In a virtual meeting, the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education was briefed by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) on the state of preparedness for the 2022 academic year. The Minister was in attendance
One of the main challenges identified during the briefing was that thousands of learners remained unplaced for the new academic year. Late applications continue to be a problem despite massive advocacy on application cut-off dates by provinces. The challenges were two-fold, namely, (1) parents ignoring the published closing dates, as well as (2) informal settlements that spring up around established communities, making it difficult to predict expected numbers ahead of the new year.
Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, and the Western Cape raised concerns from members. Gauteng still has more than 276 000 unplaced learners, KwaZulu-Natal has 226 142, and the Western Cape 29 550.
South African School Administration Management System is a DBE maintained school administration application that is supplied to schools free of charge and currently used by almost all schools in eight provinces for the purpose of reporting. The system is designed to assist schools with their administration and reporting, for example schools can register new learners, generate new class lists, record learner attendance, among other things. It was suggested that this system be used to assist in placing unplaced learners.
The Committee heard that the DBE has over the years conducted school readiness monitoring to identify any challenges that may impact on effective teaching and learning at the beginning of each year and strives to address them promptly at the appropriate level of the system. However, a member suggested that testing school readiness at the beginning of the year gives them limited time to take remedial actions if schools were not ready.
Inland schools are expected to open on 12 January 2022 and coastal schools on 19 January 2022. The Basic Education Minister emphasised that these dates are dependent on the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Chairperson emphasised that the Committee was pleased with the information provided by the Department. There were still minor challenges, and it was acknowledged that they would remain for some time. The Committee urged the Department and provincial education departments to continue to work on these minor challenges in order to eradicate them.
School Readiness Monitoring for 2022
Ms Simone Geyer, Deputy Director-General (DDG): Planning and Delivery Oversight Unit, Department of Basic Education (DBE), started the presentation. The presentation focused on the following: COVID-19 protocols, South African School Administration Management System (SA-SAMS), school admissions, provision of teachers, provision of Learner and Teaching Support Material (LTSM), curriculum management, ICT-coding and robotics, national school nutrition programme, provision of infrastructure with emphasis on safe water, sanitation, learner transport, school safety, social cohesion and equity, and school sports and enrichment.
She mentioned that no changes have been affected on the COVID-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) since it was approved in September 2020. It was noted that every school has a COVID-19 focal person responsible for the orientation of learners and staff on the SOPs. School principals and school governing body (SGBs) are responsible for ensuring that the SOPs are implemented. It was observed that 455 360 education personnel were vaccinated using the single dose J&J vaccine. However, these figures excluded the education personnel, who received Pfizer vaccines.
The Department of Health (DOH) released a statement on COVID-19 vaccination of 12 to 17-year-olds.The DOH has not started vaccinating persons under the age of 12 years. A meeting was held with the COVID-19 vaccination focal person in DOH and Integrated School Health Programme (ISHP) Task Team on the matter. The meeting concluded that:
-DOH will facilitate a meeting between the two Ministers (DOH and DBE) to discuss the matter for the Basic Education Minister to release a statement;
-Currently, the DOH is not vaccinating children in schools;
-Any vaccination on site (in a school) will require consent forms to be signed by parents or guardians as directed by the ISHP Policy; and
-Any vaccination off-site will not require the ISHP consent forms; however, the ISHP will encourage learners to vaccinate and bring guardians or parents where possible.
South African School Administration Management System (SA-SAMS)
The Education Sector requires data for planning and reporting on the performance of the sector in order to support institutions and policy changes, for example, school, learners and educator information, learner academic performance, and Grade 12 NCS registration. The data collected is then used for planning to support institutions and improve performance in the sector, as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic intervention period.
SA-SAMS is a DBE maintained school administration application that is supplied to schools free of charge and is currently used by 98.6% of schools in eight provinces for reporting. It is designed to assist schools with their administration and reporting; for example, schools can register new learners, generate new class lists, maintain attendance registers, and so on.
