The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education met on a virtual platform with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to engage on matters relating to the Second Chance Matric Programme (SCMP) and the implementation of teacher development programmes, with a special focus on mathematics, science and technology. A third presentation, on the Continuing Programme on Teacher Development (CPTD), was deferred owing to the late submission of documentation.
The Department emphasised that the SCMP initiative was an absolute necessity for South Africa, because it would take the country forward on skills, considering it was far more in need of skilled people than those who were academically inclined. More skills were being provided to young people through this programme. By the same token, the teacher development programmes for mathematics, science and technology were important in order to realise Vision 2030, and the DBE had to work hard to ensure that most learners were passing these subjects in order to rebuild the economy of South Africa.
Only two Members of the Portfolio Committee raised questions. Nevertheless, they encompassed a variety of issues, such as the presentations' outdated statistics; the ratio between race and gender in the SCMP; the location of face-to-face centres in metros, rather than rural areas; wage cuts; and whether there was any tracking mechanism to monitor the progress of those who had passed through the SCMP.
The Chairperson apologised for the fact that the report on the Continuing Programme on Teacher Development (CPTD) had been submitted only the night before the meeting. As a consequence, the Committee's researchers had had inadequate time to engage with it, hence it was not included among the meeting's presentations.
The Department proceeded to present on the Second Chance Matric Programme (SCMP) and the support and intervention for learners who had dropped out.
(See attached documents for details).
The Chairperson opened the discussion by referring to the Second Chance Matric Programme, where the survey data to indicate the unemployment rate dated from 2014, and showed a 36% unemployment rate. She questioned why an outdated survey had been used, rather than a more recent and updated one.
She queried the ratio between gender and race in the SCMP. She wanted to find out whether there were any challenges in this regard, because according to the presentation, face to face centres were located only in the metros – particularly in the Western Cape province. This did not make sense to her, and she expressed her disagreement by arguing that such facilities and programmes were less needed in the metros. She asserted that these should be allocated to the rural areas instead, because that was where they were needed the most. Her point was that students in the metros had plenty of resources at their disposal, whereas students in the rural areas had limited resources. She therefore preferred these face-to-face centres to be made available to them instead.
The third matter raised by the Chairperson was related to learners with special needs. This issue arose because these learners were not part of the SCMP, and the Chairperson wanted to find out why they were not included. She said that for the past two years, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) had incentivised and acknowledged excelling learners with awards and certificates. On the contrary, students that failed had been given less attention, and she urged that they should also be prioritised.
Another aspect of the SCMP she inquired about was the budget allocation. Launched in 2016 with a R67 million budget, the programme, had experienced a R37 million wage cut within a period of two years. The Chairperson was cognisant of the fact that various existing programmes also required funding. Nevertheless, she asked the DBE to give specific details of the programmes that had been provided more funding, which programmes had been cut, and for what reasons.
Ms N Adoons (ANC) asked whether the DBE had any tracking mechanism in place to detect where the SCMP learners were, and also what they were doing with their lives. She also more details on the correctional services inmates, because they were also included in the SCMP. She asked if there was any tracking mechanism to pinpoint their whereabouts, and their progress in life after obtaining the matric certificate.
Lastly, she commended the progress achieved by the programmes put in place by the DBE to compensate for the deficiencies caused by the outbreak and the restrictions of COVID-19.
Dr Regina Mhaule, Deputy Minister of Basic Education, asked the Director-General to lead the Department's responses to the questions raised.
Mr Hubert Mathanzima Mweli, Director General (DG), DBE, replied on the issue of budget allocation, and said the reason why Department had experienced wage cuts was because in 2016, its uptake and expenditure costs had been very low. As a consequence, this had attracted budget cuts from the National Treasury.
However, he argued that the Second Chance Matric Programme was much more stable now than it had been. He justified this assertion by arguing that the programme had gained more traction and had also demonstrated to the people that it was functioning.
The repurposing of the SCMP would take the country forward on skills, because it was far more in need of skilled people than those who were academically inclined. Therefore more skills were being provided to young people through this programme.
Regarding whether the DBE tracked the progress of students who had gone through this programme, he assured the Committee that they would be tracked and monitored in order to know if they were pursuing studies or not.
Mr Mweli said the SCMP did cater for learners with special education needs. This included the requisite materials for learners with intellectual deficiencies. The programme was therefore not exclusively for learners from ordinary public schools, but also those from schools for learners with special education needs.
The DG said they were "heading in the right direction" with regard to professional teacher development, but were far from performing at the level that they should. The subjects that were prioritised -- mathematics and physical science -- were also a step in the right direction, but the performance level had not met the required standard.
He said that unfortunately he could not respond to all the questions raised, because he was currently driving from one school to another. He had to rely on his colleagues for assistance.
