Department of Basic Education 2023/24 Annual Performance Plan; BELA hearings postponement, with Minister and Deputy Minister
22 March 2023
Chairperson: Ms B Mbinqo-Gigaba (ANC)
The Department of Basic Education (DBE) briefed the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education on the 2020/21-2024/25 Strategic Plan (SP) and Annual Performance Plan (APP) 2023/24. The Department briefed the Committee on the renewed focus of actions and efforts which resulted in learning and instructional effectiveness on outcomes and impacts. The Plan is supported by research and evidence with clarity of purpose and oversight. The DBE also presented the 2023 Budget Allocation.
The presentation outlined the approach to the government-wide National Development Plan (NDP) priorities and the Education sector priorities based on the NDP 2030, Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) 2019-2024 and Action Plan to 2024. The intention was to ensure the programme activities in the sector aligned with medium and long-term goals.
The Strategic Plan 2020/21-2024/25 is anchored in government’s long-term plan, the National Development Plan 2030: Our future – make it work, the MTSF 2019-2024, and the Action Plan to 2024. The Annual Performance Plan (APP) sets out what the Department intends to do in the financial year and during the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) period to implement its Strategic Plan. In fulfilling its legal obligation, the Department must produce and table an APP to Parliament annually. The Strategic Plan should cover a period of at least five years and can be amended during the five-year period it covers. The APP 2023/24 represented the fourth year of activities towards achieving the objectives contained in the DBE Strategic Plan 2020/21-2024/25.
Members raised a host of issues during the engagement on the briefing. Members were concerned that what was presented as outcomes were actually inputs and asked about how the impact of programmes and projects could be measured. Major focus areas emerging from the discussion were infrastructure, school nutrition, the comprehensive sexual education, the migration of early childcare development, scholar transport, placement of Funza Lushaka graduates and the eradication of pit latrines. It was proposed the Committee hold special meetings on these areas to get deeper into the challenges. Due to the late time of the meeting, it was agreed the questions could also be posed in writing for a more comprehensive written response.
When the Minister responded to the barrage of questions asked, Members took great exception to the manner in which the Minister responded. Members felt “insulted” by the “abusive” response of the Minister as they were simply trying to exercise their oversight obligations. The Chairperson quelled emotions by urging everyone to work together in the mutual interest to improve the learning environment.
The Committee also agreed to a request made by one of its Members to postpone public hearings on the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
Members made the difficult decision primarily to allow Parliament’s supporting units to sort out issues to prevent the same issues as what occurred in Mpumalanga over the weekend. The challenges led to insufficient communication and unsuitable venues which ultimately affected the quality of the public participation process. The public participation process must be credible. Members called for an investigation into what happened in Mpumalanga and requested a full report on the incident. Parliament’s public education office could not be understaffed at the expense of institutional obligations to conduct public participation
Briefing on the 2020/21-2024/25 Strategic Plan (SP) and 2023/24 Annual Performance Plan (APP)
Mr Hubert Mweli, Director-General (DG), Department of Basic Education (DBE) and Ms Nosipho Mbonambi, Director: Strategic Planning and Reporting, DBE, briefed the Committee on the renewed focus on actions and efforts which creates learning and instructional effectiveness on outcomes and impacts. The Plan is supported by research and evidence with clarity of purpose and oversight. The Department of Basic Education (DBE) also presented the 2023 budget allocation.
The main objectives of the presentation were to provide:
- The background
- Size and shape of the Basic Education sector
- Government priorities
- Action plan to 2024: Towards the realisation of schooling 2030
- 2019-2024 Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) and Education sector priorities
- Council of Education Ministers (CEM) priorities
- State of the nation address (SoNA) 2022/2023
- Progress on selected deliverables (Including learning and infrastructure)
- Early Childhood Development (ECD) function
- Annual plans towards long-term outcomes
- Linking MTSF outcomes to APP - approach and strategic outcomes
- DBE SP 2020/21-2024/25
- The DBE APP 2023/24 development process
- The DBE APP 2023/24
- 2023 budget allocation: Linking with budgets and policy
The presentation outlines the approach to government-wide National Development Plan (NDP) priorities and the Education sector priorities based on the NDP 2030, MTSF 2019-2024, and Action Plan to 2024. The intention is to ensure programme activities in the sector align with medium and long-term goals.
The Strategic Plan 2020/21-2024/25 is anchored in government’s long-term plan; the National Development Plan 2030: Our future, make it work; the MTSF 2019-2024; and the Action Plan to 2024.
The Annual Performance Plan (APP) sets out what the Department intends to do in the financial year and during the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) period to implement its Strategic Plan.
In fulfilling its legal obligation, the Department must produce and table an APP annually to Parliament. The Strategic Plan should cover a period of at least five years and can be amended during the five-year period it covers.
The APP 2023/24 represents the fourth year of activities towards achieving the objectives contained in the DBE Strategic Plan 2020/21 - 2024/25.
