In a virtual meeting and in the presence of the Minister, the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education and the Select Committee on Education Technology, Sports, Arts and Culture received a briefing from the Department of Basic Education on its 2021/22 Annual Performance Plan and Strategic Plan for the years 2021-2024.
The Department presented the impact of COVID19 – it found attendance rates bounced back significantly since July 2020 and more children received school meals in November 2020. The Department recommended Schools should remain open as far as possible, with all precautionary mechanisms in place, and priority given to early grades if a phased approach is needed. Learning should be prioritised which will also mitigate against dropout and the implementation of school feeding should continue to be strengthened.
The Annual Performance Plan (APP) sets out what the Department intends doing in the financial year and during the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) period to implement its Strategic Plan. The Committee was taken through a detailed presentation covering progress on selected key deliverables, key government priorities, the action plan to 2024 to realise schooling in 2030 after which it presented the 2020/21 / 2024/25 Strategic Plan and MTSF 2019-2024 review and key indicators as part of the APP. Members were also taken through the budget review.
The Minister maintained that because of COVID-19, the Department was in an exciting but difficult position. It was difficult because the Department was derailed especially when it comes to the alternating school attendance in adherence to social distancing. ‘Basically it was difficult to balance education and health’. The DG bemoaned the fact that budget cuts had created challenges in the buying power for the sector besides the challenges caused by COVID. ‘The poor fiscus was adding to the already existing challenges in the sector such as the collapsing educational infrastructure which affected service delivery and programme delivery’
Members stated that the Committee, the Ministry and the DBE were facing a challenge of trying to provide quality education but the fiscus was not enough. Some of the questions that the Committees asked were what strategies are being used by the Department to address the fatigue in the workforce in order to support teacher well-being and efficiency; what the Department plans on doing to ensure that the declining resources do not impact functionality; what measures were being put in place for teachers who may be at risk of contracting the virus; what the implication of the budget was during the 2020/21 financial year; whether the Department has done any feasible study into the human resource capacity and structural support in taking ECD back into the Department and would the budget improve to ensure that objectives were achieved. Members were unhappy that the DBE priorities did not prioritise any developments on online learning during COVID-19 and asked whether the Department had plans in place to address this matter specifically.
Members were concerned about the lack of financial resources available to the Department to address the challenges that COVID-19 presented and the plans and readiness of the Department were questioned in ensuring the functionality of the education sector. Members heard that On the ECD feasible study into the human resource capacity and structural support, the Department has a number of work streams that are part of driving the functional shift of the ECD’s and those Human Resources was part of the function.
The Chairperson welcomed the Minister and everyone else present. The Chairperson announced that the meeting is the last one for the term and apologised that Members received the presentation late.
A moment of silence was reserved for the late King Goodwill Zwelithini.
Ms Angie Motshekga, Minister of Basic Education, said that because of COVID-19, the Department is in an exciting but difficult position. It is difficult because the Department is derailed especially when it comes to the alternating school attendance in adherence to social distancing. It is difficult to balance education and health. Since the reopening of schools, there have been few incidents of schools closing down because of increasing infections but reports on outbreaks have been submitted. Through virtual work there is less movement which is beneficial because more work can be done by the education sector. The Minister said that major sacrifices had to be made and there is hope that the Committee will assist the Department moving forward.
Mr Mathanzima Mweli, Director-General, Department of Basic Education (DBE), appreciated the opening remarks by the Minister and said that the presentation will be on the Annual Performance Plan (APP) for 2021/22 and the Strategic Plan in alignment with the previous strategic plans of the Department. Progress in the achievements has also been outlined in the presentation. He said that some of the characteristics of the presentation include the modernisation of the curriculum and the reflection on skills and competencies for a changing world. Issues such as strengthening accountability are being reflected on and on the international obligations. The regional and national action plan for 2030 has also been a focus area. He said that the budget cuts have created challenges in the buying power for the sector besides the challenges caused by COVID. The poor fiscus is adding to the already existing challenges in the sector such as the collapsing educational infrastructure which affects service delivery and programme delivery.
Briefing on the Annual Performance Plan (APP) for 2021/22
Ms Carol Deliwe, Chief Director: Planning, Research and Coordination, DBE, presented the APP. She began by looking at the main findings of schooling during the pandemic which included an increase in attendance rates since July 2020 and an increase in school children receiving school meals. The recommendations were outlined which included keeping schools open with all the precautionary measures in place, prioritising recovery learning and strengthening school feeding programmes.
The Annual Performance Plan (APP) sets out what the Department intends doing in the financial year and during the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) period to implement its Strategic Plan.
She presented the progress made on selected key deliverables – see presentation attached for details.
The presentation outlined which plans were important to the Department’s APP. This included key government priorities, the State of the Nation Address, the education sector MTSF and the action plan.
The Strategic Plan was touched on including key outcomes and indicators, along with the 2019-2024 MTSF review and 2021/22 APP programme performance indicators- see presentation attached for details.
