Engagement with Teacher Unions; with Deputy Minister
03 March 2021
Chairperson: Ms B Mbingo-Gigaba (ANC)
Video: Portfolio Committee on Basic Education [NA]
In a virtual meeting, the Committee met with the National Teachers Union (NATU), the Suid-Afrikaanse Onderwysersunie (SAOU), the Professional Educators’ Union (PEU), the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (NAPTOSA), and the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU). The teacher unions briefed the Committee on the challenges they had identified and were faced with in the education sector.
SADTU’s presentation made it clear that the hold of apartheid on education and society had to be disabled, and that this could be done only through substantive transformation of education in the country. The curriculum had to empower teachers and students alike. Covid-19 had shed light on many of the issues of inequality in education that required the development of teachers and the curriculum to enable the production of students with critical skills. The funding model had to be made school-specific to take into account the disparities evident in the capacity of poor schools compared to rich schools, to obtain resources and properly educate students. The psychological wellbeing of teachers was important, and something had to be done about the administration overload. Early Childhood Development (ECD) educators had to be absorbed into mainstream education, and that element of education had to be better funded. The existing consultative structures had to be better utilised.
SAOU’s presentation highlighted that the budget for education would grow by R28.9 bn in 2023/24, which meant it would grow by only 1.88% per annum, indicating a step-back in terms of inflation. Class sizes would likely increase, which was concerning. Remuneration of teachers was poor and had to be improved. Temporary post level one educators were not being made permanent after three months, and something had to be done about this. No guidance had been given to schools on the movement to Alert Level 1, which needed to be done.
PEU’s presentation indicated that in many rural schools, even with the limit on 50% attendance due to Covid-19, classes were overcrowded, which meant that some students attended only once a week, and in grade 1 especially, teachers had to re-teach the same lesson as students had forgotten what they had learnt the previous week. The Committee and the Department of Basic Education (DBE) had to work to expedite redress at these schools which were suffering.
The presentation of NATU showed that many provincial Heads of Departments and school principals were antagonistic towards teachers who were members of unions, and often the Heads of Departments ignored the unions when issues were raised with them. Grade R teachers had to be absorbed into mainstream education. The new system that was used for applications for teacher positions was not functioning, nor was it transparent. Teachers who had been qualified for years were not getting employed, while teachers who had qualified only recently were. Some schools received funding to purchase resources extremely late and thus had no capacity to start the school year. Water and sanitation had to be improved, and dilapidated schools required urgent attention
The presentation of NAPTOSA emphasised that education employees had to be recognised and treated better. The psycho-social wellbeing of teachers was extremely important, yet it was disregarded. The existing consultative structures had to be better utilised to avoid litigation. The concurrent national and provincial powers complicated national policy enforcement. NAPTOSA wanted to ensure that national policies were not watered down in the provinces. Agreements at the provincial level had to mirror those of the national level, otherwise there would be, and had been, disjuncture. All of these issues were urgent and had to be addressed.
Members felt strongly that issues of poor infrastructure, teacher development, water and sanitation, and ECD funding were priorities that the DBE had to address. It was acknowledged that ECD was crucial, and funding had to be invested into that area. Education in the country had to improve. Members asked the unions what programmes they had to support the psycho-social wellbeing of teachers. They were adamant that going forward, there had to be more Committee engagements with the unions to ensure a better working relationship that would benefit the education sector.
The Chairperson welcomed everyone to the meeting, and invited the Members to introduce themselves, which they all did.
Dr Reginah Mhaule, Deputy Minister of Basic Education, introduced herself to the Committee. She said that she would leave the meeting early to attend a Cabinet committee meeting. She greeted the union leaders.
The Committee Secretary said he had received apologies for Mr B Yabo (ANC), Dr S Thembekwayo (EFF) and Ms M Sukers (ACDP).
The Chairperson requested the leadership of the National Teachers Union (NATU), the Suid-Afrikaanse Onderwysersunie (SAOU), the Professional Educators’ Union (PEU), the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (NAPTOSA), and the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) to introduce themselves to the Committee. The union leaders introduced themselves.