SA-SAMS is policy-driven and is updated quarterly according to sector needs. This ensures uniformity of policy implementation and standardising reporting, and assists with monitoring and ensures integrity of the reported data. EMIS circular 1 2022 will inform schools on all the required data fields needed for reporting and includes learner biographical data and learner academic performance, educator and staff data, and school/institution information.
It was established that the right to education must be extended to “everyone” including undocumented and foreign-national children. DBE Circular 1 of 2020 which advises all provincial departments and schools of the EC Phakamisa judgment and its implications for undocumented learners must be used as a point of reference. The judgment and circular direct that all provincial departments of education and schools in South Africa align their admission rules and practices (including school funding practices) with the judgment. Despite the judgment and circular 1 of 2020, cases of learners being denied admission to schools continues. Some schools outside the Eastern Cape Province are reluctant to admit undocumented learners, arguing that the High Court judgment and circular are only applicable to the Eastern Cape. The number of unplaced students in Gauteng, KZN, and Western Cape was identified as being very high.
It was established that late applications continues to be a problem despite massive advocacy on application cut-off dates by provinces. The challenges are two-fold:
- Parents who ignore the published closing dates and parents from rural communities who move to big cities at the beginning of the year to lodge applications.
- Informal settlements that spring up around established communities due to the influx from rural to urban areas also present a challenge as it is difficult to predict expected numbers ahead of the new year.
Furthermore, English medium schools are perceived to provide better quality education and also face an annual challenge of managing and accommodating all the applications they receive. Some of these challenges lead to insufficient schools in urbanised areas and the ever-present demand for spaces at schools of choice. The tension between the rights of SBOs to determine admissions policies in terms of the South African Schools Act, and the rights of parents to access education at schools of their choice is also a challenge. In provinces where learners are admitted on a first-come, first-served basis, local learners who do not apply on time experience challenges with placement and pre-closure assessment will look into these challenges particularly in Gauteng and the Western Cape.
The School Readiness Monitoring, the Department undertakes an annual monitoring (January to March) of post provisioning focussing on compliance with the norms, processes, and timeframes. It was noted that there were delays in most PEDs in declaring final post establishments due to delays in securing and confirming availability of funds following budget cuts affecting the allocation for compensation of employees. Research showed that only five of the nine PEDs were able to distribute the final establishments to schools by 30 September as regulated, whereas, the Eastern Cape had not distributed post establishments to schools by 25 October. Furthermore, PEDs are expected to begin with the provisional placement of graduates in identified vacant posts for 2022.
Learner and Teaching Support Material (LTSM)
Grades R-12 National catalogues of CAPS-aligned textbooks were developed to support the implementation of CAPS. Retention and retrieval of textbooks was the highest in the North West, KZN, and Gauteng. Department provided LTSM, and guidance on how it should be used. It looked at the progress of procurement, how far provinces were for school readiness, how much money provinces had put aside for LTSM, and how far the Department was in achieving universal coverage in the process of delivering learning materials. Provinces used three models to procure materials. They could procure everything on behalf of schools, procure on behalf of Section 20 schools, and provide funding for Section 21 schools, who would procure their own materials.
The DBE and its partners have developed approximately 1100 titles of state-owned content resources consisting:
-137 titles of state-owned textbooks for high-enrollment subjects;
-344 Grade R to 9 workbooks;
-594 Graded Reader and Big Book for Grade 1 to 3 in all 11 languages; and
-24 titles of Grade 12 Mind the Gap Study Guides.
PED e-learning portals and platforms (which are zero-rated) provides access to free educational content resources that include video lessons, apps, eBooks, interactive revision material, assessments, and teaching plans. Private content resource portal includes: MTN Foundation and Siyavula Foundation Online High School Maths and Science Practice Platforms, Vodacom Digital Classroom, Telkom e-Education and the MTN Y‘elloEd platform. The DBE, ICASA, DCDT and Mobile Network Operators will implement the Virtual Classroom solution in 17 selected schools.
