The Select Committee convened virtually for a briefing by the Department of Higher Education, Science and Technology on the impact of Covid-19 on the post-school education and training (PSET) sector, as well as a review of the Department's funding model and the distribution of laptops.
The Deputy Minister emphasised that the entire education sector had been profoundly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the Department had had to put measures in place to ensure that learning and teaching continued effectively.
The Department described the various measures that had been implemented to facilitate the continuation of teaching and learning in a manner that ensured the safety of students and staff, while striving to complete the academic year. The university and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) sectors had had to develop and implement plans to allow for a multi-modal method of learning, including increasing the information communication technology (ICT) capacity, providing an allowance for data bundles and the sourcing of laptops for students and staff. This was in addition to facilitating the gradual return of students to campuses as the lockdown levels eased, while adhering to Covid-19 health protocols. Most universities had indicated that they would finish the academic year by December. The Department was continuously assessing the effect of the pandemic on institutions.
The Community Education and Training (CET) sector had been hit hardest by the pandemic, as community learning centres were difficult to secure, and drop-out rates, owing to a variety of factors, had steadily increased. However, the Department was facilitating the return of students who had dropped out, many of whom had done so due to taking up employment opportunities. In universities and TVETs, the drop-out rate had been influenced by students changing their academic programmes, amongst other factors. The Department and institutions had made strides in ensuring that online learning was conducted where students had been uncertain or fearful of returning to campus. In some cases, students had returned to campus and found it to be much safer due to the stringent health protocols.
Generally, the distribution of laptops had been effective owing to support from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), and some universities that had their own laptop schemes in place. The majority of students should have access to laptops. However, CET students were not beneficiaries of the laptop scheme, and discussions were in place to secure laptops for them.
The vaccination programme at TVET colleges and universities had been steady, with many campuses being used as vaccination sites. The programme was being rolled out via communication with students and staff, and was being conducted in collaboration with Higher Health, which had been helping educational institutions with the roll out of health protocols, as well as mental health support.
Members expressed concern regarding the late receipt of the presentations from the Department, which did not allow them to thoroughly engage with the contents of the presentation. The Chairperson’s main concern was the situation at adult education facilities, and the high drop-out rate of over 50%. He was reassured that the Minister did not take the issue of adult education lightly, and that it was a priority area that would be looked into further. Concern was also raised regarding the small number of post provisioning norms submitted by TVET colleges, with forms being submitted by only nine of the 50 colleges. Several of the issues raised by the Members required detailed reports that the Department said they would provide after the meeting, such as vaccination data, drop-out rates and a detailed report on the distribution of laptops.
Responding to questions about college management and training in the TVET sector, the Department said the Campus Manager Development Programme was an initiative that had been highly successful in equipping campus managers to be competent and skilful in supporting students and their programmes effectively. The Department also assured the Committee that it was looking at a review of funding, particularly in relation to CET colleges and the role they should be playing in the country's economic recovery plan.
The Chairperson said it was not realised that Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) was part of the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). This was of concern, because there were many people registered with Adult Education and Training (AET), which was now under Community Education and Training (CET). When the Department makes its plans, it did not seem to include those registered with ABET. He would engage with this issue after the DHET had presented its report.
Deputy Minister's opening remarks
Mr Buti Manamela, Deputy Minister, DHET, said the country and the entire education sector were profoundly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. The Department had had to put measures in place to ensure that they were able to deliver on their mandate because of this new reality. In May, it had updated the Committee on its work with the 26 public universities and the technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges, specifically on how they had implemented multi-modal teaching mechanisms. This had been the Department’s response to learning and teaching under the unprecedented conditions created by Covid-19.
