In a virtual meeting, the Select Committee was briefed by the national Department of Basic Education (DBE) and by the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) on their 2023/24 Annual Performance Plans.
The DBE told the Committee that its targets included improving the school-readiness of children; ensuring that 10-year-olds in publicly funded schools could read for meaning; and providing school physical infrastructure and an environment that inspired learners to learn and teachers to teach.
Some areas that required further strengthening in provincial and national performance plans were introducing a better accountability system for principals; effective teacher development; and strengthened numeracy, reading and early childhood development indicators.
The total budget for 2023/24 was R31 782 billion.
The Committee was told that learner in-migration in Gauteng in 2023 increased by 7.5 percent to 117 768.
Key priorities of the GDE were to complete Grade R universalisation and develop a new approach for pre-Grade R; to expand and enhance schools of specialisation and technical high schools; to rationalise under-subscribed schools; and to create safe schools that encouraged social cohesion, patriotism, and non-violence.
The 2023/24 budget was R63,4 billion.
Committee Members inquired about several issues, such as the dropout levels in Gauteng, school readiness monitoring, ICT deployment and eradication of pit latrines.
The Chairperson welcomed everyone to the meeting and reminded the Committee that the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) was back before the Committee due to the Committee’s instructions.
The Committee Secretary presented apologies from the Minister, Deputy Minister, and Director-General (DG) of Basic Education due to other official obligations. Dr Granville Whittle, Deputy Director-General (DDG): Educational Enrichment Services, represented the DG. Gauteng’s MEC for Education and the Head of Department also sent their apologies due to a concurrent exco meeting called by the Premier.
Department of Basic Education strategic plan and annual performance plan 2023/24
Ms Nosipho Mbonambi, Director: Strategic Planning and Reporting, Department of Basic Education (DBE), and Mr Patrick Khunou, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), briefed the Committee on the DBE’s 2020/21-2024/25 strategic plan and 2023/24 annual performance plan (APP).
The Committee heard that the MediumTerm Strategic Framework (MTSF) aimed to achieve the following outcomes: Improved school-readiness of children; 10-year-old learners enrolled in publicly funded schools being able to read for meaning; youths being better prepared for further studies and the world of work beyond Grade 9; youths leaving the schooling system being more prepared to contribute towards a prosperous and equitable South Africa; and providing school physical infrastructure and an environment that inspired learners to learn and teachers to teach.
Some MTSF areas that required further strengthening in provincial and national APPs were:
- A better accountability system for principals, which should be fair, based on appropriate data, and which considered the socio-economic context of schools.
- Promoting a comprehensive package of effective teacher development, such as professional learning communities (PLCs) and technology-enhanced in-service training.
- Strengthened numeracy, reading and early childhood development (ECD) indicators which were linked to outcomes in classrooms.
- Sector monitoring with standardised output indicators.
- Increased access for historically disadvantaged learners to “niche” subjects such as those focusing on engineering and computing.
The DBE provided oversight, monitoring, and support to the provincial education department (PEDs) to enable standardisation of sector indicators. Standardised output indicators (SOIs) were developed in consultation with the PEDs to ensure sector uniformity and align with government priorities. The Heads of Education Departments Committee (HEDCOM) addressed the priorities for improving teaching. They provided a forum for information sharing, capacity building and the exchange of best practices in improving basic education. The PEDs were required to incorporate the SOIs in their APPs.
The total DBE budget for 2023/24 rose by seven percent to R32.782 billion.
(See DBE presentation slides 66 onwards for allocations per programme in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework.)
Gauteng Department of Education 2023/24 Annual Performance Plan and Budget
Mr Albert Chanee, DDG: Strategic Planning Management, GDE, briefed the Committee on the Department’s 2023/24 APP and budgets.
Members were told that learner in-migration increased by 7.5 percent from 109 554 in 2022 to 117 768 in 2023, an increase of 8 214 learners. Learners from other provinces increased by 8.7 percent from 85 118 in 2022 to 92 537 in 2023 - an increase of 7 419. Learners from foreign countries increased by 3.3 percent from 24 436 in 2022 to 25 231 in 2023 - an increase of 795.
The Gauteng Department of Education had 15 districts with 3 232 institutions which included: 2 063 public ordinary schools; 149 public special schools; 253 independent subsidised schools, of which six were special schools; and 767 Independent non-subsidised schools, of which 29 were special schools.
Key priorities of the five-year plan were:
- Early Childhood Development (ECD): To complete Grade R universalisation and develop a new approach and system for pre-Grade R.