New indicators included:
-An Annual Sector Report is produced on the monitoring of procurement and distribution of ICT devices (annual review)
-Number of districts implementing the programme on school assemblies to end school-related gender-based violence (quarterly review)
Members were provided with an update on Standardised Output Indicators (SOIs) for the sector and alignment of provincial work:
-The draft 2021/22 SOIs were sent to Provincial Education Departments (PEDs) on 14 August 2020 for submission of inputs by 24 August 2020. No inputs were received.
-Letters were sent to Heads of Department (HODs) on 21 September 2020, to note the decisions and agreements of the sector in relation to the 2020/21 SOIs and request them to adopt the 2021/22 SOIs in their plans.
-The letters to HODs also requested PEDs to include inputs emanating from the 2019/20 audit on the SOIs document in track changes, to incorporate any issues from the 2019/2020 audit, with responses on 29 September 2020.
-Letters were received with inputs from PEDs except Eastern Cape.
-Inputs from all PEDs were consolidated into the final document, indicating what was incorporated and what was not, with reasons.
-The analysis showed that only three indicators were agreed on by all PEDs without issues raised.
-Consultations were held with individual PEDs to secure sufficient consensus on indicators that the majority had agreed to, to increase the number of standardised indicators in the sector.
-As a result of consultations, the standardised output indicators increased from three to 20, which were then approved by the Director-General (DG) with letters to HODs on 6 November 2020.
-Seven PEDs have formally adopted the SOIs through HOD letters.
-The two outstanding PEDs are Western Cape, that raised additional issues through an email, and Mpumalanga, that committed to submit the formal adoption letter.
-The whole sector does not have standardised indicators, but is working towards it led by the Head of Department for Free State as the Chairperson for the HEDCOM Subcommittee on Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation
Mr Patrick Khunou, Deputy Director-General: Finance and Administration, DBE, presented the 2021 budget review and outlined the 2021 MTEF cabinet baseline reductions.
The Department has been allocated R27 billion in 2021/22, R28.2 billion in 2022/23 and R28.8 billion in 2023/24. Included in these allocations is Compensation of Employees amounting to R538 million, R532.7 million and R535.6 million over the MTEF years.
See presentation attached for details on the budget review
Ms M Sukers (ACDP) appreciated the presentation and requested that reports of that nature be submitted ahead of time to allow the committee to evaluate the report well in advance especially since the Department of Education is such an important department. She asked for written responses to any questions asked by Members and said that the Committee, the Ministry and the DBE are facing a challenge of trying to provide quality education but the fiscus is not enough. She asked on the lesson learnt by the Department during COVID-19 to implement innovative solutions because the Director-General of the Department mentioned that the Department has an appetite for change. She also asked the Director-General to elaborate on this statement. She asked what strategies are being used by the Department to address the fatigue in the workforce in order to support teacher well-being and efficiency because there is a concern about the loss of teachers in the critical subjects.
Mr E Siwela (ANC) appreciated the presentation and said that the implementation of the APP should be carefully monitored to ensure that everything that was presented can be delivered. He said that in light of the scarce financial resources, the projected budget of the Department is going to decrease and asked what the Department plans on doing to ensure that the declining resources do not impact functionality.
Ms D Van Der Walt (DA) appreciated the presentation and asked how the current economic situation influenced the budget because in a written reply from the Minister the Department has 1 935 projects (including new, upgrades, refurbishments, maintenance, replacements, repairs, renovations and rehabilitation) which are expected to be included in the budget. She asked whether the 2020/21 infrastructure budget will include the projects.
Ms N Mashabela (EFF) said that the DBE priorities do not prioritise any developments on online learning during COVID-19 and asked whether the Department has plans in place to address the matter. On the recommendation that schools should remain open as far as possible with the necessary precautions in place and that children are at a lower risk of COVID-19 compared to adults, she asked what measures are put in place for teachers who may be in risk of contracting the virus.
Ms N Adoons (ANC) appreciated the presentation and she asked what the implication of the budget is during the 2020/21 financial year, will the budget improve to ensure that objectives are achieved and how would it affect the work that needs to be done. On the compensation of employees, she noted that there was an improvement because there were meetings held with unions and stakeholders on the concern of vacant posts throughout the provinces and asked how the Department plans on addressing the matter because during COVID-19 many teachers lost their lives resulting in an increase in vacant posts. She also asked how soon the matter will be resolved.
Ms S Lehihi (EFF, KwaZulu-Natal) asked whether the Department has done any feasible study into the human resource capacity and structural support in taking ECD back into the Department and whether there is a plan in place to develop the current ECD centers or if learners will be moved to the already overcrowded schools.