The presentation would build on what they had reported previously, and also give the Committee a deeper sense of what progress had been made thus far. It would therefore focus on the items on the agenda, along with details of the Department’s Covid-related interventions with the support of Higher Health, the impact of Covid-19 on skills development, and its contribution to government’s economic recovery and reconstruction plan. The presentation in relation to the funding model would give an overview of the funding allocations for students and institutions, as well as the work the Department had been doing with National Treasury to improve the funding model, including suggestions on how to make the current model more effective and inclusive. Finally, they would conclude with the details involved in the distribution of laptops.
He introduced his team, including the new Deputy Director-General (DDG): CET, who was appearing before the Select Committee for the first time, and the newly-appointed Chief Financial Officer (CFO).
Impact of Covid-19 on university sector
Ms Thandi Lewin, Acting Deputy Director-General: University Education, DHET, briefed the Committee on the impact of Covid-19 on the university sector. The numbers of students returning to campus had increased under level three, with stringent measures in place. However, Covid-19 continued to have a significant impact on teaching and learning. Universities were implementing different approaches to ensure the effective completion of the academic year, while adhering to health and safety protocols and the directions issued in March by the Minister, which provides a framework for managing the academic year. Some institutions had involved student leadership in their planning. Health and safety protocols were guided and supported by Higher Health, and monthly reports on health and safety for teaching and learning were provided by universities to the Department.
Focus had been placed on information communication technology (ICT) infrastructure and capability, as well as access to devices to facilitate effective online learning and teaching. A majority of universities had indicated that they would complete the academic year in December. There was continuous monitoring of learning, teaching and assessment plans in conjunction with the Council on Higher Education (CHE) and Universities South Africa (USAf) to develop a greater understanding of the impact of the pandemic and the shift to online methodologies of teaching, learning and research.
Covid-19 had resulted in the biggest single reduction in the skills levy collection, which had declined from R19.413 billion to R12.4 billion. Therefore, various learning programmes had been affected by the subsequent reduced budget in the revised Departmental and Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) annual performance plan (APP).
In response to the government's Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (ERRP), the DHET had developed a skills strategy in which it consulted with various stakeholders, such as the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC), and had identified occupations and qualifications required for the successful implementation of the ERRP.
Impact of Covid-19 on TVET sector
Ms Aruna Singh, Acting Director-General: TVET Colleges, said the TVET sector had had to shift its focus to the use of technology for teaching and learning. This had been difficult, as the sector was already tardy in incorporating technology into the teaching and learning space. Due to the pandemic, it was imperative for the sector to move quickly into the incorporation of technology, which had become a gradual process. For the greater part of 2020, there were not many colleges using the more sophisticated technology for teaching and learning. Hand devices and mobile applications were initially at the forefront, but gradually Wi-Fi, tablets and laptops became incorporated. Since then, there had been major strides in the initiatives put in place by both the National Department and at the institutional level, such as making data bundles available. The National Department had pushed the initiative of zero-rated data for students and staff. The efforts towards blended learning would not be limited to this Covid-19 period, but would extend beyond the pandemic. Teachers must be prioritised in the distribution of laptops, as they needed them to prepare and distribute learning material.
Semester Two and trimester enrolment periods at TVETs had been scrapped, as they could severely impact teaching and learning efforts. There had therefore been a decline in enrolment for 2020, which was estimated at 600 000 students.
The pandemic had resulted in the recouping of funds by National Treasury in the 2020/21 financial period, causing the inability and uncertainty related to implementing post-provisioning norms (PPNs). There was a possible projected under-expenditure on PPNs for the current financial year.
Impact of Covid-19 on CET sector
Ms Thembisa Futshane, Deputy Director-General: CET, briefed the Committee on the impact of Covid-19 on the CET sector. Teaching and learning was being done in host schools, and therefore the sector was forced to follow the schools’ calendar. This had been difficult, as most schools were utilising their classrooms the entire day or had strict sanitising measures. There was a high level of absenteeism in CET colleges, translating to a 50.45% drop-out rate in the sector, and when schools resumed operations, some community learning centres had been evicted by host schools in order to comply with Covid-19 regulations. The colleges had had to seek alternative venues, losing teaching and learning time. The Department was working hard to ensure students who had dropped out, returned to community learning centres.
