Western Cape Education Department 2020/21 Annual Report

Education (WCPP)

15 November 2021
Chairperson: Ms L Botha (DA)
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Meeting Summary

Western Cape Annual Reports 2020/21


The Committee met to deliberate on the 2020/21 Annual Report of the Western Cape Education Department (WCED). The Provincial Minister highlighted the challenges the Department faces which were evidently worsened by the pandemic. The WCED had the lowest percentage drop countrywide and a lower decease than the national average decrease. There was an increase in the number of Bachelor passes and the retention of grades 10 and 12 learners. She said that the Department still endures the effects of the pandemic. The Head of Education said the Department met 70% of the target as it had to deal with many uncertainties.

 Members asked clarification about whether learners were forced to be vaccinated, and heard that this was not the case. Members also raised questions on the placement of learners and what the Department is doing to ensure that all learners are placed in schools. Members requested up to date statistics of retention rates as well as dropout rates, and the ratios of teachers, psychologists, and social workers per learner. Some Members raised concern over school fees and buying of textbooks in no-fee- paying schools.

Some Members expressed concern over funds that were returned while targets from other divisions were not met because of a lack of funding. The filling of positions was a concern for Members and the fact that many schools are offering Mathematics Literacy and Pure Mathematics was not an option for many learners. Members appreciated responses from the Department and a constructive engagement.

Members of the public were invited to engage with the Department. The key issues that were raised included the inclusion or exclusion of Disability and sexual misconduct in the Education arena.

Meeting report

Opening Remarks from the Chairperson

The Chairperson greeted and welcomed all attendees both in the Chamber and virtually. Members in the Chamber were asked to stand and observe a moment of silence in respect of loved ones who succumbed to COVID-19. Members and the Officials from the WCED were asked to introduce themselves.

There was a sign language interpreter for inclusive education.

The Chairperson asked Members to follow her directive and emphasised that the meeting was assigned until 13:00 on the day. The Annual Report discussion would be concluded in that time slot. Members were notified about the 10:30am tea break. At 12:15, members of the community would join the meeting to engage with the Department. The governance and financial sections in the Annual Report would be dealt with by SCOPA in the afternoon and questions on those sections should be directed to the SCOPA virtual meeting. Members were notified that the first discussion would be from pages 5-26 with performance information as well as Human Resource Management sections to be discussed after the tea break. The Chairperson handed over to the Provincial Minister, Ms Debbie Schafer, for opening remarks.

Opening remarks by the Provincial Minister

Minister Schafer welcomed everyone and mentioned that it was the Head of Education for the WCED, Mr Brent Walter’s, first Annual Report discussion. The year 2020 was difficult for most people. Education was negatively affected in many ways. There was anxiety and fear amongst teachers, parents, and learners as well as grief and loss. The Department still endures the impact because of the rotational timetable, and this will have a negative impact on the Department in future. She argued that in light of this, she is proud that the Department managed to achieve phenomenal results while coping with pressure. It is one of the few departments that managed to work from home when other departments were not able to do E-Learning and the curriculum was phenomenal. The E-portal and the availability of weekly curriculum targets for learners was commendable.

 It was hardly surprising that the matric results decreased countrywide, but the WCED had the lowest percentage drop in the country and a lower decrease than the national decrease. There was an increase in the number of Bachelor passes. The province maintained the top spot in the country for the retention of grade ten and twelve learners. This puts extra pressure on the schools in managing acceptance of learners. There were also several academic achievements listed but she chose not to go into detail. The Schools Evaluation Authority has the potential to be one of the drivers of education and school improvement. The innovation to evaluate how schools were coping was commendable. She added that schools have now reverted to the normal evaluation process and several reports are on the website. She encouraged people to read the reports and go into communities to see how schools are performing. This includes teaching quality, parents’ involvement to see how schools can be assisted in improving.

The Minister emphasised that it is after all community involvement that helped schools improve. Learning gaps due to measures adopted would need to be addressed. The Department would still need to continue rolling out the STEM AAC strategy to make sure that learners are active participants in the economy and have the required skills needed when leaving school. She hoped that the partnership would assist in the current financial constraints. There has been an awareness to address staff wellness on page 31 of the report. This is a huge concern as it shows the increase in depression of the staff. The MEC said the Department managed to get an unqualified audit which was clean and she congratulated Mr Leon Ely and his finance team on the phenomenal job.