- To promote quality education across all classrooms and schools: to strengthen foundations across general education and training (GET) grades; to improve the quality of learning in the further education and training (FET) band; to expand and enhance schools of specialisation and technical high schools.
- To rationalise under-subscribed schools, optimise resources and provide new and improved school infrastructure, adhering to national norms and standards.
- To create safe schools that embodied social cohesion, patriotism, and non-violence: to encourage school sports; to provide school health and anti-drugs programmes.
- To provide smooth transitions between important steps in education and work: to award bursaries to the top three learners from no-fee schools; to provide workplace and experiential learning; and to provide career guidance.
The 2023/24 budget increased by 6.2 percent to R63,4 billion. It was expected to grow by R4,2 billion over the MTEF period.
(See slides 32 onward in the GDE presentation for the breakdown per programme.)
The Committee was told that the province remained under budget pressure. Expanding Grade R services in poor communities would require additional funding. There was a need to address the growth in learner numbers and a shortage of learning spaces, leading to overcrowding in some high-pressure areas. Infrastructure funding for maintenance and major rehabilitations also needed to increase.
Ms D Christians (DA, Northern Cape) stated that the General Household Survey released in 2021 by Statistics South Africa indicated that three out of 10 people aged 18 and four out of 9 aged 19 were dropouts. What was the GDE’s mandate in addressing this problem? How was the DBE assisting Gauteng in this regard? The dropout rate had been in the spotlight for years.
She asked about the cost of using mobile classrooms to provide additional space in Gauteng schools and the timeframe for converting these mobile spaces into permanent structures. The Department needed to provide an update on the building of nine schools. How many were completed or in the final stages? Had the supply of water to one school in the 2023/2024 academic year been finalised? What was a reasonable timeframe to complete this?
What were the findings of the school readiness monitoring conducted in January 2023? How was it affecting education delivery in the country and how was the Department prepared to address the issues? The Department had mentioned that 1 007 sanitation projects were to be completed by the 2023/24 financial year. In what ways was the Department evaluating and monitoring the implementation of the projects? How did the Department plan to ensure that the timeline and standards were met at the end of the 2023/2024 financial year?
Ms Christians asked for more clarity on the ICT and internet connectivity programme. What was the Department’s response to its slow rollout? There was a lack of clarity about the policy on online schools. What was the Department’s role in bridging this gap? Could the Department offer relevant information on online education that was gained during the COVID-19 pandemic?
She asked if the Department could supply a progress report on monitoring the nine provinces. How many provinces had been monitored? What were the findings? What had the Department found to be the key challenges in the National School Nutrition Programme?
She asked for more information on the involvement of the DBE in provincial public hearings on the draft Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill. How did the DBE contribute to these deliberations? What had the DBE gained from these hearings across the country? How was the Department dealing with negative connotations raised about the Bill to ensure that proper implementation of the Bill contributed to the success of schools?
Ms N Ndongeni (ANC, Eastern Cape) asked the GDE about the involvement of the Department of Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture and the SA Police Service in promoting social cohesion, health and school safety. What benefits were achieved from this relationship? Were all the parties able to report their involvement as part of their formal duties and contribute to the budget needs of programmes?
In its APP, the Department envisaged the provision of health and psychosocial facilities for all children, including learners with mental health or substance abuse problems. What budget was required to achieve this? What was the involvement of other government agencies interested in making this a reality in the current financial year? Regarding the allocation of funds for implementing school sports, could the Department provide the details of the proposed initiatives?
The Chairperson asked what had happened to schools affected by the July uprisings in Gauteng. He asked about the performance of failed matric students who were given a second chance. What were the challenges facing underperforming schools and what support was provided to them? What strategies have been implemented to improve them?
Mr M Bara (DA, Gauteng) asked about eradicating unsafe pit latrines in Gauteng schools. Did the GBE have a progress report on their complete eradication?
He asked the GDE to elaborate on their strategy to achieve a target of three percent of employees being people with disabilities, as most provinces said they had challenges attracting people with disabilities into the sector. Were there indications that the policy on school nutrition and scholar programmes might not be continued in the future? How would these programmes be financially viable in the long term? He asked for more details on the successes and challenges of the 6 000 youth brigade project.
Most township schools had more than 50 learners in a classroom. How could this be better managed to enable a balanced learner-teacher ratio?
Ms Tsholofelo Diale, Asidi Project Manager, commented on the commitment to build nine schools. She said two of the schools were currently under construction, building of the other seven was yet to commence. Regarding the sanitation projects, she asked that she be allowed to respond in writing with details of the Sanitation Appropriate for Education (SAFE) Initiative. The DBE was doing constant monitoring of all projects. A programme support unit had been established solely for the purpose of monitoring and these meetings were usually held at the office of the DG.