The Chairperson commented that it was unfortunate to meet with the unions for the first time virtually. They were meeting after the release of the matric results, with the class of 2020 being, in the Committee’s view, the highest performing class. Everyone understood the circumstances under which the students had studied. Nevertheless, they had applied themselves and she appreciated the effort they showed to provide a good national result in the eyes of the Committee. The meeting was also occurring after the State of the Nation Address (SONA) and the Budget Speech. This was just an introductory meeting, but the topical issues, such as the strengthening of relations between the unions and the Committee, had to be discussed, as the interest of all in the meeting should be to improve the quality of education.
South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU)
Mr Mugwena Maluleke, General-Secretary, SADTU, said that the union was established in 1990. In 2010, it was realised that after 20 years of existence, there were still some properties of the apartheid education system and its management which were present, which contained contradictions that required serious transformation and a paradigm shift in a sophisticated manner. The adoption of the 2030 Vision was important, as the mission from 1990 was to deracialise and democratise education, and ensure the important presence of unions in the sector.
The present properties of the apartheid education system had to be disintegrated, but to disintegrate them it needed to be understood that apartheid had a hold on social co-existence. Apartheid was an ideological matter. This system and its biotic nature had to be disabled. The system was biotic, as apartheid was not a living organism, but it was organic and adaptive in mutating to ensure the maintenance of white supremacy and dominance. The system’s ability to reproduce itself in terms of self-hate was extremely damaging. Transformation was necessary.
Five pillars were created for the 2030 Vision, one of which was to create a learning nation. Any country that had an inclusive economy able to deal with racism, segregation and under-development had to invest in institutionalised education. People had to talk about education in all situations as being an enabler, as a fundamental human right that could change lives. This was learnt from Nelson Mandela, who said that education was a powerful tool, and if used correctly it could change the world. Creating a learning nation enabled the creation of a nation that could deal with the past, become truly inclusive, and prosper.
Covid-19 shed the light on apartheid injustices, the levels of inequality, levels of poverty, levels of economic exclusion, and the gap between private and public education. The worst thing that could happen was to have a DBE which maintained that private and public education had to be governed differently. This was fought when the 14 departments became one to govern education.
The funding model was based on an equitable formula which idealised substantive equality but was not directed at any specific school. This model disregarded the reality and hardships that most schools faced in terms of finances, resources and infrastructure, as well as the socio-economic hardships that most students faced. Funding needed to be allocated on a school-by-school basis, to take into consideration the existing levels of inequality. This model was bureaucratically oriented. Directors were appointed for almost every area, but there were not enough teachers employed, so the class sizes were too big.
The workload that teachers were expected to handle was unrealistic. The amount of administration work resulted in many teachers being absent due to struggling with depression. Outcome-based teaching demanded too much administrative work from teachers. In the current week, schooling had come to a halt to deal with administration issues. This burden caused teachers to burnout, to not have a family life, and to be demoralised.
The psychological well-being of teachers was extremely important, yet support for mental and emotional health was lacking. There was a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) in schools to ensure the adequate protection of the health and safety of teachers and students alike.
Covid-19 had to be thanked, as it had made it clear that the curriculum and manner of assessment had to be changed to address the issues of unemployment and poverty in South Africa. The curriculum had to work to produce people with critical and expert skills, who could thrive and move the country forward. The curriculum was not doing this. Mr Maluleke commented that he had had a Swiss physics professor who once said that South Africa’s education system would not be able to produce quality physicists unless it changed. The change still had to come.
The National Development Plan (NDP) was very clear in stating that children should have at least two years of early childhood development (ECD) education before they turned six. This would build the foundation for future prosperity. Today, ECD practitioners were earning about R7 000 or R8 000, and provincially there were no formal conditions of employment. This was a challenge, as the NDP stated that poverty employment could be reduced if ECD was invested into.
Infrastructure was a major problem. Many schools, mostly in quintiles one to three, had to operate without water and food, and other facilities, such as sanitation. Covid-19 had helped the DBE to provide water tanks, but this was not good enough.
Measures to improve quality of education
Education had to be improved by doing three things. Firstly, for education to be qualitative, it had to be based on context. Skilled people could be produced if context was understood and emphasised. To do this, there needed to be funding and highly qualified teachers. SADTU was calling for teacher development. The Trade Union Council (TUC) was not operating as there was no budget for it, yet it was very fundamental, as teacher unions were offering to train teachers. If there was no money, other countries would develop but South Africa would not, so funding was needed.