The Mobile Network Operators will provide all the Grade 12 learners with ICT devices, connectivity, training, and technical support for 17 months. Teachers will also be trained on how to use the solution. Vodacom, MTN, Telkom, and Liquid Telkom have finalised the connectivity solution at their selected schools. MTN, Rain and Telkom have already delivered the learner devices and installed the Virtual Classroom solution their selected schools.
Coding and robotics
The coding and robotics curriculum is based on four pillars. The four pillars include: application skills, internet and e-commerce skills, data and information management skills, computational thinking skills and coding.
However, there are challenges. The monitored schools showed that challenges include: shortages of coding and robotics, and ICT resources, network connectivity for teaching and learning, security of procured resources, and teacher resources.
National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP)
The DBE and the PEDs will ensure that:
-Funds are transferred to schools.
-Contracts are in place for the delivery of food and fuel.
-Food deliveries and adequate supplies are in stock.
-Volunteer Food Handlers daily attendance to prepare meals.
-NSNP Committee are in place to ensure operational compliance/functionality.
-Joint monitoring with the NSNP team to ensure feeding on the first day of schooling; questions on feeding covered in the joint monitoring tool.
Infrastructure: water, sanitation, furniture, and learner transport
In preparation for the reopening of schools and to ensure that schools are ready for teaching and learning, the DBE identified risk areas and requests provinces to provide remedial actions to ensure that these are mediated against to ensure that teaching and learning can commence on the reopening of schools. The focus areas are on new schools, renovations, repairs, storm damage, vandalised schools, classroom shortages, infrastructure hotspots, maintenance, availability of school furniture, repair and rehabilitation, school furniture specifications, and the interprovincial task-team.
This is to ensure that plans are in place to ensure that learner transport is available on reopening of schools. The learner transport-desired outcomes include:
-Timeous delivery of service;
-Rate of road accidents reduced;
-A coordinated approach in relation to planning and implementation;
-Learner transport operators that adhere to road traffic regulations;
-Vehicle maintenance plan and technical support for emergencies;
-Viable and sustainable operations;
-Uniformity of services and tariff structure; and
-A coherent performance monitoring system.
One of the critical observations during the monitoring of 60 of the 75 districts in quarters one to three in the implementation of the National School Safety Framework (NSSF) is the non-functionality of School Safety Committees (SSC). Districts reported lack of training in a number of schools on the NSSF and the Protocol for Management and Reporting of Sexual Abuse and Harassment. She noted that school fencing needed to be prioritised to ensure security of learners, educators and staff including the infrastructure. In May 2021, the DBE launched and roll-out roadshow through a high impact event with the Minister and Deputy Minister, using a multi-sectoral, inter-departmental approach to address the scourge of violence in schools including bullying and cyber-bullying in particular.
Social cohesion and equity
In 2022, the DBE is prepared for both eventualities of face-to-face and online delivery, with all the innate challenges for each format.
School sports and enrichment
The monitoring in 2022 will focus on the readiness of schools to resume or reboot these learner support programmes within the COVID-19 context.
Mr B Nodada (DA) thanked the DBE for its presentation regarding school readiness for the year 2022.
He noted that due to COVID-19 and waiting for scientific medical advice on the reopening of schools, there were many delays. He asked when schools were scheduled to open in 2022. In terms of schools being COVID-compliant, he asked whether any assessments have been done from provinces to identify which schools were not COVID-compliant. If so, how can this be used to mitigate the challenges that they faced to make sure that they were COVID-compliant in 2022?
He wanted to know if schools will now supply their own procurement equipment or will provinces provide this support. If schools are doing this now, especially with the budget cuts, will it come from their own budget or will there be supplementary support by the DBE or relevant provincial departments?
Further, he wanted to know how many teachers and staff had been fully vaccinated. Also, how many teachers and staff were not vaccinated? The slides only spoke about those who had the J&J vaccine and not Pfizer. He requested a breakdown of this for each school and province. He mentioned vaccination passports and whether teachers would be required to have a vaccination passport to teach. He asked if any other mechanisms had been put in place to encourage them to take the vaccine.
