In a virtual meeting, the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education was briefed by the Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training (Umalusi) and the South African Council for Educators (SACE) on their annual reports
The Committee commended Umalusi for receiving their second clean audit report, with no material findings. This was due to the maintenance and improvement of their systems and controls. Overall, 94% of its pre-determined objectives were achieved. Umalusi stated that the reason for under-performance was the negative effect of COVID-19 on payments in the first quarter, which had affected its overall achievements. However, future payments to service providers would be approved and processed electronically if another hard lockdown was introduced due to the pandemic.
Appreciation was expressed to Umalusi for safeguarding the integrity of the examination scripts, as there had been no news of leakages of examination papers. It was asked to give an assurance that the National Senior Certificate for Adults (NASCA) qualification would be made available within the next 12 months. It was important for people to be able to enter into continuous learning.
SACE had an unqualified audit report, with several misstatements that were identified by the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA). SACE committed to addressing all the issue raised through a remedial action plan and oversight process. The Council was committed to draw on lessons learned during the period under review and improve its services to the teaching profession.
The 2020/21 performance of SACE had declined by 12%, compared to 2019/2020. This could be attributed to the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic disruptions in the schooling sector, as it had had a ripple effect on its programmes dealing with ethical standards and professional development in particular. Its internal systems and processes had not been adequate to mitigate the situation.It had not reached its target for the number of educators supported on professional matters, mainly due to their unavailability and their focus on curriculum recovery with the little time that they had.
A Member referred to the investigative journalism that had uncovered serious abuse issues at schools. It was evident from these reports that pedophiles were not being kept out of schools and the system. This should stay on the radar of the Portfolio Committee, because educators often resigned before they faced disciplinary hearings. These cases were then not reported to SACE. Research done by the United States indicated that 10% of learners were abused in schools by educators and other employees. Had SACE conducted such research in South Africa for 2021? If not, were there any plans to do this in the future?
Umalusi 2020/21 Annual Report
Umalusi presented its annual report for 2020/21, covering its performance information, human resources, and financial matters.
It stated that the implementation of the first annual performance plan (APP) of the current five-year strategic plan was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The APP had to be revised and re-tabled by the Minister in July 2020. As a result, not all of the 2020/21 targets were achieved. However, despite the COVID-19 challenges, Umalusi managed to remain focused on its five-year strategic priorities which were:
- Reviewing the quality assurance of assessment approach so as to accommodate new qualifications.
- Evaluating and appraising new qualifications – e.g. the General Education Certificate (GEC).
- Amending the founding Acts to accommodate new qualifications and desired extensions in the mandate of quality assurance.
- Intensifying research on educational developments to innovate and advise the Ministers of Education.
- Intensifying advocacy on qualifications within the sub-framework.
- Seeking an alternative funding model to increase revenue.
Umalusi had achieved their second unqualified audit opinion with no material findings - a clean audit, which was possible because of the maintenance and improvements of the systems and controls.
Overall, 94% of its pre-determined objectives were achieved for the 2020/21 financial year, while 4% were not achieved. Programme 1 (Administration) achieved 75% of its objectives, while Programme 2 (Qualifications and Research) and Programme 3 (Quality Assurance and Monitoring) achieved all of their objectives.
The Qualifications and Research programme dealt with ensuring and enhancing the status and quality of qualifications on the sub-framework which Umalusi develops, manages and reviews; evaluating curricula to ensure that these were of acceptable quality; the certification of candidate performance for all qualifications on the General and Further Education and Training Qualifications Sub-Framework (GFETQSF); and verifying all qualifications Umalusi and its predecessor, the South African Certification Council SAFCERT, had issued since 1992. Umalusi conducted research and analysis and reported on quality within the GFETQSF. The mandate was to conduct research that was informed by the emerging needs of the education system so as to encourage innovative thinking; report on the key indicators of quality and standards in general and further education and training; establish and maintain databases; and lead research and analysis and provide statistical support and information across Umalusi.
Programme 3 entailed the external moderation of question papers; external moderation of internal assessment; verification of monitoring of the assessment system; monitoring of the conduct, administration and management of assessment and examinations processes; management of concessions, assessment, and examination irregularities; and external moderation of marking processes. It also provided for the assessment and accreditation of private education institutions and private assessment bodies. This entailed ensuring that standards for provision were determined, maintained, and strengthened. It ensured that systems were in place to assure the capacity of the private education and training institutions seeking accreditation to implement qualifications registered on the GFETQSF through an accreditation and monitoring process. It ensured that systems were in place to assure the capacity of private assessment bodies seeking accreditation to assess qualifications registered on the GFETQSF.
