The Select Committee convened virtually to consider the Department of Basic Education's (DBE's) strategic plan, annual performance plan (APP) and budget for 2022/23. The presentation also covered the KwaZulu-Natal flood disaster, its impact on more than 500 schools in the province, the DBE’s learning loss recovery plan, and learners' return to school.
Members sought details of the Department's long and short-term plans to remedy the situation in KwaZulu-Natal and to ensure the children got back to school as soon as possible. They asked about the Funza Lushaka bursary programme and how it addressed the shortage of mathematics and science teachers in the country. Were there enough teachers to effectively implement the Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme? Had a deadline been set for the complete eradication of pit toilets? What was the long-term plan for assistant teachers? The Committee asked the Department to consider placing enrolment centres near townships and rural communities.
The Department promised to submit written responses to questions not answered by the time the meeting ended.
Ms N Ndongeni (ANC, Eastern Cape) was nominated and declared the acting Chairperson of the Committee in the absence of Mr M Nchabeleng (ANC, Limpopo) due to the passing of his wife. She announced that the Minister could not be present due to the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) flood disaster and granted the Deputy Minister an opportunity to lead the proceedings.
Deputy Minister's opening remarks
Dr Reginah Mhaule, Deputy Minister of Basic Education (DBE), extended her condolences to the family of Mr Nchabeleng and said the Minister had gone to KZN to assess the damage, as it was reported that over 500 schools had been affected. It was indicated that some schools had been washed away completely, and others would need renovation.
She said the overcrowding of schools across the country was a major problem. For this reason, numerous meetings within the Department were conducted in search of a solution to remedy the situation. Significant progress had been made. A decision was made that new classrooms must be added, and the Department was about to start the implementation when the flood disaster had occurred. This ordeal created frustration in the education system. The President had announced that the province would be assisted financially, which simply meant that money would be taken from other departments to support the project. She expressed her sadness at the loss of lives that were still being reported daily and urged churches across the country to intervene with prayers to support the bereaved.
Dr Mhaule also reported that the Department had given Mr Hubert Mweli, Director-General (DG), leave to recuperate, as he had been working tirelessly non-stop for almost two years.
She added that the Department had come to present its five-year strategic plan for the period from 2020 to 2025. This plan was aligned with the National Development Plan (NDP) plan, which aimed to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030.
DBE's strategic and annual performance plans
Ms Carol Deliwe, Chief Director: Planning, Research and Coordination, DBE, took the Committee through the presentation, which outlined the Department's approach to the government-wide National Development Plan (NDP) and education sector priorities. The intention was to ensure programme activities in the sector were aligned with medium and long- term goals.
The annual performance plan (APP) set out what the Department intended doing in the financial year and during the medium-term expenditure framework (MTEF) period to implement its strategic plan. The APP for 2022/23 represented the third year of activities towards achieving the objectives contained in the DBE's five-year strategic plan.
The sector plan for basic education had been reviewed and strengthened for the 2020/24 planning cycle. The action plan was based on 27 national goals intended to improve basic education. Thirteen of these goals were output goals, dealing with better school results and better enrolment of learners in schools. The remaining 14 goals dealt with initiatives that must be implemented to realise the output goals.
In the State of the Nation Address (SONA), the Presidential pronouncements had set the key government priorities and deliverables for the year, which, in turn, determined the priorities of the DBE and the basic education sector broadly. The pronouncements committed the Department in public to key activities and outcomes. Alignment of its current plans to those key areas had tangible implications for the DBE and the sector as a whole. The Department became responsible for the Early Childhood Development (ECD) function on 1 April through the proclamation signed by the President on 27 June 2021.
Mr Patrick Khunou, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), DBE, covered the budget section in detail in the presentation.
(See attached presentation for further details).
Ms D Christians (DA, Northern Cape) conveyed her condolences to Mr Nchabeleng and his family on the death of his wife. She also extended her condolences to the bereaved families that the floods in KZN had impacted. Her main concern was this disaster's impact on the affected schools. She asked the Department about the short- and long-term plans that had been put in place while the necessary steps were taken to remedy the situation. With the damage to 630 schools amounting to R400 million, what would the immediate plan be to assist these schools so that the children could return to school soon?
