was formally released from the meeting so that the Committee could consider the minutes of its previous meeting.
The Chairperson took the Committee through the minutes of 10 February 2021 and asked for any corrections. There were no corrections. The adoption of the minutes was proposed by Ms Adoons seconded by Mr Ngcobo. The minutes were adopted.
The meeting was adjourned.
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