The Western Cape Department of Education (DoE) presented its 2021/22 Adjusted Budget. The Department expressed appreciation for the additional funds received from National Treasury for wage negotiations (R490 million) and the Presidential Youth Employment Stimulus (R556 million). The additional funds, however, did not add to the departmental baseline as the funds arrived late and it came with a lot of responsibility and constraints on the part of the DoE. The Department has employed about 20 000 school assistants effective from 1 November 2021 and there is possibility that part of the unspent funds from the Presidential Youth Employment Initiative will be rolled over to 2022/23.
Members expressed concern about the late arrival of the Presidential Youth Employment funds as this was an annual trend, creating the suspicion of fiscal dumping. DoE must monitor the commitment of all recruited assistants and ensure appropriate consequence management for those that do not complete the programme. The online training modules should be made effective to adequately prepare the assistants to offer quality service to DoE in the 2022 academic year. The Department should prioritise the fencing project to improve security at schools. It is important to continue the learner transport intervention started during the COVID-19 pandemic to encourage learner attendance at school.
The Department assured the Committee that the fencing project is on track. DoE aims to invest in the latest fencing technology but the threat of vandalism is a concern. It will continue the learner transport intervention for at least the first term of 2022.
The Committee approved the DoE 2021/22 Adjusted Budget and recorded the minority view of the ANC which opposed the Bill.
Western Cape Education MEC, Debbie Schafer, noted that the Department of Education (DoE) for the first time since her appointment as MEC, received funding for wage negotiations, which the Department has funded by itself in previous years. Further, the Department received huge funding in the form of the Presidential Youth Employment Initiative. Unfortunately, the funding does not add to the Department's baseline budget and the Department is concerned about the sustainability of the programme. The Provincial Department does not have control over how the money is spent but it is happy to have the fund.
The Head of Education, Mr Brent Walters, expressed appreciation for the additional funding received. The Department had a net adjustment appropriation budget of R928.39 million. The Department received R556 million for the Presidential Youth Employment Initiative and R490 million for servicing the wage agreement. DoE re-planned and repackaged some of its infrastructure maintenance programme to ensure it has value for money. DoE deferred some of its programmes due to contractual difficulties and some of the unspent funds in the previous financial year were rolled over to 2021/22.
Mr Salie Abrahams, DoE Deputy Director General: Education Planning, noted that the Department of Public Works is the implementing agent for the infrastructure project. There are two risks confronting the infrastructure projects. One is the availability of needed materials within the next few months and changes in legislation in relation to those materials. The other risk is the difficulty experienced by individual contractors as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. All risks are being managed and all projects scheduled for delivery by the end of 2021/22 are on track. DoE also aims to give priority to contractors who are able to better handle the constraints imposed by the pandemic.
Mr G Brinkhuis (Al Jama-ah) asked if DoE made progress with the project it promised to implement in the Darling area of the Swartland municipality.
The Head of Education, Mr Walters, replied that the completion of infrastructure projects depends on a number of factors, especially supply of the materials.
Mr Abrahams replied that DoE prioritised development projects (school buildings) in the municipality. Most of the building are in progress and the proposed projects in the Darling area are next in phase. The project is in the planning phase and DoE aims to establish a school that offers technical subjects. This will be done in collaboration with a TVET college. DoE is in consultation with the local municipality to ensure the success of the project.
The Chairperson tabled pages 73 to 99 of the Estimates of Provincial Revenue and Expenditure / Blue Book and urged Members to engage with the document.
Mr R Allen (DA) asked about the impact of the Presidential Youth Empowerment Fund. Does the late arrival of the fund, on a yearly basis, affect the planning of the provincial DoE? Do the funds add value to DoE's core objectives?
The Chairperson also expressed concern that the Department might not be able to spend all the funds within the remaining three months of the current financial year.
Mr F Christians (ACDP) said that the Presidential Youth Empowerment funds is an example of fiscal dumping. He doubted all the funds could be utilised in 2021/22.
MEC Schafer said that most of the Presidential Youth Empowerment funds received in the previous financial year were spent over the school holidays because the funds arrived late. The same situation applies in the current financial year. The most challenging part is the unsustainable nature of the programme. Most of the participants in the programme were left unemployed at the end of the previous financial year. It is also concerning that the Department does not have control over the management of the fund. DoE is devising means to make the programme more sustainable and to offer optimal benefits to the recipients.