Umalusi said that the reason for under-performance was the negative effect of COVID-19 on payments in the first quarter, which affected the overall performance. However, future payments to service providers would be approved and processed electronically if another hard lockdown was introduced due to the pandemic.
The second part of the presentation dealt with the human capital management. The Council had looked at employment and vacancies, employment changes and employment equity. The vacancy rate for 2020/21 was 8%. There had been 21 terminations, which consisted of 12 resignations, four promotions, three retirements, one ill-health retirement and one death. In terms of employment equity, the total staff was 2% Coloured, 5% Indian, 9% White and 84% African. There were 47% males and 53% females.
Mr Hendrik van der Walt, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Umalusi, said the Council had received an unqualified audit report, with no material findings. It had submitted financial statements that were free from material misstatements. No instances of material non-compliance with requirements of applicable legislation had been found. Overall, the financial viability had been assessed as good, and officials of the entity had the required skills and competencies to perform the functions of the job.
The total assets for 2021 were R108.1, and total liabilities were R27.3 million. The Council had offered continuation members (pensioners) the opportunity to continue belonging to a medical aid after retirement, while in service at Umalusi. Total revenue was R156.3 million, while total expenditure was R163.3 million.
In terms of committed funds, the Council had approved a tender amounting to R40 million for the renovation of 41 General Van Ryneveld Street, Thuto-Mfundo, adjacent to the current building. The Department of Basic Education (DBE) had assisted with a request to retain the cash surplus to be utilised for this purpose, and this had been granted by the National Treasury. Council confirmed that on 15 October, National Treasury approved of the Council keeping the surplus for major capital projects
Mr Mafu Rakometsi, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Umalusi, conveyed his appreciation to the Council for their support, and to Prof John Volmink, Council chairperson, for giving Umalusi direction on management and what they should do. He thanked the Chairperson and the Members of the Portfolio Committee for supporting the Council throughout the years and giving them the opportunity to present Umalusi’s 2020/21 annual report.
The Chairperson thanked Umalusi for their presentation and asked the South African Council of Educators (SACE) to proceed with their 2020/21 annual report.
SACE 2020/21 Annual Report
Ms Gaylin Bowles, Council Member, SACE said that the new term of office of the South African Council for Education (SACE) had started, and the inauguration had been on 18 August. Remedial plans had been put into action and the Council took the annual report seriously.
Ms Ella Mokgalane, CEO, SACE, reported on the Council's achievements and challenges during the 2020/21 financial year, its performance against the planned targets of the pre-determined objectives in the APP, and its expenditure. The presentation provided an overview of the service delivery environment and context, programme performance and the annual financial statements. She said SACE's mission was to strive to ensure that the education system was enriched, by providing properly registered and professionally developed educators.
Overview of Service Delivery Environment and Context
The period under review resulted in a steep learning curve in navigating and understanding the dynamics and complexities of regulating the teaching profession under the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. Although under limited circumstances, the Council had still managed to service its members. It acknowledged that some of the service and performance standards affected by the entity’s inadequate systems and oversight during the national lockdown period may not have been at the desired levels, as reflected in the Auditor General of South Africa (AGSA) presentation to the Portfolio Committee, and in its APP programmes. Consequently, poor performance had been observed in programmes such as the Professional Development and Ethical Standards -- some for internal reasons, and some that were beyond the Council’s control. It was committed to drawing lessons from the period under review and to improving its services to the teaching profession and business operations systems.
The 2020/21 performance decline of 12% as compared to 2019/2020, was a result of the effect of COVID-19 pandemic disruptions in the schooling sector, which had a ripple effect on Programme 3 (Ethical Standards) and Programme 4 (Professional Development) in particular. This could also be attributed to internal systems and processes that were not able to deal with the situation at hand. The registration of professional educators, student teachers and college lecturers had been achieved. However, the same could not be said about Programmes 3 and 4, which experienced the lowest performance of their time in areas where schools, teachers and learners were required to achieve the targets. The situation was particularly aggravated by the negative audit findings in Programme 4, which were being addressed and monitored closely through Council, the Internal Audit and Risk Committee, and the Department of Basic Education (DBE).
