The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) noted in its 2021/22 Annual Report that numerous factors impacted learning and teaching time including the Covid-19 pandemic with its rotational school timetable and the Temporary Revised Education Plans (TREPs); continued high learner relocation to the Western Cape; economic restraints which affected learner growth and influx into the province, psycho-social wellbeing of educators and learners; shortage of food supply and unemployment; and increased violence in the community.
WCED focused on stabilising the school environment, ensuring curriculum continued, especially for Grade 12 learners, providing a safe environment and psychosocial and wellness support. Despite the challenges, there was improved performance from 61% in 2020/21 to 75%.
Stringent measures are in place to improve learner performance, increase retention rate, access to a variety of subjects to equip them with skills and competencies aligned for a tertiary education, foundation phase focus; address overcrowding and priority new school developments in high demand areas. WCED financial performance remained consistent.
Committee members questions included these topics: distribution of schools and overcrowding; school safety; Heathfield High School legal costs; school admission appeals; after-school activities; positive behaviour intervention; school functionality; unplaced learners; coding and robotics; special needs learners and inclusive education; life orientation; psychosocial support; systematic diagnostic assessments; and the Presidential Youth Employment Initiative.
Questions from members of the public included community empowerment; teacher assistants; Scottsdene High School; Life Orientation; lack of schools and school halls, safety, discipline; coding and robotics; online school admissions and appeals.
The Chairperson welcomed the Western Cape Minister of Education, Mr David Maynier. The Committee was asked to deal separately with each part of the report: Part A pages 1-22 followed by questions and responses, Part B pages 24-134 followed by questions and responses and Part D. Part C and E will be covered at the SCOPA meeting. Members of the public were allowed to ask questions at the end of the meeting.
Western Cape Minister of Education Input
Mr David Maynier gave an overview of the report and acknowledged the work done under the leadership of Head of Department, Mr Brent Walters, and his team, with the main focus on foundation phase, blended learning, wellbeing and psychosocial support. The overall matriculation results were 81.2% pass, 45.3% Bachelor's degree pass and the highest Physical Science and Mathematics pass rate at 71.6 % and 76.2% respectively. WCED achieved an unqualified audit, with little to no irregular, unauthorised or wasteful expenditure. The results were achieved during Covid-19 pandemic. As a result of the pandemic there was a loss of 74 staff members.
Mr Brent Walters, Head of Department, provided context on the number of learners, educators, assistant educators and the schools for which WCED is responsible. Due to Covid-19, a decision was taken earlier in the year to have a strategic focus on foundation phase, blended learning, wellbeing and psychosocial social support for learners and educators, to maximise against the loss of learning and teaching time. During the pandemic learners and educators had access to wellness programmes and psychosocial support. The year 2021/22 was marked with challenges due to the Covid-19 third and fourth wave, school closures, rotation learning, temporary revised education plans (TREPs), vaccinations, adjusted curriculum, pressing for educators and learners to return to school and some did not want learners to return to school. However despite the challenges, there was an improvement of performance from the previous year from 61% to 75%. Expenditure was 99.9% of the adjusted budget. The year was also marked by the preparation for the Early Childhood Development (ECD) shift to the Education Department from the 1 April 2022. Under the circumstances and the recovery from Covid-19, we achieved getting learners back to school. Every learner was placed irrespective of the time frame. Going forward we strive to do better.
Mr D Plato (DA) commended the HOD for outstanding work and the results achieved during a difficult period. He noted page 11 “year focused on stabilising’’ and asked how it was attained and for an overview of paragraph 2 “period resulted in many positive school environments”.
Mr K Sayed (ANC) noted it was the Western Cape Minister’s first attendance of an Annual Report meeting. He commended WCED on the opening of Perivale Primary School, after a two and a half year construction delay. Page 9 referred to the MEC’s comment “quality education for every child”. He asked for an update on the plan for the New Year to have an equal number of learners per class to prevent overcrowding. Page 10 referred to “The internal diagnostic systemic assessments for Grade 3, 6 and 9 was conducted in this financial year’’. He asked about the leakage of an examination paper brought to the Committee’s attention by a whistleblower. When was WCED aware of the problem and what steps were taken. On page 12, he asked about the under utilisation of funds and if WCED is aware of the risks involved in under expenditure and for an explanation of the Presidential Youth Employment Initiative (PYEI). He asked for details on page 14 “WCED had three unsolicited bid proposals’’ and why the normal tender process was not followed.
Mr Galil Brinkhuis (Al Jama Ah) referred to page 14 ‘The Five-Year strategy of the Western Cape Education Department rests on the conviction that every child has the right to a quality education.‘’
That statement is inaccurate as his office received numerous complaints from parents about placement of learners from January to October 2022. Is there a strategy in place to accommodate the placement of the learners in ensuring quality of learning?
The Chairperson asked if these details had been forwarded to WCED.
Mr Brinkhuis confirmed these has been forwarded to WCED. He would like to know the five year strategy plan to circumvent this problem going forward.
