Implications and Impact of SONA; President’s SONA 2022; with Deputy Minister

Basic Education

22 February 2022
Chairperson: Ms B Mbinqo-Gigaba (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

President Cyril Ramaphosa: 2022 State of the Nation Address (SONA)

PMG was not present at the meeting. The below is compiled based on the Committee’s official minutes


Meeting report

NOTE: PMG was not present at the meeting. The below is compiled based on the Committee’s official minutes.


The Chairperson welcomed the delegation from the Department of Basic Education (DBE) under the leadership of the Deputy Minister, Dr R Mhaule. After the attendance roll-call and apologies noted, the Chairperson tabled the agenda for adoption. The Chairperson handed over to the Department for the presentation.

Address by the Deputy Minister for Basic Education

Dr Mhaule thanked the Portfolio Committee for the opportunity to present the President’s State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) for 2022. When the President spoke, the Department considered it to be policy directives that were to be implemented by the Department. This would be measured against the Department's Annual Performance Plan and Annual Report of the Department. The President had touched on a few areas pertaining to the Basic Education sector e.g. ECD migration. The Department was hoping to conclude on the matter of ECD migration by April 2022. The Department was also looking to address issues of school infrastructure as mentioned in the SONA.  

Presentation on the Analysis, Implications and Impact of the President’s 2022 State-of-the-Nation Address 

Dr Stephen Taylor, DBE, gave a detailed background of the strategic priority areas in Basic Education as well as the five goals/outcomes for the next ten years. Regarding the significance of the State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA), Dr Taylor mentioned that presidential pronouncements contributed to setting key government priorities and deliverables. In turn, determine the priorities of the Department and the basic education sector broadly. The pronouncements committed the Department, in public, to key activities and outcomes. It was important to ensure and show alignment to current annual plans for the Department and for the sector.

Dr Taylor touched on some of the key areas in the SONA address and gave a detailed breakdown of the comparisons to previous SONA’s focus areas – as well as progress against previous SONAs in respect of the following:

  • Early Childhood Development;
  • Reading;
  • Inclusive Education;
  • Three Stream Model;
  • Infrastructure; and
  • Social Cohesion.

Regarding infrastructure, the Department highlighted previous SONA commitments, progress and challenges. The Committee was briefed on the ASIDI and SAFE overall progress per Province – and per sub-programme.

The Department also touched on the impact of the pandemic on schooling outcomes in respect of enrolment, attendance, dropping-out and learning losses. The Committee was also briefed on the learning losses in Setswana Home Language Reading.

In conclusion, Dr Taylor indicated that the Department remained committed to previous SONA pronouncements on basic education in respect of ECD, Reading, School Infrastructure, Three Stream Model and Social Cohesion. The President’s call for the recovery of learning was now the major priority – and reinforced the pre-existing priority of improving early learning foundations

In respect of the pre-existing priority of improving early learning foundations, the Department gave a detailed plan in respect of:

  • Recovery and Strengthening of the Curriculum;
  • Learning recovery;
  • Learning Recovery Framework (2022 – 2024);
  • Theory of Change;
  • Key Shifts in Implementation;

In conclusion, the Department indicated that the achievements of the last two years were confirmation of the resilience of the system. There was a need to harness the gains and take the system to the next level. Teacher development was central to the educational revolution.


