Western Cape Appropriation Bill: Education

Education (WCPP)

17 March 2022
Chairperson: Ms D Baartman (DA)
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Meeting Summary


Appropriation Bill

The Committee convened to be briefed by the Western Cape Education Department, led by the Provincial Minister, on the 2022 Western Cape Appropriation Bill.

The Minister indicated that the Department will be provided with over R2.2 billion to help with its initiatives. There was planning being done to achieve the most with the money granted to the Department.

The Department said that its policy priorities were the same – it wanted to provide learners with quality education and to strengthen innovation. The education system will be taken back to basics, targeting three focus areas.

The Committee Members voiced their concerns with the Department, regarding issues such as lack of special-needs infrastructure in schools; school dropouts; classroom overcrowding; safety concerns for learners and teachers; vandalism and theft in school systems and educational inequality, amongst many others.

The public voiced its concerns to the Department, regarding the lack of infrastructure available that caters for learners with disabilities; educational crisis occurring in rural areas; squatter schools forming; the need for proper food and resources for learners; budget constraints, and so on.

The Department responded to much of the concerns. They said that budgets were being allocated to improve and maintain schooling infrastructure; online learning was being facilitated to help address the issues of overcrowding and lack of resources; teachers were being allocated but they first had to undergo formal processes; safety and security measures were being taken for schools susceptible to theft and vandalism; school principals had to keep an eye on learners and report those that had high levels of absenteeism.

Various changes were being analysed in order to determine ways of bettering the system for all learners, especially the disadvantaged and the disabled.

The Committee was in support of the Budget Vote. The ANC voiced its minority vote. 

Meeting report

The Chairperson opened the virtual meeting, welcoming Members and guests. She said that the Committee will be going over Budget Vote 5 in the Western Cape 2022 Appropriation Bill: Education.

Opening Remarks by the Provincial Minister

Minister Debbie Schafer said that this was the first time the Department will be getting aid for the upcoming financial year, which will alleviate the pressures it faced. The Department will be provided with over R2.2 billion to help with its initiatives. There was planning being done to achieve the most with the money granted to the Department. The PTI 16B was going to be revoked; if this did not happen soon, then it will impact the Department’s ability to spend the money granted to it. She said that a risk was that, for almost two years, the WCED had not provided any cost-of-living adjustments. The Department will be taking over the Early Childhood Development Programme (ECD) from 01 April 2022.

Remarks by the Head of Department

The HOD, Mr Brent Walters, added that Treasury had noted the growth within the system with regards to schools. About 1.12 million learners and 43 000 staff were in the system, with many more learners coming in. This had to be considered, as the system is constantly growing. The education sector suffered badly in 2021 and 2020 due to COVID-19. The younger age groups were at a bigger loss when it came to learning than older age groups. The teachers and students had to adjust to the big changes. Policy priorities were the same – the Department wanted to provide learners with quality education and strengthen innovation. The education system will be taken back to basics. Three areas will be focused on – the first was the foundation phase which was reading, writing and calculating; the second was digital learning for the older age groups; the third was for well-being and psycho-social support for learners and staff. Support material will be provided to schools.


Mr F Christians (ACDP) was glad the Department was focusing on the foundational phase and the psycho-social support. Numerous schools had challenges with psycho-social support. How can this be enhanced? Class ratios were “ridiculous”. There needed to be more teacher assistance or temporary classes. Some learners may be left behind due to the big numbers in the classrooms. Quality education was needed, and the class ratios may impact this significantly.

Mr M Kama (ANC) said there was a recent World Bank report that showed that South Africa was the most unequal country in the world. There was immense inequality in education. How was the Department planning to address the wide inequalities? How was the Department using education in the Western Cape to close the gap between the poor and the affluent? What were the focus programmes and their budgets for schools that received a below 50% matric pass rate? Were the focus groups helping in increasing the pass rate in comparison to the previous year?

Mr M Sayed (ANC) wanted to know if Mr Walters could assure the Committee that the Department was holding to its performance measures. This was a need for a clean audit. He was worried about the killing that occurred at Bloekombos High School. He said that there was a deeper problem at this school. Was there a programme in place to protect whistleblowers? He referred to page 168: he welcomed the interventions put in place for schools. He wanted a further understanding of the draft admissions policy. Was it moving towards a uniform admission policy? He referred to page 169: he asked what remedial action had been taken against the officials implicated in the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and PPE procurement incident?