Mr Brent Walters, Head of Department, WCED, thanked everyone for the opportunity to engage in the Annual Report discussion. The Department has 43 000 members of staff and 40 000 are at school level. There are more than 1.1 million learners and more than 1 500 public schools and 300 independent schools in the Province. The Department must deal with the role of SGBs, unions and commentators because education is everyone’s business. He was of the impression that many factors come from the National level and would need to be implemented on the provincial level and impact of this on education. There were directions from the National Level which did not correspond but the Department responded positively, for example the provision of sanitisers and masks for learners. Two masks per learner amounts to 2.2 million masks. The Department met 70% of the target, spent 97.7% of the budget and had to deal with the many uncertainties of Covid-19. Unfortunately, rotational learning was carried into the current year and is disruptive especially for the grade twelves. The Department responded to social well-being and job safety. The most important issue is about the Department using its platform to sort out hunger issues in the province in a humanitarian effort.

The Chairperson informed Members that the discussion would be from page 5-26 and asked Members if they had questions about the opening remarks from the Department. In respect of time, she asked Members to get straight to the point when asking questions.

Discussion Part A of the Annual Report (pages 5-26)

Mr F Christians (ACDP) said he got a letter that children are forced to be vaccinated in schools and are in fear of intimidation and victimisation. He asked the Minister to provide the stance of the Department. He also said that there is no pure mathematics in certain townships and learners are forced to take Mathematics Literacy for a pass rate. He was in Mannenberg and noticed that it is difficult for a parent to send a child as far as Athlone for pure mathematics. Many children want to do pure mathematics but when it is difficult to put food on the table it is more difficult to afford transportation costs. His question to the Department was how this is happening knowing that students will not be accepted at UCT without pure mathematics.

Mr G Bosman (DA) questions were on pages 9-12. He asked the Department how it managed to achieve a matric pass rate in the height of the pandemic with the least decline in percentages compared to other provinces. The Minister spoke of the country not being completely Covid-19 free for the next foreseeable future. He asked the Department for any plans from the National Basic Education to address that.

Mr K Sayed’s (ANC) question was on paragraph four on page 11, where there was reference made to the matric pass rate for various districts. He asked the Department to provide details of the support package offered to districts that was below the pass rate, specifically the Metro East for next year. He asked for details of the service provider who refused to perform Systematic Testing together with the reasons and if any remedial action was taken.

Mr R Allen (DA) asked the Minister if there has been any guidance or response from the National Department of Education regarding the School Evaluation Authority. He also asked how the shift from STEM to STEM AAC will impact learners and the economy in the future.

Ms N Makamba-Botya (EFF) referred her questions to page 14, and 18 respectively. She asked about the types of resources that were given to learners to take part in online learning. She asked if the Department provided data/internet to all students including learners from disadvantaged households and the reasons why vacancies were not being filled and temporary educators were not being appointed. She said she was not satisfied by the reasons provided for underspending. She asked the Department to provide detailed reasons why the allocated funds were not used and had to be surrendered to National Treasury. She noted the irregular expenditure of R5.8 million resulting from incidents of non-compliance to National Treasury’s regulations on procurement of goods and services. She said her concern was that situations like that provide room for corruption within the Department. She then asked the Department to give a detailed explanation of what really took place for millions of rands to be wasted in such a manner.

Responses from the Department

Minister Schafer said learners are not being forced to be vaccinated. She was of the idea that learners seem to be forced by peer pressure. The approach is not to conduct vaccinations at schools. Learners who qualify to be vaccinated would need to go to vaccination sites. She agreed with Mr Christians on the issue of pure mathematics and mathematics literacy. Some of the reasons are that there are not enough pure mathematics teachers. Some schools are forcing learners to take mathematics literacy for better marks. This should not be done as far as education is concerned. It is a problem that is being discussed internally with the intention of reaching the national level. She said she has asked the Department to recruit good pure mathematics teachers to stream lessons to schools. Without teachers, particularly rural communities where a few learners take pure mathematics, a teacher position would not be justified. Some learners want to take mathematics literacy because it is seen as a way of getting a high percentage mark. The economy needs learners who pass mathematics with 50% or above. Many learners who could achieve that are not doing it. The objective is for learners to do well academically and leave school with abilities that will positively impact on the economy. Passing pure mathematics with 50% instead of mathematics literacy 80% does not mean it is bad academics.

