Learner Dropouts in the System (Statistics, Trends, Tracking and Tracing); BELA Bill: proposal for improved public hearings; DBE Budget: Committee Report; with Minister

Basic Education

18 April 2023
Chairperson: Ms B Mbinqo-Gigaba (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education met virtually with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) regarding the Learner Dropouts in the System (Statistics, Trends, Tracking and Tracing). The Department reported that the rate at which learners drop out of school in South Africa improved by 10% in the 2022 academic year compared with levels in 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Committee expressed concerns about the DBE’s dropout figures and that the reality on the ground painted a different picture. The statistics reflected preliminary data which lacked depth and did not present a clear understanding of the dropout phenomenon. A comprehensive research programme was required. Members said dropouts and the number of learners lost in the system were concerning.
The Committee proposed that effective and integrated interventions implemented by the DBE were required. There was a need for an organisational understanding of the current statistical impact of violence on children. Members recommended that the DBE implement a tracking system urgently to track the number of learners leaving school between grades 11 and 12. Furthermore, they asked for disaggregated analytics of learner dropouts.
Members commended the improvements, incremental growth, and work conducted to curtail dropouts.
The record of 2019 provided that the throughput rate was below 60%. In 2023, the rate is at 62%. Members agreed that the DBE was only partially responsible for the issue of dropouts, and a collective response was required.
Minister Angie Motshekga noted serious concerns about some of the statements by Mr B Nodada (DA), who stated that the DBE downplayed the issue of learner dropouts. The Minister said there needed to be civil communication without insults when dealing with a serious matter.

The Committee considered proposals for improved public participation hearings on the BELA Bill. The recommendations called for a more inclusive consultation process, accessible venues, transparent and timely communication on venues and dates, and virtual meetings. The discussion became heated when the Chairperson noted concerns with Ms Sukers’ letter and said the legislative process would not appease individual aims and hopes.  

The parliamentary unit presented an overview of the public hearings’ venues and dates. It was agreed that the hearings would commence on 5 May in Gauteng, 8 May in Mpumalanga, and 12 May in Kwa-Zulu Natal. The venues will accommodate 500 people.

Members also considered the Draft Report on Budget Vote 16: Basic Education and draft minutes of the meeting of 28 March 2023. The report and minutes were unanimously approved and adopted to reflect the discussions.

Meeting report

Opening Remarks

The Chairperson welcomed Members to the meeting. She said public hearings on the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill needed to be concluded in the current quarter as it would be late to be approved by Parliament, and asked Members to cooperate. The public hearings would be done in May. Venues needed to be communicated appropriately, to avoid previous misunderstandings.

Remarks by Minister

Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, said the Department regularly considered the issue of dropouts to protect children and give them the life opportunity of education. Early Childhood Education was an important area presented in the report. If children were not ready to begin school, it would reduce their chances of survival. Social factors also impact children continuing with education. During the teenage years, social challenges need to be considered. The report confirmed that “it was good to raise good children, rather than deal with them when they are grown and broken.” Social decadence and youth delinquency were serious problems. She appreciated the Committee's work in understanding retention, repetition, dropout, and performance. She said it was a subject close to her heart.

Briefing by Department of Basic Education

Mr Hubert Mweli, Director-General (DG), Department of Basic Education (DBE) and Dr Martin Gustafsson, Education Economist and Associate Professor, University of Stellenbosch, briefed on the Department of Basic Education on Learner Dropouts in the System (Statistics, Trends, Tracking and Tracing).

Dropping out was ideally understood as an undesirable departure from the schooling system, excluding movement to a TVET college. It was somewhat challenging to measure, as there was a significant gap and a lack of synergy between DBE and Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) systems, meaning school-college movements were not correctly tracked. Plans existed to address this. Despite this, South Africa had relatively good data to quantify the phenomenon.

Major 2008 review identified the following key reasons for dropouts, which remain relevant now:

  • The closely related problems of (a) academic under-achievement and (b) grade repetition.
  • Home disadvantage, including parents with a relatively low level of educational achievement.
  • Males more likely to drop out.