Mr Walters replied that PYEI is an important programme in the Education Department. Young people must have a passion and commitment to be educators. The teaching profession must the first choice just like the medical and other professions.
Systematic diagnostic assessments and leaked papers
Mr Salie Abrahams, WCED DDG: Education Planning, replied that systematic diagnostic assessments are aimed at Grade 3, 6, 9 and focus on assessing learners in Mathematics and Languages. The tests are developed by the Centre for Evaluation and Assessment at the University of Pretoria. It takes into account the curriculum and teaching plans.
In response to leaked papers, the process is independently led by a consortium under the management of contract holder, the consortium is led by the University of Cape Town. There are no teachers or any representation from WCED involved in the process. In 2018 and 2019 there were incidents of leaked papers and the HOD was advised. The examination papers had been adjusted and the training was strengthened. The security for the papers had been reinforced and the matter was dealt with in the year it was raised. The tests are monitored by a group from within the research team.
Ms Erna Veldman, WCED Chief Director: Financial Management, clarified the various phases of the project. The financial and academic year are not aligned. The PYE Initiative had to be aligned to the academic year and it thus has a crossover between financial years. In 2021/22 the budget was over half a billion underspent and this was rolled over to 2022/23 for the continuation of the project. Phase 3 is currently being closed off. Phase 4 will start in February 2023 at the start of the academic year. No money is lost to the project but there has to be a rollover between two financial years.
Mr Leon Ely, WCED DDG: Corporate Services, clarified that outside parties deliver services to WCED. WCED receives numerous proposals classified as unsolicited contracts. All procedural steps are followed as set by National Treasury if the contracts are accepted. The three proposals, received from outside parties were not accepted and taken further so there was no cost involved. The contracts were: work place management system, Centre for Mathematics, Science and Technology and disruptive education pilot model
Mr Sayed asked a follow-up question. What led to the funds not being spent and why is it being reported that funds was surrendered to Treasury as opposed to being rolled over.
The Chairperson responded that she heard a different answer to Mr Sayed's follow-up question.
Mr F Christians (ACDP) asked why the 45% Bachelor degree pass rate was acceptable as the MEC mentioned. How can learners increase their pass rate and gain university entrance.
He commended WCED on the 99.9% budget expenditure. Page 9 states learners and educators are struggling to adjust post Covid-19. He asked if there will be more counsellors or therapists employed to address the need for psycho-social support.
Mr M Kama (ANC) asked for an explanation on page 12 that states department over collection on receipts was R1.5 million but in the subcategory Interest and rent on land, there is an estimated amount of R1.6 million and collection of R243 000. He asked for a detailed explanation on the irregular expenditure as page 14 states “irregular expenditure to the value of R62.4 million in 2021/22.’’ He commended WCED on the organogram. He asked for an update on the succession plan to replace the senior management team, number of vacancies, period of the vacant posts, period the directors are in an acting role and appointment of females in senior positions.
The Chairperson repeated the question on the over collection of departmental receipts in the form of school fees on page 12 and noted the discrepancy with the previous financial year. He commended WCED on 100% spend on infrastructure. He asked for clarification on the PYEI process, how the funds are allocated and what happens if the youth does not complete the programme. He commended WCED for receiving approval for the Mathematics, Science and Technology (MTS) grant and the Learner with Severe Profound Intellectual Disability grant. He asked for clarity on page 29 that “NSNP feeds primary and high school learners in Quintile 1, 2 and 3, as well as selected Special Schools and targeted learners in Quintile 4 and 5 schools”. He asked if WCED had approached National Government to review the quintile system to enable it to feed more learners.
Mr Walters responded that 45% is high for the Bachelor degree pass; however, they will strive for a higher result. Learners are encouraged to aim for entrance at various faculties at tertiary level to avoid a high influx for bachelor degrees as experienced at University of Witwatersrand. He confirmed there is a 10 year succession plan within WCED to replace retirees and maintain skills and competency. There were three female appointments recently.
Mr Ely clarified that the Education Department is not revenue driven and is dependent on National Treasury for revenue. It was difficult to estimate revenue during Covid-19 and the unpredictability for collection of school fees. The estimate amount requested from Treasury is given however if there is an over or under collection there are consequences. Under collection of fees is forwarded to Treasury and there is no impact on service delivery. The details on irregular expenditure are covered in the other parts of the report. These matters are dealt with by the Auditor General and the condonation process and consequence management will be covered in the SCOPA meeting.
Ms Veldsman explained that the role of PYEI is to provide employment opportunities for youth at schools therefore a rollover cannot be applied as a rollover involves a service provider, order and an invoice. Schools are responsible for the appointments as their employment is within the school environment and employment evidence is submitted to WCED for payment. The programme differs from the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) where there is an employment contract for job opportunities.
Dr Sigamoney Naicker Chief Director: Inclusive Education and Special Programmes, replied that mental health issues have increased over the past few years nationally and has intensified the need for psychosocial support in South Africa. Under the leadership of Ms Daniels, Director: Specialised Education, a psychosocial support task team has been formed to support learners and officials with challenges experienced in the environment.