The DBE provided an update on the size of the schooling system:
Learners: 13 409 249
Educators: 447 123
Schools: 24 894
English, isiZulu, isiXhosa, isiNdebele, Afrikaans, siSwati, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, South African sign language
Approach in the Strategic and Annual Performance Plans
The outcomes are broad to consolidate work contributed by the sector and to encourage joint planning rather than working in silos in individual programmes. The objective is to reflect the aspirations at an organisational level, including supporting Provincial Education Departments (PED).
The approach to outcomes assists with clustering delivery areas, which relate to strategic outcomes rather than only listing programmes and what the programmes do. For example, interventions contributing to school preparedness are in different parts of the Department.
The strategic delivery areas and outputs bridge the gap between medium-to-long-term outcomes, short-term annual outputs, and indicators in describing the intended change for the education system.
The Department is using the Theory of Change to see how the DBE can influence outcomes through its functions of developing policy, monitoring, and oversight National Education Policy Act 27 of 1996 (NEPA).
There is a Results Model to identify the critical success factors and deliverables of the sector to ensure NDP and sector outcomes are achieved.
The evidence-based change in DBE shows DBE leadership through and with provinces.
Branches have been engaged in developing the APP, analysis of the MTSF, MTSF gaps and its implications on the APP.
Key Government Priorities (Five years)
The MTSF 2019–2024 translates the ruling party’s electoral mandate into government’s priorities over a five-year period. Basic Education is critical in priorities two, three, four, and six:
- Priority 1: A capable, ethical, and developmental state.
- Priority 2: Economic transformation and job creation.
- Priority 3: Education, skills, and health.
- Priority 4: Consolidating the social wage through reliable and quality basic services (DBE reporting to DSD).
- Priority 5: Spatial integration, human settlements, and local government (DBE reporting to the Department of Sport, Arts, and Culture (DSAC).
- Priority 6: Social cohesion and safe communities.
- Priority 7: A better Africa and world.
Action Plan to 2024: Towards the Realisation of Schooling 2030
Goals 1 to 13: Improved Learning Outcomes:
- Improve learning outcomes in Language, Mathematics, and Science as measured in Grades three, six, nine and twelve.
- Ensure full access to compulsory schooling.
- Decrease grade repetition and retention.
- Improve access to Further Education and Training (FET) colleges.
- Improve quality of Grade R.
2019-2024 Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) and Education Sector Priorities
Sector Outcomes: These are goals or a state that identifies areas of sectoral performance critical for realising progress. It should stretch and challenge the institution and focus on the sector’s impact.
- Outcome 1: Improved school readiness of children.
- Outcome 2: 10-year-old learners enrolled in publicly funded schools read for meaning.
- Outcome 3: Youths better prepared for further studies and the world of work beyond Grade nine.
- Outcome 4: Youths leaving the schooling system more prepared to contribute towards a prosperous and equitable South Africa.
- Outcome 5: School physical infrastructure and environment which inspires learners to learn and teachers to teach.
Outcomes are the medium-term results for specific beneficiaries which are the consequence of achieving specific outputs of programmes. Outcomes are what we wish to achieve and feed to the sector outcome/MTSF.
Council of Education Ministers (CEM) Priorities
These priorities were approved by the Council of Education Ministers to lay a solid foundation for quality education in support of improved reading and learning outcomes:
Improving foundational skills of Numeracy and Literacy, especially reading, should be underpinned by a Reading Revolution (Outcomes 1 and 2).
Immediate implementation of a curriculum with skills and competencies for a changing world in all public schools. This includes the Three Stream Model, Fourth Industrial Revolution, Entrepreneurship, and Focus Schools (Outcome 2, 3 and 4).
To deal decisively with quality and efficiency by implementing standard assessments to reduce failure, repetition, dropout rates, and to introduce multiple qualifications such as the General Education Certificate before the Grade 12 exit qualification (Outcome 1, 2, 3 and 4).
Urgent implementation of two years of ECD before Grade 1, and the migration of the 0 - 4-year-olds from the Department of Social Development (DSD) to the Department of Basic Education (DBE) (Outcome 1&2).
Complete an integrated Infrastructure Development Plan informed by infrastructure delivery and regular maintenance which is resourced (Outcome 5).
Work with the Departments of Sport and Recreation, Arts and Culture, Health, and the South African Police Services to teach and promote Social Cohesion, Health, and School Safety (Priority 6).
State of the Nation Address (SONA): Early Childhood Development
- Systems for planning developed
- Quality assurance system in place
- Second Children’s Amendment Bill
- Evaluation of the National Integrated Early Childhood Development Policy (NIECDP).
Progress on Selected Key Deliverables
The DBE presented the Cumulative Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) Summary from inception to 6 March 2023.
Special Needs Education
- The core promise of the National Development Plan’s Vision 2030 is to leave no one behind, and the DBE aims to fulfil this commitment towards persons with disabilities.
- A total of 439 learners with special needs attained admission to Bachelor studies, 264 achieved admissions to diploma studies, and 108 achieved admissions to higher certificate studies out of 1 092 who wrote.
The DBE APP 2023/24 Development Process
All findings raised by oversight bodies were discussed with programmes implicated and presented in management meetings.