Funding for CETs for the 2021/22 had had to be reprioritised to support a shortfall at the NSFAS of R6.8 billion. Work was under way regarding the modelling required for the different high level policy options, as well as plans to work on the identification of alternative funding sources.
Revised TVET colleges funding norms
Mr Zirk Joubert, Acting Deputy Director-General: TVET Colleges, briefed the Committee on the TVET funding model. He said revised funding norms had not gazetted due to technical challenges at the Government Printers, but they had been distributed to all the respective TVET colleges.
New major changes include new programme types to be funded:
- Special needs education;
- Funding of foreign students;
- Proposed earmarked grant;
- College and registration fee;
- Performance-based funding;
- Enrolment planning;
- Repeal of the claims on unspent personnel funds;
- Student academic performance; and
- Rural colleges funding.
Distribution of Laptops
Ms Lewin briefed the Committee on the distribution of laptops at universities. Where there was a 0% reflected in the presentation's table indicating the number of students who had been supported to obtain laptops, this did not mean that students had not been able to access a device. It was likely that in those cases, the university had opted into the NSFAS scheme, and those students have chosen a device through NSFAS or may have chosen to spend their learning material allowance and make their own arrangements for a device. Institutions had different policies in relation to this. It was therefore assumed that the majority of students had access to a device. North-West University had not provided a percentage, but they did have a scheme in place and had provided the number of students who had access to laptops. Fewer students at universities were receiving laptops from NSFAS due to the universities having their own laptop schemes.
The Chairperson opened the discussion by stating that the Department was being unfair on the Committee by submitting information at the last minute. This made it difficult for the Committee to engage with the documents and apply their minds when information was given within less than 24 hours before a meeting. It created an impression that the Departments wanted the Committee to simply run through the presentation without engagement. He had given the Department enough time to make the presentation, because they never had enough time to go deeply into issues in the presentation. The presentations arrived only late on Monday, but it was always better for presentations to be submitted a few days before a meeting.
He said the issue of adult education seemed to be forgotten. Looking at the budget, the Department had R2.4 billion for the CETs. Did the Department think that with this budget they would be able to achieve the National Development Plan (NDP) agenda? He really doubted it. The CETs were not included in the review of the funding model -- they were referred to only in passing. Could the Department provide a report on the impact of Covid-19 on the CET sector? In the presentation, there was no mention of the CETs getting laptops, phones and other study materials. He wanted to check on what resources they were getting.
The DHET also said that adult education enrolment had dropped by more than 50%. If something dropped by more than 50%, it showed that there was something that needed to be looked into. The impression he got was that adult education was being neglected.
There had been mention of support from the health sector during Covid-19. From what was heard from tertiary institutions, the health sector had played a very minimal role during the first months of the lockdown. In which provinces and colleges had the health sector very helpful in the community learning sector?
Ms D Christians (DA, Northern Cape) reiterated the Chairperson’s concern about the late presentations, as the Committee had not been given enough time to engage them thoroughly. She asked how the vaccine process was being rolled out at institutions, TVET colleges and universities. Were the vaccinations being done on campus? Were students being informed adequately so that they visited the proper medical facilities for vaccinations?
She commented that a big issue concerned skills development, where the biggest reduction regarding the declined estimates for skills levies had been from R19 billion to R12 billion. This certainly had a huge impact not only on workplaces, but also on students that needed to be placed. This had been in the previous financial year. What was being done to see to it that workplaces were assisted adequately so that learners could go back to integrated workspace learning? How many of these students and learning programmes had been impacted negatively?
It was very concerning that only nine out of 50 TVET colleges had submitted their PPNs. She knew that historically in the TVET sector, they were always battling with the appointment of lecturers and other staff members, so what plan did the Department have in place to see to it that the rest of the TVET sector actually got their post-provisioning norms submitted in time and adequately so that staff members could be appointed, and teaching and learning could carry on?
