Unplaced learners in Western Cape: WCED briefing

Education (WCPP)

04 May 2021
Chairperson: Ms L Botha (DA)
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Meeting Summary

Video: Standing Committee on Education, 4 May 2021, 13:00

The Committee convened virtually to receive a briefing from the Western Cape Education Department. The presentation was on accommodating big numbers of learners throughout the schools in the Western Cape.

Over the past few weeks, the Department had been under big pressure to meet scheduled plans and was in constant discussion with the Treasury in order to meet the demands of infostructure, which arose with the pressure of placing new learners in schools.

Since 2009, there had been an annual growth of learners in the system beginning at 900 000, until 2021, where numbers reached 1 096 605 learners. The biggest level growth had occurred in the Grade R levels. In that regards space began to lack for other grades since Grade Rs used all the classes provided for the other levels. There also began to be a big demand for teachers, books, feeding and transportation because of learners’ growth.

In 2020, there had been 21 021 first-time registered learners from Grade R to Grade 12, who were from outside the Western Cape Province. In 2021, the growth in the number of learners from outside the province was 19 452. The growth of 19 452 would translate into 19 schools, each accommodating 1 000 learners. That meant 475 teacher posts. Teacher posts came from the affordable basket of posts that was declared annually around September.

After three consultations with the Premier of the Province and Provincial Treasury, on the 15 April the Secretary-General (SG) had approved the placement of 129 mobile classrooms – including two new schools: Mfuleni Erf 1 and Sunridge Circle in Dunoon. The plan had made space for an additional 179 posts so that schools that accepted learners would be supplied with additional teachers.

Members asked about the consultation process regarding the provenance of the funds needed to build 129 classrooms and two new schools. They then asked about the lists that had been duplicated, adding that some learners may not have been found in those lists because they had not had the opportunity to apply online. What did the Department do about those who cannot apply online?

Members also asked about the issue of language: How would the Department deal with the issue of the majority of learners in the Forest Village having their first language as IsiXhosa? Would the schools in that area be able to accommodate the learners, as those schools had mostly Afrikaans and English as a learning medium?

The Education MEC said that the Department had done everything in its power to make sure that needs were met regarding school placements. The pressure was still on and would remain so until the Department received reliable funding for the projects. There had indeed been progress made by Treasury with regards to funding following learners; it kicked in many years after the time the learner arrived in the new region. With that progress, there had also been regression in terms of removal of budget in some cases. Whenever progress happened, funding crisis occurred, and then money would get taken away from the Department’s baseline. With the Covid-19 pandemic the Department never received additional funding. It had had to take money from an existing infrastructure.

The Committee then deliberated on its resolutions and recommendations:

  • The Committee should get an updated communication plan from the Department as far as placing learners was concerned.
  • The Department should supply the Committee with a list of the schools built since 2009, specifying the region and the level of schooling i.e., if it was primary or high school.
  • The Department must communicate the numbers of learners who came to the region for studying and the numbers of those who left, from 2009 to present 2021.
  • The Department must share the circular with the Committee once it is available.
  • The Department must invite colleagues from the Treasury to one of the Committee meetings in order to explain how the allocation of funding as part of the division worked.

The rest of the meeting was spent revising all the dates when the Committee would have to make field visits to schools in the region in regard to assessment of infostructure.


Meeting report

The Chairperson said that the presentation would be made by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED). She requested a minute of silence for those who had passed away or who had been battling with Covid-19 within their constituencies.

WECD Briefing on unplaced learners in Western Cape schools

Ms Debbie Schafer, Western Cape MEC for Education, gave a short overview on behalf of the Department. She talked about the pressure that the Department had been under for many years now, regarding placing more learners in school. Department officials had made huge progress in the previous three weeks. They had had a meeting with Provincial Treasury as well, in order to see what could be done to assist the Department in that difficult situation. The problem subsided for the past five years. Ms Schafer, though, was very pleased with the progress that had been made recently.

Mr Archie Lewis, DDG: Institution Development and Coordination, WCED, on unplaced learners, said that the first slide had given an indication of the growth in the numbers of learners between 2009 and 2021. In 2009, there had been about 900 000 learners in the system, and those numbers had been growing annually until 2121, when there were 1 096 605 learners.

In addition, the Department had experienced a growth in Grade R enrolments. That was a consequence of striving towards Universal Grade R’s. Since 2009, when there had been 35 000 Grade R learners in government schools, it was important having Grade R learners in schools and Grade R learners in independent sites outsides the schools. The table in the slides reflected only learners from informal schools. In 2009, the had been 35 000, and in 2121 the number had almost doubled. There were now 67 000 Grade R learners in public schools. The implication of this growth was at infrastructure level. Schools were never built to accommodate Grade R Learners. The consequence for primary schools, as they opened and took in Grade R learners, had been that Grade R’s had started to use class rooms initially intended for Grades one, to seven up, to Grade nine. The more Grade Rs had enrolled, the more spaces had begun to lack for Grade one’s and upwards.

In 2020, there had been 21 021 first-time registered learners from Grade R to Grade 12, who were from outside the Western Cape Province. In 2021, the growth in the number of learners from outside the province was 19 452. The growth of 19 452 would translate into 19 schools, each accommodating 1 000 learners. That meant 475 teacher posts. Teacher posts came from the affordable basket of posts that was declared annually around September. That affordable basket of posts was determined by the budget. Hence it being called “affordable”. In the previous year, the budget had been such that the Department had been unable to grow the basket of posts. However, 19 000 posts would require 475 teachers. Some of the learners had needed to be transported and the feeding had become part of the financial implications.

The implication of the Annual Learners Growth was that there had begun to be a demand for teachers, classrooms and resources (such as LTSM Textbooks, furniture etc…), transport and feeding.