Actions and responses were provided to all the findings.
MTSF Areas to be Strengthened in Provincial and National APP’s
To introduce a better accountability system for principals, which should be fair, based on appropriate data, and take into account the socio-economic context of schools.
Some provinces have started the political and technical work around looking at accounting for performance regarding learning outcomes and organisational effectiveness to support this at school level.
The General Education Certificate (GEC) full scale will be implemented in 2025, while there are pilot projects between 2021- 2024.
It promotes a comprehensive package of effective teacher development, such as Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) and technology-enhanced in-service training.
Teacher development packages, spend disaggregated by phase, subject and district will have to include some reflection on impact.
Evaluation of the National Integrated Early Childhood Policy (NIECPD)
Strengthened Numeracy, Reading, and ECD indicators are linked to outcomes in classrooms.
Sector Monitoring (Standardised Output Indicators)
- Standardisation concerns: lagging behind priorities across PEDs.
- Standardised ECD indicators to guide implementation.
There was increased access among historically disadvantaged learners to “niche” subjects such as those focusing on engineering and computing.
Human Resource Development (HRD) is imperative for success.
Another indicator is oversight for existing subjects and those in the three streams model.
Monitoring participation in the curriculum at learner level in different sorts of schools is important. For example Technical Occupational Curriculum in ordinary schools of skill needs refinement.
The Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Provision in Schools
The primary learning outcomes are:
- The 2025 Systemic Evaluation to provide data on a sample basis, but it needs to be able to help individual schools as per NDP.
Strengthened Numeracy, Reading, and ECD indicators which are linked to outcomes in classrooms:
- National Numeracy programme.
- School preparedness concerns a priority: departmental outcomes as per surveys.
Regarding evidence needed, information needs to be subjected to a credibility and reliability test, as with those monitored through the APP, and for delivery.
DBE Strategic Plan
The objective is to provide quality basic education for all and lead the establishment and development of a South African schooling system for the 21st century.
Improved system of policies, including the curriculum and assessment governing the basic education sector which must advance a quality, inclusive, safe, and healthy basic education system.
Improved information and other systems which enable transformation and an efficient and accountable sector.
Improved knowledge, monitoring, and research functions to advance more evidence-driven planning, instruction, and delivery.
Advanced development of innovative and high-quality educational materials.
Enhanced strategic interventions to assist and develop provincial education systems.
DBE 2023/24 Annual Performance Plan
Divided into four parts:
- Part A: Mandate
- Part B: Strategic Focus
- Part C: Measuring our Performance
- Part D: Technical Indicator Descriptions (TIDs)
The following indicators were revised to be aligned with the MTSF deliverables for 2023/24:
- Number of learners obtaining subject passes towards a National Senior Certificate (NSC) or amended Senior Certificate. SC supported through the Second Chance Matric Programme per year.
- An Annual National Report is produced on piloting the new Early Childhood Development (ECD) funding model.
- An Annual Sector Report is produced on monitoring the registration of ECD programmes.
- Number of public special schools provided with electronic devices as part of the Universal Service Access Obligations.
- The following indicator was removed for 2023/24 and monitoring will continue through the MTSF. The new indicator will be crafted for 2024/25.
- The number of districts in which teacher development has been conducted as per district improvement plans:
It was recommended the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education notes and discusses the DBE Annual Performance Plan 2023/24 and 2023/24 budget allocation.
See the attached presentation for further details
Ms M Sukers (ACDP) noted that the questions she would ask have been raised before. She said the Strategic Plan, Budget and APP were fundamentally flawed because what was described as outputs were really inputs. The impact or effectiveness of the inputs/outcomes/programmes was not really seen. In multiple departments, inputs were presented but Members did not get information on the outcomes. She used the comprehensive sexual education (CSE) as an example where there was a target for 8 798 educators to be trained on this sexual education programme, 3 135 learner support agents placed at schools and 218 370 learning and teaching support materials printed and distributed but there was no knowledge of the impact of the CSE programme. However, there was an impact evaluation research study the Department produced which points to the sexual education programme's lack of HIV prevention education. The report said “although few outcomes from this study demonstrate that the revised SLP life orientation programme had a positive impact on HIV prevention and related behaviours, incidents within the 2-year study period and HIV prevalence amongst the cross-section of grade ten girls, point to the need for effective HIV prevention programmes among youth”. In other words, CSE did not work but the situation was so serious “we don’t know what else to do”. It was equally troubling that the Committee struggled to get this research report. What impact is this programme supposed to have? How many pregnancies is it supposed to prevent? The programme can only be measured if there are such targets. But the failures cannot be buried by doing nothing to reduce the number of pregnancies but work is created for the Department of Health by being an “abortion conduit”. If there are lags in impact, this can be addressed for example, by longitudinal research conducted by independent academics on the impact of key programmes. If it was known that the CSE failed as a programme, this budget could then be used elsewhere. She suggested the budget be used for the National School Nutrition Programme. She said there was a huge problem in the Northern Cape with nutrition – what research is being done on this? The Committee needs monitoring reports. There was a social development debate where one of the Members spoke about stunting and its impact on children. Her point was that research was desperately needed on the programmes and for the amount of money allocated. Members need this information for their oversight.