Ms W Philander (DA) referred to page 165. She said that the Western Cape had an influx of learners annually. What was the plea to accommodate these learners? She asked how the Department will involve communities and other sectors to ensure that infrastructure was cared for and maintained.

Minister Schafer said that the Department was aware of the need for psycho-social support, and it will be outlined how this will be carried out. Class ratios were “ridiculous” and the money coming in through funding will hopefully help to decrease the number of students in a classroom. Teacher assistance was problematic at times. There was inequality in education, but this was in homes too. This impacted learners – for instance, many could not access online material because they did not have Wi-Fi in their homes, and the Department cannot afford to install it in learners’ homes at this stage. Matric results had shown that quintile-three schools performed better than quintile-four schools. There were many appeals regarding the admissions policy. In the past, there was little involvement between the Department and the community. There was a huge workload, and it was difficult to consult the community on everything going on. However, this can be improved.

Mr Walters responded to Mr Kama’s questions. He said other factors contributed to inequality in the education system throughout the world. South Africa was an unequal society, and measures therefore need to be discussed on how to mitigate this in the schooling system. The plan for the underperforming schools was a pass rate under 60%. Each school prepared an academic performance improvement plan, and the district focused its attention on these schools for improvement.

In response to Mr Sayed: the incident with the SIU was being discussed to ascertain the best way to deal with this situation. It was difficult to give assurance because it was unsure what the Auditor-General will do. The Department was working towards achieving a clean audit. It was also focusing on performance.

The Department was focusing on psychosocial support. There was a hotline for teachers and learners, growth mindset programmes for learners and direct psychological support to schools. Outreach teams then go out to communities and schools, amongst many other programmes.

In response to Ms Philander, he said that the Department was trying to improve its engagement with the communities.

Mr Alan Meyer, Chief Director: Districts, WCED, said that there was an investigation in its final stages with the Bloekombos School incident. This matter was being dealt with. Vying for positions in governing bodies led to catastrophic events. This indicated instability within communities.

An official said the whistleblower policy entailed that these individuals were protected, and staff were trained extensively on how to deal with these types of situations. In the cases of victimisation, there was recourse set in place to address this.

Another official said digital learning was being blended with other modalities for high school learners. This will help to combat areas of classroom overcrowding. Foundation phase was being discussed to see the best way to improve learners’ education.

Mr Haroon Mahomed, Chief Director: Curriculum Management and Teacher Development, WCED, said that in March 2020, there were digital changes that occurred with the National Senior Certificate (NSC) and the general education and training. The Department met with teachers that taught matriculants to discuss results and plans of action for the following year. Printing material will be available for students that cannot access material digitally, and funding will be allocated for printing in schools. Over the two-year period, the traffic on the E-Portal increased significantly, and this site was being upgraded. The NSC programme had a subject performance measure that it looked at to determine what changes needed to be taken for the years to come. Revision packages were being held for learners lost out during COVID.

Mr G Brinkhuis (Al Jama-ah) asked about the issue of drop-out learners in the province. There were many youngsters sitting on the street that should be in school. A large number of the youth were involved in gangsterism and substance abuse. What was the Department going to do about this?

Mr Kama hoped that educational inequality will decrease and that the Department’s vision became action. What was the Department going to do to address the issue of accessibility of educational material to learners in disadvantaged areas? He referred to page 166, saying that he wanted to focus on the placement of learners. The Department was doing well on the placement of learners; what were the different strategies being used? How was the Department responding to challenges?

The Chairperson said that the Department informed the Committee on unplaced learners and the reasons attached to their lack of placement.

Mr R Allen (DA) asked for the district’s role and plans. He asked if the meals will still be provided. He wanted more information on this and whether the money allocated to this was sufficient.

The Chairperson referred to page 171. She said that the school feeding system in the Western Cape had been going well. What was the Department doing to ensure the sustainability of this? What was the procurement process? She asked for an indication of how the Department was preparing for the wage agreement process? Who was the responsible body for kids receiving social grants that were school-going age but not in school?

Mr Sayed said that the violence in Grabouw matters. The municipality and community leaders needed to engage the Department to address these matters. He referred to page 170: did the Department start to engage with the Department of Social Development? Did the Department think of utilising public spaces, such as libraries, halls etc., to discuss psycho-social support? With regards to the State of the Province Address (SOPA), can the Committee get an update on the Premier and the budgets being spent on their commitments? The Department needed feedback on tensions occurring in schools in Khayelitsha and Oudtshoorn. He referred to page 174: how much of the budget was being spent on schools with asbestos?