In terms of admissions, Gauteng has always struggled. The Western Cape and Eastern Cape had a high number of students that are not placed in schools. Is there a specific timeline where a report that will indicate before the close of the year or the beginning of next year as to what strategies have been put in place to try to mitigate the challenge of unplaced learners and what the numbers would like especially in Gauteng, Western and Eastern Cape? This will help other provinces to mitigate the problem of students not being placed in schools.
In terms of undocumented learners, there are over 800 000 that are undocumented. This issue was raised to the Minister of Basic Education. More than 70% of these learners are South African. He asked if there was a relationship or a partnership between the DBE and Home Affairs to vigorously deal with this issue. There are a lot of implications, for example, being linked to social development and the education system itself. Is the dropout rate related to undocumented learners? He asked what measures have been put in place to ensure that the issue of undocumented learners are resolved and monitor whether they are part of the large dropout rate.
He noted that no budget was finalised for teachers and staff and wanted to know if it was now finalised. He asked if any vacancies that had to be fulfilled had been lost, and whether there is the necessary capacity to ensure quality teaching. He said that with the visits to schools, it seemed impossible to complete the school curriculum. He noted that certain areas were linked to economic outcomes do not increase the high unemployment rate for example, coding and robotics. There are districts that specialise in maritime, entrepreneurship and some skills to be needed for critical thinking. He asked DBE to look at subjects that are new to the curriculum when they do their oversight. In that way there can be a full report to see what is really happening. There are schools with a pass rate of 0%. He wanted to know if any oversight and support has been given to these schools to ensure that they meet curriculum standards. If so, will these schools be monitored in the new year.
Moving onto online and home schooling, he noted that many areas such as KZN, Limpopo, and the Eastern Cape have network connectivity issues. He asked if a study had been done to see how many schools have been affected by network coverage issues that might prevent learners from accessing zero-rated sites to continue learning.
There are a lot of reports of syndicate attacks, preventing safety and security. Is there a security and safety plan to ensure that there are no incidents of violence and stealing in schools during the holidays? He asked to make sure that facilities were protected to ensure that no extra money is used to fix schools in the next year.
In terms of nutrition, he mentioned a school in Navalsig, Free State, which was deemed as a quintile 5 school but has learners from quintile 1 areas. This is the problem: these students have been placed at these schools, but they are not able to afford their own meals. The quintile system needs to be reviewed.
There is the issue of implementing agents not performing. He asked whether there would be any schools affected. He requested a breakdown of when these projects, especially ASIDI, would be completed. He suggested that schools that had problems previously needed to be visited and ascertained whether they would be ready for the new school year. He mentioned that certain schools do not have fencing.
On transport, there were 120 000 learners in KZN that were eligible for transport. This number has now increased significantly. He asked if there was a reason why this number has increased significantly in terms of learners that are eligible but cannot be transported. There was a decrease in terms of supply: 60 000 learners have been catered for transport in KZN. He wanted to know the reason why there was an increase in the eligibility of learners for transport who but cannot get transport. He wanted to know why there was only a budget for 60 000 learners and what happens to the rest that needs to be transported. He asked that written responses be made within seven days.
Mr T Letsie (ANC) referred to slide 18, which covered the EC Phakamisa judgment: right to basic education. It was noted that the schools did not consider the outcome of the judgment because they thought it did not apply to them. He stated that the Department had to be clear about what should be done. Consequence management should be strict. It should be a priority to make sure that all schools obey the rules, and the judgment should be respected.
He noted that over half a million learners were not placed in schools. This is stressful for both the learners and their parents. This has an effect on the current examination performance. SA-SAMS should be able to assist with the placement of learners. The IT system is used by many schools and can be used to place learners since this system can already establish timetables and place teachers. It was suggested that creative, innovative, exciting, and youth ideas should be able to assist with the challenges that the Department is facing now and to enhance SA-SAMS. The Department has to play an active role in creating a platform for exciting new ideas in the IT space, inviting SMMEs to present proposals to respond to the placement of learners. Furthermore, to create an environment where young people can come and assist with issues that the Department is facing. He asked what the Department had done, in terms of mitigating factors to avoid that next year there will not be over half a million learners that are not placed in schools.