 The commitment of learners and teachers as well as having matric learners at school everyday contributed to the high pass rate. It is also a combination of the investment in the Education Department in the province and the idea is not to focus only on matric but other grades as well. The Department is trying its level best to find many ways to improve education to learners and expanding options of online schooling. An example is the UCT online school starting next year. It is impossible to offer everything remotely for learners. There is also an option of homeschooling and curricula can be accessed online. The Department is looking at ways to improve home education, subject to satisfactory quality control. She said the systematic service provider is UCT and it was not willing to get into classrooms and administer the tests under Covid-19 restrictions. There was no mitigation as it is an annual test. The Department was disappointed because it wanted to measure how bad the impact was.

There has not been guidance from the National Department of Education regarding school evaluations because it was the initiative of the province. It is part of the Western Cape Schools Education Amendment Act which was passed a few years ago. The Department is being taken to court by SADTU and Equal Education. The National Minister decided to abide by the decision of the court and not oppose it. She said without sounding arrogant, the National Department should take guidance from the Province and should be rolled out nationally as other provinces show interest. The potential impact of STEM AAC is quite substantial and would seem better with the three-stream model. The province is a huge producer of agricultural products and more learners who are able to contribute to that and leave school with such skills, the better for them to find work. She was of the understanding that arts assisted in improving mathematics. It is quite strange that the idea has been neglected over several years and art has been seen as an add on. It is crucial as part of the holistic development of a learner and does improve other subjects. Coding and computation are essential in the modern economy and the whole intention is aligning what the economy needs and what is produced in schools. Currently, there is a huge number of unemployed youth who do not have skills required to improve the economy.

The Department engaged with various service providers to help learners with data/internet. The WCED engaged with the Department of Communications and some study materials became freely accessible on the WCED portals. Vodacom also provided 1200 sim cards to learners that could not afford connectivity in the Metro East.

Mr Walters was also concerned about the mathematics situation. He said the shortage of teachers is an issue, but the choice presented to parents drives the situation. In an environment where many learners choose mathematics literacy, there is no justification to keep the subject going. Students are disadvantaged inadvertently, and the counter argument is that some learners want to get better matriculation results. One of the requirements for systematic tests is that they are conducted by retired and mature individuals and Covid -19 infects older citizens more than other age groups. He thought that the UCT had an issue with that, but tests will be completed this year.

Mr Haroon Mahomed, DDG: Curriculum Assessment, WCED, said that when lockdown was announced last year, the Department consolidated the E-Portal and every teacher in the province was enabled to have access to Microsoft Teams. This enabled communication between the Department and teachers. It also enabled in the running of five major teams that handled mediation sessions on curriculum changes and amended requirements. In one session 44 000 staff were covered in a four-day period. As indicated in the Annual Report, as far as the E-Portal is concerned, the Department was able to quadruple the amount of traffic that was on the E-Portal including the use of material by teachers across the country. The disadvantage for learners and teachers was a lack of E-Learning devices.

The printing budget of 1 100 schools in need which was identified by the districts was topped up. Each one of senior curriculum planners working with subject advisers developed a sample lesson plan on a weekly basis. This provided additional tips for learners, parents and educators to be able to operate in a Covid-19 context. There were detailed packages developed for every subject including revision material and these were mediated with every subject group. The Department participated with the National Department on additional programmes for learners broadcast on the SABC TV and SABC radios. Some members of staff conducted Afrikaans lessons on Radio Sonder Grense and others contributed to 50% of the English lessons on Radio 2000. In the province, the Department initiated a partnership programme with Radio 786 and currently every Wednesday evening an extra programme is run. The Department has also entered in a partnership with iTV on DSTV that every Saturday an additional programme is run.

The impact of this work is under review to see if it works and if there is need to strengthen the reach and impact of the programme. This includes telematics as well. There is a discussion on a national level to see if there is a need for curriculum adjustments and assessment requirements for 2022+ and no decisions have been taken yet. All teams in the Department are busy preparing the end of year message to schools as well as the start of the year communication program. The mathematics issue is complicated, and the Department has identified areas where there has been a decline in offering pure mathematics. Steenberg and Mannenberg are examples, and the Department is looking at the reasons and what can be done for improvement. Several learners are choosing mathematics literacy for high marks because it is easier to get a bursary and with a lower mathematics marks, university entrance is impacted. The Department is putting a lot of focus on the question of learner urgency and getting learners to get motivated for learning and this is to curb inequality.