The impact of COVID

  • Considerable confusion arises from over-reliance on telephonic surveys (NIDS-CRAM) and delays in processing and analysing administrative data on attendance (SA-SAMS).
  • 19 000 children of compulsory school-going age had dropped out when 2020 and 2021 enrolment data were compared.

Efforts to normalise enrolments aged 15 and below.

This is multi-faceted and includes:

  • School nutrition.
  • Enforcing no-fee schools.
  • Implementing and enforcing Government Notice 704 of 2021 regarding protecting pregnant teenagers.
  • Ongoing strengthening and streamlining of CAPS.
  • Improving reading in the early grades.
  • Support to Grade 12 examination candidates.
  • Expansion of learner-level enrolment and attendance monitoring systems.
  • The DBE has engaged with the NGO Zero Dropout and disagrees with much of their analysis and proposals around an Excel-based ‘Early Warning System.’

Current survival to an NSC pass.

  • 2022 NSC report reflects a ‘survival rate’ (in South Africa, the term ‘throughput rate’ is frequently used) of 62%. Based on Stats SA household data, confirmed via cohort analysis using DBE EMIS data.
  • What one should not do: divide full-time NSC passes by either earlier Grade 1 enrolment or Stats SA mid-year population estimates.
  • Africa Check has weighed in on the debate and agrees with the DBE methodology.

How South Africa’s 65% compared internationally

From the 2022 NSC report:

  • 2022 article in The Economist argues that China should be more like South Africa regarding secondary completion.
  • If we continue at current rates, we will reach a 12-year survival rate for schools alone of 83% by 2050. That is easily comparable to a rich country such as the United States.

Dropping out and other challenges in the sector

  • DBE has monitored school participation and dropping out through Stats SA household data for many years.
  • The DBE has begun calculating grade-specific dropout rates using its LURITS system. While dropout rates are low below age 17, these are still worrying as they violate compulsory schooling policy.
  • DBE priorities concerning the monitoring of dropping out:
  • Continue strengthening LURITS and produce more local-level monitoring of ‘dropout hotspots,’ primarily those aged 15 and below.
  • Closer collaboration with DHET to resolve data issues by monitoring school-college movements.
  • Related work:
  • Absolute priority must be to improve the quality of learning and teaching, which is the main lever to keep more learners in school.

General Education Certificate in Grade 9. From the DBE’s 2023 APP

  • A credible GEC would increase the willingness of TVET colleges to take in younger learners and avoid duplication of youths studying for an NSC and then again for another NQF4 qualification at a TVET college.

Conclusion and Recommendation

  • The percent age of youths surviving the NSC – i.e., the NSC ‘throughput rate’ - was 55% in 2019 and 62% in 2022.
  • If the attainment of NC(V) Level 4 in a college is counted, the figure rises to 65%. We can call this the correct overall ‘throughput rate’ currently.
  • Grade-specific dropout rates of interest range from 3% in Grade 7 to 9% in Grade 11.
  • The above figures have improved over the 20 years and can be expected to improve further. They are not unusual by developing country standards.
  • Contrary to expectations, the pandemic pushed survival to Grade 12 up.
  • Key initiatives to improve the prospects for youths include (a) a range of teaching and learning interventions; (b) psycho-social support; (c) the GEC; (d) tighter monitoring of school participation.

It is recommended that the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education notes and discusses the dropout, throughput, and Learner Dropout Prevention.

Presentation attached for further details.


The Chairperson thanked the DBE for the presentation.

Ms M Sukers (ACDP) observed that the lived reality of the dropout rates on the ground was concerning. She noted this during her two-week oversight visit to the Northern Cape, especially at Richmond High School, 113 learners commenced the academic year in Grade 8, and only 43 completed matric, which was approximately 63 % dropout. The learners were on the streets and not in the system. Northern Cape and parts of the Western Cape were affected by gang violence as primary examples of the challenges. There was a severe learner challenge dropout.