Minister Schafer responded to Mr Allen. She said that she did not think that the NSMP is sufficient.

She said that the Department was responsible for learners registered at a school and if they were not attending. The Department of Social Development (DSD) was responsible for children not registered and not at school. She said that Grootkraal tensions were being caused by its principal. The Department was dealing with this.

The challenge with dropouts was significant. There was, however, more absenteeism than dropouts at the moment. Parents needed to be aware of whether their children were attending school or not. Education required consistency, and absenteeism held children back from receiving quality education. The Department was trying to make a move toward digital learning, and this was a gradual change. There was an agreement for pop-ups in 55 schools. More information will be provided to the Committee.

The funding allocated for the food scheme for students was broken down to the Department by the funders. In response to procurement questions, the Department followed an open procurement system for different regions within districts. There were bidders coming in at various prices, and they followed the bid requirements. The Department served quintiles one, two and three and for some learners in quintiles four and five. The main issue was pricing and attaining value for money. The Department ensured that they used reliable service providers. The Department's procurement system ensured that it complied with the Constitution. The Department was moving to R25 billion, from the R28 billion received from Treasury. Adjustments needed to be made for wage increases. One of the main concerns of the World Bank was the impact of COVID and how it affected the wage agreement. If there needed to be wage increases, National Treasury had to fund this.

With regards to the youth out on the streets during school hours, school principals were required to sign a form for learners with social grants for their attendance. This was provided to social workers, as it was a requirement of the grant. The principals had to call parents when a learner was absent, and this had to be dealt with to determine whether there was a valid reason for absenteeism or if learners were bunking classes.

Mr Brinkhuis asked if the Department had a procedure to help children out on the street. The Chairperson had said that Members had oversight and can speak to principals to discuss student bunking.

Mr Sayed asked to get more details on the Grootkraal issue.

Mr Walters responded to Mr Sayed that money was transferred to the school, and this was used to arrange transport for the learners. The Department had also assigned alternate transport for learners in various districts. The school continued to provide its own private transport as well as having Departmental transport. The conflict was the alternate transport and parents. School governing bodies were in engagement with the Department regarding issues around transport.

There was a commitment to provide information on the taxi industry, about the learner transport scheme. This was a service for learners in rural schools. City-based transport of learners was being discussed to ensure that children were taken to and from school safely. There were procurement strategies and safety measures being discussed to protect children.

Mr Christians asked what the Department was doing to remove the stigma from special needs schools. He said that he visited some special needs schools, and there had been an issue of burglaries in one of the schools. Beds in the girls’ hostels were stolen, and many other school equipment. Why was it taking so long to increase the security in these schools that had been vandalised?

Mr Sayed referred to page 183. He asked if the Department could provide the amount of the programmes that have been uncommitted. Some special needs schools had not been structurally modified to fully assist the special needs learners. Had the structural modifications taken place?

Mr Kama referred to page 177. Regarding the MOD allocations – were there any discussions on expanding the programme? Were there schools participating in the MOD programme? What was the view in this regard? He then referred to page 182: what were the reasons behind the 11% increase for the independent school subsidies? There was a need for more funding of public schools.

Mr Allen referred to page 182. Was there a plan in place for the structural modifications of the special needs school? Can the Committee get more information about the programmes and initiatives around the special needs schools?

The Chairperson referred to page 179. Was the home-learning project similar to the pilot project where children were learning online at home? Can the Committee get more clarity on this? What was to be done for children that want to learn a certain subject and there were not enough resources for these subjects to be taught?

Minister Schafer said there was an increasing demand for allocations in special needs schools. People need to better themselves and their perceptions of special-needs schools. These schools cost a lot of money and did not benefit from the budget for infrastructure of schools; only public schools did. This was not acceptable. When it came to vandalism in special needs schools, how much can the Department do to help with this? It was difficult and communities needed to help to look after facilities that the Department provided.

The Department had approaches, facilities and programmes for children with special needs. The Department was trying its best to include all kids in need and to provide the best facilities it can for them. There was a growing population of children with autism, and the Department was trying to include techniques and infrastructure to help these children. Private education was growing, and this eased the strain on the system.

Mr Meyer spoke about the MOD programme. With children that wanted to register for a subject but there were insufficient resources, these students had to transfer to another school that offered this subject. However, online learning might help in allowing these students to register for the subject as there were fewer resources needed. Streaming may help these learners and they can learn online instead of having to change schools.