The next slide dealt with the unplaced learners for the year 2021. As at September 2020, 29 712 learners had been unplaced. By the end of December, the Department set about 26 000 learners. In February 2021, it was 23 953 and then the figures dropped as further attempts in placing learners had been achieved. In April 2021, the number was 8 682. The Department had had a meeting with the Premier and with Treasury. They had about 7 750 learners and by the 8th March the number had dropped to 6 594. By 13 March, following resolution of the problem with Treasury, the number stood at 5 741. This had brought the numbers, on 4 May, to 735 unplaced learners. Those 735 learners had been spread through eight districts. The numbers of unplaced learners per district were: CWED 4, ECK 6, MCED 1, MEED 650, MNED 1, MSED 63, OED 5, WCED 5, all of which came to a total of 735. The Head of Department (HOD) said that by the 07 May 2021, all those learners would have been placed in schools in the region. He also said that there were nine placement teams in the field, 8 in each district and one at Head Office; they had been working around the clock since the beginning of the project, to get the learners placed and engaged in schools. The plan had been to engage principals and parents.

Mr Lewis said that after three consultations with the Premier of the Province and the Provincial Treasury, on the 15 April the Secretary-General (SG) had approved the placement of 129 mobile classrooms – including two new schools: Mfuleni Erf 1 and Sunridge Circle in Dunoon. The plan had made space for an additional 179 posts so that schools that accepted learners would be supplied with additional teachers.

That plan also entailed Curriculum Support under which:

  • Lesson packs for the first term would be made available at the schools where the learners would be placed.
  • District Officials would guide schools on how to support learners with a catch-up plan.
  • WCED would monitor support to those learners.

The plan had two particular problem areas that constantly appeared in the media: Forest Village in Eersterivier, also called the School Under the Tree. Originally, there had been only 240 learners on that site. The Department received the list of the learners and started a process of placing the learners in primary schools in Eersterivier, causing a growth in numbers. The Department suspected that some of the learners had moved to Roosendal House for placement. What had also been noticed by the Department was that at a later stage, about three weeks prior, the supervisors from ‘Under The Tree’ had provided an additional list of 600 learners. It turned out that there had been many duplications, and places were found for the learners. At the same time, they had received a list from Equal Education regarding another 104 learners, at the same spot. But as the HOD had indicated earlier, there had previously been many duplications, indicating double or triple the numbers. The issue was hence resolved. In that area then, the situation was that 218 learners were currently placed and 117 remained to be placed. The total number of learners from ‘Under the Tree’, with duplications removed, came to 336. Those remaining 117 learners were being allocated places and soon parents would be informed of that. It was expected that the process would be concluded by 07 May 2021. The ground teams were currently busy with the 117 learners – contacting parents, amongst other things. Some parents were contactable and some not. The children of those who could not be reached had been allocated to other schools. It was thought that some might have left the province.

Mr Lewis addressed the second most recent topic in the media, namely Roosendal House in Mfuleni. This was because Roosendal House was a higher education institution, an FET community college. Leaders in the community as well as unemployed teachers had recruited learners and started an illegal school.

  • It was alleged that there were 1 800 learners at Roosendal House.
  • A temporary mobile school was being planned on Erf (10 mobile classrooms).
  • A permanent new school was in the planning stage and was to be built on the same site. Hence the WCED could not fill the site with too many mobile classrooms.
  • In addition, mobile classes had been approved at other Mfuleni schools, to expand and provide additional capacity. In the case of the 1800 learners, some would be placed on Earth one and the remainder at other schools in Mfuleni, where additional mobile classes would be placed.
  • The plan made provision to accommodate all the learners.
  • The WCED had engaged the community leaders at Roosendal on numerous occasions to release the learner information. It had been made clear to them that the Department was willing and ready to place the learners, on condition that learner information was made available. This involved information such as names, date of birth, school grades applied for, learner reports cards, their addresses and so forth.
  • The last meeting on April 19 to get access to the learners’ details had been unsuccessful.
  • On 05 May 2021, there would be a follow-up meeting at Metro East.

In its attempt to obtain this information, the Department had also written to the Human Rights Commission for assistance. To date, however, no information or feedback had been received.

Mr Lewis spoke about the different discussions that had taken place in the Department with different Directorates, to try and resolve the problem and to get a collective effort from the Head Office and the districts – to solve the problem and place the learners.

Regarding admissions for 2020, he indicated that the admission process had begun in February 2021.  It had started with parents applying online. An additional 20 000 learners were expected in 2022. The process opened in the first quarter and ended on the 26 March. However, it was extended until the first week of April 2021, during which parents could apply. Applications were not closed yet, and people could still apply online. The system, however, showed that the submissions had been made late.

Admissions were now in the second quarter. Schools would process applications and inform the parents, who would in turn accept and confirm the learners’ attendance around June. At the same time, the Department’s internal task team would begin planning for unplaced learners for the year 2022.

In the third quarter, management plans would be finalised for the placement of learners. For the unplaced learners’ question such as infrastructure, posts, LTSM (Learning and Teaching Support Materials), etc., would arise.  Those who had not been placed during the third quarter would be placed later. Planning for 2022 was as follows:

  • Internal Task team to plan for 2022 needs during May 2022.
  • Knowledge management, infrastructure Institutional resource support to form part of the task team.
  • Management plan for placement finalised by 30 June 2021, after which they would elevate another submission to the SG to indicate the situation.
  • Submission for 2022 needs on route by 01 July 2021.
  • District teams to start finalising placement for 2022 during terms three and four of 2021.


The Chairperson thanked the WCED for the presentation and opened the floor for questions regarding it.

Mr K Sayed (ANC) asked three questions: The first was about the report on the bulk of learners coming from Metro East. The report, according to him, did not reflect a precise number of learners coming from Metro East.

The second question was about slide seven, with reference to the 129 mobile classrooms and the two new schools that were being considered. He wished to know where the 129 mobile classrooms would be put up, in which schools, and the timeframe. Also, what was the plan for the number of educators required? He asked if platooning would be considered for the mobile classrooms and if not, why not. He also asked about the timeframe for the two new schools that were being considered, and whether there would there be recruitment plans for additional posts as well as the timeline for that. The third and last question was about the pace at which the Department needed to move. He wondered if additional educators could be recruited within the following two weeks.