On the presentation, she asked the Minister to advise how the DBE would improve relationships with the NGOs. The contention between the NGOs and the media was a substantial part of the challenge. How would the Department address this issue to establish a constructive relationship with the sector’s NGOs and motivate them for more funds? The relationship between NGOs and government departments could be more robust. The presentation provided preliminary data rather than in-depth research. It also needed to present a comprehensive research programme. There needed to be more understanding of the learner dropout phenomenon. She reiterated the example of Richmond High School. The Committee needed to understand the core of the problem concerned. A three-part research model had to be done informing real-time (or close to real-time) and ongoing detailed monitoring. A report requiring one to two weeks’ notice providing academic research relating one to three years horizons explaining why dropouts occurred.

She referred to Equal Education’s report specifically focused on dropouts and the effects of gang violence on children. It detailed the staggering number of children exposed to perpetrators of violence. There was a need for an organisational understanding of the current statistical impact of violence on children. She expressed an urgent plea for an in-depth understanding of how violence in violent-prone areas affected children in the Western Cape. How did domestic violence and poverty affect children in the Northern Cape? Effective and integrated interventions implemented by the DBE were required. The Minister stated how critical dropouts were; could the reporting thereof be included in the mainstream reporting?

DBE’s presentation included “General Education Certificate in Grade 9. From the DBE’s 2023 APP”. She asked the DBE to clarify and analyse the reported increase. While the presentation informed of the retention, an in-depth analysis was required. Could the Department advise on the availability of research on off-rolling, namely when learners were forced out of schools? She added that she has an excellent case study on the matter. Her constituents submitted complaints that complex learners were forced out of school to protect matric pass rates in public and private schools. The recent increase in matriculants passing may be due to schools being unable to easily off-roll learners. She cited the case of a school being able to retain a problematic learner with the DG’s assistance. City Press article dated 17 April 2023 reported on questions raised by the Gauteng provincial Member of the Executive Council (MEC) for Education in the Gauteng Legislature. In a written reply to the Gauteng legislature on Monday, MEC for Education Matome Chiloane said more than 260,000 pupils who enrolled in 2021 did not return to school during the 2022 academic year. The Department enrolled 2,513,550 pupils in 2021; of those, 2 252 291 returned to school the following year. Chiloane could not confirm whether the pupils who did not return had moved to other provinces or countries or had left the primary education system. It was reported that Gauteng had over 200,000 grades 1 to 12 learners who dropped out in the 2022 academic year. There was a discrepancy in the number of learners enrolled in 2021 and the number of learners retained. She asked the DBE to comment on the matter and clarify how reporting was tracked regarding the example of Gauteng.

Ms M Van Zyl (DA) referenced Chiloane’s written response, saying of the 261,000 pupils who left, 53,935 were of school-going age. Dropouts were very concerning, and the number of children lost to the system was very worrying. This impacts their futures and unemployment as they would struggle to find meaningful employment in the country to be lifted out of poverty. The presentation referenced the 2022 article in The Economist, which argued that China could be more like South Africa regarding secondary school completion. Statistics showed half the coin. If more research could be conducted, it would be revealed that China had a low-middle workforce. The ban on having only one child impacted the skilled workforce and would widen the gap as the older workforce retired. South Africa requires a skilled workforce by providing quality education and curbing the high dropout rates. DBE presented on the dropout of grade 7 and 8 learners. Quality of learning and teaching was the primary way to retain learners. Rural areas in the Eastern Cape needed more secondary schools. Learners were forced to drop out if no schools were nearby. A shortage of schools in communities remained problematic. Half of the learners dropped out of school, contributing to unemployment rather than the economy. The Department needed to do more than draw up the statistics and assess the problems to rectify the situation. It was essential to build more schools, improve teaching and learning to better quality, and give schools and educators the best tools to make a success of children’s future. She cited the Minister’s statement that children were a national asset.

Ms N Mashabela (EFF) asked why the DBE disagreed with the NGO’s proposals for a zero percent dropout and an early warning system. What system did the Department have in place, and did the system work? She also asked for an outline of a comparative analysis of fee-paying versus non-fee-paying schools regarding dropouts. Based on page 5 of the presentation, how was the Department using primary forms to obtain data? She assumed that the DBE would rely on internal statistics. The presentation provided that there is a need for data on learners’ transition, which may be presumed to be dropouts. This needed to be addressed through the availability of a shared learner database between the DBE and Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET).