Mr Salie Abrahams, Deputy Director-General (DDG): Education Planning, WCED, said that the infrastructure team was working with the special needs schools that were vandalised and they were on a list for assistance. The WCED had cleared certain schools for its infrastructure. Funding was allocated for schools that had infrastructure issues and were under the programme. Security of the learners was a priority. Structural modifications cannot be explained in detail now. However, the Department had specialists to assist in the modifications and to best advise how to go about changes with the budget provided. Expansions of the MOD programmes were discussed. Participation in the MOD programmes was encouraged. There was learning support for learners that need help in public schools as well.

Mr Leon Ely, DDG: Corporate Services, WCED, responded to the budget queries. Funding was coming from the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), and this was also paying for interns. There was tuition available online for students finding difficulty in their subjects.

The Chairperson said that subjects like mathematics were necessary for students to have in schools for them to branch off into good fields of study and work. This was needed in rural schools to broaden the opportunities for learners.

Mr Sayed said that the vandalism of schools spoke of a societal problem. Schools where the infrastructure was decaying need to be addressed. What was the level of conversation around the issue of logging? There needed to be an engagement with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) around the quintile system.

Minister Schafer said that an investigation had been done for funding per learner on affordability, and it was found that this was not feasible. This needed further discussion.

Mr Abrahams said that there will be an improvement in infrastructure and technology in schools that were decaying. The additional funding given to the Department will address this issue.

Mr Christians referred to page 185. He said that there was a problem with learner enrollment. Can the Committee get more clarity on the Early Childhood Development and Education (ECDE) system and the enrollment issue?

Mr Sayed referred to page 187, programme six. Can the Department give an update on how many mobile systems were completed? What special projects were funded in the past two financial years? Can the Department allocate physics and mathematics tutors in schools where learners performed poorly?

Mr Kama asked whether the Committee could get an update on the migration of the ECD programme. What elements of the early childhood development will remain [in the Department]? He referred to page 188: what budget was there for school safety? What were the details for the programmes that were funded? What more programmes can be held for school safety?

Mr Allen spoke about the payment for human resource development. What was the number of teachers that benefited from the human resource development programme?

The Chairperson spoke about ECD. Was more money being added to ECD? There was R400 million more being allocated. Can the Committee get more clarity on the financial aspect of ECD? How did one register an ECD?

Mr Walters responded that on the ECD, the testing of children in schools showed that many children cannot read. They were not school-ready. ECD came to the educational sector to enforce what it meant to be ‘school-ready’, and the skills needed for the specific grades. This was one of the functions of the ECD, the other being safety of learners, amongst many others. DSD had 60 people working on ECD. Processes and changes needed to be codified. The Department had to have exceptions for learners that were of a certain age but can be in a higher grade because of their good intellect. There will be system improvements over time. Demand for service will increase. Grade R was not a compulsory grade, but grade one and onwards was. There was a social worker focus that can aid this Department. This Department was not accustomed to working with NGOs.

Mr Abrahams said that 46 services had been delivered to the chosen schools. There were many high schools that will be opening soon. The Department will elaborate more on this.

Funding is going to the E-Learning initiative and other residential learning programmes. The budget for safety for schools was R39.8 million for the 2022/23 financial year. The structural changes in the ECD were added to the programme transparency. The funding from DSD was R386 million for the 2022/23 financial year, R403 million for 2023/24, and R435 million for the following year.

Mr Meyer said that there were various programmes within schools for safety such as alarm systems and emergency fencing in place. There was a call centre that learners or parents can call if there were problems with safety and if assistance was needed. There were also holiday programmes. When there was a breach at a school, there was additional security placed at those schools. Schools in the safety and security programme were connected to the ABTs.

Mr Ely said that bursaries and subsidies were to increase. There were existing agreements with higher institutions that the Department partnered with for the relevant beneficiaries. There were additional processes that beneficiaries had to go through.  

Mr Christians said that he wanted the ECD to benefit when it came to the educational system. A resolution can be done on this.

The Chairperson said that more oversight needed to be done to help the ECD.

The Chairperson referred to pages 196 to 213, first pointing to page 202. She wanted to know how to interpret the table – was the money being spent on the municipality or on the educational programmes?

An official replied that the table was provided by Treasury and they use a particular formula to get those estimates. Money was allocated for specific areas.