Mr Leon Ely, DDG: Corporate Services, said learners are the cost drivers for the Department. Secondary costs drivers are the number of days spent at school, and a year has about 200 school days. There are a few factors that influence the ability to spend, for example the filling of vacant posts. There is a value chain where various parties are involved and the Head Offices in districts also get involved. Two months of hard lockdown affected all processes. The SGB is involved in filling vacancies but, if it is not present at school like it was during the lockdown, it is not able to give the Department nominations. This builds up over time. There are three principal vacancies to be filled in a year. In such a scenario when there are no nominations, a Deputy Principal is promoted. That affects the whole system, including the paperwork if it comes through. These are the challenges faced in the current period. Positions could not be filled because stakeholders involved were not active.

He said that when it comes to finance, the intention is not to surrender funds to the Treasury, but it happened because of unfortunate circumstances. The Department will try to prevent a reoccurrence in the coming year. The Department has asked for rollovers. Rollovers are a legal commitment to spend those funds, and this means that money is not lost.

The Department had to spend money on PPE and that was taken from the allocated budget. It had to look at areas where money was not being spent. Training was inactive because of the need to maintain social distancing. The funds were redirected to buying learners 2.2 million masks. Money was also used to feed learners between April and May and not all learners took part because of the need for social distancing. The budget was about R8 million and around R6 million was used. It was for a good cause and the Western Cape is the only province that did that. The Infrastructure Budget for the year under review is R1.876 billion. The implementing agents are the Department of Transport and the Department of Public Works. They could not deliver because of several reasons in their value chain, but the commitment has been rolled out into the coming year.

The National Department of Education gave the province a budget of R840million as part of reviving the economy from the Presidential Initiative Programme. The idea was to employ youths to assist schools with various aspects. The uptake was not the way it was intended and was underspent. Currently, the Department is discussing with the Provincial Treasury about the potential use of those funds in the coming financial year. He emphasised that it was a difficult year for the Department to carry out its mandate.

 When it comes to irregular expenditure, the Departments makes thousands of payments monthly and had internal control units that go through batches to pick up matters of non-compliance and this has been investigated and is being taken very seriously. Consumer management is also part of this process. The Department is currently busy with the Provincial Treasury in relation to some of the cases. The Auditor- General was also a part of that process to some extent. He added that the most challenging issue is the transportation of learners. The solution is either putting extra learners on the bus or extending transportation contracts. The time delay around the ACM which is about two or three months is impractical. This is regarded as irregular expenditure by the Auditor-General.

Mr Archie Lewis, DDG: Institution Development and Coordination, said that for many years, learners with severe to profound intellectual disability who were outside the formal schooling system were a responsibility of the Department of Health and Social Development. In 2010 there was a Cape High Court case which ruled that the Department has an important role to play to support learners with disabilities. The National and Western Cape Education Departments were the two respondents. Since then, the National level has not provided any guidance, but the province was proactive to develop its own mechanisms to support the learners. Twenty teams were appointed to attend to sectors that are community based. Two years ago, National Treasury instituted the grant to support those learners. The difficulty was that it had its own conditions about the Chief Psychologist. The WCED raised concerns that it will create challenges to the Western Cape because some of the teams have already been appointed. The challenge has not been resolved. The result is that every year, for the last two years, there has been savings because of the remuneration prescription of the Chief Psychologist.

The Department is working on rotational learning, and it is very costly, and the response was to encourage vaccination. No one is being forced to be vaccinated and the role of the Department is facilitation.

Further discussion

Mr Christians asked if schools and SGBs have a right to force learners to be vaccinated and if the vaccination inside the school premises has been approved. People were employed for the short space of time and the same people are now unemployed and if 70% which is about R250 million was used, why was it not used to employ the ‘youngsters’ that are back in the streets.

Mr G Brinkhuis (Al Jama-ah) asked how the Department would deal with the issue of thousands of unplaced learners in the province. There have been complaints from lots of areas for example Parow and Stand in the Eastern Metro. He said his question was directed at the MEC and he wanted to know how much priority will be given to that issue.

Mr Sayed commended the Department on the grades 10-12 cohort in terms of learner retention. He asked if there is tangible information on the dropout rates from grades 1-9. There have been lots of complaints from rural Western Cape that learners in those grades are dropping out. He asked the Department to provide the reasons behind that and if it has a plan in place to deal with that reality.