Mr T Letsie (ANC) referred to the enrolments of grade 1 learners in 2011, compared to matriculants in 2022. The presentation clarified the dropout and learners lost in the system. The presentation provided valuable information for the Committee’s consideration. MEC for Education Chiloane’s statements on learners who dropped out of the school environment needed to be clarified. The learners would have left the formal schooling of primary education, with several transferring to TVET colleges or home-schooling. He supported a joint DBE and DHET tracking system on an urgent basis to track the number of learners leaving school between grades 11 and 12. Many learners did not necessarily drop out of school but instead travelled to their home provinces or their parents migrated to other provinces due to work. He cited an example of a parent employed as a Police Officer in his home province in Gauteng who received a promotion in the Western Cape. The child of the concerned parent was compelled to complete his matric in the Western Cape. Thus, it was not a dropout but a transfer. He proposed that the DBE develop systems to track learners with other key departments, such as Department of Home Affairs (DHA) and Correctional Services. Interdepartmental collaboration was vital to increase governance.

Mr B Nodada (DA) said dropouts were a severe concern and needed not to be taken lightly or downplayed. DBE needed to be truthful in its reporting. It may worsen the problem, making it more challenging to remedy the situation later. As of the last quarter of 2022, Statistics SA found an increase from 3.3 billion to 3.9 billion youth not in education, training, or employment. These youth of school-going age were not connected to any institution, college, or training facility. The Department of Labour and Employment needed to assess the statistics. He wrote a letter to the President about the statistics and noted the urgency of the matter. The issue need not be politicised and misconstrued. The young people concerned would suffer the most, as they would leave the schooling system and were most likely to join the unemployment and poverty ranks. He cautioned that statistics might be utilised conveniently in some cases.

Regarding the DBE’s presentation, he asked the following series of questions. He asked for clarity on the calculation of statistics. The 2022 National Senior Certificate (NSC) report reflected a ‘survival rate’ (in South Africa, the term ‘throughput rate’ is frequently used) of 62%. Was the percentage age based on the number of children who commenced education in grade 1 and completed matric, or was it based on grade 10 to matric? There were two exit points in primary education. Firstly, exit in grade 9 through a General Education Certificate. Secondly, the option to complete grades 10 to 12. He argued that the statistics presented needed to indicate learner dropouts from grade 1 to matric. It was instead based on the assumption that learners in grade 10 should complete matric. If, along the way, there were challenging circumstances, such learners may drop out. The presentation provided that the dropout rate for grade 10 was approximately 28% in general. However, he noted concerns about the statistics. If 2020 there were over 1.1 million grade 10 learners, and in 2022, there were 775,000 matriculating from that cohort; what was the basis for the dropouts? The throughput rate required two different exit points; thus, two separate analyses were needed. Several factors may result in dropouts between grades 10 to matric. Learners may fail a grade, drop out, or opt for further education through a Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) college. Statistics SA provided that approximately 500,000 learners needed to be in formal education or training. This was a concerning statistic. Such cases required attention and follow-up.

While TVET colleges were enrolling fewer students than they should, there were concerns for the colleges’ functioning, such as saturated courses. The certificates were also challenging to obtain. It was not generally appealing to parents to enrol their children in some provinces, such as Gauteng and the Western Cape, with more available colleges. Less than half of learners obtained an NSC. Such learners needed to be supported to get an alternative education and training, to improve their prospects. DBE needed to advise on measures to improve the dropout issue. They especially noted that poor learning environments, poor teaching, underqualified teachers, poor literacy of learners, and poor facilities contributed to the problem. What was DBE doing about the challenges to which the Department itself contributed? What was DBE doing to create a conducive learning environment? DBE still needed to deliver and transfer school nutrition funds to KZN and Eastern Cape provinces. Lack of nutrition contributed to the poor function of learners in schools. He said he attempted to contact Dr Granville Whittle, Head of Education Enrichment Services, DBE, to intervene.