One of the DBE’s core functions is the development of laws, policies, regulations and frameworks – Members need more information on this, what stage they are, the next milestones and the goal for 2023/24 as the APP is unclear on this.
Ms Sukers noted she sent many questions to the DBE in writing, on the basis of presentations received, but did not receive responses. She said committees were suffering “death by PowerPoint”. This was just a tickbox exercise when Members really needed to know about the impacts. For example, with school closures and mergers, why were there no detailed reports on these decisions?
She was concerned by the lack of reference to school governing bodies (SGBs) in the APP and asked for clarity on the fluctuating targets on minimum standards met by the bodies over the MTEF. What was spent on training school governing bodies? Will the Department commit to providing stipends for SGB members in quintile one to three schools?
Ms Sukers said she could resubmit these questions in writing too but again, was concerned that Members received information not impact. Perhaps a dashboard is needed on all the issues to see where things really are. She requested that DBE provide the Committee with accurate, truthful and regular reporting and answers to these questions.
Ms M Van Zyl (DA) asked about the placement of Funza Lushaka graduates [slide 59]. She was concerned by this, given severe shortages of teachers. This was seen when the Committee conducted an oversight visit in KZN and one school had more than 80 learners in one class because of educator shortages.
She was concerned by the target for schools to be built in the next financial year. She asked for more detail about the targets on schools to be provided with sanitation facilities – did this mean flush toilets or VIPs for the schools in this target?
Learner transport remained a concern. Members heard on the KZN oversight visit that learners as young as six years old have to walk more than five kms to school and another 5 kms home. Perhaps the budget for learner education needs to lie solely with DBE in al provinces.
Where is the budget for Grade Rs if the BELA Bill succeeds? Infrastructure will be needed, so is the Department ready for this eventuality?
Mr B Nodada (DA) noted that he would submit his questions in writing to get a more comprehensive response. He asked what percentage of the budget has specifically be assigned for teacher development aside from the entity working on this. What does this development entail, if there are such budget programmes? If there is such budget and programme, are there a number of teachers identified in each province to professionally develop? If so, how will this programme be monitored?
Considering that there has been a challenge in the registration of ECDs, how did the DBE plan and target to assist these ECDs with registration given that roughly only 40% of ECDs are registered currently. Is there a particular strategy on this? In how many schools or centres was the new ECD funding method being piloted? On what criteria were these piloted schools or centres selected? How are the independent ECDs factored into the Department’s urgent plan to implement the mandatory Grade R and RR programme, considering the infrastructure and budget challenges? If there was no plan for the DBE to look into independent ECDs, he suggested this be considered. When will zero to four years be fully migrated from the Department of Social Development (DSD) to DBE?
Given the roughly 27-month delay on infrastructure projects, what will DBE plan to ensure funding budgeted for infrastructure maintenance and development is better spent and that projects are delivered on time? 27 months is a very long delay; sometimes, it is even longer. Such a backlog in infrastructure is unacceptable. He used the example of the Western Cape, where a school was built in 65 days through the successful Rapid School Build programme. What mechanisms does DBE have in place to deal with the 27-month infrastructure project delays in the provinces? Funding spent on infrastructure must be spent efficiently so that one does not pay extra because of the 27-month delay.
Mr Nodada said lack of consequence management was linked to the issue of infrastructure both for implementing agents and Department officials. Are there mechanisms for consequence management in the case of overspending on delayed projects? Has the Department considered a similar programme as the Western Cape’s Rapid School Build? Did the Department investigate how the Western Cape built a school in 65 days and how it can be replicated in other parts of the country, especially in the rural areas? Schools such as those in the Eastern Cape still using asbestos can benefit from such a rapid build programme. How many schools does DBE intend to build this year and in which provinces? If so, are there figures for these projects? SA lacks good schools – more good schools that are well-run are needed.
Mr Nodada noted he visited the family of the girl who recently died in a school VIP toilet. Mr Nodada said a VIP toilet is “really just a pit latrine that went to private school”. Considering that these VIP toilets themselves are unsafe, he asked if the Department was thinking about amending its norms and standards to remove them and look at other sanitation technology in areas where there might not be water reticulation. Mr Nodada recalled how difficult it was to visit the family and how he thought of his own young son lying at the bottom of a pit toilet. He recalled when he was younger and feared going to the toilet at night and had to be accompanied by his older brother. It was traumatic to have a child die this way. He believed there was a way to fast-track and rapidly eradicate pit toilets through technologies. Why were the deadlines for eradicating pit toilets always shifting? Is there a new deadline? Why was the deadline always shifting as children continued to die? Even with the supposedly better VIP toilets, a child has now died in one of those.