Mr R Allen (DA) asked about the basket of posts and the number of extra learners. He asked the Department for further clarification on the role of district officers. He said placement teams represented a proactive step from the Department. Also, given the breakdown per district, he asked if Metro East would have sufficient enough officials to help. Would the placement teams be administered by number or would they be made according to the number of learners in demand of placements? His other question was about National Government needing to be held accountable, especially with regard to resources being allocated to the province. According to his understanding, a severe lack of funds had impacted the Department, preventing it from doing its work. He wished to know whether or not there would there be any feedback and accountability on such matters at national level.

Mr M Kama (ANC) had two questions: first requested a better understanding of the consultation process regarding the provenance of the funds needed to build 129 classrooms and two new schools. Then he asked about the lists that had been duplicated. Some learners may not have been found in those lists because they had not had the opportunity to apply online. What did the Department do about those who cannot apply online? His third question was about the plans for 2022 and how they differed from the plans for 2021. This to ensure that no learner in the future would be unable to get registered because of a mistake in the system.

WCED Responses

The Chairperson invited Ms Schafer and Mr Walters to answer the aforementioned questions.

Ms Schafer answered the question of Mr Allen about national accountability. According to her, many times that question had been put to the Minister of National Education. The Minister had responded that whenever they raised issues with National Treasury, National Treasury looked at Education sector as a whole, and not as a separate entity. There was no differentiation between the efficiencies in different provinces. Ms Schafer had found this unfair, and had said she believed that more pressure should be put onto National Treasury as far as allocation of funds to different provinces was concerned. Treasury thought that there were inefficiencies in the sector. Citing the example of the Eastern Cape, she said that there were as many as 1 900 schools that should have been closed by now, because they absorbed a lot of resources in the sector but did not assist the province itself. There was a need to step up individually as a province, and the Department was currently engaging with Treasury on that. She said Mr Walters could respond on the other issues with Treasury, particularly as there had recently been a 10 by 10 meeting with National Treasury.

Mr Brent Walters, HOD: WCED, began answering questions, starting with Mr Kama’s question on what the consultation was about and where the money came from. The answer was that realisation needed to be made, about when schools re-opened after the Covid-19 pandemic. Schools had opened late and many children had presented themselves, of whom up to 3 000 had not applied through the system. The situation had been difficult from the outset. The Department had meet with Treasury and had been given some assurance to look at the process in September and October for some level of adjustment to the budget, to accommodate the actions undertaken by the WCED Department. The actions had included expanding the number of teachers by 179 plus 129 mobile classrooms, which the Department believed was the total solution for the numbers presented to them in the March period.

The second point made by Mr Walters was about the online system. One could fill forms manually at any school or do it online. School parents were given a vast choice of preference of up to 10 schools to choose amongst. The applications then reached the schools, which then selected the learners. In one case, 20 000 learners had chosen schools but no schools had chosen them. There then came the process of having to place those who had not been selected. For the following year, the Department had ended the selection process slightly earlier, as shown in Mr Lewis’ presentation, and have the discussion from June to September and then have the spirit done from October to December. It had been difficult to cater for an exact number of children, so the Department had worked by making approximations. It had been possible to predict numbers, but most of the work had had to be done as the situation arose.

On the questions on the roles of district offices, and official numbers to help, he indicated that officials had assisted with registration, especially of learners who had joined the school without having gone through the application and selection processes. That information had been duly captured. That was why districts played a key role in these processes. The two districts that were under the most pressure at present were Metro East and Metro North.

Mr Lewis added a few answers. Coming back to Mr Sayed’s question, he said that the number in Metro East was 650, and all those learners had already been identified for admission. The districts had gone into a consultation process with schools and SGBs and requests had been made for the learners be admitted into the schools. The agreement would be that for a certain number of learners taken in, a certain number of things would be given to the school – such as infrastructure in the form of mobile units and teachers. The school would not wait for the mobile unit to be built before taking in the learners, but learners would be admitted and taken in immediately. Hence the Department having said that they would resolve the learners’ admission process by the end of the current week. However, in the absence of infrastructure at the schools, the schools identified for that purpose would have to amend their timetables. While the country was still under Covid regulations, schools had been running what was termed temporary revised education plans. In other words, all the learners were not at the school every day. The learners could then be part of schools’ temporary revised education plans, and be at school only two or three times a week depending on the school’s timetable. The learners would be taken in immediately and the teachers would be provided immediately; within a certain time, the mobile units would be provided. The WCED did not build the infrastructure that task was for the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI), their implementing agents. On that, the strategic briefs for the placing of those units were given to Public Works. The DPWI gave the Department of Education a provisional plan with the schools and timeline, which Mr Lewis said he was willing to email to the Chairperson and the Members. It would give an indication of the schools, and of how many of them would receive mobile units. The issue of the schools was not really problematic because the schools should just follow due processes and source their own teachers depending on subject choices, where they placed the learners and in which subject streams. Then Mr Lewis requested Mr Abrahams to reflect the duplicated lists in Eersterivier.

Mr Abrahams, WCED, said that each one of the duplicated lists had been presented in the community, and returned with almost 600 learners’ names. There was also a letter from Equal Education. The Department had examined the lists looking at ID numbers, phone numbers, dates of birth, and had run them against the database. By a process of elimination, the final number had come to 117 learners. Their parents had been informed and arrangements had been made for the learners to attend school. By the next day, places had been made available for the learners.