Council had received an unqualified audit report, but it was not clean. This was due to misstatements that were identified and reflected in the AGSA presentation, and were being addressed through the Council-approved remedial action plan and a close Council oversight process. The remedial actions include:
- organisational reflection and planning sessions to review the overall organisational performance and learn from the audit findings;
- the use of the lessons to review the 2021/22 APP and to develop the 2022/23 APP;
- to develop the remedial action plan and heighten systems and processes for credible and reliable performance information, in line with the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) /National Treasury frameworks;
- orientation and re-orientation of the 2021 – 2025 Council and Council Committee members on their oversight role in September/October 2021;
- and a review of the 2021/22 APP to address some of the issues that led to the audit findings in terms of the wording of targets and technical indicator descriptors in the 2020/21 APP.
The revised APP had been submitted to the DBE on 31October, with the relevant amendment addendums, for the Minister’s approval and dedicated and focused extended management quarterly report review sessions, in line with the performance information framework and external audit standards.
Programme and sub-programme plans
This was the second part of the presentation by SACE. Only 14 of the 27 indicators (pre-determined objectives) had been achieved. The activities of SACE were dealt with in five programmes -- Programme 1 (administration), Programme 2 (registration), Programme 3 (ethics), Programme 4 (Continuing Professional Teacher Development Management) and Programme 5 (professional standards).
Programme 1: Administration
This was a new programme and the first time the Council had reported on it. The purpose of this programme was to implement and manage the policy directives and priorities of the Council to ensure the functional proficiency of SACE through appropriate support services. The outcome was to achieve efficient and effective governance. There was no increase in the number of reports produced. There was an increase in the number of research-based seminars/ conferences conducted. Two of the indicators were achieved, and the other two were not.
Programme 2: Registration
The purpose of this programme was to register qualified educators and create sub-registers for special categories; maintain and update the educator database; and to enhance the quality of the registration of teachers by introducing standards. The outcome was to achieve fit-to-practice registered educators. The programme ensured that all of the 60 285 registrants were fit-to-practice in the profession through the screening and vetting process – SAPS police clearance and Department of Constitutional Development’s National Register of Sexual Offences. While pandemic challenges had decreased the number of registrations by 18 799 (23.22%) as compared to the 79 084 in 2019/2020, the Council had managed to exceed its target by 35 285.
The Council experienced slow turn around turn in cases where:
- the office was unavoidably closed on different occasions due to the national lock down;
- applications submitted through private agencies who failed to fulfil their promises to educators;
- incomplete documents on the online application system
- educators preferring to apply through the SACE offices' walk-in centres over the online registration system.
- higher education institutions' academic year that ended on 31 March 2021, and delays in graduations.
- slow postal services; and
- delays in the issuing of police clearance certificates by the SAPS.
Programme 3: Professional Ethics
The purpose of the programme was to promote and maintain ethical standards in the profession. Programme 3 performed poorly due to disruptions in the schooling system and lack of access to the children. This had denied justice to the same children, and escalated the number of roll-over cases into the new financial year by 440. The Council had divided the cases of 2021 and the cases from 2020 that were not completed. The top categories of cases of professional and unethical misconduct against educators during the period under review were corporal punishment and assault, sexual misconduct, rape, indecent assault, sexual assault, sexual harassment, verbal abuse or use of improper language, victimisation, harassment, and defamation.
Programme 4: Continuing Professional Teacher Development (CPTD) system
The purpose of this programme was to ensure that educators engage in life-long learning to improve their professional competence. This programme performed poorly, particularly in areas that dealt with educators' performance, mainly due to their unavailability and their focus on curriculum recovery due to the little time that they had. The student teachers who studied online throughout the academic year could not be accessed easily for the orientation and sign-up for participation in the CPTD-System upon graduation. The programme's performance was escalated by the audit findings against its outputs. The challenges remained around unclean data, inadequate record keeping and evidence, and activities that cut across two financial years. The trend of under-spending on this programme had been taken seriously by the Council, and measures to monitor quarterly spending on the programme had been heightened. She emphasised that this programme had many misstatements and problems with internal controls.
Programme 5: Professional Standards
The purpose of this programme was to improve and maintain the status and image of the teaching profession, and ensure the quality of initial teacher education and ongoing professional development through quality assurance mechanisms and standards. The pre-determined objectives of this programme were achieved. This was the only programme that had achieved 100%. This was because of the conceptual work that had been done and it not being difficult to engage with stakeholders. She said that all the documents would be ready at the end of the financial year.