The Department needed to inform Members of psycho-social interventions in hotspot areas. Were more social workers, career guides, and psychologists deployed to such places? Was the Department getting ready for meaningful interventions provided? It was reported that approximately 200,000 learners dropped out of school in Gauteng, and the MEC for Education informed that about 50 000 learners were unaccounted for. Assessing the root cause and addressing this issue through SA SAMS was essential. The learners needed to be tracked, traced, and assisted. There was a need for honest dialogue between the Committee, DBE, and stakeholders regarding dropouts. DBE needed to consider the criticism and account for lessons learned and stakeholder recommendations. The critical question was how to diagnose and curtail the problem. The quality of inputs was essential. It was also essential to assess the outcome of the dropouts and what became of the learners who dropped out. It was necessary to report and evaluate the quality of the throughput rate. Developing youth who would be the country’s future and eradicating poverty was vital. Youth need to be developed by providing quality skilled education and retaining them in an educational system.

Ms N Adoons (ANC) agreed that the learner dropouts were not only a challenge for the DBE alone. There are several contributing factors. Acknowledging the DBE’s positive work, especially the NSC results, was essential. The presentation also indicated that the Department traced the progress of the cohort of 2022 learners. The DBE implemented several programmes to mitigate dropouts. For example, the girl child sanitary support programmes. Some key contributing factors to dropouts included poverty, lack of school nutrition and ineffective school transport systems. She emphasised the proactive intervention of the Committee in such cases. She acknowledged the research conducted by the DBE and agreed with Ms Sukers’ concern that many learners who dropped out of school were destitute, homeless, involved in crime, or addicted to drugs. All learners needed equal access to education and all other protective rights in the Constitution.

Regarding dropouts affected by multiple factors and requiring societal intervention, she asked how the DBE collaborated with other departments, civil society, and the community. DBE needed to inform of the disaggregated breakdown of dropouts according to race, gender, and geographical location. The BELA Bill attempted to improve school attendance and the throughput rate. How would DBE track and trace learners who dropped out?

Mr P Moroatshehla (ANC) said Members were public representatives and thus presentations to the public needed to be accurate and thoroughly researched. The subject of dropouts was a concern. Learners need to be encouraged to complete their education. There were many schools of thought on the issue, but a clear understanding needed to be provided. DBE provided a well-researched scientific report and presentation on dropouts, but some questions need to be answered. How deep was the level of dropouts within the education system? What were the contributing factors to dropouts? What was the DBE doing to curb the scourge of dropouts?

He agreed with Ms Adoons that DBE was not solely responsible for the issue of dropouts, and a collective response was required. He disagreed with Mr Nodada’s emotive attacks against the DBE, specifically his statement that the DBE downplayed the seriousness of dropouts. DBE presented a scientifically researched report and did not downplay the issue. While he noted that the line function of an opposition party was to oppose, this needed not always be the mode of communication, as it would result in the public laughing at the Committee. He pleaded with Members to be factual in their submissions and asked the Chairperson to improve how the Committee communicated during meetings. The report provided that South Africa was not one of the worst countries regarding dropouts. He noted a contradiction in UNESCO’s report. What steps were undertaken by DBE to close the information gap in the data provided by DBE and UNESCO? On the enforcement of education, he asked what strategy would be implemented to enforce education and mechanisms to follow up on learners who dropped out.

Mr B Yabo (ANC) observed the challenge that the report was an analysis packaged as research. Various methodologies were employed in this instance, and multiple parameters were set to conduct such research. Thus, one perspective differed from another. In the educational environment, there was a development of knowledge. This may lead to an agreement on any particular subject. There was a thesis, an antithesis, and a synthesis of a specific subject's normative standards of knowledge. Dropouts needed an agreement between the various interlocutors in primary education as a sector and the parameters which could be applied to this particular subject. There was a thesis and an antithesis when reviewing the various scholastic information and data on the subject. However, there needed to be a synthesis and, thus, an authority on the subject. He asked that the DBE provide disaggregated analytics on the various parameters utilised to conclude, which would then be presented as a percent age of the throughput rate versus the discussion of dropping out. The lack of disaggregated analytics opened room for criticism against the educational sector. Yet, there needed to be historical context provided. This was key for a fair understanding of achievements.