Numerous initiatives have been introduced to address the psychosocial support system such as the website with helpful tips, support personnel and social workers, parent interviews on virtual platforms during Covid-19, consultations and telephonic support.
He responded about the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) debate and ongoing discussions about quintile classification. He referenced a particular school that should not have been classified as Quintile 5 as its location and the parents' income did not support that quintile. Relevant stakeholders assisted with feeding of learners.
The Chairperson remarked that the Committee had conducted a site visit and there is need to escalate the NSNP debate at the 22 November meeting to review quintile categories and funding.
Mr Sayed asked for clarity on page 28 “unprecedented disruption to education systems across the world, reduced time in teaching and learning resulting in substantial learning losses across subjects and grades.” He referenced the impact of Covid-19 and that the unrest at Heathfield High School had on teaching and learning time, in particular Grade 12 learners. He asked about a recovery plan to support the learners with curriculum catch-up, if a budget was allocated for the future and were there engagements to resolve the unrest amicably outside the legal case.
He referred to page 29 “Grade 12 learners were prepared for their National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations which saw 59 823 full-time candidates registered for the 2021 NSC examinations, with 57 709 who wrote". He asked about the discrepancy between the number of registrations and those who sat for the examinations. Was there an investigation about this discrepancy and a recovery plan in place for 2022/23?
Also on page 29 “The pressure of unemployment resonates within the education sector as learners are often hungry and thus cannot focus. The Chairperson had raised that the quintile categories need to be reassessed for the NSNP. The Committee had visited a school which should not have been placed in Quintile 5. He asked if the NSNP contract process could be covered, alternatively it could be discussed at the SCOPA meeting.
He asked for update on the three companies that have been doing work for WCED for the past six years. Have the contracts been extended without being advertised? He probed the transparency on the procurement process for 2023/24 contracts.
He referred to page 31 on the preparation for the Early Childhood Development (ECD) function shift from the Department of Social Development (DSD) to WCED. It spoke to the challenges and recovery plan for the transition period from DSD to WCED. He asked about the number of learners who would attend a subsided ECD, the amount paid per child and if there will be engagements with National and Provincial Treasury for an increased budget.
He referred to page 34 on the distribution of schools and learner numbers per district and per circuit and asked about measures to alleviate the overcrowding and placement challenges. He asked about the dropout rate on page 40 and measures to overcome this. Page 40 dealt with the safety of learners, teachers and school property and he asked about engagements with the City of Cape Town for the reintroduction of the walking bus.
He asked for an update on the WCED Admissions pop-up stands at the malls and if it would be a permanent initiative.
On page 47 he asked for a detailed explanation on the rejection rate for online applications. There have been numerous rejections without explanation to parents. He asked for the current status of the review procedure and what steps parents should follow for the appeal process.
Page 58 stated that ‘’WCED offers fee exemption for needy schools and assistance to schools in respect of municipal debt.’’ He asked for the number of schools which had requested debt assistance from the City of Cape Town and Beaufort West municipality.
The Chairperson noted that an ECD presentation was done on 10 June by WCED.
Mr Walters replied that Mr Sayed had asked ten questions and he undertook to respond in writing to any questions that remained unanswered.
In the year under review, Premier Alan Winde held an ECD forum with Education MEC Ms Debbie Schafer and Social Development MEC Ms Sharna Fernandez. The forum agreed to continue with the ECD plans for the function shift over the next two years.
The drop in the results for the Grade 3, 6, 9 systemic tests is attributed to lack of contact time to teach the concepts. If the contact time is reduced, the results are poor.
WCED endeavoured to continue with the WCED Admissions pop-up stands to ensure a seamless admission process and committed to the placement of every learner.
Distribution of schools and overcrowding
Mr Abrahams replied that pressures are experienced in all areas. Land availability is a long standing issue in Metro East with shortage of schools and an increased number of learners per school. It is linked to the quintile system and low income. Metro Central has the same problem. However with the support of the MEC and Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis, it will strengthen the discussions with City of Cape Town. Areas prioritised for new schools are Kraaifontein, Eerste River, Sir Lowry’s Pass and Macassar. Due to Covid-19, an additional 200 classrooms in 2020/21 and 530 classrooms in 2021/22 were delivered in the Mitchell Plain, Khayelitsha and Blue Downs areas. For safety reasons, schools should be located closer to where people live. Metro North and rural areas, especially Grabouw and Vredenburg, have been identified for more schools and are equally under pressure.