Mr Meyer, WCED, added that the teachers had already been approved and recruited, and were now at the schools. The additional learners had already been allocated to the schools, and in terms of trips, programme learners were being rotated at the school. However, schools were still waiting to receive mobile infrastructure. The district was supporting the schools with materials. Mr Allen had asked about the role of the district offices, usually two circuits: a circuit admin clerk and a circuit admin officer plus the circuit manager, as well as staff from the management and governance component in the district. In all circuits, that was the basis of the team. So, should the circuit be big, such as Metro North with 10 circuits, that in itself accounted already for 30 people. People knew the schools within their circuits. Therefore, principals could be called to enable the placement of learners.

The Chairperson read three questions on behalf of Ms Makamba-Botya. The first one was about the growth in Grade R intake since 2009: over the years that had been the case and that challenge lasted over 10 years until now. The Department, having seen the spike, needed to share with Members the measures put in place to mitigate the challenge. This had also been the case with the number of schools built since 2009. The second question was about whether the Department could explain in detail how it intended to provide support to the learners who will be placed on 07 May, for them to be at the same level as other children. The last point was about the presentation: difficulties had been mentioned around obtaining information about the children of Roosendal House in Mfuleni. The Department was requested to advise on the process embarked upon to collect the information.

Mr Walters replied that the Department had had numerous meetings with the community, even having handed out a few thousands forms to them. The Department had been unable to get the names, and this had been going on for about three months. It finally emerged that there had been 600 names, but only 336 learners had responded, hence the name duplications in the lists. After sifting the list, 200 learners had already previously been placed. It had all come down to about 100 learners who still needed placement and had now been placed.

On the question of support, the learners had received the lesson packs that are available at the schools. Schools had been aware of the need for learners to get back to the learning platform speedily and the Department had provided support to schools for that purpose. The presentation he said, began by showing that from outer WC province many learners had come to settle in the province, but the budget had not been able to keep pace with the demand to accommodate them. To be able to mitigate the challenge, the Department had tried to solve the issue in relation to two things, one being the growth factor in the province and the other being the growth in the learner numbers. Once the equation was done, many issues would be mitigated. The money did not always meet the expectations and the demand. The gap still needed to be closed and provincial and National Treasury had been addressed on the matter. The Committee was well aware that funding inside the country was problematic.

Mr Lewis returned to a question about the growth in Grade R. He did not have the exact numbers of schools built since 2009, but said the infrastructure team could provide the Committee with that information. Mr Walters added that infrastructure was always a difficult question to tackle. Growth in new learners had placed demand on new infrastructure. And new infrastructure could only happen once budget allowed it. In the absence of budget, provisions for new infrastructure would be insufficient. The consequence of growth without providing new infrastructure was that learners got absorbed into current existing schools, which led to different challenges. One of these was overcrowding, and the other was that the lifespan of the building was under threat. The third problem was the maintenance of the schools. That question again brought back to a budgetary challenge. It was difficult to keep schools in good condition so that they may comply with health and safety regulations. If deteriorating infrastructure was not dealt with, one day the entire education delivery could be compromised. The other factor playing in on infrastructure and which was not necessarily negative was the question of budgetary implications. They were the minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure. Regulations demand that certain things happen in the provinces, one of the things being the replacement of certain plank schools in some communities. For such replacements budget was needed and if no budget existed those schools in danger of falling apart schools would further deteriorate, causing a health and safety hazard. The last factor impacting on the current placement dilemma was of a historical nature: There were more primary schools than high schools. That situation was caused by the retention of primary school learners through to high schools, with more learners proceeding from the primary schools into the high schools. However, the current ratio of primary and high school was that for every two primary schools there was one high school. Somewhere along the line, high schools would be under pressure – especially at the entrance point of Grade 8 and, similarly, in the primary schools at Grade one, competing with the Grade Rs. This was a dilemma for the Department. If adequate funding was not received for that, it would reach a point where the situation could not be managed. Mr Meyer might have to speak about the support to learners once they had been admitted.

Mr Meyer said that as Mr Lewis and Mr Walters had correctly indicated, the packs had been dispatched to schools already, and schools had been allocated additional budget to print the additional resources for learners. The Department was also in the process of sourcing text books, as seen in the presentation for the branch dealing with learners and teachers’ support material. The branch was informed of the learners and was already in the process of purchasing the textbooks. Teachers were being advised by the district subject advisors in terms of revised assessment criteria for those learners who were starting late. And for the first term, there would be a concession made in terms of the assessments thereafter, also in terms of focusing on core aspects within the curriculum for them to be able to catch up with the others within their classes.

On the question of getting the names of the learners at the Roosendal facility, the Department had had five meetings with various sectors and persons representing the community, and each time had asked for the lists of students. Department staff had had the opportunity to enter the facility and had sent officials to capture learners’ names. While there, the officials had been permitted only to get the names and surnames, the grade attended and the identity number. It was therefore difficult because a learner in Grade one would barely know his or her names and surname, they would not know their ID number or birth dates. At that point, officials had asked for more information about the learners but such was not available at the facility. Officials of the Department had then run the facility’s database against their own. Upon being contacted some learners had denied attending at the school because they were already attending at Roosendal. They had been told to stay at Roosendal until a new school was created at Roosendal. Late, the night before, Mr Meyer had received an email that he had shared with Mr Lewis. The email was a request for a meeting on the following day at the Department’s Metro East offices, with the spokesperson of Mfuleni. The spokespersons had promised to bring with them the lists of learners. They had been given a thousand forms and asked for more thousands of forms, which the district office had provided. The Department had thus expected a large number of completed forms to be returned, but when they ran the test on the packs, they had found that a large number of applicants had already been placed at schools. Those who still needed to be placed would be accommodated, as Mr Lewis indicated, in the mobile school on Earth One but also at Fairdale, Mfuleni High School and Paarden High School. So, for that purpose additional mobile classrooms were also in the process of being placed.