Secondly, the funding model had to change and be school-specific. It was known that South Africa had economic problems, but it had to be understood that the mirror for the economy was education. Teachers must be given the capabilities to reach their students inside and outside of the physical classroom and give them the ability to take the country forward. Covid-19 had changed the system and made it clear that development had to be done to improve and ensure the education system was ready for future challenges. The pandemic of gender-based violence (GBV) could be dealt with by integrating it into the curriculum.
Thirdly, there had to be dialogue. There could be no progress if there was no proper consultation and engagements. In 2020 there were more consultations. In 2021 there was managerialism, where employees were consulted for an hour and told to do certain things, as they were being paid a salary. If there was dialogue, there would be no disruptions. There had to be functional bargaining structures. Processes could be dealt with in a better way by allowing the facilitation by the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC). The Eastern Cape had grown and became more resilient by utilising the ELRC to deal with problems before they became disputes that could have developed into crises. The unions and the DBE had to work together to ensure that education improved harmoniously.
The education system had to be decolonised. SADTU had a campaign to inform communities and students that they could not burn a school because they had issues with what was going on. The people had to be taught and nurtured. Violence in schools had to be denounced. There was a campaign for that, as well as another campaign being run with the taxi industry to educate people on this issue. The purpose of all of these measures was to institutionalise education. Hope had to be instilled in public education. Social cohesion must be built, and education must be made fashionable.
Suid-Afrikaanse Onderwysersunie (SAOU)
Mr Chris Klopper, Secretary-General, SAOU, said that communication lines had to be kept open to foster better relations between the unions in order to improve education. The presentation would focus on broad trends and highlight major issues.
As mentioned in the budget speech, the education budget would grow by R28.9 bn from 2020/21 to 2023/24. However, it was important to note that the budget would grow on average by only 1.88% per annum, which was a step back in reality, as inflation would grow by between 3 and 4% per annum. Further, the education inflation would grow by an additional 2 to 3%. This budget would cause major problems. Compensation of employees in the provincial education Department constituted 51.2% of the total functional expenditure. Education was a labour-intensive activity, so this figure was not excessive. Low compensation growth of 0.8% over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) period, combined with early retirements, would reduce the number of available teachers. The teacher ratio of 33.5:1 in primary schools and 32.2:1 in secondary schools implied that the minimum class sizes were 39 and 36 respectively, which would then increase further. This was ludicrous to expect. The point had been made that there was a direct link between class size and academic performance. The budget constituted a flashing red light.
Remuneration of educators
The Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) Resolution 1 of 2018, which provided for salary adjustments in 2020, had not been implemented. It was referred to the Labour Appeal Court and, based on technical points, it was ruled that Year 3 of the Resolution could not be implemented. This was another red light. Labour had tabled demands for 2021/22, and the Constitutional Court case was being continued. The demands were linked to the consumer price index (CPI), and were not excessive. It was clear that educators were becoming impatient and were under severe financial pressure and were thus putting the unions under pressure. Education could not afford labour unrest. The DBE’s intervention was imperative. 2021 would be a difficult year when negotiations in the PSCBC would be initiated and unions were under pressure to give their members something. Teachers had sat without any salary increases for the past two years, and they were already not the best paid people.
Administration of education at the provincial level
The level of work rendered to the education sector was not satisfactory, and could not be regarded as a professional service. District and circuit offices had abused the Covid-19 regulations; officials were absent or worked on a 50/50 basis, and offices would be closed for a week or two because there was one infection. Many offices lacked email, internet and phone capacities, there was no connectivity or electricity, and there was no hardware, and as such could not render any service. Mpumalanga, the North West, Free State, the Eastern Cape and Limpopo required urgent attention.
Post level one educators
Provinces did not publish vacancy lists. The only way for temporary educators to secure permanent appointment was to convert their status after three months. There had been many problems in this regard. This conversion was provided for by ELRC Resolution 4 of 2018. SAOU had concluded that provinces had to follow the approach of Gauteng, where after three months a principal may apply for the conversion of temporary educators to permanent status. The education sector could not afford to have an impasse as was currently ongoing in Mpumalanga, where temporary educators had not been converted to permanent status in the last 15 and more months. SAOU was currently in serious discussions to see how to convert those educators to permanent status to avoid litigation. Intervention by the Committee and the DBE was vitally important.