Annual financial statements
Mr Morris Mapindani, CFO, SACE, said total assets (property, plant, equipment, and cash equivalents) had increased by 7.3%. The non-current assets had increased by 22% through the acquisition of the Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) offices. Current liabilities had decreased by 18.5%, while the accumulated surplus had increased by 10%. The financial position was favourable --it was a concern.
The revenue from operating transactions decreased by 23.3%, and there was a decrease of 31.2% on CPTD subsidy spending because of less physical contact with educators due to COVID-19. Total revenue decreased by 6.9%. Personal expenditure increased by 3.9%, operating expenditure decreased by 44.5%, and total expenditure decreased by 7.4%. It was noted that SACE operated within its collected revenue of R104 million. A surplus of R16 million was realised, and approval was obtained to retain the surplus for contingencies and improving operating infrastructure.
Total net assets increased by 10.2%, and the cash inflow into SACE decreased by 8.3%. The cash flows from operations increased by 12.1%. Cash and cash equivalents on 31 March 2021 was R105.6 million. There were a few misstatements of information that had been identified, and these were corrected on the spot. SACE received an unqualified audit opinion for 2020/21. Remedial actions had been approved and were being implemented.
Mr P Moroatshehla (ANC) said the joint and elective operation of this entity continued to be seen as a department on the right foot. As far as the management of examinations was concerned, there had been no news about leakages of examination papers. He wished to express his appreciation of Umalusi safeguarding the integrity of the examination scripts for the learners.
He wanted to know how SACE had been able to address the changes on the Ethics Committee, where they had to deal with disciplinary hearings and the summoning of witness under the COVID-19 circumstances. How were they able to improve Programme 3? He noted that the CFO had spoken about the R16 million that was not spent. Under-spending, as well as overspending, could constitute financial irregularities, and the entity needed to convince the Portfolio Committee what had contributed to this. What were they doing about this R16 million that was not spent?
Dr S Thembekwayo (EFF) asked about intervention regarding the matric certification problem. She mentioned a girl who had changed her subjects in 2020 and written the supplementary examination in 2021. She had received a temporary certificate, but when she wanted to apply to the University of South Africa (UNISA), she was rejected because her certificate showed the 2020 results. She wanted to know why this was happening, and who she could contact to help this girl.
She asked Umalusi how they were coping with the decrease in their budget allocation. The Department never decreased its targets. She wanted to know how realistic these processes were. How were they dealing with the unnecessary overloading of staff, which was linked to the vacancy rate of 10%, but only 5% being achieved? Programme 3 in respect of the number of subjects for which moderation of internal assessment was conducted had a target of125, but the actual figure was zero, which had negatively affected the Department. What were the reasons for this?
It was mentioned by SACE that a remedial action plan was being approved. The content of the plan was not known. The problem that had been identified was ineffective leadership which had not complied with the monitoring of the information that had been sent to the Auditor-General (AG). There needed to be reasons why inaccurate information had been submitted, and why the records were incomplete.
Mr B Nodada (DA) congratulated Umalusi for their clean audit opinion, which it had attributed to the maintenance of their systems and controls. He wanted them to share what improvements had been made, and what the costs of such improvements had been. It seemed that there were perhaps lessons that the Department and other entities could learn from the mechanism that were put in place. He wanted to know if it was possible for this to be shared in writing.
He wanted to know if Umalusi still had problems with certification, or if this had been addressed. If so, how had they gone about it?
He wanted to know if there were any improvements that could be made in the information communication technology (ICT) system that could possibly address the certification backlog. There had been major budgets cuts over the years in education. He wanted to know how they were coping, considering they had never decreased their targets.
The audit of SACE had been a concern for the AG. SACE needed to inform the Committee how they were held accountable for private audit outcomes. Had there been any meetings, and how were the reports submitted? The misstatement of financial information was a concern. This was due to inadequate review by management, which was a leadership problem. He asked who was responsible for making sure that contingency controls were in place to enhance the review processes of financial statements. Had any consequence management been put in place for the particular individuals involved?
