Education Budget: hearings

Basic Education

31 May 2004
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Meeting report

TRANSPORT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

EDUCATION AD HOC COMMITTEE
1 June 2004
EDUCATION BUDGET: HEARINGS

Chairperson: Prof S Mayatula (ANC)

Relevant document:
Department of Education Strategic Plan 2004 -2006 (offsite Link)
Centre for Education Policy and Development
South African University Vice Chancellors Association
South African Democratic Teacher's Union (SADTU)
National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa (NAPTOSA)
Business Unity South Africa (BUSA)
National Association of School Governing Bodies
Wits Education Policy Unit

SUMMARY
Eleven organisations were given the opportunity to provide input into the Department of Education's Vote 15 Budget debate. Of these, only nine presentations were made. The various organisations included business, teachers' unions, higher education institutions, students, and organisations involved in education policy and development. Common concerns were raised such as the issue of school fees, the role of school governing bodies, the lack of resources and facilities in rural and poor areas, the change to the new curriculum, adult basic education, the decline in higher education funding, teacher-learner ratios, the lack of integration between national and provincial policies and the school nutrition programme.

MINUTES
Centre for Education Policy and Development
Mr John Pampallis acknowledged that although great strides had been made in certain areas in education, there were still concerns that his organisation felt needed attention. The two concerns he highlighted were the basic right to education or the issue of free and compulsory schooling for all and the provision of adult basic education. In his opinion, education was still not free nor was it equal for all and adult basic education (although a constitutional right for adults) has been blatantly ignored by the Department of Education.

Discussion
Mr G Boinamo (DA) said that by stating that school fees should not be paid, government was creating a problem by raising the expectations of teachers, learners and parents. At this point the Chairmen interjected and asked the member to restrict his comments to questions of clarity from the speaker. Mr Boinamo continued by asking how the government expected schools in poor areas to run without money.

Ms H Zille (DA) said that when education was spoken of as a basic right in the Constitution, no one knew what "basic " actually was. As schools did not receive sufficient funding from government to provide this "basic" education, it meant that it became absolutely necessary for schools to charge school fees. The chairperson repeated his request for brief questions on clarity from the presenter only and not issues that would engage debate.

Ms C Dudley (ACDP) asked the presenter whether he had found that fund-raising efforts in schools which often required input from teachers had a negative effect on the quality of teaching in schools.

Mr A Gaum (NNP) commented that the 40% "poorest of the poor" policy of the department would require additional funding.

In response to Mr Boinamo's question, Mr Pampillis said that although he could not speak for government, schools were getting funding but that this was clearly not adequate enough. Regarding the definition of "basic", it was defined in the first White Paper on Education as Grade 9 or the equivalent. He contested Ms Zille's statement that the SA Schools Act requires the collection of school fees as the Act says that the state must fund public schools from public revenue on an equitable basis. He said that exemptions were not being put into practice in poorer schools. The state could not afford to fund all schools at the level of the better-off schools.

In reply to Ms Dudley's question Mr Pampillis said that fund-raising was not happening at all in poorer schools. It was more the lack of resources that affected the quality of education in these schools.

South African University Vice Chancellors Association
Ms Piyushi Kotecha gave a brief introduction that laid down the assumptions upon which the South African Universities Vice Chancellors Association's presentation was based. Prof Anthony Melck apologised that he was not able to deliver a PowerPoint presentation but that he would speak to his document. He explained how he was able (through statistical analysis and the a-value formula that is used by the Department of Education in funding allocations) to show that the relative position of higher education had deteriorated over time. A further indication of this decline is the fact that over the last decade no capital allocations have been made to higher education institutions. The concern of SAUVCA is that the increase in student numbers will outstrip funding.

Discussion
Mr Gaum asked whether Prof Melck could identify other areas in the higher education system where lack of adequate financing was causing problems.

Mr R. Baloyi (ANC) questioned whether the assumptions that the speaker had made regarding the overall decline in funding for higher education were justifiable.

Mr I.Vadi (ANC) questioned the relationship between falling funding and increases in higher education fees.

Prof Melck replied to Mr Gaum by saying that pressures were being felt throughout the system but the two areas he highlighted were the provision and maintenance of facilities and the pressure on libraries, research and research equipment.

Regarding his assumptions, Prof Melck said that these were based on the old funding formula. The new funding formula (that comes into operation this year) was different in that it takes what the treasury provides and divides it out whereas before it looked at what was needed but which was not always necessarily affordable. This means that there is not a mechanism anymore to assess what is a sustainable position to be in.