Ms Simone Geyer, Director: Planning and Delivery Oversight, responded to the ICT and internet connectivity question. This was a collective responsibility. Representatives of all the provinces served on a sub-committee that received progress reports about ICT. There were 18,000 schools with internet connections. However, there was no infrastructure in deep rural areas to enable connectivity. They needed more collaboration from telecom companies and the Department of Communications. Devices need to be made available. The Department had received a donation of tablets that Statistics South Africa used in the last census. These tablets had been allocated to all provinces and full usage would commence after they had been cleaned up. However, there might not be enough for all schools.
A framework policy for regulation of online schools has been developed. The DBE’s legal department was consulted to ensure checks and balances were in place. The final process was underway, after which the structure would be presented for final approval and publication.
On school readiness findings, she said reports were provided to the provinces and districts and were monitored by a team working in the DBE. This team worked with provinces to review how best to address the issues raised. The provinces then provided reports on how the issues were addressed.
Adv. Shalili Misser, Chief Director: Legal and Legislative Services, said that the DBE attended public hearings to ascertain public responses to the BELA Bill and the comments raised were noted. The legislative process was that when the public hearings were finalised, the DBE would have an opportunity to respond to comments raised and Parliament would determine what needed to be amended.
Mr Whittle outlined the challenges picked up in the monitoring of the National School Nutrition Programme. These included inadequate training of volunteers, health and hygiene issues, the quality of food delivered by service providers and financial management. The DBE provided ongoing training to the provinces and districts, with a large team of national monitors constantly addressing these challenges.
Mr Chanee responded to the question about dropout rates. Gauteng had found that the dropout rate in the GET band had stabilised. There were gaps in the figures caused by the migration of learners to other forms of education, such as home schools. The 18 and 19-year-olds referred to in the question were deemed to be over-age in most cases. However, it was not the intention to allow anyone to leave school without a full education. The school principals had to deal with learners not returning to school. The matter should be escalated to the district office, where they could not deal with it. It was difficult to enforce education for those over the age of 15 because they were out of the compulsory education band. Learners leaving a provincial education system did not necessarily mean they were dropping out. Interprovincial migration was a factor.
It costs approximately R400 000 to set up a mobile classroom. There was a limited budget, funded mainly from the National Infrastructure Grant, which limited the GDE’s ability to be more responsive. There was a net increase of 60 000 learners annually. Settlement patterns were not clear and this affected projections. Only when learners came forth in December and January did the GDE know how to respond. The intention was not to deploy mobile classrooms, but they were a solution to meeting demand.
The GDE received a national allocation of R1.5 billion over the next three years to build 18 schools. With this and the national grant, a total of 35 schools would be built. Most of them would replace schools with asbestos roofing, schools with structural damage and mobile schools,
Regarding social cohesion and school safety, there was a formal agreement with the SA Police Service, community policing forums and the Department of Community Safety. Each party funded its own activities. One big initiative was to recruit community members to serve as patrollers. About 6 000 were deployed in high risk areas and at no-fee schools.
There were working relationships with the Department of Social Development and NGOs working in that field regarding psychosocial services. The Department also had a dedicated unit of psychosocial practitioners to deal with incidents at schools.
There was a major drive to get all township schools to introduce or sustain inter-house sporting activities. Inter-school tournaments were being incentivised. Learners were encouraged to participate in cultural activities such as chess tournaments, public speaking and leadership programmes.
The Department was able to stabilise schools affected by the July uprisings. However, there were ongoing problems related to civil strife among community organisations which disrupted schooling.
On second-chance performance, they were picking up from the June/July exams that most learners making use of the opportunity were completing the old National Senior Certificate process. Measures were in place to assist underperforming schools. The department was considering management and personnel changes at five chronically underperforming schools.
Two schools still had pit latrine facilities, even though waterborne toilets had been installed. The problem was getting the municipal authorities to extend bulk services to the schools. The schools were refusing to allow the pit latrines to be demolished. They would now be provided with alternative solutions.
Regarding teacher-learner ratios, a model was used that allocated exactly the same number of teachers to schools offering the same subjects and with the same number of learners. However, most township schools were multilingual and this complicated efforts to have a fair distribution of teachers. Some classes were overcrowded because of the language choice. Sometimes there was a shortage of classrooms. Budget cuts meant additional teachers could not be employed.
The Chairperson thanked the Department and Members for being a part of the meeting and indicated that the responses were well detailed.
The Committee adopted the minutes from the Select Committee meeting on 3 May 2023.
The meeting was adjourned.
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