The Chairperson said that although the plans of the Department are welcomed, the issue of budget constraints are understood and oversight will be conducted on these plans. The Chairperson said that the developments on university registrations are still challenging and that the Department should play a role in assisting to address the issue. With the third wave of COVID-19 being anticipated, the Chairperson said that there are alternating attendance days for school children and said that there is a concern that parents cannot be teachers. Seeing that teachers have lost their lives during Covid-19, the Chairperson asked what the Department’s plans are to minimising the number of teachers who lose their lives and asked which provinces will be the focus area for the implementation of the robotics programme.
On ECD migration, the Minister said that it is not possible to take two-year olds to school and that Grade R children are separated from the higher grade children. On the upgrading of ECD facilities, she said that the social development framework is used because Government cannot recognise a deconstructed facility. More than 80% of children are outside the net of ECD and this is the most important phase of early development. ECD programme access needs to be increased to ensure that the programmes are structured and that there are curriculum training systems. The Department will work with social development but some expectations of the Department having a large enough budget for expansion are not realistic. The Minister said that the COVID-19 period has allowed the Department to learn especially in ICT. Most schools did not have access to technological gadgets but the students came up with innovative ways to communicate and complete their work, the NSC results prove that the teacher cannot be replaced. Children who had contact lessons performed better than those who had lessons virtually, which helps the Department in the decision to roll-out ICT. Virtual lessons are not effective and are draining for teachers because they have to balance work. The Woza Matric programme enabled the Department to pull resources and positive feedback has been received on the programme. The programme could be implemented in all the other lower grades based on the performance of the programme. On teacher supply, the Minister said that there are a lot of young graduate teachers who can be absorbed into the systems but not all of them can be absorbed by the sector because of the lack of finances. Some programmes have had to be suspended.
On the submission of reports, Mr Mweli said that the Department has always tried to submit reports a week early. On the lessons learnt during COVID-19, he said that the Department has been able to work and collaborate with other international countries during the outbreak of the virus but there has been collaboration with African countries like Namibia, Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Kenya. Learners using innovative ways to keep in contact was good and teachers were also keeping contact with learners. He said that there were discussions with the Department of Health that teachers should be included in the next round of vaccinations as essential workers and the Department of Health has agreed. All educational matters are discussed by the Department’s advisory committee. On the budget improving to ensure that objectives are achieved, he said that the Department has become innovative in implementing ICT and that one-on-one meetings will be held in all the provinces where the performance of the previous year is reflected on and strategies on how to improve are being drafted by the provinces. 50 meetings are held daily virtually and data sets are used to monitor the progress. There is a plan to connect all special schools in 2021 with the help of network operators and he said that weekend classes have also started because of the innovation by teachers to help learners. On the vacancies, he said that the budget is the real issue around the vacancies which not only affects schools but office based staff. On the ECD feasible study into the human resource capacity and structural support, he said that the Department has a number of work streams that are part of driving the function shift of the ECD’s and Human Resources is part of the function. On the issue of university registrations, he said that the majority of learners do come from no fee paying schools and that it becomes a shock when they have to pay for their university fees. He said that this is a challenge but advice can only be provided on how to address the situation. He did acknowledge that the alternating attendance of school children is a challenge and said that at Level 1 lockdown the Department has started discussions with the Ministerial Advisory Committee and NatJoins to ensure that primary schools have full capacity of school children because these children are less of a risk. The recommendation will be forwarded to the National CoronaVirus Command Council (NCCC).
On the university registrations and admissions, the Minister confirmed that the issue exists and said that some affluent families send their children oversees to study which is not ideal for undergraduates to study oversees. The Cabinet sub-committee drafted a report on the matter and plans will be made for the report to be shared so that there is a broader understanding. The biggest challenge at university is not on the number of available spaces or admissions but the issue of historical debt because some have had to work part-time to pay off the debt and some cannot graduate. The completion and repetition rate is also a challenge because only 40% of students graduate. The Department has to look into the issues in collaboration with the Department of Higher Education.
The Chairperson said that the plans of the Department have been noted by the Committee and that the Committee would have to conduct oversight and monitor the progress of the Department. The issues of finances are a general national problem. The Chairperson hoped that the Department will be able to execute the plans and objectives that have been set. The ECD migration programme details will be communicated. The Department officials were released.
02 March meeting minutes were adopted.
03 March 2021 meeting minutes were adopted.
05 March 2021 meeting minutes were adopted.
The Chairperson thanked the Committee for the work that has been done and for attending meetings with commitment during the first term.
The meeting was adjourned.
Mbinqo-Gigaba, Ms BP
Nchabeleng, Mr ME
Adoons, Ms NG
Bara, Mr M R
Christians, Ms DC
Gillion, Ms M
Lehihi, Ms SB
Luthuli, Ms SA
Malatji, Mr T
Maleka, Ms AD
Mashabela, Ms N
Moroatshehla, Mr PR
Motshekga, Ms MA
Ndongeni, Ms N
Ntsube, Mr I
Siwela, Mr EK
Sukers, Ms ME
Van Der Walt, Ms D
Yabo, Mr BS
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