Fee exemption and debt
Mr Ely replied that a number of Metro and rural schools were assisted totalling R14.6 million. Numerous initiatives are in place to improve the infrastructure with water meters, maintenance of schools toilets and sewage and energy saving devices to reduce the carbon footprint. There is a forum for Supply Chain Management (SCM) and rules and regulations are adhered to. Provincial Treasury and the Auditor General are informed in writing with valid reasons when contracts are extended. The Committee has the details of all the contracts and we will continue to deliver on service. Quintile 1, 2, 3 are not affected. More details will be covered in the SCOPA meeting
Mr Alan Meyer, WCED DDG: Institution Development and Coordination, replied that initiatives have been implemented to provide a safe environment for learners and educators. WCED has installed fencing and alarm systems to ensure schools are more difficult target to vandalise or gain access. A learner or educator can utilise a victim impact statement when offenders appear in court. All safety stakeholders are engaged with the schools. The school risk assessment conducted with the Department of Safety and Security will be online. Schools can indicate in real time of an incident. Learners and educators are provided with psychosocial support if an incident occurs. WCED is looking at a joint project with the City of Cape Town to have school resource officers (SRO) in the school. All the security issues in the schools are added to the watch brief and can be monitored if there is a safety problem. He undertook to provide written responses to any outstanding questions.
Mr Haroon Mahomed, WCED DDG: Curriculum and Assessment Management, replied that the budget for the Safe Schools programme is limited to R35 to R36 million. The funds need to be allocated carefully with a footprint of 1 523 schools. Some schools have been identified as red schools however due to the violent environment all schools will be in the red category. WCED will have to manage the process. At the beginning of the year, WCED started to reactivate the school safety committees and 1 539 have been activated however some are not fully operational. A tool was developed with the assistance of the previous Department of Community Safety called the resilience score card. Principals are required to complete the process online and 758 schools have completed the score card. To protect schools during school holidays, some of the budget is utilised to increase the number of schools where there is physical security during the holiday. There are youth programmes during the school holidays at some of the safer schools as it increases the presence of people on the premises
Heathfield High School
A WCED official replied that the incident at Heathfield High School falls within the current 2022/23 financial year. Two curator principals were appointed and one is a curriculum specialist who served as a District Director. There were challenges with the delivery of the curriculum and the specialist helped the learners. Winter school programmes were held for the grade 12 learners. Special focus was given to learners who could potentially fail two subjects and they engaged with subject advisors for Mathematics. The programme ends the day before the examination starts.
Mr Maynier confirmed that the admissions appeal is under review and the process is ongoing. The process should be online next year in order for the 2024 admissions to be effective.
Mr Plato referred to page 29 and commended WCED on collaboration with National Department of Basic Education during Covid-19; obtaining the highest Mathematics and Science pass rate and the establishment of an Aeronautical Science School in the Stellenbosch.
Page 30 states that WCED addressed the levels of motivation and he asked how this was received and if it had the desired effect. He referred to Page 36 on Regulations Relating to Discipline, Suspension and Expulsion of Learners at Public Schools and stated that learner discipline is becoming serious. He asked how discipline measures were implemented to address the problems experienced. He referenced the Worcester community.
Mr Christians was concerned about the safety measures implemented by WCED. He had visited schools and saw learners entering the schools with weapons, belong to gangs, toilets are not secure, and learners throw drugs in packets over the fence. He commended the walking bus initiative implemented by City of Cape Town which helped learners to travel to school safely. There is a need for the walking bus in the Mossel Bay area.
Mr Kama asked for clarity on the 2140 registered learners who did not write the matriculation examination as it cannot be a trend as stated by Mr Walters. Page 30 states that WCED is conscientious about its pro-poor responsibility and support to learners.’
He asked about social support measures implemented for learners as most of the initiatives are supported nationally. He queried if WCED is within budget for uniform and school shoes. He asked for an update on the Draft Guidelines on Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation on page 37. He asked if the guidelines were for both public and independent schools. Page 47 spoke to promoting COVID-19 adjusted after-school sport in particular soccer and the involvement of South African Football Association (SAFA). He was concerned that WCED created guidelines for public schools but none for the independent schools. He asked about the roles of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport (DCAS) and WCED in school sports.
Mr G Bosman (DA) was concerned if a succession plan was in place to replace the educators proceeding on retirement. He asked for the criteria for a functional school. Pinelands Primary school was marked negatively for non-compliance in not displaying its values. He asked for clarity on the accountability of the contractors handing over incomplete school buildings to the principals.
Mr Walters replied that there is the Second Chance programme for matriculants. Most schools have basic uniforms however it is the parents who are responsible for this. WCED is involved in numerous programmes such as the feeding scheme, curriculum programmes and they are invested in social support for learners, educators and the environment they are based in. Most schools have a code of conduct for behaviour. WCED becomes involved when certain codes are exceeded and the school applies for expulsion. This involves gang operation, guns, knives, harassment, physical violence and abuse. A committee reviews the expulsion and the HOD has the authority to expel a learner. There were 140 cases last year. There is a process to follow where parents can appeal the case to the MEC.
Learners are taught life skills to ensure they can deal with challenging situations. WCED supports agency learning programmes as input is given to the learners and the Growth Mindset programme ensures that learners persist in the face of setbacks.
The agreement between DCAS and WCED has expired, but it has continued to work with the existing agreement and allow children to engage in interschool sporting activity.