Mr Allen asked for more information on Arts and STEM AAC. He asked how the Department supports female led schools in the province.

Ms Makamba-Botya said the MEC response was very reckless and irresponsible on the question of whether E-Learning via the E-Portal was accessible to everyone. The response of saying that “not everyone is able to access online learning because of obvious reasons”. She asked the MEC to explain the criteria for learners to access those facilities. The Department has an R1.8 billion infrastructure budget that has not been utilised and millions of rands were returned to National Treasury. She asked how it is possible to address questions of inequality when there are “Ministers with her mentality”.

Mr Bosman asked of the challenges the Department faced regarding the school feeding programmes during the pandemic and how it was navigated to serve the dignity of learners.

The Chairperson asked for the number of learners who dropped out in 2020/2021 because of Covid-19 and the number of those coming back to school in 2022 academic year.

Follow up responses from the Department

Minister Schafer emphasised that no one will be forced to be vaccinated. She said unplaced learners are a huge priority as per every year. It is prioritised to the extent that she receives a weekly report of unplaced learners and attends a bi-weekly meeting with the Provincial Treasury to see what can be done. Many complaints are of learners not getting into schools of choice and it is impossible to give everyone a school of choice. Many people are unhappy about that. It is impossible for a school that has 200 places to accept a thousand applications. Key learning initiatives are different from each report and there are many innovative ways schools have done for example building a handwashing pipeline. This does not cost money and every other school is unique. The general lesson that can be learnt is that there is no excuse for bad teaching, and it is also a good idea for Members to visits schools in their constituencies to see what can done to assist them.

Mr Ely explained well on why funds were returned. The Department is unable to spend money anyhow. The money that was returned was because of national conditional grounds. These were subject to specific requirements. For example, feeding scheme money cannot be used to employ teachers. Money cannot be spent recklessly for such a big Department, and everything must be carefully planned. She said she has also questioned the National Department on those issues. Tenders must be advertised if it is infrastructural development.

Mr Walters said that all parents tend to apply to the schools of choice. There are school places, but the challenge is that it might not be a choice for applicants. The bottom line is that all learners will be placed. There has not been a significant dropout rate as expected compared to pre-Covid-19. In a normal year the dropout rate was about 1.9% of the learners and in the Covid year it was about 2.5%. The reason could be rotational learning. The Department will look at individual cases to see if any learners that dropped out are coming back next year. In answering the question on female led schools, he said all schools in the provinces are supported but there are various principal associations. There is an Annual Female Management Conference and Women in Leadership Course to support female-led schools.

Mr Lewis said the WCED had to struggle with the National Department when asking whether to use the grant for the purpose of feeding learners when schools were closed. The WCED decided to use some of the funds for that purpose after not receiving any response from the National Department. Members of staff feared to open schools and parents were hesitant to send learners to fetch food from school. He thanked everyone who took part in that initiative. It was good to see learners waiting for food while maintaining social distance. When schools opened in June, the challenge was the increase in the number of children that needed to be fed in the rotational timetable, the exact quantity of food that needed to be prepared and the compliance to Covid-19 regulations. Schools had volunteers that helped with sanitisation and cleaning of schools. In December food parcels were dispensed to learners especially in the rural communities. It was very difficult in the beginning, but the Department made great strides to feed as many learners as possible. 489 000 learners in the system and 1010 schools participated in the programme.

Members took a tea break at 10:30.

The meeting resumed at 10:51 am.

The Chairperson said that on page 24-25 of the Annual Report, there are a few vacancies in the organisational structure. She asked if there has been any impact on the Department during the current reporting period.

Mr Walters said the Department was not negatively impacted. On all those vacancies, there were people who had Acting Positions, and vacancies will be filled in the next financial year. Some of the posts have been permanently filled for example, the Deputy Director General: Curriculum Assessment Management Mr Haroon Mahomed was appointed as the Director: Assessments and Examinations, Cape Teaching Learning Institute. The Director: Strategic People Management has been filled. The Employee Relations position is still in the process of being filled.

The Chairperson asked if Members had questions on this section.

Discussion (pages 27-142)

Mr Christians question was about the lack of funding and migration of learners. He said this had a huge impact on the quality of education rendered. The province had overcrowded classrooms and it receives 18 000 -22 000 learners every year. The schools are also struggling with school fees and many learners are not paying school fees. He asked how the Department would deal with those issues.