The record of 2019 provided that the throughput rate was below 60%. In 2023, the rate is at 62%. There was an improvement, incremental growth, and work conducted to curtail dropouts. A narrative calling for political expedience and negating positive improvements was to be avoided. He commended the significant increment of the work from 2019 to the present. There was a need for an all-society and collective approach to resolve the challenge of dropouts. He proposed that the Minister have peer-to-peer engagement with the various departments. The joyous work of the Department was to be acknowledged and commended.

Mr S Ngcobo (IFP) appreciated the Department’s efforts to resolve the challenge of dropouts. However, Members were justified in their concerns for learners who remained out of school. Parents needed to keep their children from dropping out. A school-going learner must be at school. A focused attempt was necessary, like a specialised unit, to resolve the societal problem of dropouts. 

The Chairperson said Members were politicians and not academics. There was arrogance in the political and academic space. How individuals defined issues subtly undermined people’s intelligence, which was non-unifying. She asked the DBE to comment on this. Could the Department advise on the annual average of learners repeating grades 1 and 2? This would inform the initial enrolment per cohort and the analysis of the NSC passes. She referred to the UNESCO study on school completion. If the matter was left unattended and unchallenged, the public would assume a lack of performance. How UNESCO’s data was updated had to be challenged.


Minister Motshekga thanked the Committee for their input. On the issue of NGOs, she responded that the DBE had a vast relationship with NGOs. For example, the DBE invited all NGOs in basic education to virtual meetings, and this resulted in an attendance of more than 100 NGOs. The DBE collaborated with NGOs beyond teaching and curriculum, such as NGOs in health, sports, and learner wellbeing. DBE worked with the NGO, Teddy Bear Foundation, funded by Correctional Services and Department of Social Development (DSD). DBE appreciated the practical support provided by NGOs.

On interdepartmental cooperation, she said the sector needed to be bigger and more complex for DBE to work independently. The Department worked closely with South African Police Service (SAPS), Health, and Social Development. On request, DBE could give extended reporting on dropouts and the contributing factors. Reporting was based on the APPs. If the Committee requested further information, the DBE would provide it. All social activists knew there was a correlation between poverty, education outcomes, and social environments. Regarding the mitigation of dropouts, the DBE agreed this was a critical need. Dropouts had a profound implication for the learners and the country.

She said she was not in the mood to respond to self-righteous questions, referring to Mr Nododa’s questioning of the DBE’s integrity by the statement that the DBE had to be truthful, as it was an insinuation that the Department was lying. The words used by Mr Nodada were very unacceptable and insulting. There needed to be civil ways of communicating without insults when dealing with a serious matter. Such an attitude was very problematic. She thanked the Chairperson for her sentiments. The DBE is required to treat Members with the utmost respect. She thanked the Chairperson for the opportunity. The Department was available to present reports as required, as it was the Department’s responsibility.

Mr Mweli referred to the suggestion that DBE needed to work with the DHET to deal with the gap between DBE and TVET colleges. He acknowledged the request and said the Department would establish joint systems. He had previously addressed the matter with the DHET HOD. It was essential to have data on the number and details of learners who attended TVET colleges. The Department had data on the learners who attend Higher Education Institutions.

He visited a school in the Eastern Cape, where the water supply was challenging. Although the DBE deployed dry sanitation facilities, the concern was whether it would be sustainable to provide sanitation. Further, there was a precarious situation in the North West, where several schools were subjected to dry solutions. South Africa was one of the top 20 countries experiencing water shortages. Despite being surrounded by two oceans, South Africa preferred to refrain from extracting its water supply from the sea due to its high cost. The DBE and the Water Research Council were working closely to find solutions such as greywater solutions. The DBE encouraged schools to use both water-borne and dry answers.

He noted the concern for youth unemployment, which had reached 4.2 million. During the recent cluster meeting with the DGs of Labour and DHET, it was agreed that this was an urgent matter and that teams be established to deal with the challenge. In calculating the throughput rate, the complexity of the matter needed to be considered. It related to the survival rate in general and across the system, which was provided for in the presentation.

On actions to close the gap in the data presented by UNESCO, the DBE would approach UNESCO to update its data. Regarding the level of enforcement of education, the SA Schools Act requires compulsory education, and parents may be imprisoned for failure to abide by the law. This was, instead, the responsibility of law enforcement. The presentation adequately dealt with mechanisms to follow up on learners who dropped out. A collective approach was imperative, and a multi-disciplinary approach was required. He agreed that one learner who drops out is too many. Parents were encouraged to ensure that their children attended school through campaigns.