Ms Schafer highlighted the wastage of Department resources, with the handing out of thousands of forms and officials having to return often to the same places. Given the implications for Grades R on the system, Ms Schafer said that she was concerned about the takeover by ECD (Early Childhood Development), the Department of Basic Education and the provincial education departments. During that week, there had been a meeting at the council of education ministers’ workshop but she was worried about the implications of proposed norms and standards, because it seemed that the Department would find itself in a similar situation. Compliance with certain norms and standards was difficult, because there was not sufficient budget. Also, when teachers became qualified, they expected to be paid teachers’ salaries, but there was an insufficient budget to do that and to provide the benefits of teachers for the ECD sector as well. So, the Department had to keep a careful eye on what would be involved in the changeover. Educators should not expect to be paid more than that which they were being paid at present by the Department of Social Development.

Mr Sayed asked a follow-up on a question placed by Mr Lewis on the historical problems of there being more primary schools than high schools, learners at ‘Under the Tree’ in Mfuleni and other matters. Could one get a progress report regarding the land acquisition for schools in that particular Eerste River area?  According to him, the placing of mobile classrooms was another ‘ticking time bomb.

Mr Lewis replied that the response would be provided by the Chief Directorate of Physical Resources around the two elements mentioned earlier: The number of schools built since 2009 and the land acquisition for school in that area. The secretary would give information on that.

Then the Chairperson went on to a second round of questioning.

Follow-up discussion

Mr Sayed thought that the presentation was somewhat vague as far as the issue of catching up was concerned. Slide eight referred to lesson packs for the first term, which would be made available at the schools where the learners would be placed; they would be guided by the district officials. How did the WCED plan to deal with the issue of the Grade one learners who had missed an entire time of schooling? Did the WCED consider lesson packs to be an appropriate means for the needs of younger learners such as those who had missed the term? Why did ECED view that as an appropriate method?

The other question was about the details of the guidance that would be conducted by the district officials, and how many officials were allocated for that particular purpose. Was this catch-up plan developed already, and what would it consist of? Mr Sayed also asked if there would be a documented plan for the communication with and the supporting of parents. He asked about the criteria and details for the assessment process, which the WCED would be undertaking to support the learners, and about psychological support for learners who had missed the term. If that type of support were to be given, could the Department give detailed plan for that? And if such plan was not in place, could the Department give a reason as to why not?

Mr Kama declared himself satisfied with the answers given thus far. His question was about the school plans for 2022. About the target on estimated additional learners, from outside the province and from other countries, besides the targets that Department did not reach, what were the actual targets planned for the year? This question was asked so as to make sure that in the next year, 2022 in May, the same issue would not be spoken of and would have been sorted out in the current year. Mr Kama hoped that Mr Walters was not falling into the continuous chorus of learners coming from other provinces. He remembered that every time he asked about learner numbers, he had received the response that some learners must have returned to their original provinces of residence. The Department, he said, was not giving out precise numbers of those who had fallen out of the system, but was able to use those coming from other places as an excuse. There should be a specific number on the learners who returned. For 2021, the numbers were 21 000; what were the numbers for 2022? The target for that was 20 000 but it would be helpful to know the actual numbers. The final question was to know about the catch-up plan. Could the Department give a list of the schools where the learners had been placed?

Mr G Bosman (DA) emphasised on the fact that that issue was currently receiving media attention and that the Department should communicate directly with the parents on the latest placement availabilities. The Department should be more specific in its online form about which school parents could get information from, unless WCED was the online institution dealing with the situation at present.

The Chairperson referred to slide four: it showed that the bulk of unplaced learners from 2020 and 2021 could be attributed to first-time registration from either other provinces or other countries, which then implied that learners were accounted for in the budgets of other provinces. She asked whether or not the Department viewed the lack of change in funds in a funding model as a critical challenge for placing learners in schools, providing the growth accounted for over the last two years. If so, whether the Department could elaborate on that. The Minister had alluded to the Grade R migration. But what would the impact be on schools where there was a surplus of learners who applied for a place in that school?

Concerning the online applications, Mr Walters said that if parents were not able to make an online application, they would be able to do a manual or paper application. Would the Department confirm if any parents were not able to do that or were prevented from so doing? She also asked for an indication of whether the Department had received complaints or not, and if yes, what the numbers of complaints were.

WCED Responses

Ms Schafer said that she had received direct complaints from parents who had been refused the option of applying manually. It still occurred that some schools had continued to stop people from applying. Mr Walters supported Ms Schafer’s answer saying that with time, such incidents happened less because an idea of helpfulness towards families was codified in the running of the schools. Mr Walters did not have the exact number of complaints that had previously occurred but confirmed that complaints did happen and families were assisted on a case-by-case basis.

In terms of first-time registrations: the budget was short and there was a growing number of applicants. This was a factor, especially for the regions of Gauteng and Western Cape. That would be an issue in terms of growth of numbers and the lag between the following of budget for those numbers. The Department worked on consensus numbers, survey numbers and registration numbers, to be able to get that. There seemed to be a time lag in between, when money followed. There was a little bit of a delay and the need cold not really be met. However, over time, that issue should be smoothed out.

There was also a question about targets, high numbers and how targeting was being done. She responded that there was a process put on the table in order to help predict what the numbers would be. As seen in the presentation, the number of 20 000 put there was a round number placed as an average. Each year the entire number of people on the system was computed, and those numbers seemed to have increased each year by about 19 to 20 000. For the current year, the Department would try to get a handle on the issue, before schools closed. Meaning that by December, applicants should be placed already. The difficult task was when students arrived for the first time without having gone through any process either online or manually. The Department had tried to instil some discipline in the system. For any educational institution there was a closing date for applications. But when difficulties arose as far as the schools were concerned, applications remained open to facilitate learners. The Department was currently putting in place a process in order to mitigate the problem.

On the question about Western Cape Guidance Officials, Mr Walters requested that other officials do the explaining. There would always be learners who fell out of the programme for many reasons, but the Department had three major catch-up plans for when such situations occurred: giving catch-up plans to the teachers, giving packs to learners and looking at assessment criteria. Lots of efforts were coming from the Department and were being implemented through the districts. Mr Lewis, Mr Evans and Mr Meyer would add a little bit more on that question. Mr Meyer would now talk about the lessons packs and catch-up programmes has he had previously engaged with the curriculum branch.