Public and Independent schools
Mr Archie Lewis, DDG: Institution Development and Coordination, explained the two types of schools. Public schools are state controlled and independent schools are privately governed. A new school has to follow the process with compliance documents and be checked by WCED. After a year in existence, it can apply for a subsidy on the basis of the quantum. There are over 300 independent schools, of which one third receive a subsidy. Its guidelines cannot be forced on independent schools as these are not under WCED direct jurisdiction.
The perfect situation is for every school to deliver after-school activities and for various reasons it does not happen. The Western Cape provincial government introduced the after-school Mass participation; Opportunity and access; Development and growth (MOD) Programme. It involves learners on a daily basis to participate in fun filled, play based, modified activities in recreation, sport and arts, educators support them with academic work and a safe after-school environment. There are 170 school on the MOD programme. One meal is provided to the learner in the afternoons. DCAS provides sport coaches and assists learners who wish to pursue a sports career.
A WCED official added that within the district, school enrichment officers are appointed to support the MOD programme. It allows the learners to receive assistance with homework, discover new hobbies and activities outside the classroom. It promotes competition and gives the learners a sense of pride.
Mr Walters said that learners need to be engaged as crime in the community is escalating. A discussion was held to have a joint project between the Departments of Social Development, Education and Community Safety. The project will address truancy in specific areas as it is a broader societal issue. A website called Educollaborate has been developed to promote support to learners by various non-profit organisations and community based entities.
Ms Berenice Daniels, Director: Specialised Education, gave a broad view on the services offered post Covid-19. The programme was piloted a few years ago and this year a Positive Behaviour Intervention and Resource Centre was established. It is a multi-pronged strategy to promote a positive and restorative behaviour approach in a caring manner by involving the learners, educators and parents. It also deals with other behavioural issues of bullying and abuse and an outreach team is appointed for onsite interventions. Every district has been given a budget for 2022/23 to source district specific interventions in addition to what is provided by the Safe Schools component and psychosocial support to the educators. There is a need for district specific interventions as it is different in the rural and metro areas.
Ms Daniels explained the three tier approach. Tier 1 focuses on strengthening social protective factors and is covered in the Life Orientation curriculum through the Growth Mindset intervention. Tier 2 The Violence Prevention Initiative programme gives Grade 8 and 9 learners an opportunity to engage with facilitators on how to react and maintain their emotional responses in a violent situation. Tier 3. Focus on individual support. A mental health task team has been appointed and led by Health MEC, Prof Nomafrench Mbombo. Two districts are earmarked for mapping – Klipfontein and Cape Winelands.
Mr Meyer replied that a functional school is scored on 10 positive criteria. Circuit managers do onsite visits to ensure the school is compliant on all ten criteria: permanent principal leading a unified School Management Team (SMT); vacancies in the school are filled; evident positive culture; clean secure environment in particular the toilets; timetables and year planners; staff and learners present and punctual; functional structure in place for sports monitoring; good relationships with parents and stakeholders; school governing body; minutes maintained; ability to deal with poor performance and an improvement plan; school offers a variety of after school activities; policies and records are adhered to as guided by code of conduct and learners plan.
Mr Bertram Loriston, Chief Director: Assessment and Examinations, clarified 57 709 were full time candidates who wrote the NSC. It does not include the part time learners who wrote six subjects. Challenges can be due to incomplete school based assessment tasks, non-compliance with Life Orientation, and absenteeism. The focus to ensure that every learner writes the NSC examination starts in Grade 11. Subject analysis is conducted and if at risk, learners are placed in different categories. Districts have support plans with ongoing winter, spring and autumn tutoring programmes. Support is given with the examination registration process to ensure subject combinations and data is correct. Monitoring system is in place this year from January to October to guarantee learners comply with school based assessments. Districts support checking so that learners can rewrite in the Second Chance programme to obtain their matric. As part of the communications strategy, 62 000 learners are registered and 59 000 contact details are on the WCED system. Resources and motivational messages are forwarded via SMS. All schools and districts were trained on how to apply for concessions and adaptions to assist learners. This year there was an increase in the second opportunity and the idea is to ensure that all learners write the NSC examination.
Mr Maynier replied that the Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation guidelines are on hold as published for comment by the previous MEC, pending a process to develop similar guidelines by national government. The MEC has written to the Departments of Transport and Public Works which undertook to provide a written response on a particular school.
Mr Sayed asked a follow up question on 2022 unplaced learners. Page 69 mentioned “top up textbooks’’. He asked for an update on Plumstead High School that did not receive new text books for the last six years and learners were forced to purchase books. He commended WCED on the Jolly Phonics programme but he received complaints about the distribution of the readers.
The Chairperson asked for feedback on the rollout of eLearning, coding and robotics as noted on pages 65 and 66 in the rural areas of Laingsburg, Matjies River and Prince Albert. She suggested that subjects such as agriculture, robotics and engineering can support the rural area economy.
She said that it is easy for principals to support each other in the placement of learners.