  • Members noted the President’s SONA which touched on issues of ECD migration and queried the current status of the migration of ECD to DBE. Similarly, Members queried how the Department was addressing issues of discipline at schools which negatively impacted teaching and learning.
  • Members noted that teachers were given more administrative workload and responsibilities which impacted their ability to teach. Members queried how the Department was able to ensure the administrative workload for teachers was alleviated for them to focus on teaching.
  • With the migration of ECD to DBE, Members queried whether the Department had the capacity i.r.o extra classrooms, extra teachers and extra budgets.
  • Members queried whether the Department used the data and information from the current census to do the necessary long-term planning to predict admissions numbers etc.
  • How were schools safeguarding their assets e.g. books donated to schools for the Early Grade Reading initiative – as many schools are not protecting these assets.
  • In respect of the NSNP and Scholar Transport programmes, Members were of the view that the programmes should continue and further expanded to include more qualifying learners to benefit.
  • Regarding written questions to the Department, Members queried whether the Department was able to monitor and oversee the timeous responses from PEDs to questions raised.
  • Members also sought a breakdown of the costs in respect of the roll-out of ECD, especially with regard to infrastructure and personnel, amongst others.
  • Members queried the plans in place to address challenges with learning losses and teaching time. What specific targeted programmes were in place to support reading, writing and numeracy– and the monitoring mechanisms in place to study the impact of such programmes.
  • With Learner drop-outs, Members also queried plans in place to address the tracking, tracing and possible return of such learners to the schooling system.
  • Had the Department considered the services of retired teachers and graduates to assist with hot-spot areas in respect of Curriculum coverage.
  • The Department needed to also consider utilising the Education Assistants to alleviate the administrative burden on teachers.
  • Members also queried whether there were allowances for a differentiated approach to the Curriculum Recovery Plan for PEDs who may have been impacted differently.
  • Members also queried strategies and goals for improved outcomes for Mathematics, Science and Technology. Members also sought clarity on the number of teachers available for Technical Maths, Technical Science, Aviation, Maritime, Coding and Robotics subjects. There was a need for a strategy for critical subjects and ensure a deliberate approach to re-skilling and developing subject advisors and teachers.
  • Members sought an analysis of the costs for building schools for the ASIDI programme – as there was a suspicion that administrative red-tape and processing were inflating costs.
  • Members queried whether the SAFE initiative also accounted for school sanitation challenges.
  • Members sought clarity on what was meant by “practical completion” of any project.
  • The Department was urged to consider fast-tracking online learning and CAPS for online learning.
  • Members raised concerns with the number of unplaced learners in the Western Cape – and steps by the Department to assist and support the province with placement of unplaced learners – there was a view that some schools were treated as private schools with low teacher/learner ratios.
  • In respect of the National Senior Certificate for adults, Members queried reasons for the delay in implementation of the qualification.
  • Members noted with concern that while many new schools were being built at exorbitant costs, there were many viable schools being closed. Members queried whether this was viable and whether new schools were being built to be multi-purpose as many closed schools could not be used for other purposes and stood abandoned and derelict. Members also queried whether the Department had done an evaluation of the money spent on deserted/closed schools.
  • Member also queried how the Department was addressing the simplification of registration processes for independent schools – as there were many independent schools struggling to be registered.
  • Members noted that violence in schools had been halved but queried the Department’s plans for complete eradication of violence and bullying at schools. Members were of the view that the Department collaborated with the Social and Justice Cluster to look at finding solutions to issues of school violence and school safety and security.
  • Teachers were overwhelmed with work but also had to contend with overcrowded classrooms. Members queried how the Department was assisting and supporting schools with the negative impact of overcrowded classrooms on teaching and learning.
  • Members also sought clarity on the figures for inappropriate schools and schools with pit latrines in the ASIDI projects and requested clarification on the actual numbers of schools.
  • It was requested that the Department considered the retention and possible extension of the use of Educator Assistants and General Assistants.
  • With farm schools, many PEDs were opting for closure and construction of mega-schools for farm learners. There were many challenges faced with farm schools and Members queried whether the Department would consider a uniform approach to mitigate farm school challenges.
  • The Department was also urged to fast-track the Reading for Meaning campaign.

DBE Responses 

Deputy Minister Dr Mhaule alluded to issues pertaining to ECD and mentioned that there was a joint meeting being arranged with the PC on Basic Education and PC on Social Development in the coming weeks to fully present an updated status report on the migration of ECD. She also noted concerns raised on issues of school infrastructure and proposed a dedicated meeting on the topic with invitations to all nine PEDs. On matters pertaining to learner admissions, the Department had the necessary generic admissions policies in place but could not stop the movement of families due to a host of reasons. Learners needed to be accommodated and admitted with minimal delays.

Ms Simone Geyer, Deputy Director-General (DDG): Planning and Delivery Oversight Unit, DBE,  indicated that many of the questions raised would require further consideration and responses in writing. She also alluded to the upcoming joint meeting on the ECD function shift which would also answer many of the questions in this regard. She agreed that learner admissions remained a complex issue and the Department was not able to adequately plan in the absence of relevant data and information on learner movements and family arrangements. A further challenge for learner placement was that of language preference and parental choice. The Department had been informed that in the Western Cape all learners had been placed – parents may have rejected placement for their own reasons. Placement issues in Gauteng had also been resolved.

The Department had plans and strategies in place to improve the uptake of learners for Maths, Science and Technology subjects – and improve performance in these subjects. The Department had done the necessary study on the cost implications for a full roll-out of online learning which they could share with the Committee. The Department agreed to strengthen and introduce new initiatives to support teachers with technology being utilised in the classrooms – and support schools holistically.