Mr Nodada asked why Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga failed to spend their full infrastructure budgets. He was concerned about the funds being returned by these provinces when they had huge challenges with infrastructure. What consequences are there for not spending grant allocations fully? Sometimes Members were criticised for politicising things but these are realities of people on the ground which were brought to Members daily. DBE is responsible for overseeing the provinces. In the Eastern Cape, children die in pit latrines but funding is returned to the fiscus. Schools in these provinces were dilapidated but funding was returned to the fiscus. This did not make sense and answers were needed.
How many of the 5 836 schools with unreliable water supply have been identified for maintenance and development this year and how were they identified?
What programmes did the DBE have to track and trace learners to mitigate the large number of dropouts? Are the learners dropping out in grade nine also tracked and traced? It was important to know where these young people were to measure the success of the system.
Turning to the curriculum, and the three-sphere model, he asked if the DBE had a career counselling programme and, if so, how does it work? If it exists, how many career councillors does the DBE employ or contract each year? How many schools benefit from this programme? If such a programme does not exist, was the Department considering it? If so, which grades or ages would benefit?
It is known the CAPS curriculum is quite content heavy even though this has been reduced. He asked how the Department will lighten the curriculum load to ensure learners better absorb content and there is increased depth, especially for the academic streams. Would the Department monitor teaching quality, e.g. by making education assistants permanent to alleviate admin work? How would this measuring be done, if so? How would the Department ease the admin load on educators so they can get back to teaching? Were there any plans to pilot continuous assessments rather than annual exams? Almost 70% of South African schools did not have libraries. A small bookshelf did not constitute a library. How was the DBE addressing this challenge? Are the libraries audited? Is the existence of libraries part of the APP targets? Reading for meaning is a real issue in the country. How many school language policies were under review by the provincial departments? How many were single medium schools and how many were Afrikaans, isiXhosa and Ndebele specifically? If so, what are the reasons for the policy reviews? It was important to develop mother tongue languages so it would be interesting to know what was happening in this area and if it formed part of the annual targets.
Mr Nodada asked how the Department was involved in developing a standard for indigenous languages so that learners in all grades can be taught in their mother tongue. What specific programmes were in place to improve learner health and wellness? How were staff allocated for such programmes and what training did they receive? Was there a plan to implement such programmes in hotspot areas based on socio-economic conditions of the area? He relayed that he was currently dealing with a case in the OR Tambo district where the learner had not been assessed for the past three years, had not found placement at a school and had subsequently become suicidal.
What were the red tape reduction unit’s recommendations regarding ECD registration? How many of these recommendations were implemented or are in the process of being implemented?
Is there an accountability system for principals? How many pilots have been launched and where are they?
Regarding the enrolment of six-year-olds in Grade R and five-year-olds in Grade RR, the five-year target is 99%. Is that at Grade R at primary schools or does it include informal education?
Mr Nodada said he would submit the rest of his questions in writing together with the questions asked above.
Mr P Moroatshehla (ANC) welcomed the briefings. The provision and delivery of quality public education hinge mainly on a number of factors. He encouraged supporting the focus area of quality public education instead of becoming too critical and moving in circles. He noted the challenge of infrastructure which was like a “moving target” with new challenges emerging frequently. He requested a breakdown of backlogs province by province. Was this was done, it would assist the Committee to constructively advise. While decisions are made nationally, implementation occurs in the provinces. He asked what informed the decline in the budget for infrastructure over the MTEF.
Regarding water and sanitation, Mr Moroatshehla appreciated the manner in which KZN was able to address the challenge of water and sanitation.
Regarding scholar transport, he acknowledged that much of this lay with the provinces. He was greatly concerned about scholar transport and how provinces failed to provide, plan and budget for this.
On the dropouts, he noted there is a school of thought that a high rate of dropouts keeps increasing yearly. He said the DBE should provide the Committee with empirical information on this.
On the ECDs, in this year’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), the President explained why it was important to migrate ECD from DSD to DBE. 1 April is the date for this function migration. He asked for information on the successful piloting of ECDs at the level of the DBE. He likened not dealing with the ECD shift properly for Grade Rs as “building our house on a very poor foundation”. This could then go on to affect dropouts. More effort and resources must be put into the foundation levels.
Ms N Adoons (ANC) welcomed the briefing. She noted some of the issues raised, such as infrastructure, water and sanitation, and scholar transport were key focus areas so she proposed having focused meetings on each issue for a deeper dive. She asked that this be considered for the Committee programme in the second term. She felt focused meetings on specific topics would strengthen the Committee’s oversight, assist the Department better and get to the solutions. It would also be useful to see the approaches of the different provinces on these areas.
On the budget allocation, she asked if it really addressed the challenges the Department was facing. Would it really make an impact?
Ms Sukers asked about the turnaround time for DBE to provide answers to the questions of Members both questions asked in meetings and written questions. Does the Department keep track of the questions asked by Members?
Has the Department set benchmarks and how has it performed against those benchmarks?
The DBE missed a self-imposed deadline for online schools in October 2022. The Western Cape Education Department has rejected the DBE framework for school closures. It has placed a moratorium on all school closures in the Western Cape until they have proper research. She asked if the Minister was also willing to advocate for this in the other provinces. She asked for an impact report on the school nutrition programme which was a large budget line item.