Mr Sayed asked about the average teacher to learner ratio in quintiles 1-3 and referenced page 30. He asked if there were schools in the province that had a low average and what the Department was doing to ensure that all schools were used to having the maximum capacity given that some schools had vacant space because they were not chosen by some parents.

Mr Allen said that one of the outcomes of quality education was that more learners were retained in the system but asked how the Department would maintain the quality of education and learner placement during the current Covid-19 period.

Responses from the Department

Mr Walters said that the Department opened new schools to curb overcrowding, and about 590 more teachers have been provided to accommodate more learners. Many of the changes to improve education depends on the area, parents’ ability to pay, but the state will have to do its duty to provide quality education. The Department has seen the retention of learners in high numbers and the increase in provision of basic education. Initially there were many primary schools and a few high schools.

Mr Ely said parents who are not reluctant can apply for school fee exemptions and the Department will compensate the school. R68.8million was spent in that regard and R4.4 million was spent on non-fee paying schools. There is an addition of 200 non-fee-paying schools and R303 million rand was spent in quintile 4 with R65million budgeted for municipal fees for non- fee paying schools. He added that part of the Presidential Fund was to fund the SGB’s posts.

The amount of school fees was driven by different factors. High school fees were driven by SGB posts. The Department advised the schools to make the fees more affordable for parents. Schools can also appeal to the Department to become a non-fee-paying school. However, it is beneficial for the school to remain a fee-paying school. In the current financial year, eight schools wrote to the Department applying for non-fee-paying status and three were approved. Financial management at schools is also important. The Department also assists schools with textbooks for learners.  The teacher to learner ratio depends on how the school manages its timetable and the physical infrastructure available. It is difficult for the Department to have such information.

 Mr Matthys Cronje, Chief Director: People Management, said that in quintile 1-3, 24% of schools had a ratio of below 30. Other schools had a ratio that was below 39 and others 40 and above.

Further discussion

Mr Bosman questions referred to page 69, 109 and 123 respectively. He said that the Department appeared to be doing well relating to independent bodies in schools. He asked for the main lessons learnt from that and how it applied to public private partnerships in the future. He noted that there was an overachievement on page 109. He asked how it sets the tone for the transfer of Early Childhood Development as a programme for 2022. His other question was on page 123 regarding several distinctions achieved by learners. He asked the Department what resources were used to exceed the target by 1 600, and if there were any strong signs of resilience from learners.

Ms Makamba-Botya referred her questions to page 32, 42, 44 and 66 respectively. She asked for the criteria used to qualify learners for fee exemption and the difference between those benefiting from the non-fee policy. She also asked why there were few schools that had fences erected in the entire province because the safety of learners was an ongoing concern. She also asked why the the number of posts allocated did not change, and what factors contributed to that. She asked if there were allocations in 2021 and if teachers were appointed after March 2021. She also asked for the factors that contributed to the decrease in the NSC pass rate from 86% to 79% in 2020. She emphasised that the Department should not hide behind the pandemic because the decrease was from 2016.

Mr Christians said he was really concerned about the issue of school fees. Many schools are behind with municipal accounts because they were not getting school fees from parents. He asked if it was a myth that there were non-fee-paying schools. There was pressure on unemployed parents to buy stationery and to pay school fees. He asked whether it was because schools were not getting in touch with the Department for assistance and how the Department was dealing with that. He also asked about the progression of the collaboration of schools.

 Mr Sayed said that schools, including non-fee-paying schools, were charging learners for textbooks. Some cases have been reported and the Department has dealt with it. He asked the Department if there is a solution to mitigate that in the coming year. He also asked for the average ratio of psychologist to learner per district and the plan to increase the number of psychologists. In Winelands the schools were not happy with the service given by the psychologists and asked the Department what recourse the school had to address the issue. He also asked for the finer details regarding schools that received fencing and the reason the Department missed the target of 30 schools.

Mr Brinkuis said that he received many complaints from schools in the Metro East that certain schools did not offer certain sport coaches. He asked why there were no coaches for certain sports, especially in primary schools.