Regarding the relationship between falling funding and increased fees in higher education, Prof Melck said that there had been a steady increase in higher education fees. This had been addressed largely by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and that it was therefore imperative that funding for this scheme was increased.

South African Democratic Teacher's Union (SADTU)
Mr John Lewis said that the SADTU represented 22 000 teachers but that their concern was not just about salaries for teachers but also about class sizes, improving the quality of education, transformation and changes to the curriculum. Other issues he raised included the school nutrition programme, the need for an HIV/AIDS impact study, the review of NSFAS, the merger process, exemptions for the "poorest of the poor" and the provision of sporting and recreational facilities in schools.

Discussion
Mr Boinamo asked when educators would be given the proper training to conduct Outcomes Based Education (OBE).

Ms Dudley asked whether it was possible for the committees of Grade R educators and social development specialists to work together. She also questioned the role that the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) are or should be playing and, if they were not performing, how this could be remedied.

Mr Gaum asked the speaker whether the current budget would allow for the lowering of teacher: learner ratios. He also questioned whether SADTU would condone a further postponement of OBE and Further Education Training (FET).

Mr Vadi asked whether there should be measures in place to check on the exorbitant school fees that are being charged by some schools.

Mr Lewis replied by criticising the power that school-governing bodies held and said that this needed to be reviewed.

In response to Mr Gaum's questions, the presenter said that he would oppose any further postponement of the introduction of the new curriculum. He said that the Department needed to focus on intensive training and it needed to provide an infusion of massive funds to meet the deadlines. He said that any reductions in teacher: learner ratios would depend on how the provinces allocated their funds.

With regard to SETAs, he said that the President himself had been very critical of their performance and that the systems were not up to scratch. They needed follow-up and monitoring.

In response to Ms Dudley's question on Grade R development he said that work was taking place in clusters.

National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa (NAPTOSA)
Mr Dave Balt said that many of his organisation's concerns had already been put forward by the previous speakers. He mentioned two main areas of difficulty for his organisation. Firstly was the inability of NAPTOSA to impact on the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) process. Secondly there were frustrations in distinguishing between national and provincial responsibilities.

Discussion
Mr R van den Heever (ANC) said that the Committee needed to monitor provincial budgets that were not always in keeping with national policy.

Mr Y.Bhamjee (ANC) said that the use of percentages with regard to budget allocations did not reflect the actual amounts that were being utilised for education.

Ms Dudley was concerned about teacher supply and asked whether there were any ways in which the current teachers could instill an excitement about the teaching profession or entice their students to choose teaching as career.

Mr Balt said that concerning provincial decisions on education matters, he had had very different experiences with the different provincial MECs. He felt that the use of percentages was accurate in this instance and it highlighted the enormous challenges facing South Africa and the funding that is needed to improve education.

Referring to teacher morale, Mr Balt said that in his experience this was at an all time low as there were enormous pressures facing the teachers in the way of rationalisation, the implementation of OBE and the documentation and paperwork that this requires. He said that his organisation was working at trying to lift the morale of the profession. He said that in the past the funding offered to teachers whereby they were able to pay loans back through service repayment was an invigorating process that worked very well in providing a good supply of teachers.

Business Unity South Africa (BUSA)
Mr Vusi Mabena explained that BUSA was the voice of organised business and that the advancement of jobs was key to their vision thus the Education Budget was very important for business. Mr Ken Hall took over the presentation and said the two essential elements that BUSA finds challenging to our country and the future education system and which do not shine through in the Education Budget are the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) and Further Education and Training (FET). The viability and sustainability of SAQA and FET are being threatened because of budget constraints and these two areas affect the provision and development of vital skills.

Discussion
Mr van den Heever asked whether students in the college sector were not funded through apprenticeships and learnerships.

Mr Hall replied that at this stage this was very limited and that access to these learnerships was very problematic.

National Association of School Governing Bodies
Mr Victor Mathosa said that quality in education was linked to the socio-economic status of families and groups. Although exclusion through non-payment of school fees was not allowed, this was still happening in schools. He also highlighted the problem of lack of facilities and resources in the poorer rural areas and that the illiteracy of parents made it difficult for learners to obtain assistance in the home and that the new OBE specifically required this. Mr Mathosa said that the opportunities available through FET must be better advertised to poor communities.

Discussion
Mr Boinama said that if you ask government they will say that there are enough teachers but when you do research on the ground, the teacher: learner ratios are alarming. He wanted to know what school governing bodies could do to make government aware of the problem at hand. His next question was about teenage pregnancy in schools. Because a pregnant child cannot be dismissed, he asked how the teacher was to deal with the special needs of such a learner. He also asked how the governing bodies felt about the school uniform issue and the problem of drug dealing in schools.