Engagement with members of the public

A member of the public said that there was a deliberate exclusion of NGOs in the Department. When organisations stand up and challenge the Department, it was seen as disrespect. People paid their taxes, and their opinions deserve to be heard. The Department needed to be held accountable. Communities were frustrated. There was a deep crisis in education. One teacher was to teach 80 students in the foundational stage. There were now “squatter schools” in the community. These were the schools the Department needed to visit, and not the ones they handpicked. The classrooms were highly crowded, and this was a health and safety risk. Mobile classes were the solution for the Department not wanting to build schools in the communities. Children were not dropouts – they were just not provided with schools to enrol in. Model C schools had no problem getting more teachers; it was the poor schools that suffer. There was immense educational inequality. There was also no accountability in the special needs schools. Children that were special needs were sitting in mainstream schools that did not cater for them. Teachers were not trained to deal with these issues. More special needs schools need to be built to cater for these students.

A representative from the Hope for the Future NPO, which supported children suffering from learning disabilities, said the system in place was the same as the one that was in place several years ago, that deprived quality education for children with learning disabilities. The mission of the Department, of providing equal and quality education, failed. The Department was not providing factual information on dropouts in schools. The reason was that the system was not designed to see to children with learning disabilities. The system left the child sitting out on the streets. The Department needed to speak to the public to see where the problem lay and what can be done to help. Progress reports were doctored for learners with disabilities. The budget on page 174 was for learners with disabilities. How was this money going to be spent? Learners diagnosed with learning disabilities were ignored and lost in the system. The budget must be spent on these learners.

A representative from the Atlantis School Crisis Group asked about the school that was built in 2021. The school was not on its own land; it was next to the sewer, and it was a temporary school. When will the proper school be built? The land was only going to operate for six years; this was wasteful. The transport for the students of Atlantis was needed, especially during exam time. The transport process and procurement must be sped up. The Department needed to care more about these schools in the rural areas. Can the Department make sure that the money that was allocated be used to build and maintain school infrastructure? Land was also needed to create vegetable plots and means to provide food for learners because many of them did not have food.

A representative from the Nyanga Tourism Platform said that safety in the townships had always been an issue. He engaged with many Departmental officials about this. When there was a safety issue, where did one go? Security companies need to be removed. Neighborhood watches were preferred and better for the township to prevent further vandalism. He asked if the money allocated for school infrastructure will see to schools that had been dilapidated in the townships.

A member of the public said that he commended the availability of the school in Nyanga. The requests for multipurpose centers were being continuously undermined. Additional classrooms and their layouts had gone missing. What happened to the original layout plan?


The Chairperson spoke about the various functions of the Committee.

Minister Schafer said that she heeded the concerns of the Members and the public. There had not been enough remedial work for learners before they go to the next grade, and this needed to be improved. Teacher-specific issues needed to be emailed to her directly.

Mr Walters responded to Hope for the Future NPO that the Department provided a written reply and engagement. If there was still more that needed to be discussed, then a meeting should be arranged. The Department had to make sure it worked in the best interest of the system as a whole. The system did not work for everyone.

Much of the concerns raised had been addressed by Mr Walters himself. The Department tried to be as helpful as it could. The system was very large, and it was difficult to address everyone’s issues at once. The Department tried its best to do what it can with what it had. More respect needed to be shown to members of the Department. Officials should not be called liars. The matter of learners passing when they did not qualify would be looked into.

There was a problem with access to education in South Africa – there may be more primary schools than high schools; there may also be overcrowding in classrooms, etc. This was a progressive issue. Online learning may take pressure off the system. Materials will still be provided to students during online learning.

In response to the question posed by the Nyanga Tourism Platform: There was a formal process to bring more teachers into the system.

The team was trying to do its best to address the issues discussed. Quality education was the Department’s vision that it was striving for.

The Chairperson said that everyone needed to work together to deliver the vision for quality education. She commended the community members for their passion for striving for a better future for the children.

The Department thanked the Committee and the public for their engagement.

Committee resolutions

Mr Sayed said that he wanted a briefing with the SIU and the Department. The Department also needed a meeting with DBE to discuss the quintiles. There needs to be an engagement on special needs concerns.

Mr Christians requested the list of no-fee schools and a list of the accelerated fencing.

Mr Brinkhuis wanted more information on the projects happening in the schools and those initiating them.

The Chairperson said Members must be specific on the schools and share the details with the procedural officers.

The Chairperson said the annual procurement plan, briefing on safe schools, engagement on infrastructure development, updates on ECDs, were all needed for follow up.

Committee Report on Budget Vote 5

The report was considered and adopted.

The DA and ACDP were in support of the Budget Vote.

The ANC did not support the Budget Vote.

The meeting was adjourned. 


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