With Covid-19 protocols, with learners returning to schools in full capacity, schools needed to ensure all necessary SOPs were in place and amended accordingly. EAs and GAs continued with support to teachers and PED had submitted detailed reports on PPE procurement. These reports could be shared with the Portfolio Committee.

Dr Moses Simelane, Acting DDG: Curriculum Policy, Support and Monitoring, DBE, also touched on the issues of book retrieval and indicated that all schools had such a retrieval policy/plan which included steps to procure, receive, capture, store, distribute and collect books. The Department also utilised a monitoring tool Early Grade Reading Assessment which was distributed to provinces to monitor reading with meaning. The Department also had a clear monitoring tool for targets and programmes aimed at reading, writing and numeracy. The Department noted the advice on the utilisation of retired teachers to assist schools which needed consideration and responses from Human Resources and Planning Directorate.

Regarding the allowance for a differentiated approach to the Curriculum Recovery Plan, it was noted that there were disparities in the deployment of resources to schools for the implementation of the programme. There were four critical contexts to be considered i.e. learners, teachers, curriculum and system.

Mr Seliki Tlhabane, Chief Director: Mathematics Science and Technology (MST) and Curriculum Enhancement Programmes, DBE, indicated that the Department had developed the necessary strategies and initiatives for Maths, Science and Technology improvements as aligned to the NDP targets. The key focus areas were learner participation and subject performance. The strategy had nine implementation plans in respect of the nine provincial context. This information has been desegregated to the various districts. The Department also developed a National Mathematics Plan with assistance from the NECT to strengthen maths teaching and learning. Learners would be participating in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) in 2023 to measure progress in Maths and Science. The Department had adopted a strategy to assist and support learners in preparation for the TIMSS. The Department was also looking to strengthen MST Focus Schools and ensure dedicated schools offer these subjects. The Department continued to collaborate with Higher Education Institutions to improve on the quality of teachers for these subjects. There had been an improvement in the performance of Maths and Science.

Mr David van der Westhuijzen, DDG: Infrastructure, DBE, mentioned that many of the questions raised would require further inputs and submitted in writing. He explained what was meant with “practical completion” of a project. The SAFE initiative was aimed at the eradication of pit-toilets where there were no other facilities. Some schools on the list for attention had closed or merged. Many schools may not have pit-toilets but had other sanitation challenges which needed to be addressed. On costing for building schools, the Department went for an open-tender process and meant that the market dictated the price. He agreed that inefficiencies in tender processes and inflated prices did occur but the Department always endeavoured to recover such funds. He agreed with the sentiments surrounding the shortages of classrooms but this was due to the movement of people which could not be stopped. The Department had some short-term and long-term solutions to the issues of classroom shortages.

Mr Hubert Mathanzima Mweli, Director-General (DG), DBE, remarked that they do not provide permanent solutions to temporary problems faced. The Department would ensure that, where the needs arise, mobile classrooms be supplied to schools as a temporary measure with long-term considerations given to more permanent structures. He alluded to the data/information contained in various surveys conducted – using various models to determine the numbers of learners and schools in the system. Where schools were closed, this was done in accordance with the SA Schools Act – and the Department collaborated with PEDs in this regard. The Department also ensured ongoing engagements with schools and PEDs in respect of learner admissions. With Curriculum recovery, it was important to return to the basics and baseline assessments and identify the gaps for intervention strategies to bring learners up to par.


The Chairperson acknowledged the resilience of the Department in striving to ensure the education of learners remained stable through difficult periods. It needed to be acknowledged that there had been a steady increase in the performance of schools over the years. It needed to be noted that 90 per cent of schools in South Africa were no-fee schools where learners benefitted from the National School Nutrition Programme and Scholar Transport Programme. She agreed that mechanisms be put in place to track, trace and return learners into the schooling system. Issues of school vandalism and violence in schools needed the urgent attention of the Department. The Chairperson also requested that the Department considered an extension of the contract of EAs and GAs. It was requested that the Department submitted all outstanding replies in writing.

​Report on an Oversight and Monitoring Visit to North West and Free State Provincial Education Departments (16 – 21 January 2022)

The report was considered and adopted. 

Committee minutes dated 15 February 2022

The minutes were considered and adopted. 

The meeting was adjourned, 


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