From 1 March 2021, South Africa had moved to alert level one, but there had not yet been any guidance to schools regarding the effect of this movement. This was not good enough. Schools had enquired on a daily basis about the effect of this movement on timetabling, limitations on class sizes, the requirement of social distancing, and extra-curriculum activities. Any word from the DBE would be significant. The provinces did not provide guidance in this regard. The same applied for travelling. There were many issues that had to be addressed. Education required a quicker response from the education authorities on the effect of the movement between the alert levels.
Professional Educators’ Union (PEU)
Mr Ben Machipi, General Secretary, PEU, said that the union was formed in 1906 by Mr Sefako Mapogo Makgatho as a beacon of hope for African teachers. It was founded on the core values of professionalism, loyalty, commitment, fairness, transparency, integrity, dignity, honesty and good governance. Regionally, PEU was the founding member of the Association of Non-aligned Teacher Unions of Southern Africa (ANTUSA). Internationally, it was a member of Education International (EI). Locally, it was a member of the ELRC and the PSCBC.
Covid-19 had laid bare the existing inequalities in the education system, ranging from infrastructure to modern technology resources. Rural schools were unable to comply with the social distancing requirement, and were unable to operate due to the severe shortages of classrooms, which resulted in learners having to attend school alternatively. In some instances, learners would attend school only once a week, and would thus subsequently forget what they had learnt when they attended school the next week. This meant that teachers had to re-teach the same lesson, which had a domino effect on how much of the curriculum could be effectively taught. This perpetuated existing disparities in the education sector. PEU pleaded the Committee to move with speed to prioritise redress in schools in order to eliminate the extreme effects that the pandemic had on public schools in particular. Teachers were putting their lives at risk, but their efforts were going unappreciated.
National Teachers’ Union (NATU)
Ms Cynthia Barnes, General Secretary, NATU, apologised for not sending the presentation to the Committee, and assured the Chairperson that it would be in by the end of the day.
NATU was historically a black teachers’ union, but was now open to all who sought to improve education, the conditions of service of teachers, and attend to the needs of members in particular. It was based on the principles of self-reliance, freedom of association, a professional approach to teaching in light of children’s rights, and political and religious non-alignment, amongst others. It enhanced the quality of education through the Teacher Development Institute, which had teachers engage in self-development programmes.
Inappropriate behaviour of Heads of Departments
There was an issue of the KwaZulu-Natal Head of Department (HOD) not responding to letters written by NATU. Many HODs did not work together with NATU properly, with the union’s member being unfairly treated and abused by DBE officials. A teacher from the Ezimbidleni Primary School had been struck off from the Department in September 2020, based on fraudulent allegations by the principal of abscondment which the HOD had not thoroughly investigated, and had been without a job since then. Work needed to be done with the provincial departments to protect these teachers from principals who were oppressive towards union members.
Temporal and qualified Grade R teachers
Many teachers had remained temporary teachers for five years, which meant that they did not receive the benefits granted to permanent educators. Parliament had to see to it that the DBE eradicated these issues, where teachers were not converted to permanent status. Qualified Grade R teachers were not absorbed into the mainstream, contrary to the agreement that they would be appointed to fill any vacant posts in that particular school. The DBE overlooked qualified Grade R educators and brought in first-time educators, which meant the DBE disregarded Human Resources Management (HRM) 50 of 2019. The Committee had to expedite the process of absorbing these teachers into mainstream posts to ensure they received their rightful remuneration.
Renovation of dilapidated schools
There were many schools that were dilapidated, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape. In KwaZulu-Natal, there was a school that was partly burned down five years ago, but the DBE had not done anything to address that yet. Nothing was done in response to issues raised by the union. There had been rioting two weeks ago because of overcrowded classrooms. The lack of space for students and teachers in many schools constituted breaches of the Covid-19 protocols, but nothing had been done. The DBE had to provide mobile classes to enable teachers to teach properly.