The materials identified for a number of indicators could not be verified due to the lack of accurate records. Management did not ensure that there were sufficient plans in place to put forward accurate reports that were evidence-based and supported by accurate information. He wanted SACE to provide reason why the details were not provided before the audit outcome. What had been done to rectify this particular issue? It was important for SACE to strengthen their processes for financial statements and performance reports. It was important to be able to measure the targets that had been set thoroughly, versus the outcome of those particular targets. This should be done regularly, on a monthly or quarterly basis. Only 52% of the employees had been assessed through the performance development system -- what were the reasons for this? If it was a system issue, what plans had been put in place to improve the system. This was crucial to maintain quality teaching and learning. He asked SACE to furnish the Portfolio Committee with a report on the investigations into unethical conduct by providing the categories of such cases, what the total costs were for these types of investigations, and the reasons why only four cases were analysed.
Mr E Siwela (ANC) congratulated Umalusi for another outstanding performance. For years now, it had achieved a clean audit, which was something that eludes many other entities and departmental institutions. The COVID-19 pandemic had impacted negatively on many organisations, and this was often used as an excuse for poor performance. This was not the case for Umalusi.
He thanked both the Chairperson of Umalusi and the Council itself for guiding Umalusi in the right direction, because without this support it would have been difficult for them to perform optimally.
He wanted to know how Umalusi had been able to achieve all its targets, despite the prevailing conditions. As with many other organisations, it had to deal with a decrease in its budget. How did Umalusi cope with this, since they had not decreased their targets? Would this be sustainable in the long run?
Moving to SACE, Mr Siwela noted that most of their targets were not met, and it was very concerning. Was this because the targets had been too high? If not, what had happened to the officials who were responsible for these programmes? Were they held accountable for their performance? The audit report of SACE indicated that it had received an unqualified opinion for the year 2021, with some misstatements that were corrected on the spot. The fact that these misstatements could be corrected on the spot indicated that the information was probably readily available, so was this not avoidable in the first place?
He wanted to know when one was expected to register as an educator, and how often people had to register with SACE. Did they have to register once, or did SACE have to renew the register regularly? He asked this because during the presentation, it had been said that some educators would like to register only when they received an appointment, and then wanted to get the registration as an educator done immediately. This caused problems for SACE, given the fact that there would be a large volume of applications that could lead to them not meeting their targets.
Ms M Sukers (ACDP) thanked the entities and their staff for their commitment over the last year. One had to appreciate the work that they had done, especially under the present circumstances. She said a clean audit was necessary, but it was not necessarily a guarantee for service delivery. In one of the meetings, it had been suggested to the Social Development Committee that the Department give results-based presentations to the Portfolio Committee in order for it to effectively monitor how the Department was performing in real time. She suggested that the same be done in this Portfolio Committee, in order to see how the results really looked and how the performance of different entities played out.
In respect of Umalusi, she noted that the high unemployment rate had an effect on people younger than 24 years old. A number of these people did not finish matric or the equivalent. Furthermore, women were pushed out of the system because of pregnancy, or because they already had children. The issue of the National Senior Certificate for Adults (NASCA) had been raised numerous times. When she spoke to Umalusi about this, there had been a commitment to ease the qualification process. One of the issues raised had been funding. She appreciated that this qualification would most likely fall under the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), but wanted to know what the progress on NASCA was for the period under review, and for Umalusi to give an indication on that. She also wanted Umalusi to give assurance that the qualification would be made available within the next 12 months. It was important to get people into the system. It was important that people were able to enter into continuous learning.
Many independent schools had been down, and she wanted an indication of the number of applications that had been received from independent schools for registration over the last five years, and how long it took for these applications to be processed. Many of the schools could not afford the fees of Umalusi, especially in the wake of COVID-19. There were thousands of small schools, and the environment in the independent sector was changing. She asked what needed to be done to provide a 100% rebate to all schools with fewer than 30 learners, and for all schools catering for learners with special needs, low school fees and historically non-racial independent schools. She asked for a breakdown of how many rebates had been applied for and how many had been granted.
The Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme had been moved to the Department of Basic Education (DBE). She asked how involved Umalusi had been in the preparation for the move. There was a significant number of independent providers, estimated at 50 000. She wanted to know if ECD facilities had to register with Umalusi. ECD was economically vulnerable, with additional costs when they moved to the DBE. She asked if there were any aids available to provide them with funding to address these additional costs. Learners with special education needs required special programmes -- how many of these special programmes had been accredited in 2020 and 2021 respectively? A breakdown of this was requested.
One of the Umalusi strategies was to intensify its research into educational developments, to innovate and to advise the Ministers of Education. She requested a report on what research was conducted in 2020 and 2021, what research was being planned and whether more research was needed.