On the psycho-social support systems to the schools, Mr Walters was happy to inform the Members that the system was pretty much well instated, not only for learners but also for teachers. In times of Covid-19 that service was rendered to parents as well. There was a healthy DBST (district-based support team). They consisted of circuit-based support teams. Every school had support teams comprising of psychologists and other professionals. In total, there were about 52 people involved in that process. The Directorate under Ms Bernice Daniels was guiding the process. The psychologist and therapist also had head offices and together they formed the DBST rendering the service. The Department also had an agreement with its two sister departments, the Department of Social Development and the Department of Health, to utilise their services and their personnel. Departments could share their expertise and help where necessary. The year 2020 had been a typical year where cross-pollination of teams and officials across Departments worked wonderfully. Even parents had been assisted in the process, and the same could and should happen this year. When learners went to school for the first time, psycho-social support team subjected learners and teachers to a survey to determine the exact support needed. Otherwise, they would get inefficient support that did not address their actual needs.

The target of 20 000 was difficult in the sense that one could never guess exactly how many learners would be unplaced for the next year. It was thus a more historic one gauged on the average over a few years. One of the Department’s APPs had had an average of about 23 000 learners taken over a 10-year period of learner growth in the province. The 20 000 was thus more of a historic target and could increase or decrease. That was what the Department was operating on.

On the question of dropout rate: the drop outrate in the province was about three percent based on the 2019 data and results according to Mr Walters. Last year, additional to the three-percent dropouts, another three percent of learners would have failed because of the progression system that learners cannot stay longer than four years in a phase. Some of them had moved on and remained in the system.

On the question of the list of mobile classrooms, Mr Walters said that the Department would make them available. Responding on the Chairperson’s question about whether the funds moved with the learners to the province, Mr Walters said confirmed that this was the case. However, it did not happen instantaneously. Three years after the learners had moved in the province, equivalent share kicked in and the provincial treasury received that money for the province. At that stage, Mr Abrahams would speak about the online applications and the complaints from parents.

Mr Meyer spoke about the kind of support sent to schools and to districts: guidelines to support those who started school late. He said that the slide showed the manual provided for guidelines for further education and training. Districts identified learners, subjects, school grades, etc, and, on the side-line, figured online resources that schools could get additional support from, as well as materials that could be given to the learners. An example would be: subject advisors designing generic subject specific programmes on how to identify and mediate the core or the fundamental first term content. This was for both FET and GET and even for the Foundational Phase. They focused on term two right through to term four. The aim was to support learners and infuse it into teaching practices within the class. One could not build on knowledge that the children missed in the first term. Therefore, it was especially important that key aspects, for example in the foundation phase, would run parallel to the processes within the class. In foundation phase the teachers were exceptionally skilled at working with learners at varying abilities. Some of them would remember in childhood, being in class and bring in the animal concepts group such as rabbits, cats, or horses. The teachers worked with the group individually because the learners were at different levels of knowledge. Foundation phase teachers were very well trained to help children catch up on that which had been lost during the first term. They also spoke about arranging additional classes for learners who arrived late, such as after-school, Saturday and holiday programmes.

On the previous Friday, Mr Meyer had visited several schools, and seen that the grade 12’s had been busy with catch-up programmes and additional classes. However, there was a particular school in which grade 11s were also catching up on what they had missed the previous year in grade 10. In order to support them better the teachers also arranged holiday classes. The Department’s e-portal had a large amount of information available for both the FET and GET section. The subject advisers always explained those items to the teachers during their school visits. The Department requested that there be no further meeting with curriculum staff from districts; officials were expected to be in school 100% of the time so that they could ensure proper support to their teachers at school level. There, assessment was to be managed as per the policy of exemption from the SBA task, so that learners were not disadvantaged. As was known, every term had SBAs or school-based assessments that learners needed to complete for each of the subjects. That counted together towards the final mark of the learner for the grade. Assessments could exempt a learner from a particular term, especially in the cases of Covid-19. The Department also looked into district managers sharing textbooks amongst schools. Here again the issue of funds could impose itself as far as printing was concerned. This applied especially when there was a large number of learners. Schools always received support from districts and from the Head offices, and officials were often sent to schools for investigations. A support programme as displayed for the FET would also be in place for the GDT sections. Many present aspects common to both the GDT as well as the FET would be able to support the teachers who were working with learners who missed the first term, in terms of catching up for the rest of the year.

Lastly, the system is still in the life cycle of ICT systems, run on for the first time the previous year only. Previously, applications were only half and half but with the new system the take-up by parents to apply for their children had been phenomenal. Within that, a few areas could still be improved, and the Department has asked parents who did lodge complaints to bear with them. Visits had been made to see how service delivery could be improved. One parent had told Mr Meyer that they could not apply online, but the situation had been that the deadline for applications had passed hence the impossibility to use the online system at that time. During those crunch times, the system had difficulties, slowed down, and kicked people out. That was a system issue that the Department engaged with CEI on, in terms of better support for the semi-solution for learners and parents. That was something that added value. The WCED was the second Department in the country to use such a system, behind Gauteng, which had used that system for a longer number of years. There, all applications were done on the system. It would be interesting to know how Gauteng parents dealt with the problem and whether it was done as in the Western Cape. Ideas had been shared between the two provinces, which proved that the system was getting better though it was not yet perfect. The Department strived to cater for the basic needs for parents, to enable them to capture the information of their children when applying for a school placement.

Mr Abrahams would soon step in on one or two more technical issues. Before ending, Mr Meyer said that the Department would be handing out a circular, having found that some schools were demanding that parents produce an unabridged certificate, their financial statements and bank account details. These practices were illegal and Mr Abrahams was currently working on a circular, which would be issued to all of the provinces’ schools and governing bodies to explain that they were not allowed to participate in excluding children from schools.