She spoke about the problem of the national subsidy for special needs schools which is based on the needs of the learner. Some of these learners will be mainstreamed. She attended an international study tour and countries do not separate special needs learners. She overcame the stigma of being a special needs learner and attended a normal school.
She asked about Life Orientation and the qualifying criteria to gain entrance to university. She works and assist youths with their applications for tertiary education.
Mr Walters replied that unplaced learners will be covered in the presentation on Admissions.
Mr Sayed confirmed the text book issue was resolved at the time.
Mr Mohammed requested specific complaints on the delivery of the Jolly Phonic readers.
Coding and robotics
The coding and robotics road shows were successful. There was no information on rural coding and robotics. He undertook to provide written responses to outstanding questions.
Dr Naicker clarified how socio economic variables have an impact on learners. The various levels of the challenges experienced are referred to as scholastic challenges. In 1998 there was a National Commission on Special Needs in Education and Training which preceded White Paper 6: Special Needs Education, Building an Inclusive Education. A high level of support was directed to special schools and a massive percentage of children with challenges with a focus on mainstreaming. It has been the emphasis for the past five years in outreach themes for support to mainstream educators, online training for full service schools, a website and tools to provide teachers who can assist learners who are being mainstreamed. In 2001 the White Paper was released and it was expected that this will have an immediate turnaround effect. Education is a process and takes time, with vision and commitment to improve inclusive education system.
Life Orientation and tertiary entrance
Mr Loriston clarified the marks required for tertiary education entrance. The final mark for the subject is compiled with 80% school based assessments managed by the educator and 20% is test mark set at national level, administrated by WCED and marked by educators. Tertiary entrance for a Bachelor pass is passing at least six out of seven subjects and obtain 40% for home language, 50% for four other subjects excluding Life Orientation and 30% language of learning and teaching (LOLT). The University of Western Cape allocates three points for Life Orientation. Universities have their own points system for new entrants.
The Chairperson clarified that universities take the average of all the subjects and if the marks are poor in Life Orientation it affects the overall average. She probed if the problem was school based, then educators should be held accountable.
Mr Loriston clarified the various subject components.
Jolly Phonic complaint and Special needs learners
Mr Maynier asked the Committee to confirm if the Jolly Phonics reader was at Plumstead Preparatory school as WCED will investigate and resolve this. He committed to working with Provincial Treasury on factoring in special needs learners in the allocation of the provincial equitable share.
The Chairperson commented that the Budget Committee incorporated in its report recommending budget allocation for special needs education in the equitable share review.
Mr Sayed asked for the WCED views on employing unemployed graduates to assist with psychosocial support and wellness for learners and educators. He referred to page 159 “Workforce planning and key strategies to attract and recruit a skilled and capable workforce.’’ On page 189 he asked for an update on the disputes lodged with councils, dispute rulings lost and challenges won.
The Chairperson noted page 159 and asked if frontline workers were given sufficient timeout to prevent resignations. She quoted Sir Richard Branson, “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to".
Mr Walters acknowledged Mr Sayed’s suggestion on engaging with unemployed graduates. There are social workers in the system and WCED has to factor in the cost and sustainability of employing graduates. On the pressure on frontline workers, he advised that a team has been appointed to process administration work, enabling educators to perform their role effectively. Due to Covid-19 there was lack of structure and routine which had a negative impact on learners and educators.
Revised teaching plans
Mr Mohamed replied that in the current agreement revised teaching plans have been implemented since 2020 and will continue until the end of 2024 and they then intend changing the curriculum.
Mr Mohamed explained the “check in” system implemented at schools before the start of a lesson to ensure the emotional stability of the learner is maintained.
Dr Naicker replied that for psychosocial support there was low supply and high demand for all forms of support… [technical difficulty at 3.33].
Ms Daniels clarified that the psychosocial support team includes education social workers in every circuit. The team equip learners and educators with preventive measures on how to cope in challenging situations. There is a distinction between statutory and educational social workers. The employee wellness programme is for the educators.
Mr Matthys Cronje, WCED Chief Director: People Management Practices, clarified that there is a specific category for critical incident debriefing where a team is deployed to the school to do the debriefing and there is provision for employees who require further support. The focus has shifted to creating more coping mechanisms and implementing increased intervention.
Mr Cronje explained that there are five categories of disputes lodged including unfair dismal, promotion post, unfair labour practice and financial. There are a few matters that have been referred to arbitration – less than five.
The Chairperson commented on the importance of wellness and the difficulty in people identifying the problem for themselves. She is in a support group called “friendship circle". She is a daughter of a Grade 2 educator and retired policemen. The police force have regular consultation with a psychologist based on the demanding work situation. WCED should consider the model, especially the trauma experienced in the past two years. She suggested every two to three months conversations take place to ensure a balanced life.
Ms Daniels mentioned that the social workers do not have statutory powers and this should be escalated to national level.
MEC Maynier praised Mr Walters for his leadership and responses to the Committee questions.