He noted that the statistics have not been updated and it has been more than a month. He asked why it was not updated. He emphasised that the member should be able to interact with updated information.
On undeclared vacancies, he stated that it was mentioned during the presentation that there are many graduates from public universities and funza lushaka graduates. He mentioned that he has received numerous emails from students complaining that the department of education in the Free State had decided to not appoint PGCE graduates in that province. There was no formal indication that such graduates would no longer be suitable to teach. He asked the Department to clarify this.
Ms D Van Der Walt (DA) thanked the Department for the presentation. She started off by saying that she noticed that many mobile classrooms were being delivered recently as well as school furniture such as double-seater desks. She asked why there were double-seater desks when there is a pandemic. Single seater desks should be purchased and delivered to school in order to protect learners and provide them with a safe environment. She asked that the Department look into how schools order their furniture.
On safety and security, she noted that there were two villages in Limpopo where learners have to cross a river to reach the school. There was now a man-made bridge that was unsafe. She urged the Department to find out what happens to these students who need to cross the river to attend classes.
She wanted to know if teachers that are guilty of misconduct are registered on the National Register for Sex Offenders and the Child Protection Register. It is important to know about underage pregnancies, statutory rape, and statutory rape that has led to convictions. What is the role of the DBE once a teacher or staff had been found guilty of misconduct? Are their names submitted to the register? She wanted to know if the names were recorded and how long it takes. Are these registers available to the public? If not, will it be made available to the Committee?
She mentioned that she wrote to the Minister of Police in August 2021 to advocate for the inclusion of a quarterly and annual crime statistic reports. She asked whether it would be possible for the Minister of Basic Education to also reach out to SAPS and insisted that such reports were needed. There should be a breakdown of misconduct in schools and school-related activities such as sport. This needs to be reported on every province, verified, and made available to the public.
She noted that there were no therapists, nurses, occupational therapists, psychologists, or social workers in special needs schools and hostels. She suggested that medical students can be used and placed in schools to help these learners. The DBE needs to show that they care about learners.
Furthermore, in the Eastern Cape the mother tongue was used in schools. She asked if this would be expanded in 2022 and, if so, in which schools. She also wanted to know what happens to provinces that do not respond on unplaced learners.
Dr S Thembekwayo (EFF) thanked the DBE for the presentation.
She asked how schools were dealing with the adherence of COVID-19 protocols and whether schools would be ready for this in 2022. She wanted to know how the transport of learners issue would be resolved especially in KZN. How will the Department deal with the network connectivity issue? Is there any intervention plan? Without this, online classes would not be able to take place. She asked what the intervention plan was for Grade R in Gauteng. She mentioned that there was a case where education assistants were being used to clean and work in the garden. This was unacceptable and asked the Department to intervene.
Mr P Moroatshehla (ANC) wanted to know what criteria were used when certain districts are being visited. He said that at the end of the visits, the Department should be able to attach value and state the reasons why the schools were visited. He raised the issue of stocktaking and suggested that there should be a report on the failure and successes of stocktaking. It is important to be able to determine whether schools are ready for education and learning as expected.
He wanted to know the percentage of vaccinated teachers and learners. Those not vaccinated remain a threat. He mentioned that this should be looked into by the Department as it will be able to assist the President and his task team. He asked when school readiness should be tested, in the beginning of the year or towards the end of the year? If schools are visited at the beginning of the year, there is limited time to act fast and implement remedial actions. He said that when it comes to admissions, it was established that both documented and undocumented learners should be placed. He asked which one takes priority, the documented or undocumented learners. The Department should work towards placing South African learners.