Provision of water and sanitation
Many schools lacked sanitation and water. The mobile toilets that were provided to schools were mostly far below appropriate standards. The DBE had to ensure that adequate mobile toilets were provided where necessary. In Richards Bay, a learner almost fell into a pit toilet because the school had not received mobile toilets. The DBE had to pay service providers to deliver these facilities.
Post level one vacancies
The provinces were not advertising post level one vacancies as they were supposed to. In KwaZulu-Natal, the new system for applications for teaching positions was not functioning, and was causing serious problems. Many teachers who had been qualified from 2012 were not receiving jobs, but teachers who qualified only recently were. This was a major issue. The system was not transparent in the selection process. Maybe the old way of posting a vacancy bulletin was the solution.
Schools receive norms and standards very late
Many schools would get the money allocated to them late and would be expected to start the new academic year with limited or no available funds with which to buy books for the students, or pay for other resources. Some schools usually received the money only in July or August. Where must the schools get the necessary money to operate? The Committee and the DBE had to act to assist schools in this matter.
Covid-19 had raised awareness on how far behind the country was in terms of education. Everyone had to be mindful of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Teachers had to be work-shopped and given the tools and capacity to provide greater support for students to succeed in the future. A progressive and innovative curriculum had to be developed to empower teachers and students alike. In honour of the late President of NATU, Mr Skhumbuzo Allen Thompson, it was of utmost important to prioritise teachers at every level of the education system to substantially address grievances and mediate disputes between employers and employees in order to promote a harmonious relationship which sufficiently enabled the growth of the DBE and the education sector.
National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (NAPTOSA)
Mr Basil Manuel, President, NAPTOSA, said that notwithstanding all the issues facing the education sector, a lot had been achieved in the past two, almost three, decades. It was, however, evident that there was still a long way to go. One important issue was that the health and safety of all members and employees in the education sector was crucial. These people were not just statistics.
Treatment of employees
Teachers and support staff had to be acknowledged. There was a general lack of recognition that teachers were an irreplaceable resource and were crucial elements for proper education. If teachers failed or were failed by the authorities, then the education system failed. There had been numerous cases of employers’ disregard for employees. There had been failures to implement agreed salary increases, non-implementation of collective agreements, no annual increment of long-service awards for non-teaching staff, and protracted suspensions. The failure to fairly reward employees, and the undermining of their right to collective bargaining, further indicated that education employees were not recognised nor treated appropriately.
The reason Covid-19 was so harsh was because of the prior inability of the authorities to deal with poor infrastructure and overcrowded classes. There were schools that were overcrowded even when only 50% of students attended. Covid-19 had presented a golden opportunity to fix some of these issues. The unions present were responsible largely for the improved provision of water to schools. However, many of the measures that had been taken were only temporary and not sufficient. The issues had to be solved permanently. It was not sustainable to fix the issue of a pit latrine by replacing it with a portable toilet, nor was it sustainable to have tankers going to fill water tanks regularly to ensure schools had water.
The administrative overload was concerning. The non-recognition of the overall effects of Covid-19 on everybody was worrying, as was the unrealistic pressure to catch up on lost time, not lost teaching or lost content. This pressure resulted in the reduction of holiday periods and the implementation of the longest ever school calendar, which placed immense strain and tension on education staff and students alike.
Health and safety
The safety measures were insufficient, as many provinces cut corners. The goalposts had been shifted from supplying PPE to requiring schools to purchase PPE. It was clear that there was a financial crisis, and by doing this, many schools were not be able to purchase PPE due to a lack of funds. The health and safety concerns of teachers and support staff remained at an all time high. There were insufficient psycho-social services, which exacerbated the already declining wellbeing of the teachers and staff. If teachers were not in a sufficiently good mental state, they could not help the children, for many of whom they were the only support they would ever know other than their parents, and the only counsellor the children would ever know. If the teachers were not looked after, the children would suffer as a direct result.
Many facilities were crumbling. The country could not afford to have a crisis response to these issues, like there was with the issue of water, as that was not sustainable. The sustainability of infrastructure must be a priority. The country could not afford to spend millions of rands daily to deliver water to a school when the only thing wrong was a faulty pipe. Permanent solutions had to be found.