Ms S Mokgotho (EFF) asked why there was a high rate of Funza Lushaka graduates who have not been placed at schools to alleviate the workload of educators. When would all these graduates be placed? How does the Department plan to address overcrowding in most rural and township schools? What is the timeframe for this? She asked for the total number of reported misconduct cases and what informed the target for this in the APP. Did these misconduct cases refer to learners and educators? She asked if the target on capacity building training for DBE officials referred to principals, HODs, subject advisors or circuit managers. She was worried that the target for these capacity training was too low for the year. How many workshops were planned per province or district?
The Chairperson said she would send her questions in writing because it was almost midnight.
The Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, said she would not answers questions specifically but respond broadly. She replied that many of the questions Members had were addressed in the business plan for each of the branches. She suggested an all-day workshop. For example, if Members were interested in sanitation, she assured them that every Friday morning, at 7am, there was an infrastructure meeting. Members can be provided with weekly updated information on infrastructure. The Department could respond to all of the issues Members had as there was work ongoing. E.g. On scholar transport, there were monthly monitoring meetings where Members could be informed of provincial performance. The Department has all the information. For example, on the closure of schools, this was informed by existing policies on viable schools – one did not have to go into a school-by-school analysis. Some of the questions Members had were not measurable. She said without sounding defensive, the Department was working on all the issues raised and was not “unthinking”. For example, on teenage pregnancy, this was social behaviour not measurable. “I mean really now, this is like a priest handing out bibles and saying so many people accepted Jesus Christ as their saviour by the end of the year”. She asked Members to inform themselves broadly about the work of the Department by reading the documents. She felt it was disingenuous for Mr Nodada to go to a school and create controversy around the child drowning in the pit latrine – this is a police matter. These matters should not be politicised. A child’s death was not something to be debated in public. This was disinformation. She again advised Members to familiarise themselves with the Department’s business plans for everyone to be on the same page and prevent information gaps.
The Deputy Minister of Basic Education, Dr Reginah Mhaule, agreed with the Minister’s inputs, and said the DBE provides regular updates on the matters to the Committee. She agreed that sometimes when questions were asked, it was like they were “not together”.
She said the Department might not have all the resources to eradicate pit latrines all at once – this may be possible in future but not now given the limited resources. This did not mean the Department did not have a plan for eradication but sometimes it was afraid to report. There were very few schools with pit latrines but these few have become so glaring or overemphasised. The budget will never be sufficient for all the programmes and priorities. The Committee should assist the Department with securing further resources, especially given the new Early Childhood Development programme.
Further, the topic of the meeting was the Annual Performance Plan and not the Annual Report; the questions should be posed with this in mind. She asked that the questions be provided in writing for further comprehensive responses.
Mr Mweli agreed DBE would reply in writing, given the time constraints, and noted many of the questions asked in the meeting were raised in previous meetings. For example, regarding monitoring outcomes and impact, it was previously answered that DBE follows standard government reporting template and could not deviate from this. Perhaps the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation could be further engaged because he agreed that monitoring impact and outcomes were important.
On the cases of misconduct of DBE officials at head office, this was limited to the head office and not the schools which are accounted for at provincial level.
The presentation on learner dropout rates was prepared and the Department was ready to present it to the Committee – the DBE has made this suggestion before, including the matter of learner transport and infrastructure. In all the APPs, infrastructure targets are reported to the Committee each year. 2021/22 was the first year all the targets were exceeded. For example, the Department was in KZN today monitoring the safe programme and it was found that all the VIP toilets monitored for the past three to four years are still completely safe. He agreed those built a while ago are a concern with the circumference leading to the pit being too wide thus being unsafe. This will be looked into but this does not apply to the current toilets. Appropriate and safe dry sanitation was being installed for areas without running water but pits will always be there when there is no running water. SA is a water-scarce country. Comprehensive responses will be provided in writing.
Mr Nodada accepted the proposal to receive the written responses but noted concern about the Ministry’s response. Members asked questions as part of their oversight responsibility and could not be dictated to by the Executive on how to ask questions – this behaviour must be stopped immediately. He felt insulted by the Minister and cautioned against politicising real issues Members experienced. He felt there were far too many excuses in the responses from the Ministry and no acknowledgement of the issues raised by different Members, including the ANC. He did not appreciate the answers from the Ministry and said Members of the Committee “were not stupid”. There should be mutual recognition that there are real issues and collective solutions are expected. Members asked “genuine” questions for real solutions and improvement – otherwise these meetings were a “tick box” exercise. If the Ministry was confused by a Member’s question, they should seek clarity rather than respond the way they have. He took great offence to the Minister's response as Members worked hard to exercise their oversight and improve the lives of all children. He repeated his disappointment with the “abusive” responses of the Ministry.
Ms Mokgotho agreed. When Members asked questions affecting their constituents, answers were expected. Members could not be told how to ask their questions.