Moving on to SACE, she referred to the investigative journalism that had uncovered serious abuse issues, with News24 publishing a detailed story. It was evident from these reports that pedophiles were not being kept out of schools and the system. This should stay on the radar of the Portfolio Committee, because educators often resigned before they faced disciplinary hearings. These cases were then not reported to SACE. Research done by the United States indicated that 10% of learners were abused in schools by educators and other employees. Had SACE conducted such research in South Africa for 2021? If not, were there any plans to do this in the future?
She had referred to the US research because there were many complaints at the public hearings of children suffering abuse in schools. She asked SACE to advise the Committee what their plans were to deal with the issues that had been raised by the Members, including management.
The Chairperson thanked both Umalusi and SACE for their presentations and for the participation by the Members. She also congratulated the entities, particularly Umalusi, for the work that they were doing, and hoped that this level was maintained.
She raised concerns surrounding the finances of SACE. She was of the opinion that the remedial actions that SACE claimed to be working on were not genuinely being working on. There was a lack of cooperation from their side. SACE needs to listen to the Auditor General (AG) and the Portfolio Committee.
SACE had reported that there were assets in KZN and Limpopo. She wanted to know what type of assets these were. If they were buildings, did they belong to SACE? Did they need these buildings, seeing they say there was a lack of money. She wanted to know if it was cheaper to have those buildings, or rather use government buildings that were available everywhere.
There was an issue of financial statements not being submitted, or being submitted but not complete. SACE was not a big entity -- there was no reason to have books that were not consistently accurate. The AG had continuously raised the issue that SACE could not submit inaccurate statements. She wanted to know about the R2.5 million depreciation, and whether they had prepared teachers in this country for the fourth industrial revolution. She noted that 60% of the budget was spent on teachers' salaries, which was too much, even for other institutions. This meant that there were too many personnel. What were they exactly doing? Were there now more personnel to work on the finances? According to the report submitted, none of the staff were people with disabilities. What was the reason for this? Were such people not applying, or did they not want them to work for SACE? People with disabilities should be referred to SACE so the statistics of the entity could reflect this.
Mr Rakometsi thanked the Members for congratulating Umalusi for their clean audit. He thanked Mr Rufus Poliah, Chief Director: National Assessment and Public Examinations, DBE, and his team for their hard work. The Department had gone an extra mile to close the gaps causing the leakage of exam papers. The students had been required to register their cell numbers. If there was an exchange of question papers on WhatsApp, Umalusi would be able to see if that candidate’s number had been registered. This was innovative, and Mr Poliah and his team must be commended for this. He responded to Dr Thembekwayo's request for assistance of certificates, and assured her that he would help and provided the details.
The budget had been cut and the entity had been struggling. The scope of quality assurance had not been adequate or satisfactory because of the budget constraints. He wished that the budget was enough for the scope to be broader, so that the entity could pronounce quality results with confidence. Umalusi and its staff had operated from home, so vacancies had been frozen, but they would soon be filled. No new positions were created, but they planned on approaching the Council for new positions at the beginning of next year.
Interventions by the Portfolio Committee, the DBE and National Treasury had created an additional R20 million in the budget according to the news release statement by the Minister of Finance. He thanked the Members of the Portfolio Committee for supporting the cause of Umalusi.
Mr Van der Walt addressed the issue of management and maintenance of standards. With the re-tabling of the APP, adjustments had been made to targets. These adjustments were made in terms of affordability and how to manage the budget with this decline. For instance, site visits were virtual, which reduced the costs of travel. Umalusi had tried to be innovative in its approach to work in order to maintain a reasonable standard of assurance so that the Council could pronounce on the results. However, it had been a challenge when the budget was reduced, and the revenue was on a decline as a result of the pandemic. Umalusi had had to adapt, and therefore some of the targets could not be achieved -- like laptops and data for staff members to work remotely during the pandemic. ICT had played a critical role for ensuring security regarding online work that required additional resources. They had therefore approached the DBE for assistance with additional funding, to make sure that the security network was effective.