The union collective had had a long, and sometimes challenging, relationship with the education authority. That relationship had to be nurtured and improved. Certain consultative structures like the Council of Education (CEM) and the Heads of Education Departments Committee (HEDCOM) were given precedence over the unions. Yet, the National Education Policy Act (NEPA) was clear on which two structures had to be consulted. Sometimes, consultations were more about information sharing than substantive engagements. Many meetings with all the unions, wherein all the unions had similar ideas of progression, ended with a final analysis which contained none of those ideas. Something was wrong.
Excessive weight was given to the provincial education departments’ (PED’s) versions, compared to union research results. The unions had questioned the validity of some of these provincial reports after they contradicted the research done by unions.
The concurrent powers complicated national policy enforcement. NAPTOSA wanted to ensure that national policies were not watered down in the provinces. Agreements at the provincial level had to mirror those of the national level, otherwise there would be, and had been, disjuncture. If the watering down of national decisions was not tailored or stopped, then there would be trouble.
Council of Education Ministers (CEM) decisions
Curriculum and assessment policy was often not completely Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) compliant. Yet CAPS was a national policy. Provinces had changed some of the policy, or agreements that had been agreed to now did not consider the full policy of assessment. It had to be realised that policy superseded provincial wants, otherwise there would be trouble. The proliferation of non-profit/for profit entities to the detriment of public education was a major issue, as credence was often given to private views instead of the views of the unions and national policy, such as with the ECD migration. This had led to issues, as the CEM was often quoted without it having taken such decisions. Unless the gaps were plugged, they would simply become bigger.
The Chairperson asked the Members to raise points on all of the presentations in general, and not to ask questions of each specific one.
Mr P Moroatshehla (ANC) acknowledged, with appreciation, the role played by the unions in trying to improve education for the future of South Africa. When the Committee met for first time after the first Covid-19 wave, it had not been oblivious to the loss the DBE had suffered at the hands of the pandemic. He expressed condolences for all the teachers who had lost their lives due to the pandemic. Special condolences had to be given to NATU, which had lost their President, Mr Thompson. He commented that the loss of one teacher was one too many.
He said that the unions shared commonalities in terms of their missions, and in terms of the challenges of infrastructure, workload, disregard for teachers, and health and safety, which they had highlighted. The presentations had put the Committee in a more enlightened and better place. The unions had to be thanked. The Committee was aware of the hardships the unions operated under, and he commended their resilience. Despite the challenges, they had been able to produce the necessary matric results.
(Mr Moroatshehla lost network connection)
Mr S Ngcobo (IFP) commended the presentations. He expressed his condolences to NATU. He commented that the teacher unions were faced with the problems of the concurrent national and provincial powers. There were matters in the provinces that were not handled, and the teacher unions seemed to reach a ceiling in those provinces when trying to get those matters resolved. When the matters were escalated to the national level, there was nothing much that the government could do due to the existence of the concurrent power. The unions and the Committee should work together to close the gap between the national and provincial levels. This gap was evident when the unions worked together with the DBE and the provincial departments in the ELRC, which was a good platform. When the unions go back and take the matters up with provinces, they reach an impasse with the HODs, and subsequently have to go to court. That was the problem. Why should the unions have to resort to litigation when consultative structures existed? He believed that it would help to have more of these meetings, as this would help to save the money that was usually spent on litigation.
He found it very helpful that the unions had informed the Committee what they existed for, and what their missions were. The Committee and the DBE had to assist the unions to carry out their mandates and functions.
He believed that the issues of ECD and teacher development were key issues that the unions and the DBE had to pay attention to in order to improve the quality of teaching and learning in the space in which they existed. The issues of post level one educators were not that they were not employable, but rather the red tape that they had to go through, such as the new database which was not working. The post level one educators were critical in schools. Assistance had to be given to enable the employment of qualified post level one educators. He thought that maybe the Deputy Minister would assist in this matter.
Attention had to be paid to dilapidated, underdeveloped and ignored schools in remote areas which were particularly neglected. Provincial departments were building expensive schools while there were schools without the proper infrastructure. Why could the schools not first be made more equal before these expensive, world-class schools were built? Money had to be allocated to those dilapidated schools. It seemed to be a norm, especially in three provinces, that money was invested into the development of new schools, and other poorer schools continued to suffer.