Mr Abrahams, added two main points. Firstly, 82% of the 400 000 applications on the systems were captured by parents. For the rest, parents could return the forms to the schools and the schools assisted parents to capture. Secondly, It could be affirmed that parents had lodged complaints about lack of capture and for those who had, the Department had assisted, dealing with every case. Parents had been personally assisted by the Department. In each district there were teams who could help and when not able to, the schools would offer help. Such help was being looked into so as to go forward.

Follow-up questions

Mr Sayed asked a last batch of questions: In slide nine, there was a detailed plan to place the learners; it would help if the Department at the end of the meeting would hand out a more detailed plan to each member. Also, could Members get a list of the schools in Eersterivier where the learners could be placed?

And finally, about the issue of language: How would the Department deal with the issue of the majority of learners in the Forest Village having their first language as IsiXhosa? Would the schools in that area be able to accommodate the learners, as those schools had mostly Afrikaans and English as a learning medium? He also wanted to know where the referred 210 verified cases had been placed.

Mr Meyer said that an offer had been made to the parents of the children from ‘Under the Tree School’ to register their children at the Bunga School in Khayelitsha, where IsiXhosa was the main medium of learning. The offer had also included bus transportation to Bonga School. At that school there had been available classrooms ready to accommodate new learners. The parents refused for their children to be transferred, citing that Khayelitsha was not a safe area for schooling children.

On the detailed plans requested by Mr Sayed, responses from Mr Meyer and Mr Lewis will be made in writing to the Members.

On the question of the circular, Mr Abrahams replied that the circular was still being drafted, and it first needed to go by the WCED. It was about some of the practices that were being noticed by the Department in schools. As soon as the document was ready the Department would share it with the Committee.

A member of the public, Ms V Leroux, raised a hand but the Committee Chairperson declined allowing her to speak since the meeting was not open to the public. Ms Leroux’s status in the meeting was just as observer and not Member.

Ms Leroux said she had written a specific letter to the Committee Procedural Officer.

The Chairperson replied that she should rather speak with the procedural officer personally.

Ms Leroux confirmed the procedural officer had agreed that Ms Leroux could ask questions even if she was not a Member of the Committee.

Mr Meyer said that Ms Leroux could also write an email to the Committee in order to ask her question. With that, Mr Allen suggested that for the sake of the dignity of the meeting, the Chairperson should mute every public participant in the platform who were not authorised to speak on the platform.

Mr Sayed did not agree with the idea of muting Ms Leroux and said that it was a lack of transparency towards the public.

The Chairperson reiterated that that was not a public hearing platform but Ms Leroux was allowed to pose her question in writing.
Closing Remarks by the MEC

The Chairperson asked MEC Schafer whether she had any closing remarks.

Mr Bosman said Members needed to read the rules on how meetings are conducted.

Ms Schafer thanked all the Members for their questions. She said that the Department had done everything in its power to make sure that needs were met regarding school placements. The pressure was still on and would remain so until the Department received reliable funding for the projects. There had indeed been progress made by Treasury with regard to funds following learners, but as Mr Lewis said, it kicked in many years after the time the learner arrived in the new region. With that progress, there had also been regression in terms of removal of budget in some cases. Whenever progress happened, funding crisis occurred, and then money would get taken away from the Department’s baseline.

With the Covid-19 pandemic the Department never received additional funding. It had had to take money from an existing infrastructure. The amount in the previous year came to R450 million, which amounted to a third of the Department’s budget. This was for the provision of sanitation, hygiene masks etc., for the teachers and learners to remain safe. In the year before, there had been a drought and R300 million had to be diverted. The same questions would keep on being asked until the Department received proper funding on an MTEF (medium-term expenditure framework) basis.

She thanked all her staff for their resilience, including Mr Abrahams having had a hard time getting the lists going, and she herself, in trying to get the applications for the following year. She thanked the Chairperson and all the participating Members of the Committee for their attendance.

The Chairperson also thanked the Departmental staff, the ASG, the HOD and the DDG for their presence. The Members needed to remain in the meeting for the conclusion of the meeting and administrative tasks.

Resolutions and Recommendations
The Chairperson asked for recommendations.

Mr Bosman asked the Chairperson if the Committee could get an updated communication plan from the WCED in terms of how they communicated on the issue of unplaced learners and also whether or not they could tell the Committee of any adjustments to be made to the deadlines for applications going forward. It was the case that every year many learners applied late, irrespective of where they came from. Would the Department have plans in place to accommodate a staggered application process?

To that the Chairperson asked whether parents were also kept in the loop about the status of the applications, as well as how they communicated with the schools.

The procedural officer confirmed the question and assured Members that she would double-check the recordings on that.

Ms Makamba-Botya requested that the Department supply Members with the list of schools that had been built since 2009 to date. It was important to specify the region where the school had been built and the level of learning that the schools provided e.g., Primary or High School, and so forth. On that resolution, Mr Kama requested that Committee also the names of schools that had been closed during that period.

Mr Sayed referred to Mr Meyer’s comments as needed in the resolution, that the Department would provide the written plan for the Forest Village placements. He also requested the number of learners who had migrated to and from the Western Cape between 2009 and 2021. His other question was to ask for a detailed infrastructure backlog in the province.

In addition to Mr Sayed’s recommendation, the Chairperson added that with regard to learners who had moved to the Western Cape, a comparison was needed between those who moved to this province and those who moved to other provinces. She asked whether the Committee could have numbers on that as well.

Mr Bosman wanted to know whether the Department was making any submissions to the City of Cape Town in its current process where it was considering and was requesting public participation. She also asked whether members of the public and stakeholders had been requested to provide comment and give input on the spatial development framework and the districts’ spatial plans for the Metro and the role that education played in that.

On the resolutions that members were proposing, Mr Bosman wanted clarity. He asked whether they were asking for information not contained in the UM or already included in the UMP.