Follow up response from the Department

Minister Schafer said that the collaboration of schools was a complex issue. Legislation was passed and was taken to court. One of the crucial aspects of collaborating schools was having an operating partner and the Department did not have operating partners on board. The fact that it is being challenged in court could be a contributory factor. The pandemic affected additional funding and lessons have been learnt with some schools struggling and some doing well. Schools will still be funded as government schools and there will be funding from funders. The Department was busy with other partnerships, and if all is on track next year there would be a technical school outside the Metro. The cooperation of the community in running with the given model was having an impact on the school. The Department is in a difficult financial position getting pressure from parents and schools. She added that schools need more classrooms and psychologists and it was difficult for everyone.

Mr Walters said that there has been an attempt to link up the entire value chain. The Premier hosted a Summit with the Minister and the Minister of Social Development to meet with the sector in relation to Early Childhood Development (ECD). The Department would take the responsibility for a period of two years to understand the operations. The Department is working with 1 518 well defined schools. It is controlling the schools, rules, and the staff. In ECD there are different formats, and they work with NGOs who have no experience in the Education Department. The Department is struggling with resources to provide average services, but it makes sense to add the ECD.

Mr Walters said that he did not have the current position in 2016 and was unaware of why the pass rate was 86%. The Department was disappointed for not getting the norm 80% pass rate last year. He added that when it comes to sport coaches, it must be kept in mind that the Department works with partner departments that assist the Department with extra mural activities. The Sport Programme was inactive because of the pandemic. It recently resumed but it is already exam time. He emphasised that sport was important, and schools should have Coaches for respective sports and that matter would be investigated.

Mr Ely said that a non-fee-paying school meant that the SGB did not have the right to charge school fees, but is allowed to ask parents for donations. He said that for the coming year, once the Provincial Treasury provided cost allocations about 590 posts could be filled. He emphasised that a non-fee-paying school was not a myth but a National Policy that the Department should comply with. There is hardcopy evidence published in the Gazette with the names of schools that in that category. The challenge facing the Department is financial management in schools. Those schools get allocated about R1600 per learner per year. The buying of textbooks and fund management depends on the school choices. A yearly budget is set aside for schools to cover municipal services. Sewage covers 60% of the water bills and using a lot of water increases the sewage costs. The Department has tried to assist schools in minimizing the costs by installing water meters. Bills remained high in some schools and that needs to be investigated as it could be maintenance issues.107 schools in the Metro, 80 schools in the rural municipalities and 145 schools that are directly linked to Eskom were assisted with municipality bills. The other challenge is that some schools are not cooperating and are forever in need. This disadvantages other schools that also need help. The Department asked the District Management to investigate those schools.

Mr Salie Abrahams, DDG: Education Planning, said that from page 114, the Department overachieved in delivering 29 fences. The target was adjusted to 27 schools, but the original target was 30 schools. The Department had a list of 150 schools that were identified to be in high-risk areas and the target delivery was 30 schools per year over five years and 29 schools should be seen in the context of 30 schools that were specifically commissioned under that program.

Mr Alan Meyer, Chief Director: Districts, said the school principals and the SGB are trying to mitigate the potential losses of books in schools. Learners are not asked to pay for the books, but it is a way of ensuring that the schools get the books from learners at the end of the year. It is a deposit that learners pay and at the end of the year, it becomes the deposit of the following year. When the learners leave school, the money should be paid back to the parents. This ensures that if there are textbooks that need to be urgently replaced, the school has capital for that.

Ms Berenice Daniels, Director: Specialised Education, said that almost everyone experienced the psychosocial effects of the pandemic. However, this does not mean that everyone should consult a psychologist. When the psychosocial task team was formed during the hard lockdown, social workers and psychologists in the Department discussed ways to deal with the overwhelming number of people that needed support and the criteria for different types of support. The task team was fortunate to learn from other countries and have a lot of intervention from domestic and international good practice. The team works with Life Orientation teachers so that support can be implemented in the classrooms, NGOs, the Department of Health and the Department of Social Development. The province has 64 psychologists and social workers. That equates to one social worker and one psychologist per circuit. Circuits are between 20-25 schools and that is about 15 000 to 20 000 learners. There are 165 based at school support and care assistants at schools in high need and are trained to offer counselling and decide when to refer. The task team also works closely with Strategic People Management in the Department running workshops for teachers to release the stress.

Mr Mahomed said that the identified challenge is that most learners take English and Afrikaans as Home Languages, and this makes the pass rate lower compared to other provinces. The Department has started a process of engaging with identified schools to encourage learners to take their original language as a Home Language. Schools and subjects that require more support have been identified to improve the pass rate.