Ms Simone Geyer, Deputy Director-General (DDG): Delivery and Support, DBE, asked Dr Sandy Malapile, Director: SDMP, to respond to questions relating to the programme.
Dr Malapile, responded on the issue of gender and race challenges, and provided a track record of performance in this regard.
Although the face-to-face centres which provided classes were located in urban areas, like in the Western Cape and Gauteng, the key focus points were the townships at the metros' periphery. He added that the rural areas were also prioritised in the other provinces.
Both the newly appointed DDG in the DBE and Mr Brent Walters, the new Head of Department (HOD) in the WC, had raised concerns over the restructuring of the SCMP, particularly in the Western Cape. A meeting had been scheduled with them in this regard because of the need to provide efficient service in densely populated areas like the Western Cape.
He assured the Committee that the progress of learners who succeeded through the SCMP was being tracked. He justified his assertion by providing an example of a 37-year-old lady who registered for all the subjects. She had passed all the subjects and wanted to do teaching.
In order to keep track of all the positive elements achieved by the DBE, an agreement had been reached with Mr Elijah Mhlanga, the spokesperson of the Department. Part of the agreement involved the profiling of learners every week in the DBE's television programme. This was done in order to highlight the good progress of the programme.
Research with the Department of Correctional Services was under way to enable the whereabouts of inmates who had progressed through the programme to be tracked.
He said the matter of learners with special needs required a unique approach within the SCMP. This was supported by his observation that most of these learners did not live close to the special schools, and needed extra support. This was why the DBE was collaborating with inclusive education directorates, Deaf SA, and Blind SA. These institutions assisted the DBE by facilitating and also advising where these learners should be located. The purpose of these collaborations was to create dedicated camps for these learners, since they were unable to attend classes every day. The DBE had received a high level of support from these institutions.
Dr Mhaule responded to the question of gender and race challenges. She said it was difficult to give statistical evidence on this matter, but generally speaking there were more girls than boys. At some stage, therefore, the DBE had initiated a programme to assist girls to do mathematics and science subjects, and as a result of the programme achievements, the number of girls doing these subjects had increased.
However, a challenge facing the DBE was that at times, learners were discouraged by their educators to not take mathematics as a subject. Schools usually did this in order to maintain or improve their pass rates. Hence one would find learners combining subjects like physical science and mathematics literacy. This tendency imposed long term challenges on these learners, because they became disadvantaged at the university level.
She urged all Members to identify this tendency when they were conducting their oversight, and should bring it to the attention of the DBE. The reason was that the DBE was responding to the economic needs of the country, so it had to produce what would contribute to the growth of the economy. For instance, if a learner aspired to be chartered accountant, they should combine subjects like accounting and pure mathematics, rather than mathematics literacy instead.
Lastly, she said that in order to realise Vision 2030, the DBE had to work hard to ensure that most learners were passing subjects like mathematics and physical science in order to rebuild the economy of South Africa.
The Chairperson appreciated the responses from the DBE, but was dissatisfied with Dr Malapile’s response on the issue of learners with special needs. She argued that it could not be a ‘unique situation’ to allow these learners as part of the SCMP, because “for as long as they are in Basic Education, they are your problem.” She would wait and see whether these learners were going to be included in the 2022 programme, as Dr Malapile had indicated.
She repeated the question about the 2014 statistical survey, because it was none of the DBE officials had responded to it.
Dr Rufus Poliah, Chief Director: National Assessment and Public Examinations, DBE, added a response to the question on gender. He said the male and female statistics were still being finalised. However, the provisional results revealed that there were far more females in the SCMO than males. According to the preliminary statistics, the females were in the lead because approximately 75% of them had written the last examination.
In addition to the challenges experienced by the programme, he said most learners lacked literacy skills such as writing, reading for meaning and expressing themselves through articulation. Therefore, moving forward, the DBE ought to improve the grammar of these learners so that they could express themselves appropriately in the required language.
Dr Mhaule asked her colleagues to respond to the question of the 2014 statistics survey.
Mr Mweli apologised for appearing to be misleading when he said they were supporting learners with special needs, because according to his recollection, the Department had the materials for these learners, but did not support all of them.
He conceded that the 2014 statistics were outdated, and promised that the Department would produce much more updated statistics.
The Chairperson thanked the DBE delegation for their participation, and permitted them to leave the meeting because the Committee had to adopt the meetings of the previous meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.
- DBE on: Second Chance Matric Programme; Support and Intervention for Learners who dropped out; Implementation of Teacher Development Programmes by PEDs 2
- DBE on: Second Chance Matric Programme; Support and Intervention for Learners who dropped out; Implementation of Teacher Development Programmes by PEDs 1
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