The Chairperson thanked the DBE for its presentation. It showed that despite challenges raised, it was ready for when schools open in 2022. She mentioned that she knew that it was not expected for the DBE to report on this but wanted to know about the issue of migration that was taking place next year in April. She hoped that the DBE would have briefed the Committee on this because it needed to be a smooth transition. She asked why there were no figures reflected for placed and unplaced learners in Limpopo.
She wanted to know why the retrieval of textbooks in the Eastern Cape was lower than other provinces. She asked if the reasons were related to learners deciding not to return the textbooks or because of the dropout rate. She mentioned that when visiting schools in January, she noticed that the learning materials were not delivered. She asked how the Department would ensure that learning materials are delivered in 2022. She also noticed the late applications of learners and asked if leeway could be provided to students under certain circumstances.
The Minister of Basic Education, Ms Angie Motshekga, thanked the Committee for the opportunity to do the briefing and for asking questions. She addressed the issue of infrastructure and informed the Committee that it is easy and possible to send a report on this because it is monitored weekly. She reminded the Committee that education is a concurrent function that has strengths and weaknesses. One of the strengths are that the use of capacities are located in provinces where the bulk of implementation happens. She mentioned that her power as a Minister has limitations and that she can only say what needs to be done in terms of policies and regulations.
She agreed with Mr Letsie on SA-SAMS that ICT is the future. She informed the Committee that SA-SAMS is a legal platform, and one cannot do what it wishes to do on the platform. The platform has private information on parents and their children. The platform is regulated by law and the information has to be protected. She mentioned that she did not know anything about the PGCE. In respect of teachers and offenders registration, there are laws that regulate instances of statutory rape. Teachers and staff are bound to report these cases to police but after that it is out of their hands. The relevant authorities deal with these matters further.
On single- and double-seated desks raised by Ms Van der Walt, she mentioned that there were a lot of problems with single desks. They were used in markets and even for security purposes. It was difficult to get them and when they do it often gets lost. “We cannot have permanent solutions for temporary challenges.” The double-seated desk was a permanent solution for classrooms. Public works will be asked for assistance in terms of building bridges and identifying the areas that need them. No statistics could be provided for pregnancy because most of them were not reported. She mentioned that safety and security was a great concern for the DBE, and they were confident that schools were ready even in times of COVID-19.
The issue of the employment of doctors was that there was an assumption that DBE does not care about learners because it does not place unplaced doctors. The DBE does care about the special needs of learners. In the education system, employing people was based on needs. If a doctor is needed and the budget allows for it, the DBE would advertise the post and an unplaced medical doctor would apply. She mentioned that this was how the law regulated the functioning of the DBE.
The issue of teachers’ assistants being used for other purposes besides assisting teachers would be looked into. In terms of the issue of foreign learners: South Africa is a signatory to international law. International law says that every child has a right to education, so if they are undocumented it is a problem for the parents and not the learners. DBE is bound to keep these kids in schools. A report on the update of ASIDI will be provided. In terms of migration for April next year, the change will not be dramatic. This is a phase process and might only be finished in 3 to 5 years. It was noted that books are not always delivered. There is a period of 10 to 30 days where books can be distributed to schools. Books are, in certain instances, not delivered because of vandalism in schools and no store rooms.
Mr Hubert Mweli, Director-General, DBE, clarified that 2020-2021 enrollment of learners increased from 30.1 million to 30.4 million. There was an increase of 300 000 learners. This answers the questions about the dropout rate and the increase in the demand for learner transport. It is wrong to say that therapists and these services do not exist. There are multiple disciplinary teams at the district and provincial levels that provide these services. There was also a delay in hiring social workers and psychologists. For years the admission rate for Gauteng and Western Cape had been worrisome. However, this is no longer the case. It is important to note that parents applied at different schools and waited for the desired response from specific schools. This delayed the admission of certain learners, but things are getting better. It is noted that transport remains a challenge, but it is being worked on.
It is difficult to provide figures on the number of people, especially teachers, who received the vaccine. He asked Dr Patricia Watson to assist with this issue.