What did their drop-out rates in the TVET and university sectors in the last two years up until the beginning of the new semester look like? Had it been established why students had dropped out? What impact had this had on learning institutions? What were the pass rates, specifically in skills and engineering? Had they been impacted by the fact that students were going to university and TVET colleges on a rotational basis? Information on the pass rates and drop-out rates were essential to enable the Committee to gauge how they could assist these learners to either come back, or to get their studies going again.
She agreed that the college management in the TVET sector needed to be held accountable for poor performance. However, her question was what kind of training and development would be put in place for these college management staff to assist them to do a better job?
She observed that the Committee had not received an infrastructure update, especially with regard to accommodation at TVET colleges. She knew that there had been accommodation issues during the lockdown, so she would have liked to have heard whether any progress had been made in this regard.
Referring to university laptops, she would have liked to see a more in-depth breakdown of the procurement per institution, which should not have been difficult for each university to provide. Were laptops provided to the CET sector? How had NSFAS students been impacted in the last year or two, taking note that a new CEO had been appointed at NSFAS recently? Had there been any struggles at TVET colleges and universities with regard to applications for students who needed NSFAS funding?
Mr I Ntsube (ANC, Free State) reiterated that the Committee could not afford to receive presentations at the eleventh hour. Referring to slide 20, where it stated that the Department “should introduce an additional funding weight for rural colleges”, he said the word “should” was conditional. The Department must be able to adopt this as its own decision.
On the distribution of laptops, it was worrying that the Central University of Technology (CUT) was not on the list provided on slide 22, and that it was stated that there was no information for the University of Venda. He sought clarity on what "no information" meant, because it could not be that at those universities, particularly the CUT, there were no undergraduate students who had not indicated a need for devices. He asked whether 26 559 devices had been delivered by September as indicated.
The Chairperson asked which universities would be completing the academic year by December, and which would complete the academic year beyond 2021.
September 8 was International Literacy Day -- what was the literacy rate in South Africa? How was the Department supporting community learning centres in promoting adult literacy? Were there any campaigns planned for International Literacy Day this year?
Ms Lewin responded to Ms Christians’ question on the vaccination process at universities. She said there were about 2 000 sites across the sector that could be utilised for vaccinations. These had been developed in conjunction with the institutions, and Higher Health was also working with the Department of Health. Some were community sites, and a large number were sites at the universities and colleges. A list of these sites could be provided to the Committee. Initially, priority vaccination had been organised for staff members in the over-35 group, when the 35-49 age group was opened. Specific sites, dates and times were identified for staff in the sector to go and be vaccinated, and this information was communicated through collaboration between Higher Health, the Department of Health and the universities. Once vaccination for the younger age groups opened, the same was available for those staff and students. The roll-out had gained speed, and the number of sites had also increased. The staff and students registered on the Electronic Vaccine Data System (EVDS) system, and could then access the sites that were most convenient for them, either at the community level or at their campuses. The take-up rate had been relatively high, and a report on this rate could be sourced from Higher Health if necessary. Access to the vaccine had been aided by the number of sites that were available for staff and students.
A deeper analysis had to be done on pass rates, because from the data provided by the universities, the success rates were by and large not dramatically affected. At a qualitative level, it was known that students had faced challenges in 2020 in terms of accessing learning opportunities, and there had been considerable disruption to the learning programme. In cases where, for example, students were not able to connect digitally via digital platforms and were not active on the learning management systems, institutions also engaged other methodologies of engaging with their students, through direct contact with those students and hard copy materials distributed to students. There had also been new assessment methodologies that had to be put in place at different times, depending on the lockdown levels. As much as possible, face-to-face examinations were possible, but within the limits of certain constraints depending on regulations and the size of the venues. According to current data, there had not been a huge decrease in the success rate, and certainly it was something the Department was examining closely with the CHE, as it was a matter of concern.