The Chairperson said that the department had no school uniform policy as such.

Mr Mathosa said that school fees were determined by a school's governing body and that school fees did exclude many learners. Most governing bodies could not afford to employ extra teachers and even if they could there would not be enough classrooms to house them.

Regarding pregnancy he said that a child had a right to education above anything else.

He said that the issue of drugs in schools was a real challenge to governing bodies. Many schools were providing extensive programs on the harmful effects of drugs to educate learners. School governing bodies were also attempting to include police forums, neighbourhood watches, legal forums and social development experts in the running of their schools.

National Association of School Governing Bodies
Mr M Maleka noted that many of the issues his organisation were concerned with had already been highlighted. He welcomed the fact that the Nutrition Programme had been taken over by the Department of Education but said that this needed to be carefully monitored to ensure no corruption took place. He expressed concern regarding the working of the NSFAS and suggested that this scheme should be looked into and assessed more fully to determine whether it was fulfilling its function. Students incurred very high costs when applying to this scheme. Mr Maleka said that although SASC welcomed the overall thrust of Budget 15 there were concerns about the merger process of the previously separate colleges and technicons.

Discussion
Mr Baloyi asked what the speaker meant about costs involved in obtaining NSFAS funding.

Ms P Mashangoane (ANC) welcomed the suggestion that the Nutrition Programme would be monitored by SASC.

Ms Dudley questioned what the speaker meant by his comment that although there were higher matriculation pass rates, there was less access to education after leaving school. She also asked the speaker to explain how he would like to see funding working or how the NSFAS system could be improved.

Mr Maleka said that the administrative process of acquiring a loan from NSFAS was back-breaking. Students would also have to pay registration fees and be accepted at an institution before the loans are awarded.

In reply to Ms Mashangoane's comment he said that it was important that SASC performed a watchdog function.

Mr Maleka explained that the increase in matriculation pass rates did not correlate with the high drop out rates and that the education system appeared to be failing somewhere. He suggested that the NSFAS be a part bursary part loan scheme and that actual ceilings be established for the different courses of study. The actual costs of different courses must be worked out.

Wits Education Policy Unit
Ms Shireen Motala said that since 1994 there were four main areas that have been addressed in education namely equity, quality, access and redress. She asked whether Budget 14 established a facilitative environment for the achievement of these goals. A big issue was that FET colleges are provincial responsibilities and that there is no national funding allocated directly to these colleges. Most of the Unit's other concerns had already been addressed by previous speakers. She said that enormous progress had been made with education but there was still a desperate need for quality education for the most disadvantaged children in the country.

Discussion
Mr Bhamjee questioned the speaker's issue around her statement that 85% of the provinces budget went to personnel and only 13 or 14% was left for other expenses.

Ms Motala replied that the money left for other expenses was not enough and asked whether more resources should not be coming from national government for non-personnel spending.

Mr van den Heever asked whether the speaker had any suggestion on how one could improve the fee exemption process to make it more implementable.

Ms Motala replied that it was clear that some schools used the exemption policy as a gatekeeper to exclude poorer children. The big challenge was to create equality between schools so that there would not be a migration to the better schools.

Prof Mayatula (ANC) commented on the issue of interprovincial equity and said that the provinces' hands were tied.

COSAS
Mr Mdawu said that the area that he found most critical was that of governance in schools. The South African Schools Act put in place the concept of governing bodies and the department was now faced with several challenges regarding governing bodies such as the issue of school fees and the exclusion of some students. Mr Mdawu felt that policies needed to be better monitored. The building up of teacher, parent and most importantly the learner component of governance was needed. He said that the government's expanded public works programme would benefit poorer schools as infrastructure would be provided. He said that it was good that the government as taking responsibility with the nutrition programme.

Discussion
Ms Mashangoane asked whether school-governing bodies were not seen as debt collectors. She said that drugs were a problem in schools and wondered how governing bodies were dealing with this issue.

Mr Mdawu replied that parents needed to take a leading role in school governance. He said that governing bodies had a legislative obligation not only to set the school fees but also to administer exemptions. Parents need to be aware of both these aspects. Regarding drugs in schools the speaker said that in many schools in his area, life orientation lessons are used to make learners aware of the dangers of substance abuse. Drug taking was part of a bigger picture though of poverty and lack of recreational facilities. The provision of such facilities could help to deal with the drug issue.

Mr Mayatula expressed his appreciation to Mr Madawu and all the speakers who had given input at this public hearing. He adjourned the meeting and said that the Committee would meet again on 8 June to further discuss the Budget Vote 15.

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