Ms Adoons also found the responses “abusive” - as much as the Ministry did not want Members to respond to them in a certain way, so the Ministry should be cautious in how they respond to Members. She requested that some of the problematic and concerning programmes, like infrastructure, STEM subjects and scholar transport, be presented in separate meetings. Insults would not assist the Committee.
Minister Motshekga responded that Mr Nodada must “bring it on”. She would not come to meetings and be “abused” by opposition Members who create an impression [audio unstable]. There should be mutual respect. She repeated that Members of the opposition would never abuse her.
The Chairperson said Members with additional questions would be sent to the Department through the Committee secretary in writing. She said it was very late in the evening and not much more could be done. This was the only time to have the meeting as the term was ending soon and it was important to complete dealing with the Department’s budget. In the programme for next term, the Committee would consider the proposal of Ms Adoons to look at specific programmes. She said Members operated in a political space but hoped the emotions subsided. This would happen from time to time as there were political differences but everyone ought to work together on mutual interests to improve the learning environment.
Proposal to Postpone Public hearings in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng on the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill
Ms Sukers said 3 189 members of the public signed a petition asking for the postponement of the hearings. The petition emphasises the importance of a thorough and inclusive approach to the process.
The normal procedure for public hearings was not followed because of the shortage of staff in Parliament’s Public Education Office. This was communicated during the hearings in Mpumalanga over the weekend. The challenges led to insufficient communication and unsuitable venues which ultimately affected the quality of the public participation process.
She referred to the letter sent to the Committee, asking for a postponement of the hearings until after Easter to ensure the following:
- Organisational challenges are addressed.
- More inclusive consultation process
- Addition of provincial capitals and city venues to cater for wider public participation.
- Venues based on express interest and major population centres to ensure the selected venues are accessible and relevant to the communities involved.
- Virtual public hearings for homeschoolers and other stakeholders who might face geographic or logistical barriers to attending in-person hearings
- Clear communication dates, times, and venues of hearings for the interested parties to make the necessary arrangements and avoid confusion.
- Allocation of dates which do not conflict with important dates, such as school and religious holidays.
- Acknowledging the efforts of those in KwaZulu-Natal working on preventing protests and had little time to prepare for the hearings this coming weekend
- Guidance on the constitutional compliance processes and procedures to hold hearings and public participation.
Ms Sukers asked the Committee to consider the postponement of the public hearings with immediate effect. She noted that in 2017, former ACDP MP, Ms C Dudley, warned the Committee that without proper public engagement, the Committee risked a repeat of the Doctors for Life case where Parliament was sued for failure to facilitate proper engagement. Other MPs also called for the BELA Bill to be made available in indigenous African languages but this was not done. The public asked for this in the hearings last weekend. She raised the importance of the Committee exercising its mandate effectively to ensure democratic processes are followed.
She was concerned that the DBE was using the public hearings as an opportunity to clear up misconceptions such as abortions when the Committee had not even discussed the learner pregnancy policy. It appeared DBE was in contravention of section 7 of the National Education Policy Act as this policy was never tabled in Parliament. She asked that DBE report back to the Committee on this.
Mr Sukers was concerned that speakers at hearings were not allowed to make written submissions – three minutes are given per speaker for a Bill with dozens of clauses, effectively limiting their rights. She suggested having a desk at the hearings to receive written submissions. Virtual hearings should be considered. Parliament’s legal services should help advise the Committee.
Ms Sukers put these matters before the Committee for consideration.
Mr T Letsie (ANC) referred to the challenges experienced during the hearings in Mpumalanga and noted concerns about the lack of proper arrangements by the Parliamentary Education Unit over the weekend. No logistical information was provided on the next hearing in KZN, taking place in 36 hrs time.
He agreed with the request to postpone further hearings until internal challenges were resolved. The Committee might need to meet with the parliamentary education office next week. There cannot be a situation where people are not mobilised for public hearings or educated on the Bill itself as Parliament requires. It was found in previous hearings, from some of the inputs, that the public was not educated on what the Bill was about. He emphasised that the Committee needed to “get its house in order”. Venues must be prepared weeks in advance of the hearings. The public participation process must be credible so he agreed with the proposal to postpone the remaining hearings until these matters were sorted out.
Mr E Siwela (ANC) agreed with the proposal for postponement. The hearings in Mpumalanga were a lesson for improvement – Parliament did not do justice to this hearing. There was no transport and no public education that took place. He agreed that Parliament and the Committee must get their “house in order”.
He asked who was supposed to answer questions when members of the public sought clarity at the hearings. He thought the DBE was best placed as this was the Department’s Bill. It is important for the public to be clear on issues when participating in these processes.
Mr Moroatshehla supported the view to postponing the remainder of the hearings, especially given the experience in Mpumalanga. He proposed Members not venture into the other areas raised by Ms Sukers today – another time could be found to discuss these points. He agreed the Committee needed to “get its house in order”. He asked that Ms Sukers share her letter with all Members to apply their minds to all the points raised.