The Chairperson responded to the question of the UMP, saying that if one was referring to infrastructure pertaining to the number of learners applying, there should be an amendment. That being so, because of the vast number of learners who moved to the province each year, it was necessary for the Committee to know what was contained in the UMP and its timeline. But in terms of the UMP, the proposed school Infrastructure did not speak to the vast number of learners moving to the Western Cape and whose names the Department had. She said that the Committee was requesting clarification on this matter.

The procedural officer confirmed having registered most of the queries and added that those that did not appear in the recordings would be thoroughly checked. The recommendations were about:

  • the number of schools built from 2009 up to today, the regions where they were built and the level which they accommodated, whether primary or high school.
  • The number of schools closed during that period.
  •  The list of infrastructure backlog on process; the Department to provide the details of the plans referred to Forest Village learners.
  • The WCED to provide the list of schools where the learners would be placed in Eerste River.
  • The circular, once available, was to be shared with the Committee.
  • The number of learners who had left and come into the province.
  • Understanding on the submission on the City of Cape Town where the comments were made on the social planning and the district’s spatial planning for that.
  • The communication plan on the unplaced learners, whether there were adjustments for the applications going forward, if there was a planning in place whether parents had been informed or communicated with in that regard.

Mr Bosman requested to add another resolution:

- to invite colleagues from the National Treasury as well as the Provincial Treasury to one of the Committee meetings, in order to explain how the allocation of funding worked as part of the division – specifically for infrastructure and for the provision of staff for schools, wherever populations numbers have swelled significantly

- what Treasury’s plan would be as far as dealing with the migrations towards Gauteng and Western Cape was concerned.

- to take account of learners who were from provinces that had very little in terms of economic activity.

To that, the Chairperson confirmed that such meeting had been planned and the procedural officer would have to amend the programme.

the procedural officer confirmed that the programme was set up on the meetings plans board.

The Chairperson added that on the following Tuesday there would be no meeting and that the Friday slot would be folded on the 21st rather than on the 14th. The reason was that the Committee would visit the North Pine Technical High School. On that Friday, they would leave the WCPP at 13:45. Those who wished to use their own transport were welcomed to do so, but should speak the procedural officer in order for her to be on an equal footing in terms of information. The walkabouts and presentation would last until about 17:30. The Committee Members would see each other only on that day.

On Friday the 28th the Committee would go to a Primary School in Darling. On the agenda will be addressing bullying at school, as there had recently been quite a lot of cases of bullying in the West Coast. The district or education Department would be the one doing the briefing on the status of bullying at schools. The aim would be to see what could be done with regard to wellness and mental health for the learners, especially after having been through bullying. Then there would also be the Education and Social Development workshop that Members had agreed to. The timeframe would be from 31 May until 2 June. On 8 June will be a visit to Crestway, about some poor workmanship. On 15 June there would be a briefing from the Public Service Commission.

The Chairperson asked for Members’ inputs regarding emergency repairs at schools. Members had received that report and should be well versed in it so far. At Rhodes High School, there had been a problem of maladministration and misappropriation of funds.

Quarterly reports of the Department had not been reviewed by the Committee as yet, and this would be done by 22 June. The Chairperson emphasised that all reports that were outstanding should be done on that day.

There had been talks of an oversight visit to the Karoo. The Chairperson asked the procedural officer to put that agenda on the draft programme, as she would want to have a discussion with the procedural officer.

The Committee was within its constituency period, the week of 5 - 9 July. Thus, there was a need to have a discussion on that. The Chairperson asked the Members to be able to avail themselves to do the week of visits in the Karoo and surroundings. She needed feedback from them about whether or not those visiting plans could go ahead. Members now needed to confirm at that meeting if they would participate in the week of visits.

Mr Bosman confirmed attendance. The R62 schools, however, according to him fell under the Eden District but the Chairperson confirmed that it was within their jurisdiction. Mr Bosman added that schools in Mossel Bay needed follow up and the Department should also do visits in that area. That depended on the kind of transportation that the Committee would use.

Mr Allen acknowledged Mr Bosman’s remarks and said he had no objections to them.

Mr Sayed had no objections either.

There were four weeks of constituency period and the Chairperson asked him if he could be available during that time.

Mr Sayed concurred attendance.

Mr Kama agreed as well and added that the procedural officer should check with Mr Christians to know if he could avail himself on that constituency week as he usually had impediments during that times.

Ms Makamba-Botya appeared to be off-line and therefore could not give an answer.

The Chairperson informed Members that the Committee had been invited to a biennial conference on the International Consortium for Social Development. It was, however, in the line of the workshop that they were going to do with Social Development. This was in order to work hand-in-hand with Education for Education to be better and successful. The conference was not in-person conference but online (virtual) and was scheduled from 13- 16 July. The Chairperson suggested that three of the Committee Members, including herself, attend the conference. That would strengthen what was discussed in the workshop with Social Development.

All Members agreed with the proposal, for which she thanked them.

The procedural officer requested that Members who were going should raise their hands, as she had to register and submit those before 15 May; she wanted to register them that week so that processes of payments could be made by the following week.

Ms Bosman volunteered attendance

 The Chairperson made a suggestion: she designated Mr Bosman, Mr Sayed, Mr Allen and Mr F Christians (ACDP) as well as herself to attend. All Members agreed.

Members would apply via the Department of Social Development.

The Chairperson closed the programme plans, saying that Committee had agreed on all the plans.

To conclude and close the meeting, the Chairperson expressed her disappointment at the way personal issues had been resolved on that day. As Chairperson, she emphasised that the usual Standing Committee decorum had not been present that day. She invited Members to get back to have the necessary respect that Members have had for each other. She declined re-opening that statement for discussion. She wanted to leave the thought with the Members.

Finally, she thanked all the Members and the Committee support staff for availing themselves that day. The next meeting would be on 21 May 2021.

The meeting was adjourned.



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