Ms Stella Mosimege, Senior Manager: Strategy and Governance, Umalusi responded to Dr Thembekwayo's question of about certain indicators not being achieved. She said that all the indicators in the APP had to be re-tabled and the figures shown were those of March 2020. The figures referred to were those before the APP was re-tabled. So, after the re-tabling, the target of 125 had been reduced to 85. Umalusi therefore had achieved the target. The re-tabling had impacted the other four indicators as well. This had affected, firstly, the number of subjects for which verification of marking was conducted; secondly, the indicators for research; thirdly, the assessment reports were changed from ten to eight, and the number of assessment bodies audited for their state of readiness to conduct examinations was changed from 13 to 12; and fourthly, the targets were reduced from 125 to 85. One side of the table showed the APP targets, and the other side of the table showed the achievement against the re-tabled targets.
Mr Rakometsi responded to the questions raised by Mr Nodada, and said Umalusi was able to achieve a clean audit because they tried to keep the staff motivated and had focused on attaining a clean audit. A pledge had been signed by senior management in front of the staff about three to four years ago, that Umalusi was going to get a clean audit. The staff were encouraged consistently to adhere to policies and to act in an ethical manner. The information that was received was checked. For instance, there was a performance information evidence committee that checked the information provided, and there had to be evidence to show what had been done and delivered by officials. The work of the organisation was reviewed. Meetings were hold monthly, where officials were held accountable for the targets that were set, and then report on them.
He said the certification backlog was a problem that had arisen between the Department of Higher Education and Training and the State Information Technology Agency (SITA). There had been weekly meetings to identify where the backlog was. In the last weekly meeting, it was reported that only one percent remained uncertified. Council believed that this was still too much. These were human beings who wanted to get their certificates and get on with their lives. Although the backlog had been reduced, Council was not happy with the position.
He agreed with Ms Sukers that the unemployment rate was high in South Africa. The NASCA was due for implementation in 2022 by the Department of Higher Education and Training, where the first examination would take place in June 2023. The delay for the implementation of NASCA was due to outstanding documentation, based on the curriculum by the DHET.
He confirmed that the report of the independent schools for the last five years would be made available to the Portfolio Committee in writing, as well as how many applications had been received and processed. It was impossible for Umalusi to provide 100% rebates, because money had to be used to do the evaluation and therefore a fee was charged. The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa states that whoever operates independent education had to do so at their own cost.
The DBE had not assigned a role to Umalusi in respect of ECD, but it was clear that this would be implemented from grade R to grade 9. When ECD was made compulsory, Umalusi would accredit those institutions.
The only special programme was South African sign language, where students’ qualifications had been certified for the past two to three years. Braille was still being done, and they were trying to accommodate people with different disabilities. No new programme had been identified. The students that used Braille received their certificates in Braille.
He quickly touched on the research that had been conducted in the year under review. The NSC post-analysis had focused on selected examinations that were administered by the DBE and the Independent Examinations Board. Research had also been done on practitioners’ perspectives and understanding of the approaches underpinning the curriculum and pedagogy in early childhood in classrooms. There had been a review of the Umalusi school-based assessment (SBA) module in certain subjects that was directed towards a framework that led to achievement at the foundation phase and grades 3, 6 and 9. There had also been research conducted on the leakages of the mathematics and science papers in 2020.
All research reports were available on the Umalusi website, and Members could access them.
Prof Volmink said that a meeting would take place to address the questions that had been addressed here. He thanked the Portfolio Committee for their honest questions, and for allowing them to respond.
Ms Bowles welcomed the fact that Portfolio Committee was holding SACE accountable. Internal management issues were being addressed and there was zero tolerance. Every report had to be verified, and the CEO had in fact gone beyond in holding senior members to account and being very open with the executive committee about reports not being up to standard. Remedial actions had been put in place and a meeting would take place. A quarterly report was required to address the issues. SACE had to be taken seriously. They hoped that in the next meeting with this Portfolio Committee, the gaps identified would be closed.
Ms Veronica Hofmeester, SACE Councillor, appreciated the comments made. She emphasised that when jobs were advertised, people with disabilities were encouraged to apply.
Ms Mokgalane said that the Council was taking the Portfolio Committee's comments seriously, and the inputs given were being worked on. They knew that AGSA was concerned about their finances, and had therefore implemented a zero-tolerance policy. She had contacted the CEO of Umalusi so that moving forward, they could learn from them. More executive meetings were being held to deal with the situations at hand. Officials had to go through capacity building again. Reports should be strictly on the APP indicators and targets and if they were being achieved or not. Planning would be strengthened through the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) reporting unit, and a key person would be appointed for this purpose.
They acknowledged the challenges, and said that improvements had to be made. A meeting would take place to make sure remedial actions were taking place.