Referring to the strategic plan and the APP, she asked if the Department could provide the Committee with the exact percentage per province of teachers needed throughout the country and what had been done so far? In terms of teacher recruitment, which subjects were needed for placements? Were the numbers of teachers adequate for the implementation of ECD? On the targets that were shown by the DBE regarding school governing bodies (SGBs), she questioned the criteria used to identify the effectiveness of the SGBs of the targeted schools, such as the criteria used to elect the members and the training provided so that they were well capacitated.
On the Funza Lushaka bursaries, she asked what subjects the Department was targeting for funding awarded to learners. Had a date been set for the complete eradication of pit toilets? They had been informed that assistant teachers were not allowed to do training or further their qualifications. She asked if this was true and, if not, what the long-term plan for the assistant teachers was.
Ms M Gillion (ANC, Western Cape) conveyed her condolences to the people of KZN who had lost their lives. She referred to one particular school that had been severely damaged and said it was devastating that the children were still going to that school. This tragic incident affected not just the people of KZN but the whole country. She appreciated the amount of work that the Department and the Minister had done to deal with this situation. She commended the President for coming forward and declaring a state of disaster over the devastating floods. Did the Department have time frames for getting the children back to school? She pointed out that most of the schools affected were in the rural areas, where there was no infrastructure such as wi-fi and technology. However, she trusted the Department that something positive would come out of this situation.
She asked for the outcome on the issue of Funza Lushaka bursaries involving the teachers who were delivering mathematics and science tuition in the country. She expressed her dissatisfaction with the shortage of mathematics and science teachers. She needed to know what challenges the Department was experiencing when replacing the previous Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) term with Early Career Teacher (ECT) in basic education. She was also concerned about parents who lived in townships and farms because the enrolment centres were far from the communities. She pleaded with the DBE to consider placing enrolment centres near communities.
The Acting Chairperson asked how the schools were supported financially to assist with the payment of SGB teachers? What was the long-term impact of the adjustment of the curriculum and assessment? Would the curriculum be recommended within the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) context? Had there been engagements with the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) regarding tertiary education administration for matriculants?
Deputy Minister Mhaule advised that the Acting DG had travelled to KZN to meet with the Minister in connection with the flood disaster in the province.
Ms Deliwe said that the targets set for different areas, such as school governing bodies or programmes, had been consulted with provinces and within the Department itself. This was to ensure that children were prepared for the world of work and other school opportunities.
Dr Morgan Pillay, Chief Director: Human Resource Management and Development, DBE, replied on the issue of Funza Lushaka bursaries and said that there were 5 062 students for mathematics, 1 848 for physical sciences, 2 874 for technical subjects, and 2 804 for indigenous South African languages. Information regarding teacher recruitment regarding supply and demand would be provided later through a submission to the Committee.
Mr Khunou commented on the issue of financial assistance for flood-affected schools. He said the situation was currently being assessed, with the Acting DG joining the Minister in KZN to assist with the situation. At the provincial and national level, the whole Department, and led by Mr Kwazi Mshengu, MEC for Education in KZN, worked together to assess the situation for possible solutions. Only after this assessment was done would it be known what the needs were and the assistance that could be given to remedy the situation.
He said that the Department stood a good chance of recovery from lost time due to the lessons learnt through the Covid-19 pandemic when the whole world had to cancel a full year of school and had later recovered from it. Covid-19 had affected the whole country, but this incident occurred in one province. Based on lessons learnt from the pandemic in 2020, the DBE should manage to work through this situation and save the school year for the province.
The Acting Chairperson asked for the Committee's minutes to be populated on the screen and commented that the Eastern Cape, the Free State and Gauteng had not submitted their reports.
Ms Gillion interjected and said that this incident was not happening for the first time and could longer be tolerated. On many occasions, the Departments in the provinces and their MECs were undermining the Committee. She suggested a letter be written to the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) to discuss the matter with the speakers of the different legislatures.
Ms Christians seconded this proposal and said that it should be acknowledged and recorded that these provinces did not submit their reports, and a deadline should also be given to them for submission.
The Committee adopted minutes from April to June 2022 and also adopted its programme for the quarter.
The meeting was adjourned.
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