Mr Mlandeli Mbiko, Member of the Nyanga Tourism Platform, commended WCED for the after-school programmes. There are eight schools in Nyanga, an art centre and it is busy during school holidays. He referred to page 32 “an enabling environment for partners in education to contribute towards quality’’ and suggested the community be appointed as stakeholders as they know the dynamics of the environment. He complimented Mr Plato for the effectiveness of the walking bus. The private security companies are problematic and WCED should consider engaging with the community for a 24 hour neighbour watch. On page 63 he asked about the number of coding and robotics educators trained in the area. He asked for clarity on a 2017 issue where the Nyanga Tourism Platform was not consulted or given feedback by the Committee Chairperson during a parliamentary visit.
A member of the public representing the youth of Hout Bay was concerned by the statement “every child needs to be placed”. She required an update on the number children not placed in high schools and primary schools. There is a lack of social workers in the schools to assist learners to cope with challenges experienced at home. One needs to identify learners who prefer handwork as an alternative to academic education. Some principals and educators fail to inform the parents about the learner’s problems. When hired as a teacher assistant, no training is provided and they are expected to serve in place of educators during their absence.
Retrenchment and community safety
A member of the public said that he was retrenched and the section 189 process was not followed. The reason given for the dismissal was that no funds were available to pay his salary. Yet WCED spent R3 million on the court case against the Heathfield high school principal, Mr Wesley Neumann. He was employed for 13 years at Heathfield high school as a safety officer and completed various training required for the role. The school has employed law enforcement officers to do the same job.
The Chairperson advised the Department of Community Safety will attend to the safety issues raised.
Mr David Maclahan asked the MEC if schools are inadequately funded as R80 million was returned by the previous MEC Ms Debbie Schafer to National Government. On the retrenched safety officer, Mr Neumann was offered a demotion with the same principal salary. The allocation of funds by WCED is done to benefit certain communities, educators and principals. He asked for transparency on how the budget is spent and allocated.
The Chairperson advised that WCED audited financial statements are available on the website
Scottsdene High School
Mr Nathan from Kraaifontein Metro East was concerned about irregular issues at Scottsdene High School. The SGB does not have an objective view of the matterss raised by the community or the educators. The principal was found guilty of being appointed through foul play in December 2020 but is currently still at the school. Mr Nathan had received lawyers letters and was advised to discontinue pursing matters. There has been misuse of funds received from a contractor for utilising vacant land which was not used as intended. A 15 year old learner was refused placement due to his age. There is no funding for the matriculation ball and parents have to arrange the ball.
The Chairperson advised that the Procedural Officer will obtain feedback and include this in the Committee Report on this meeting on the WCED Annual Report.
A member of the public, a College Education Facilitator, spoke about the low pass rate for Life Orientation. It is not prioritised as the other subjects and this is evident in the timetable, work books, exam papers, limited resources, and duration of the teaching time. The Department of Basic Education provides the school, especially the Grade 12 learners, with past exam papers to prep for the final exam. The standard of examination papers set by educators is lower than the national examination papers. Learners from an underprivileged background are disadvantaged.
Infrastructure, safety and online international matriculation
Mr Mike Hofmester, Secretary of Bishop Lavis Development Forum and ward member, said the forum consists of 40 organisations and is inclusive of informal settlements. He pointed to page 101 that stated “A total of 60 scheduled maintenance projects were concluded in 2021/22‘’ and asked why certain areas were allocated for new developments. His main concerns were infrastructure, safety of learners, workmanship and recognition of international matriculation curriculum. The forum encourages the youth to participate in the community discussions. On 6 September at a stakeholder meeting the Mayor confirmed Bishop Lavis is earmarked for new development. A dilapidated school in Valhalla Park on route to the airport is not good for tourism. There are no school halls in the area to accommodate learners during assembly or functions. Learners have to stand outside in severe weather conditions.
He requested another school of skills to accommodate the influx of the learners from other areas. About 66 years ago there were plans for a music hall and this is still an outstanding issue. The vacant land will be utilised for informal settlement if the music hall is not used. Learners who attend the school of skills outside Bishop Lavis area have transport and safety issues. On school safety for the learners, the fencing around the school area is collapsing due to poor workmanship. He proposed electric fences. The law enforcement officers are not proactive and have no control over the learners as they continue to indulge in drugs, gangs and fighting. He asked about the role of the officers as they are not performing their duties and there is no accountability.
Due to Covid-19 many learners including his granddaughter were forced to write the matriculation examination online. However the international curriculum and qualification is not recognised by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA). She would have to do a bridging course through Rosebank College costing R75 000.
Ms Stacey Jacobs, Equal Education researcher, asked for an update on the online admission process and if WCED would report to the Committee.
Mr Ebrahiem Daniels, Equal Education Law Centre, asked for an update on the admissions appeal process. On what basis can an appeal can be lodged, what factors are taken into consideration for admission and how are parents informed of the appeal process in the interim until the process is moved online?