Regarding drop-outs, there were students who had made changes to their programmes last year as a result of the lockdown, and concerns as to whether they would be able to finish their programmes. The Department could provide those statistics based on their monitoring reports to show where that had happened. Some institutions put in place concessions for students where often there were cut-off points as to when they could withdraw from a course. This was to allow students to make those decisions later in the academic year. The big challenge had been for international students, not all of whom had been able to return, as well as South African students who had not been able to return to the countries where they were studying.
The Department could provide a more detailed report from institutions on the issue of laptops, which includes the number of students and the nature of schemes put in place. If acceptable, they could send the report as an additional written report after the meeting. The slide presented had reflected an updated engagement with institutions, and where it reflected 0%, that did not mean students had not been able to access devices -- it meant that at those institutions, the most likely approach was that the students had received their learning material allowance and were able to make their own decisions on how to spend that money, or to source laptops themselves. At the institution level, student leadership had engaged with the institutional management about some of the schemes, and that was why there were differences reflected across the sector.
In response to the Chairperson’s question on the end of the academic year for universities, a report could be provided on when institutions had indicated their academic year would be completed. The vast majority of institutions were completing it between the middle and end of December. It may be that in particular cases, institutions would carry over a very small number of courses into January 2022. A couple of institutions had indicated that they would finish by November. As usual, there may be supplementary and other kinds of examinations that may spill over into January 2022.
Ms Futshane responded to the questions concerning CET colleges. She said that the CET sector was indeed under-funded, but the Department was taking steps to ensure that additional funding was sourced for CET colleges. It was looking at other streams of funding as well, as they were aware that government had financial constraints. Through the office of the CFO, they were constantly making requests and submitting bids to National Treasury for funding of critical functions in the sector that were not currently funded. For urgent interventions that were needed in the sector, other streams of funding needed to be looked at to augment the mainstream funding.
On the question of CET's exclusion in the funding model, a tender for a service provider that was going to review the funding model for CET had been advertised two weeks ago. Next Friday, there would be a compulsory briefing session in relation to the issued tender, and the bid would close five days after the briefing session. Once the Department had the service provider on board, they would start work of the review of the funding model for their CET colleges.
Regarding laptops, CET colleges were not beneficiaries of the laptop programme, but discussions had begun to make sure they were included, starting critically with the provision of laptops to lecturers and staff, who could provide critical data. Not only had there been discussions to seek funding and ensure that the CET sector was part of the laptop programme, but engagement was also being made with the sector education and training authorities (SETAs), to see where they could assist. The previous week, they had the Energy and Water SETA donate 20 laptops for lecturers at CET colleges in the Eastern Cape.
Referring to the drop-out rate of 50.45%, she said the Department had engaged the CET colleges and said that they must put mechanisms in place to make sure that these students returned to the colleges. The current mechanism being used by the colleges was to call them and request their return. While the biggest factor on the drop-out rate had been Covid-19, some students had indicated that they had accepted a job opportunity and would therefore return only after their short-term contract had ended. Because the students at the CET colleges were also adults and had family responsibilities, it did seem appropriate that when a work opportunity arose, they should take it. However, the biggest dent remained the Covid-19 pandemic.
On the question of which provinces had had an intervention from the health sector in relation to Covid-19, intervention had been through the programme of Higher Health, which was a programme of the entire post-school education and training (PSET) sector. CET colleges, which were initially not part of the programme, had started with it in February, as previously there was no funding to expand the programme to them. In the presentation, she had alluded to the fact that the DHET had availed an additional R10.8 million funding for the inclusion of CET colleges in the Higher Health programme. As a result, CETs were able to participate in the programme. The Higher Health programme had been implemented in all CET colleges covering all nine provinces.