The HOD noted that DoE employed 20 000 young people in the programme and there are indications that the unspent funds will be carried through to the next financial year. The Department went through an extensive learning curve in Phase One of the programme in the previous round of 2020/21. In the current financial year, the Department has already appointed and absorbed the cohorts in schools, effective from 1 November 2021. The Department appointed the cohorts a month earlier, compared to the previous financial year, and this gave sufficient time for orientation and assistance in preparation for the 2022 academic year. Therefore, the month of November was used for orientation and settling down in the school environment. The beneficiaries are receiving their online training modules, which they will complete in December 2021. This will enable them to be ready for effective utilisation from January 2022 when the schools start.
Ms Erna Veldman, DOE Chief Director of Finance, said that there is some synergy in the timing of the appointment. Given the huge amount of the funds received, DoE has developed measures to extend the programme beyond the current financial year. DoE works closely with Provincial Treasury and all stakeholders to ensure the school assistants programme yields optimal results for both schools and the assistants over the full duration of the 2022 academic year. The Department is also collaborating with the National Department on the effective administration of the fund.
Mr Christians asked if the Department has a mechanism to monitor the commitment of the school assistants to the learning modules. It is important that the assistants internalise the modules to serve the schools effectively. The assistants are paid. Therefore, there should be consequences for any assistant who does not complete the modules.
Mr Brinkhuis noted the urgency of upgrading fencing to improve the security of schools. Is there proper allocation of funds for this?
Mr M Sayed (ANC) asked about the continuity of the Learner Transport intervention, with particular reference to the Mossel Bay area. Will the intervention continue in the next financial year or be cancelled?
Mr Abrahams replied the Department has a budget allocation to upgrade fencing in a number of schools in the province. DoE targets 30 schools a year and the plan is being accelerated. It has attended to the backlogs of schools without fencing. It now focuses on the upgrading of existing fences, with special focus on High Security Perimeter Fencing. This is the latest technology and it helps to safeguard school premises more effectively.
Mr Abrahams said that the Department's approach to the Learner Transport initiative remains the same. DoE will continue the intervention, at least, through the first quarter of 2022.
Ms Veldman replied that the Department already provided the assistants with data to access the training modules. The system has in-built evaluation and monitoring mechanisms and beneficiaries are required to complete all applicable modules.
The Chairperson expressed concern about the shifting of funds from the Learner Transport intervention. How does this impact the continuity of the programme? Which municipalities will be affected by this shifting?
Ms Veldman replied that the shifting affects schools in every district across the province.
Mr Brinkhuis urged the Department to give an indication of the schools earmarked for the upgrade of fencing.
The Chairperson said his request will be communicated to the Department in writing. The Department planned to complete some projects by 31 March 2022, which is the end of the current financial year. Is DoE on track to complete the project within the set timeframe?
The Chairperson urged DoE to update the Committee on the progress achieved on the Darling project. She asked about on the R15 million holiday programme scheduled for December 2021 to January 2022. Will some of the schools in the province host the holiday programme?
Head of Department, Mr Walters, said the selection of the venues for the programme will follow due process. Relevant schools will remain open if they are selected as venues.
Ms Schafer thanked the Committee for its effective and constructive engagement with DoE. She also expressed appreciation for the wonderful work by her team, especially Ms Veldman and those responsible for the management of the Presidential Youth Empowerment Funds within the short timeframe.
The HOD assured the Committee that DoE will continue to provide quality education for every child in every classroom in the province.
The Chairperson expressed appreciation for the work done by the Department. She also thanked her Committee members, the teachers, assistants and school principals for providing quality education to learners in the province. The Committee eagerly awaits the outcome of the matric examinations.
Committee Report on Western Cape DoE 2021/22 Adjusted Budget
Mr G Bosman (DA), Christians and Allen supported the vote, while Mr Brinkhuis and Sayed were not in favour of the vote.
Mr Allen expressed appreciation that the ACDP supported the vote.
The Chairperson noted that MPLs from EFF and Al Jama-ah do not have voting rights on the Committee since they are Alternate Members. Only MPLs from the DA, ACDP and the ANC have voting rights. However, an MPL from either EFF or Al Jama-ah can vote in the absence of the MPL from the ACDP. The Committee resolved to record the views of the ANC and Al Jama-ah MPLs.
The Chairperson read the report of the Standing Committee on Education on Vote 5: Education of the Western Cape Adjustments Appropriation Bill B6 of 2021: The Committee, in accordance with Standing Rule 188 reports that it supports the Bill. In accordance with Standing Rule 90, the ANC expressed its minority view to oppose the vote.
Mr Bosman moved for the adoption of the report. The move was seconded by Mr Christians.
Mr Christians expressed concern about an outstanding report from the Department.
The Procedural Officer said that the Department will furnish the Committee with the report before 10 December 2021.
The Chairperson thanked Members and support staff for their hard work in 2021. She urged everyone to have a safe and peaceful festive season.
The meeting was adjourned.
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