Overcrowding of schools
Mr Linda Peto, a Kraaifontein community leader, was concerned about overcrowding of 60 to 70 learners per classroom and the shortage of schools. The area has six primary and four high schools with Bloekombos and Wallacedene mostly affected by overcrowding. The college has not being built as promised by President Ramaphosa during the opening of Parliament in 2019. Government should do school visits and see the overcrowding. Vacant land is occupied by informal settlements and City Councillor Mr Jean-Pierre Smith was called on site to see the situation as well.
The Chairperson clarified the two types of school visits, announced and unannounced. The majority of Committee member visits are unannounced to prevent the principal from making the school presentable. Reports are maintained for all the visits.
HOD response to question from the public
Mr Walters replied that maintaining good relationships with principals and the community is the key to safe schools. It will alleviate damage to school property and a safe environment for the learners and educators. During a recent visit to Westwood Primary, the principal invited the community for a tea session and took ownership with the community on how to protect the school.
In response to Mr Mbiko's community interaction concerns, the community is linked through the school governing body (SGB) as a stakeholder to WCED. Each stakeholder organisation is linked to the Department. Many of the school governing bodies, trade unions, principals association, represent parents. To ensure safety and avoid repeated damage to the fences, the principal must engage with the community.
He confirmed the law does not permit an assistant to be unsupervised in a class and asked for details to probe an investigation.
WCED is not responsible for the retrenchment. School fees are collected from parents and they can employ extra bodies. The SGB will be responsible for salaries. If the services were terminated by the SGB, he advised to escalate on a legal basis in relation to that school specifically.
The budget is available for scrutiny online and he will arrange a hard copy for Mr David.
In response to the Chairperson noting that Mr David’s question was not about the budget being online but rather about the department infographics on this and the ease of access to information. Mr Walters undertook to provide a written response to the question. Access and ease of info
Scottsdene High School
He acknowledged Mr Nathan had made serious allegations and asked him to provide the details to Mr Meyer who will engage with the parties and an investigation will follow.
He thanked the member of the public for providing insight on why learners were underperforming in Life Orientation as it was only twice a week for 20 minutes and that it is not taken seriously by students. They need to understand that they have to pass Life Orientation in matric. He undertook to look at this.
Infrastructure, online Matriculation examination, safety, poor workmanship
Mr Walters replied that the online matriculation examination is not accredited in South Africa. Every country has its rules on certification and accreditation. The course mentioned is not recognised by South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) and he suggested the Second Chance Matriculation programme is available at no cost.
He recommended the question on youth and safety be directed to DCAS and the Department of Community Safety. He acknowledged the situation on the infrastructure with 1 523 schools with majority no halls. Some of these questions will be escalated to WCED, in particular the appeal for school halls. The allegations on the poor workmanship on fences and blockage of toilets will be investigated. He asked for him to give him details to Mr Meyer about the schools.
Guns and gangs
Mr Walters acknowledged the situation with weapons, guns, gangs and drugs on school premises as he deals with expulsion matters. Each school addresses the violent situation differently but learner’s rights must be respected.
Mr Walters acknowledged the overcrowding and inadequate schools in the Kraaifontein area in particular Bloekombos and Wallacedene High School. It is difficult as WCED has to balance the great need in many areas. Covid-19 caused unprecedented growth in the surrounding areas and people came from all and hence the overcrowding in schools. He took note of this appeal.
He promised to provide written responses to unanswered questions as the Committee provides it with a list of all the questions.
The Chairperson asked for a response to Mr Mbiko’s specific questions about Nyanga as he is known informally as the "mayor of Nyanga".
Mr Meyer confirmed that Mr Mbiko’s concerns have been addressed by previous MEC Schafer on 25 September 2018, followed by another letter dated 26 September 2019 by the Director General. Dr Naicker replied to Mr Mbiko on 15 March 2021 and Mr Mbiko attended a meeting with them on 28 March 2022 with a colleague. They have tried to address the issues raised such as halls and security. Most of the issues raised are historical. He confirmed there are various school programmes arranged for the holidays to engage with learners and this serves as a safety measure. Those specific schools are hives of activity and active during holidays.
Mr Meyer commended Mr Peto for the work conducted in the community and with the school governing body of Bloekombos High School. He undertook to provide written responses to any outstanding questions.
Coding and Robotics
Mr Mohammed replied that training was conducted on 9 September for coding and robotics in Nyanga and 50 educators attended. It will re-run the training if there is a need.
Mr Maynier replied that the online admissions question by Ms Jacobs should be addressed to the Committee as it is responsible for its programme.
Mr Maynier confirmed the admissions process is under review and is ongoing. It hopes for the appeals process to go online in 2023. In the interim, any appeal should be lodged with email@example.com
The Chairperson confirmed the Procedural Officer will collate the unanswered questions and forward them to WCED. She asked for an update on the online appeals from the Committee. She provided an update on the Committee programme for this term that included inclusive education, ECD admissions and conditional grants. Part C and Part E of the WCED Annual Report will be discussed at the SCOPA meeting. She thanked everyone and adjourned the meeting.
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