An event was taking place on 7 September to celebrate International Literacy Day. The Department was part of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) programme, and saw the celebration as a platform for advocacy to try and get as many illiterate young adults and adults to go to colleges to be part of the programme, and work towards reducing and hopefully one day eliminating illiteracy in the country. In addition to the UNESCO programme, the colleges were running recruitment campaigns on a continuous basis for all programmes to draw youth and adults to the sector, including access to skills and academic learning components. This was an ongoing intervention. The Department was also working with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) on the issue of literacy.
Mr Joubert responded on the question of the PPNs, and explained that it was a process of the migration of staff currently paid by the respective TVET councils to the Department. Even though there was a delay in the process, it did not directly impact all teaching and learning. PPNs would be the responsibility of human resource management at the Department, who were busy creating the relevant posts to supplement the migration of qualifying lecturers. PPNs meant they had received a baseline change in their compensation budget. For the current year, they had received R867 million for the process, but it had been a deduction from the TVET subsidy. The subsidy had been reduced, and the compensation of employees (CoE) had been increased. Therefore, there was no baseline change -- it was just to enable the college staff to migrate into the Department. As it stood now, even though it had not yet been concluded, it did not impact core teaching and learning.
Regarding Ms Christians’ concern that only nine out of 50 TVET colleges had submitted their PPNs, what the Department had seen was that the process was taking longer than anticipated, even though they received the funding from 1 April. There were numerous HR processes that needed to be concluded and implemented before the staff could officially transfer to the Department. There had been a follow-up with HR, and the current submission of the relevant completed documentation to date showed 20 of the 50 colleges had submitted their PPNs, including the identification of which staff would fill which posts. The Department was in the process of submitting an application to Treasury for the adjusted estimates of national expenditure to do a transfer of the funding back to the TVET subsidies.
The funding norms had been promulgated for implementation on 1 April 2021. The Department was waiting for the Gazette to be published. The policy position was clear, and the policy framework was set to include a rural funding weight. The funding weights would be implemented through a two-fold process. Firstly, work needed to be concluded on the classification of the colleges. The 50 TVET colleges would be classified as either rural, peri-rural, peri-urban or urban. As soon as they had been classified, that would then link them into the implementation of that funding weight going forward. If the Department did not receive additional funding from the current baseline, it would not be possible to implement the funding weight, except if they changed some of the planning processes at TVET colleges to supplement the additional funding. The funding weight attracted additional funding for those specific colleges, but was linked to the availability of baseline funding. They would implement the policy as soon the required work had been done, and if there was additional funding.
Ms Singh responded to the question on the vaccination programme at TVET colleges, and said that the assistance came from Higher Health. The feedback and turn out of staff and students had been positive across the TVET system. The Deputy Minister had led the campaign by getting his vaccination at a TVET college. If exact dates were required about the number of students who had been vaccinated and the number of campuses that had been opened as vaccination sites, the Department would have to get this from Higher Health and provide it to the Committee.
On the drop-out rates at the TVET colleges, she said that students had returned to the colleges quite early last year in June, and initially the return rate had been low. The Department rigorously monitored, and still monitors, several criteria fortnightly upon their opening, including assessing their readiness. The monitoring showed that there had been a very small return of students initially, attributable to several factors. One was that it was not possible to reach every single student in the early stages when the return dates were formalised and disseminated. Students were in deep rural areas, so it was a struggle to get that information to them if they were not contactable by cell-phone or email. A second factor was that there was a wait-and-see attitude. There was uncertainty as to how the return to colleges would be managed, given the hard lockdown levels. As students observed the initial students returning, they were also inspired to return. The number of returning students had risen rapidly, so that by the time the year had worn on, students found that they were safer at the colleges than to outside, where the infection rates were higher. By the time of the exams, students were quite determined to complete the academic year, and in some cases, students hid their symptoms. Luckily the Covid-19 screening process for exams was quite stringent, as those students had been discovered and protocols for dealing with symptomatic students had been followed. A third factor was the fear factor, where young students were afraid. However, as time went by, there had been a slow return as they saw that the environment was controlled and well-managed, with strict screening, sanitising and wearing of masks.