A way had to be found to deal with the lower rate of growth in compensation. The remuneration of teachers was a problem. Teachers formed the backbone of the nation, and as such they had to be appropriately paid. This issue would have to be dealt with properly at the right forum. He believed that the DBE could assist with this issue. Even though the country was going through an economic crisis, freezing teachers’ salaries would be detrimental to society, as well as the economy.
The schools mentioned by the unions which had serious problems, had to be attended to by the unions with the DBE’s help. Quite a number of those schools should be visited, and should receive immediate attention. However, what could the teacher unions do when they had reached an impasse with the provincial HODs who promised to address the issues, or when the Member of the Executive Council (MEC) promised to address the issues, but the issues were not addressed? Why did the issues get addressed only when the union members demonstrate, or when the matter goes to court?
Mr Moroatshela wanted to conclude his comments in the form of a message of hope and assurance. He quoted from the Bible. He assured the unions that the resolution of these issues was the first priority of the Committee. Through oversight engagements, the Committee would work to see that the issues were addressed.
Ms N Adoons (ANC) expressed her condolences, and commented that there was a lot of work to be done to achieve progress on what had been discussed. Most, if not all, of the things shared had been heard in engagements with other parties and the DBE before. These reports would assist the Committee when the DBE was engaged to address the issue of how teachers were affected and how they could be assisted. If no progress was made, or feedback given, the sharing of the challenges would have been for nothing. It was enough to say that the challenges of infrastructure, overcrowding, vacancies and lack of proper compensation, had to be acknowledged, and the information gained had to be utilised properly through continuous engagements to seek to address the problems and achieve some sense of equality in education. How best could the Committee move forward? The Committee had to ensure that at the end of its term, progress was made.
Mr E Siwela (ANC) agreed with Ms Adoons that the Committee had to note the reports and consider the information. Where the issues were province-related, the provincial departments had to be engaged and where the issues were national, the DBE had to be engaged to deal with issues. It was important to give feedback. The Committee had to process these matters to find solutions in order to improve teaching and learning conditions. The teachers needed to be supported, as they were the reasons for the good national matric results. The teachers’ working conditions had to improve to promote progress.
Ms N Mashabela (EFF) said that while the education budget was expected to grow by R28.9 bn in 2023/24, it was insignificant considering the importance of education in South Africa. She told the unions that the Committee had consistently appealed for more resources to be directed towards basic education. She promised that the Committee would continue to do so, and would continue to support the work of the unions. The Committee had written letters to the Minister of Basic Education, Ms Angie Motshekga, but had not received responses on the issues raised.
She said it was concerning that teachers were underpaid, undervalued and undermined. The issue of infrastructure was still prevalent, even after a long period of democracy, and the situation had been exacerbated by the pandemic. She told the unions that the Committee would continue to push the Minister to respond, and would continue to support the unions and all education employees in order to improve the situation.
The Chairperson expressed the Committee’s condolences to NATU and for all the teachers who had passed away during the pandemic. She said that there was an important issue that had been raised by one of the unions on how stressed teachers were. This matter was not to be taken lightly. To what extent were the unions contributing to the positive discipline of members? Were there any programmes in existence or being initiated by the unions in collaboration with the South African Council for Educators (SACE)?
Everyone was well aware that the President had announced last year that there was the need for the migration of ECD to the DBE from the Department of Social Development (DSD). She said the DBE was dealing with that, and the Committee was monitoring the situation and would get a briefing on it soon. She indicated that the issues of there being no conditions of service, and no legislation on the matter, had all been pointed out, but there were other factors that the migration would cost the country. Once migration occurred, there would be legislation regulating employment as well as the conditions of service, because the person would then be part of the DBE. The problem was that many who were doing ECD now were not qualified. Furthermore, many ECDs were not structured, for that matter. These issues would create lots of unemployment, as all of those who were not qualified would not be able to find employment after the migration. She understood that they would not be the unions’ members, but to some extent this would affect the country.
She observed that the campaign denouncing violence was a serious one that needed to be led by all stakeholders. Violence such as the burning down of schools was a serious problem. Everyone could agree that the country could not do without teachers. It had to be acknowledged that the Committee was very proud to have these teachers in the country. The schooling system still needed teachers in the classroom, as many places had no connectivity. She appreciated the work of the unions, and said that no work would run smoothly all the time. The relations between all in the education sector had to be strengthened continuously to ensure effective operations.