Discussion (pages 167-208)

Mr Christians asked for measures in place to mitigate misconduct and his question was referred to page 202 where there are big numbers for misconduct and this includes assault and threats together with absenteeism. He also asked why the previous Head of Department was contracted to work for the Department.

Mr Sayed based his questions on pages 185,203,178. He asked for the reasons leading to a huge number of resignations from staff. He also asked for the nature of grievances and why they were not resolved and, if there is any progress. He asked if the Department is having difficulty filling posts and the way forward.

The Chairperson asked for the types of fines and if it was all paid and the contents of correctional counselling mentioned on page 201.She asked the Department to speak about sexual assault on learners mentioned on page 202 and the numbers of educators that were suspended.

Mr Cronje said sexual assaults are not taken lightly and if it is severe, the educator or the support staff got suspended. The Department is working closely with the Director of Specialised Education to implement preventive measures on the number of sexual assaults on learners. There are workshops held specifically for the teachers and the number of assaults has decreased from the previous financial year. He said the age group of teachers resigning are 35 years and below. Some of the teachers are trying to access pensions to buy houses. Some are leaving for overseas opportunities, but Teachers of ages 40-44 have been identified to be coming back. The Department is discussing ways to address financial guidance and awareness for members of staff.

Mr Cronje said that the type of grievances vary in nature. It can be a conflict between management and subordinates and people are also not happy with appointments. There were no challenges in filling posts as some of the positions were filled at a later stage for the year 2020/21 because of the pandemic. He defined corrective counselling as a process when employees are referred by management to an awareness program to get counselling for specific transgressions. He added that fines vary depending on what the Presiding Officer imposes, and they all have been paid. The figure for suspended educators is lower than the previous year. Suspension happens when the educator needs to be taken out of the school because of an ongoing investigation to stop either influencing witnesses or tampering with documentation.

 The Chairperson asked if any of the suspended educators are sexual assault offenders.

Mr Cronje did not have the finer details at hand but mentioned he would get back to the Committee.

Ms Makamba- Botya asked who takes the blame if a majority of SGB members who are vested with government powers decide to close the school during the pandemic for the safety of the children and the principal acts positively.

Mr Walters said the powers to close schools are vested in the Head of Department.

Minister Schafer said that there is a difference between governance and management of schools. The principal is the representative of the Head of the Department.

Public hearing

Mr Desai (a member of the public) said that the report is very lean on disability matters. There is a mention of special schools but nothing on mainstream, inclusion and access. He asked the Department for the solution to make sure that disabled learners in the province are included up until tertiary education.

Ms Daniels (WCED) said that to promote inclusion, the province has one special school per circuit and there are 64 circuits. There are schools that are being developed as full-service inclusive schools and there are about 110 schools that are part of phase two. The schools are being transformed for outreach programs as well and not only for the learners at school. There are 20 outreach teams from special schools that are multi-disciplinary with therapists, special education teachers and psychologists. More schools will be transformed to be inclusive, but the challenge is the lack of funding. There has not been dedicated funding from National Treasury and the Department of Basic Education for that initiative.

Mr Desai said that it is very disheartening that there is no funding for disability, yet the Department did not use all of the allocated funds. He asked if disability is being overlooked and why there cannot be schools in certain areas for specific disabilities instead of having one school to mainstream everything because that would need more resources.

Mr Walters asked Mr Desai to have a look on pages 98-99 as everything/initiatives the Department is doing in that regard is outlined but admitted that it might not be enough.

The Chairperson thanked all Members both in the Chambers and online for engaging in discussing the Annual Report. She mentioned that it was good to see Members and officials from the Department in chambers after a longtime because of the pandemic. She also thanked teachers for demonstrating resilience to deliver quality education to every learner in the province.

Closing remarks

Minister Schafer thanked Members and officials from the Department for constructive engagement and mentioned that oversight is always welcome. She admitted that it is a huge Department to run, and it is not easy, and the pandemic made it worse.

Mr Walters thanked the Committee for a constructive engagement and said that education is a difficult terrain and conversations are usually difficult as answers are not easy. The Department welcomes the oversight. He assured Members that the Department is committed to deliver quality education and thanked his team for preparation and the MEC for leadership.

The Chairperson noted that it will be the first time for Mr Walters to oversee matric learners this year and wished him the best.

Meeting adjourned.


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