Dr Gustafsson responded to the question on comprehensive reports. He said the increase in needs was on the radar. As it was linked with unemployment, it was consistent with the presentation. Several in-depth research reports existed on the DBE and external websites such as the universities, specifically Stellenbosch University. The DBE was in the process of developing a critical report detailing grade-specific statistics. Statistics SA was also a helpful resource. The DBE had conducted intensive work on data and research transparency. Thus, making access to detailed data more accessible to external researchers. Statistics might be believable on the challenges experienced in the Northern Cape. There were national and provincial averages with variations across. The Northern Cape had the worst throughput rate in the country. It replaced Eastern Cape. On the table detailing per-grade enrolment, it may appear misconstrued. However, there was far more repetition in grade 10 because of the need to be adequately prepared. These were not apparent in the distribution but were explained mainly by the grade repetition. The detailed report would be publicised shortly. The repetition rates across the grade at the lowest grades were as follows:

  • grade 1 - 11 %; and
  • grade 2 - 4 %.

UNESCO figures were based on statistical modelling. Many countries noted that UNESCO’s statistics did not agree with their national statistics.

Dr Granville Whittle, Head of Education Enrichment Services, DBE, responded to the question on the school nutrition programme. This was one of the country’s successes. A warm meal was provided to 1.6 million children daily nationally. Breakfast was provided in Western Cape and Gauteng. National Treasury provided an additional R5.5 billion to extend the programme. The Eastern Cape school in question still needed to receive its allocation for the second term. The decentralised provision of tranches entailed allocating two weeks’ budgets in the previous period. The DBE submitted a query to the province to assess why the school did not have a budget and to fast-track the payment. KZN recently assigned a new service provider, but several operational challenges were experienced. The national team was deployed to the province to restore the programme. An updated report would be compiled and presented to the Committee.

The Chairperson thanked the Department for their attendance.

The Chairperson thanked Members for their input. She emphasised that where there were agreements, there would also be disagreements.

Proposals for Improved Public Participation Hearings on the BELA Bill (Hon M Sukers MP)

Ms Sukers presented the proposals for improved public participation hearing on the BELA Bill. The letter proposed a postponement of the hearings to enhance the process and participation of the public. The Committee had agreed to this in the previous meeting. She asked the Chairperson to guide her on whether the letter or presentation needed to be focused on. The presentation concentrated on more inclusive consultation and enhancing public participation through virtual hearings. The letter maintained that hearings needed to be postponed after Easter to improve organisational challenges and for a more inclusive consultation process. She emphasised the additional venues for provincial capitals based on expressed interest in major population centres and accessibility to persons from other areas, such as the rural areas. It was also to provide clear and timely communication on venues and dates. She welcomed the postponement of the hearings after the public holidays in May 2023.

The letter’s purpose was based on the concerns of the Committee following postponement of the previous hearings in Mpumalanga. It was a negative reflection of the Committee and Parliament. The letter was also to address misunderstandings between Members. It intended to encourage the process and ensure smooth public hearings. The hearings were among the most effective and engaging ways to bring the law-making process to the people. The public was appreciative of such engagements. The letter and call for virtual meetings were to enforce constitutional engagement and to achieve a public participative law-making process. Pre-1994, most of the public could not participate. Public participation had now become more robust, and virtual hearings allowed for broader participation. There needed to be clear and timely communication with the public. The lack thereof contributed to the debacle in Mpumalanga. Additional venues `needed to be considered in critical areas. She added that she sincerely hoped that the Committee would operate from its constitutional mandate and not in a partisan manner. In a previous experience in public hearings in the context of social development, law-making was affected by a partisan Committee. Therefore, the Committee needed to restore its ways of working together.

The letter is attached for further details. 

The Chairperson thanked the Member for the presentation.