In Programme 3, it was difficult for leadership and management to explore the issue of virtual processes. COVID-19 could not be used as an excuse. All the information requested by the Members would be made available.
Registration with SACE was once off. There were instances, however, where newly qualified educators sought employment with provisional registration before graduation. They were unable to register, and received a certificate because SACE required the certificate from the university stating that they had obtained the qualification. They would wait until receiving employment, and then remember that they had to register with SACE. It was impossible to be employed if one was not registered. For educators to be short listed for promotional posts, they required a copy of their certificate. Some educators may have lost their certificates. It was important to ask how they were employed without certificates.
It was difficult to explain the issue of sexual misconduct. The matter was escalating, instead of going down. It was important to try to better understand the nature of a typical abuser or pedophile in the schooling environment. This research was still under way, and would be shared with the Portfolio Committee. She said interventions to deal with sexual misconduct needed to be sought, but psychological aspects had to be considered.
There was a need to reiterate and reconfirm their commitment to the work of SACE -- not only the work that it did with educators, but also the role that the Portfolio Committee played in terms of oversight on SACE in particular.
Regarding the fourth industrial revolution, SACE had already worked on digitalisation. The IT team was working hard to help SACE on this. SACE was overachieving with certain targets in programme 4. A number of webinars had taken place, with sometimes over 800 people. No one had complained about network issues or data.
SACE was working hard on the issues raised, because COVID-19 could not be used as an excuse any more.
Mr Mapindani addressed the issue of assets that had been raised by the Chairperson. There was a demand from the teaching profession for the Council to come closer to where they were. There was only one office available, it was difficult to interact with the teaching fraternity, so the Council had taken the decision to acquire properties in the provinces by renting, but it was not cost-effective and sustainable. The Council had decided to purchase properties, and rental costs had been saved. These assets had recorded depreciation, together with operating office equipment and furniture.
The Council used to review salaries every three years. The first year, the costs were low. In the second year, expenditure would grow because of appointments and inflation. However, the revenue was not increasing, and that affected the budget for operations because of the non-negotiable commitments, such as salaries.
He said that when jobs were advertised to the public, people with disabilities did not respond.
Regarding remedial actions, professional development issues had been raised. Firstly, they had to deal with the APP indicators that were not accurate, and these had been corrected. Secondly, , workshops would be held to review policies for professional development, and policies would be added to assist with the management of performance. Thirdly, there would be IT improvements to enhance the environment. Fourthly, a process was being put in place in respect of cut-off procedures, so that SACE did not overlap into the following year. Lastly, internal controls which went hand in hand with oversight would be improved, especially quality checks. Currently, the checking process by management was inadequate, to the extent that if an error occurred, the chance of it being picked up was low. There had been oversight errors which were identified in the audit notes, but the financial statements were fair. The notes that elaborated had shown where the errors were. There was a process to improve oversight to ensure that the output and quality was assured.
The Department thanked the Members for the issues raised by both Umalusi and SACE, especially SACE. It appreciated the fact that SACE was committed to dealing with the issues that had been raised.
The Department was in constant communication with Umalusi regarding their budget. A joint discussion forum had been set up, with the Minister on the one side and the chairperson of Umalusi on the other side. There had been a discussion to see how the budgetary issues could be resolved. They met with National Treasury consistently, and therefore an additional R20 million had been made available. Currently it was being established whether the issue raised by Umalusi was a once-off or recurring issue. A proposal had been forwarded to National Treasury for additional funding for Umalusi going forward. This negotiation was still taking place. This additional funding was a result of the interactions that the Department had with them.
The issue of a the learner from the Eastern Cape who committed suicide due to pressure from the school, learners and the teachers, had been raised. They had called her a witch. Feedback on the investigation that SACE was conducting was requested.
Ms Mokgalane confirmed that the matter was between SACE and the Eastern Cape Provincial Education Department. The matter had been there since 2019, but had come to light only when the child passed on. The principal of the school was fairly new, and he had taken the matter to the Head of the Department to deal with. The principal had not received any paper back when the child passed on. SACE and the Provincial Education Department were at the school, and were working together on the investigation with the educators and how to deal with learners confidently. SACE could report to the Portfolio Committee on the matter only when the investigation was completed. Capacity building workshops on violence and bullying in schools would take place.
The Chairperson thanked Umalusi, SACE and the Department.
The meeting was adjourned.
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