Mr S Ngcobo (IFP) noted that challenges were experienced due to disorganisation in the previous public hearings, such that the Committee needed to cut its last hearing short in Mpumalanga on Sunday. Because of this, he supported postponing the remaining hearings. He agreed that Members should find time to address all the other issues raised.
Mr Nodada said there must be an investigation into what happened in Mpumalanga. As he had already raised, he wrote to the Chair of Chairs to investigate the events at the hearing. Parliament’s public education office could not be understaffed at the expense of institutional obligations to conduct public participation where the public is fully briefed and mobilised for the hearing. This matter should not be taken lightly. It is important to get to the bottom of what went wrong and people must be held accountable even if it means redoing the Mpumalanga hearing entirely. The Mpumalanga hearing was a “botched” and “captured” event.
He supported postponing the remaining hearings so that a proper process could be run and ensure Parliament’s constitutional obligation is not compromised. This obligation was compromised in Mpumalanga.
Mr Nodada said the way oral submissions were done needed to be diversified. He felt strongly this should be a resolution taken by the Committee today. The Public Education Office must be properly staffed, resourced and capacitated for an effective process. Identifying venues was another problem – all South Africans should be equally considered and venues chosen should be properly informed. He felt strongly that a proper investigation must be done into what went wrong so that things could be done properly with the remaining five provinces. Next week was too early to discuss this as there should be enough time to conduct the investigation.
Ms van Zyl asked if the upcoming ANC Lekgotla motivated the postponement. She agreed the Committee needed to “get its house in order”. The investigation into what went wrong before should be thoroughly investigated and allowing time to organise the hearings properly, should be the only reason they were postponed.
Ms Adoons noted concern about Ms van Zyl’s statement regarding the ANC Lekgotla and what was implied by it.
She agreed about the disorganisation challenges in Mpumalanga which had to be assessed and addressed, and noted the importance of also recognising the positive achievements in the province before. The Committee must “get its house in order”. The hearings should be continued when Parliament returns from recess. She said the Bill would be passed “whether we like it or not”.
Ms D van der Walt (DA) noted concern about Members being attacked for raising opinions, as freedom of speech is fundamental and Members are allowed to present varying opinions. Regardless of the motivation for postponing the remaining hearings, she said all Members had diaries and commitments to attend to but there should be fair consideration to take the correct decisions. She felt it would be nice if Members could apologise to each for incorrect accusations.
Mr B Yabo (ANC) welcomed the postponement until after Easter. He felt the “mishaps” in Mpumalanga really set the Committee back in its progress. Despite this, the Committee had successful experiences in the other provinces so the “baby should not be thrown out with the bathwater”. The postponement will allow Parliament to “get its house in order” because the Committee’s house was in order.
He noted the camaraderie in the Committee, respect and good working relationship among the Members between the different political parties in the Committee. Fingers should not be pointed and cordial relations should be maintained.
The Chairperson noted the inputs from Members and agreed to postpone the hearings until after Easter when Parliament returned from recess. It was important for Parliament’s Public Education Office to hear the sentiments of Members. She said the Committee should not be too hard on itself as it was the first time the Committee conducted provincial hearings. She confirmed the house of the Committee was very much in order but Parliament failed Members in Mpumalanga where there was no mobilisation, no transport and no proper venue in Gert Sibande. She noted this Committee could not be compared to other committees and was the only Committee to bring together 1 400 people in one venue. People were coming to the hearings because they were interested in the BELA Bill. She noted that all the other hearings before Mpumalanga were successful.
She noted concern for the statement about the ANC capturing the public hearings process – she felt this was wrong. The Committee cannot run after incorrect media statements.
Mr Nodada called for a point of order. He cautioned against bringing hearsay comments in the meeting.
The Chairperson said statements by Members should be factual. The postponement was due to what happened in Mpumalanga. She was aggrieved that Parliament put the Committee in this position where Members were arguing with each other when they were cruising very well until now.
A deployment plan is required to ensure parliamentary staff and venues are allocated with relevance. She emphasised that the Committee was not happy.
Mr Nyiko Dennis Bandi, Unit Manager: Committee Support Services, acknowledged the inputs from Members and heard the common issues raised. He appreciated the postponement and said he would go back to the drawing board to reconsider some of the issues raised. He noted some of the issues raised affected other units. He noted the main concern about what was experienced in Gert Sibande, Mpumalanga, where it was noted Parliament’s Public Education Office and the Parliamentary Democratic Office were unable to deploy staff to Mpumalanga due to human resource constraints – this was the main issue given the number of public hearings taking place simultaneously. They would address the issues raised before the hearings resumed.
The Chairperson confirmed the postponement of the public hearings in KZN and Gauteng.
The meeting was adjourned.
Mbinqo-Gigaba, Ms BP
Adoons, Ms NG
Letsie, Mr WT
Mhaule, Dr R
Mokgotho, Ms SM
Moroatshehla, Mr PR
Motshekga, Ms MA
Ngcobo, Mr SL
Nodada, Mr BB
Siwela, Mr EK
Sukers, Ms ME
Van Der Walt, Ms D
Van Zyl, Ms A M
Yabo, Mr BS
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