She asked Members to stick to the issue, namely the hearings, and asked Members to comment on clear communication of venues. However, she maintained that the goal was to conduct provincial and rural hearings. It was agreed to identify three districts per province. The public hearings were successful except for Mpumalanga. This province would be incorporated into the Gauteng visit. There was never an issue with venues before. This matter arose because of misunderstandings and miscommunication. On partisan and unity, this was dependent on Members. Members were attempting their best. In chairing the meeting, the Chairperson attempted to unify the Committee. Promoting political views on the Bill started with individual Members. It was supposed to be a South African Bill and respected as such.

Mr Letsie appreciated the letter and that the Committee unanimously approved the proposal for postponement. There was confusion by the Parliamentary Public Education Unit. Before the hearings, submissions were considered in physical parliamentary meetings. Thus, virtual meetings were not necessary. Virtual meetings would exclude provinces which previously participated in public hearings. He stated that Mr Nodada wrote an article on the DA website that the ANC attempted to capture the Bill. This was very problematic and untrue. All political parties had an interest in and mobilised on the Bill. On the venues, he recommended that the Secretariat provide venues on a timely basis. He asked for an updated overview of the venues and dates in the current meeting.

Mr Moroatshehla disagreed with hosting virtual meetings, as it was unheard of. Unless the point was to reinvent the wheel and a supporting case study existed. He asked the Chairperson to consider the majority views on the matter. He agreed that there needed to be timely communication of dates and venues. Adequately sized venues were to be selected for maximum participation and not be politically motivated. He disagreed with the partisan issue, as all Members had political affiliations.

Ms Adoons agreed that venues should easily be accessible in all provinces. Thus far, it was successful in the hearings conducted except in the North West. Often districts were combined, and that influenced attendance. Prior information on the Bill was required for effective participation. The Department needed to thoroughly present the contents of the Bill. She disagreed with the virtual meetings as the process had already commenced. She agreed that communication in the Committee needed to improve.

Dr W Boshoff (FF+) commented on the issue of hearings in various vicinities. Some members of the public could submit in writing, some could augment their submissions, and some needed help to travel to main cities to participate in processes. The hearings provided a voice to such persons. He noted concerns for the partial participation of school representatives from various schools, as there were letters denoting that only the SGBs or principals should attend. When the Bill goes to the provincial legislatures, the NCOP would be able to reach more members of the public in the provincial hearings. As many opinions as possible needed to be considered.

Ms D Van Der Walt (DA) said law-making was political. It was not healthy to point fingers. The Government needed to be transparent. She noted concerns that the public hearings only reached some vital rural areas. The focus needed to be on transparency and maximum participation in all districts.

The Chairperson said there would be no virtual meetings, as this format of meetings was not previously applied. Mpumalanga province would be incorporated into the Gauteng visit. Venues communicated to media platforms would be adhered to. Clear communication on the municipality, district, and hall was to be adhered to. Parliament decided the venues and not the Committee. Thus, political parties did not choose venues. She referred to Ms Adoons’ comment that the Committee communication needed to be fair. The Committee was too democratic compared to other committees and the space was being abused. In response to Ms Sukers, she said she had received letters from external NGOs detailing the specific content and the way Ms Sukers’ letter was written. The legislative process would not appease individual aims and hopes. She advised that the venues presented by Parliament be considered accordingly. It was a South African process, and the matter had to now be closed.

Ms Sukers requested an opportunity to speak.

The Chairperson denied her request, stating that Ms Sukers was allowed to speak previously. She said Ms Sukers “always wanted the Committee to do things her way”.

Ms Sukers responded that she took exception to this and called for a point of order. She said the Chairperson could not personalise the matter as it was a parliamentary process. It was her right as a Member of Parliament to present a letter to the Chairperson.

The Chairperson said that the matter was closed and proceeded to the presentation on the venues.

The Parliamentary Unit presented an overview of the venues and dates. The hearings would commence on 5 May in Gauteng, 8 May in Mpumalanga, and 12 May in Kwa-Zulu Natal. The venues would accommodate 500 people.

Committee Matters

The Committee considered the Draft Report on Budget Vote 16: Basic Education and draft minutes of the meeting of 28 March 2023. The report and minutes were unanimously approved and adopted to reflect the discussions.

The Chairperson thanked Members for their attendance. 

The meeting was adjourned.


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