Mr Maluleke appreciated the Committee’s proactiveness in trying to improve the quality of education in the country. He hoped that the Committee would have productive engagements with the DBE and in Parliament to expedite solutions for many of the issues, especially those of the ECD and the conditions of service, as the ECD was the foundation of education and therefore the economy. He understood the observations made, and indicated that SADTU would be happy to work together on campaigns to improve the situation and break down the grasp apartheid still had on the nation and education. Things had to be made more efficient. Education had to be changed, and education had to change the people.
Mr Klopper said that the SAOU would like to establish a working relationship with the Committee. It would be keen to continue with these discussions, as establishing a working relationship was a process. He commented that some of the union’s members said that sometimes they felt as if they were speaking to a brick wall. That was what the union sometimes felt in consultations. The unions had to be listened to. It seemed like there was a deliberate abuse of the managerial prerogative that had to be addressed. Mr Ngcobo was correct in saying that the ELRC structures had to be used better, to avoid litigation. SAOU agreed with him on that point.
The teacher unions did have programmes in place for psycho-social support. The unions offered their members several virtual courses focused on healthy living, learner discipline, soft skills and hints on how to reduce the administrative burden that teachers had to contend with. The administrative burden was a serious matter, and it was as if there was an attempt to micro-manage the teachers instead of trusting them. In 2020, teachers had a lot of trust instilled in them, and this had resulted in the good national results. Maybe the old school governance models had been outlived, and it was necessary to look at new models in this regard.
Mr Mkhuseli Dubula, Vice President, PEU, appreciated the responses of the Members. He wished there was a structured way to enable more frequent meetings going forward for a better working relationship. PEU committed itself to participate in all engagements in future. He wished that the issues raised, especially those of teaching development and ECD funding, would be treated as matter of urgency to ensure there was progress. The DBE and the government had to speed up the matter of bridging the public and private school gap to ensure equal education. Temporary teachers had to be made permanent after three months. In this regard, maybe following the system used in Gauteng would motivate teachers to do more. Some members present in the meeting were also SACE councillors, so what was agreed here had to filter down to the teachers. SACE dealt with about 465 000 teachers, so the DBE would have to assist with these matters, particularly those involving psycho-social support.
Ms Barnes said that NATU appreciated that the Committee was willing to help take education forward. She said that it would be significant if mobile classes and sanitation facilities could be made a priority, especially with the Covid-19 regulations. Helping the schools would help the nation. She appreciated that the Committee said it would work with the provincial education systems in order to support the teaching staff. NATU had always invited SACE members to help capacitate them in terms of policies, and it would continue to work with SACE.
Mr Manuel said that NAPTOSA was about quality education. He thanked the Chairperson and the Members for their consideration and input. He said that the union held approximately 12 workshops weekly, which were currently focused on the mental health of teachers. NATPOSA trained approximately 200 people at a time during these workshops. This showed that the need was great, as those workshops were voluntary. But more was definitely needed, as what the provincial departments offered did not reach all the teachers. The Teacher Union Collaboration (TUC) had to be funded better to allow for the needs that arise to be directly attended to. He also asked for relations to be nurtured in the future to ensure better outcomes.
The Chairperson said that ideas had to be shared to deal with the challenges. There had to be collaboration. Everything raised in the meeting had been noted. The Committee and the unions had to meet more in the future to assist in dealing with the issues that arise.
Report of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education on an oversight visit to the Gauteng Province (Ekurhuleni North Education Districts), KwaZulu-Natal Province (Umzimkhulu and Ixopo Education Districts) and Eastern Cape Province (Matatiele and Mount Fletcher Education Districts)
The report was considered and adopted.
Report of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education on the Second Quarterly Report on the Performance of the Department of Basic Education in meeting its Pre-Determined Objectives for 2020/21
The report was considered and adopted.
The meeting was adjourned.
Mbinqo-Gigaba, Ms BP
Adoons, Ms NG
Malatji, Mr T
Mashabela, Ms N
Mhaule, Dr R
Moroatshehla, Mr PR
Ngcobo, Mr SL
Nodada, Mr BB
Siwela, Mr EK
Van Der Walt, Ms D
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