The feeding scheme and the poverty ranking in schools remain a problem. If money was available, it would be addressed. However, some schools in provinces, for example, quintile four or five, have included the national feeding schemes for their learners.
On mandatory vaccinations, it is important to wait on what the President and his task team says. In terms of curriculum, the DBE has gone out to schools to do research on the impact of COVID-19 and curriculum coverage. A good number of students are vaccinated. In terms of innovation, it is now possible to sign documents virtually, so when members of the Department are out visiting schools, they are still able to sign documents. Coding and robotics are now also introduced into the curriculum, which is another form of innovation.
Ms Geyer said that when the presentation was distributed, the information for Limpopo was not available, but it is now and that a new presentation will be circulated with the updated information as well as the information on LTSM. In terms of maritime schools, there were specific ways it was introduced. These specific schools need to have learners, teachers, and most importantly funding. A plan is being formulated on how these subjects can be extended and monitored. The network connectivity issue is something that is beyond the control of the DBE and is a bigger problem of this country.
It is important to provide classroom teaching because of the network connectivity issue. Hardcopies are provided to learners, TV channels and information on the radio is another innovative way to make sure learners complete the curriculum. Documents can also be downloaded so that learners are not left behind.
PGCE is gradually being phased out because the needs and priorities that the DBE wants to achieve in terms of the policies in place have changed. This guided the Department to set programmes for degrees in universities. In this way, PGCE has become redundant because new university graduates are trained on a newer qualification framework that is needed now for subjects within the schooling system. However, those students busy with PGCE are allowed to continue and will be absorbed into the system and are not considered redundant. The Department cannot place someone that does not satisfy the needs and priorities, and therefore there was a delay in vacancy placements. However, the placement rate currently is successful.
Dr Patricia Watson, Chief Director: Social Inclusion and Partnerships in Education, DBE, stated that the vaccination programme was broadly inclusive and looked at schools as ecosystems and invited management teachers as well as service staff and general workers to come for the vaccine. The success of this programme was largely because of the inclusive approach. The Department of Health used ID numbers, so it is impossible to indicate which members of the schools were more vaccinated in terms category. However, the Department is pleased with the outcome of the vaccination programme.
Mr Rufus Poliah, Chief Director: National Assessment and Public Examinations, DBE, answered questions relating to the curriculum. He said that the DBE will use the next three years to ensure that, to some degree, the system in terms of curriculum coverage will be brought to a point where it can reach the next level. The rotational system in some schools in order to allow them to follow the curriculum programme has to be accommodated given the fact that the curriculum was shortened to only focus on the fundamentals. This will surely help the Department in the next three years to make sure that core skills are addressed and developed before moving onto the next phase in terms of the curriculum programme.
The release of results will be available at schools on the 21 January 2022. In terms of the “zero percentage” achievement in schools: of these only eight were secondary schools. The rest were part-time centers and independent and special schools. It is noted that of the schools whose learners received zero, analysis shows that the number was very low, and varied, in most cases, between 5 to 8 learners. There were three schools with 15 learners each and one school with 22 learners. These are small non-viable schools that need attention. These schools were visited and continuously monitored to identify what caused the zero percent. The DBE will make sure that at the end of the year, the schools do not perform so low again. In fact, schools with a pass rate of 50% and lower will also be monitored.
In terms of bilingual education, the DBE is working closely with the Eastern Cape and are being monitored to make sure to learn from this pilot but to also make sure that learners who participate are not disadvantaged in any way. For example, the examination papers were crafted using bilingual question papers in four subjects. The papers will be evaluated to ensure that they are accurately translated. The writing and the results were analysed.
The Chairperson thanked everyone. She emphasised that the Committee was pleased with the fruitful and informative meeting. The DBE made the Committee feel at ease with the plans that were presented. There are still minor challenges, and it is acknowledged that it will remain so for some time. The Committee urged the DBE and provincial education departments to continue to work on these minor challenges in order to erase them.
The meeting was adjourned
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