Regarding the pass rates, the UMALUSI standardisation process had conducted a comparative analysis which showed that it had been quite uneven. The Department had seen better pass rates in some instances, but in others there had been a decline. Therefore, there was no firm trend to indicate whether there had been an overall decline in the performance of students. There was no distinct decline supported by the data from the UMALUSI process. The UMALUSI standardisation process was a scientific process that could be relied on, and was reflective of the sector as a whole.
Responding to Ms Christians’ question on college management and training, Ms Singh said there was a Campus Manager Development Programme which had been going on in TVET colleges for the last two years. It was an intensive programme that had been highly successful. The impact had been visible through campus managers taking better control of the campuses. The Department saw this programme as a strategic intervention, because the role of campus managers was critical, as they were the point of contact with students.
Another initiative, in conjunction with the University of Pretoria and the Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the DHET's German partner, was to develop managers in colleges to assist with the implementation of the dual system of training. This was a trajectory that was becoming mainstream in the TVET Colleges. Gradually, this was the model they wanted to implement, and the emphasis thus far had been on students and how they fitted into the dual system of spending some time in the college and some time in the workplace. It was realised that the focus was on students and lecturers, but the managers who oversee these programmes were not trained to support them. Last year, the programme had been run and concluded, and the managers had been certified. There was a recognised need for this area of training to gain traction in TVET colleges which required the oversight of managers who were competent and had the expertise and participated at the management level to support these programmes.
There were other interventions supported by the Education, Training and Development Practices (ETDP) SETA for the development of principles for these institutions, but these details could be provided outside of the meeting if requested. On the infrastructure programme, especially the completion of new campuses, an update was not incorporated in this presentation because of the agenda. If that was needed, it could be compiled into a written submission.
Deputy Minister Manamela took note of the concern regarding the presentations being sent late to the Committee. The Department would try and ensure that they were sent time for future engagements. He assured Members that the delay was in no way intended to incapacitate the Committee in interrogating the work that the Department had been doing.
There had been a lot of challenges in relation to Adult Basic Education and Training. The Department had done its best in working with the DBE as it related to their response to Covid-19 in the sector. Most of the learning and teaching in the sector had happened at the school level, and that was why there had been no specific mention of measures, as these had been done in collaboration with the DBE.
There was a process in place to look at a review of funding. The Department and the Minister were quite concerned about the funding of community colleges and the role that they should be playing in the economic recovery plan. The Ministry saw the sector as crucial, and wanted to see to its expansion. The numbers that had been seen in the presentation had been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Most of the time, the schools had been on a complete lockdown and in some instances, scheduling had become difficult because the school system ended up introducing learning shifts, where learners went to school in different batches. Several factors had influenced the decline in class attendance, but this was a priority area that the Minister as looking at because he was quite passionate about the impact that community colleges could have on society.
The vaccination programme had been under way in line with the consent of the National Coronavirus Command Council. The Department had learned lessons from other sectors, such as police and the nurses, in regard to their vaccination processes, and had applied these lessons in its vaccination programme.
Chairperson's closing remarks
The Chairperson said it needed to be ensured that the CET sector was taken seriously, and that by the end of September, a plan had to be made to involve the Department of Social Development (DSD). He expressed concern about the drop-out rate and Covid-related trauma in the sector. The DSD could aid with psycho-social support for the community education centres in this regard. The budget for these colleges needed to allocated accordingly, to ensure that the AET budget was increased to meet the goals set in the NDP.
Further questions would be sent in writing, as well as further information promised by the Department. He thanked everyone for being part of the meeting, and said that this was a continuation of other meetings to follow. The issues raised in the meeting would be followed through to the end of their term to ensure there would be none outstanding.
Committee minutes of 25 August were adopted.
The meeting was adjourned.
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