The Western Cape Provincial Parliament's Standing Committee on Education held a meeting to discuss the 2022/23 education Annual Report of the Western Cape Education Department (WCED). The WCED acknowledged the need for improved infrastructure, handling population growth, and addressing unplaced learners and teacher misconduct.
The WCED emphasised their commitment to improving education outcomes and the challenges they face in managing learner volumes. They also discussed the importance of selecting school resource officers and providing quality education. The meeting highlighted the need for diverse leadership teams and concerns about the equitable share formula.
The discussion covered various aspects of education in the Western Cape, such as school safety, the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP), Early Childhood Development (ECD), and subjects with higher pass rates. It also addressed the challenges of learner dropout rates, coding and robotics programmes, and the impact of COVID-19 on student readiness. Concerns were raised about learner placements, infrastructure, and unequal learner distribution. The need for a broader societal shift towards values and respect was emphasised.
Efforts to enhance the Rapid School Build programme were discussed, along with the need for additional funding sources to cope with admissions pressure. Questions were raised about a transversal contract, organisational structure, and vacancies. The meeting also touched on integrating diversity and social skills in ECD and the Back on Track programme's success.
The discussion underlined the importance of community involvement, transparency, collaboration, and addressing drug abuse among students. Concerns about unplaced learners, school construction delays, guidance for children, and teacher shortages were addressed. The importance of equity, quality, and financial transparency in the education system was emphasised.
The meeting also discussed transportation issues, school bus tenders, child safety, and overcrowded classrooms. The role of retired teachers, technology in education, and equitable outcomes were significant points of discussion. The Department expressed its commitment to improving education outcomes and handling population growth, unplaced learners, and teacher misconduct.
In closing, the Department emphasised its commitment to improving education outcomes and addressing challenges in the education system. The meeting included discussions about diverse leadership teams, the equitable share formula, and concerns about learner placements, infrastructure, and unequal learner distribution.
The Chairperson, Ms D Baartman (DA), welcomed everyone to the final education Annual Report meeting of the Education Committee’s term of office. She assumed the Members were familiar with the Committee's rules and the process of reviewing annual reports, as there is a Budget Committee briefing on this matter every year. She believed that everyone understood the method and format of the content.
The Chairperson said she would start by introducing the Committee Members and then hand over to the Minister and Departmental officials for their introduction. She noted that they would keep their introductory remarks short, as they were already extensively covered in a separate document.
The Chairperson then explained how they would proceed with the questions and answers on the Annual Report. She instructed Members to take note of the process flow: Part A will be discussed first, covering pages 5 to 20. Then, Part B, to be split up in six sections of 20 pages each. The Committee will start with pages 21 to 40, followed by pages 41 to 60, 61 to 80, and 81 to 100. Finally, Part B will conclude with pages 101 to 124.
She further informed Members that Part C will be discussed in two sections. The first section will begin on page 141 and continue until page 160, while the second section covers pages 161 to 274. The Chairperson reminded the Committee that an errata had been published online on 9 October 2023 in Announcements, Tablings and Committee (ATC) 110, specifically pages 183 to 206 of the Annual Report. The procedural officer made the report available to Members on 16 October 2023. She also mentioned that any corrections or updates to Part E could be found in the errata.
Further, she noted that Parts C, E, and F would be addressed in the Public Accounts Committee.
Concluding her remarks, the Chairperson requested that Members introduce themselves. She identified herself as Ms Baartman, the Chairperson of the Committee. The Members introduced themselves, followed by the Western Cape Minister of Education, Mr David Maynier and the departmental officials and thereafter, guests in attendance.
The Chairperson thanked everyone for introducing themselves and welcomed them all. She mentioned that a roll call had been conducted, where all the present Members and attendees had introduced themselves.
The Chairperson then addressed the Minister and said she would now hand over to him for his remarks. Before doing so, she reminded everyone about the availability of translation services. She informed the Members that if someone started speaking in isiXhosa or Afrikaans, there were earpieces in front of them. She encouraged everyone to sit near a microphone and use the earpieces if they wished to listen to the translation in English, Afrikaans, or isiXhosa. The Chairperson also mentioned that sign language interpretation was being provided on the screen. For those participating online, she noted a button allowing them to tap and read the proceedings in subtitles.
She gave the floor to the Minister.
Minister Maynier began by acknowledging the Chairperson, Members, and guests in attendance. He heeded the Chairperson's request for brevity.
Minister Maynier thanked the Committee for the opportunity to present the 2022/23 Annual Report, emphasizing that the year had brought substantial challenges, but it also witnessed significant and innovative changes to the education system.
The Back on Track programme, designed to address learning losses, commenced in the reviewed year. An initial step was extending the time allocated to mathematics and languages in the foundation phase. This change was later adopted at a national level. Simultaneously, efforts were directed at enhancing access to education in the Western Cape through the Rapid School Build programme. Despite facing numerous challenges, the programme achieved remarkable results, such as building a junior high school in just 65 days. This accomplishment exemplified the benefits of collaborative efforts.
Minister Maynier also commended his Department, acknowledging the immense pressure they endured during the year under review. He expressed his appreciation for their dedication to key programmes, particularly the Back on Track and Rapid School Build initiatives, noting the outstanding and tireless work they contributed. He believed that the committee shared his sentiments in acknowledging their exceptional performance.
Mr Brent Walters, Head of Department (HOD), Western Cape Department of Education (WCED), expressed his gratitude to the Chairperson and Minister, extending a warm greeting to everyone present. He thanked them for the opportunity to address the gathering and present the Annual Report.
Mr Walters acknowledged the vastness of the educational system and the associated challenges when striving to implement initiatives at scale. He commended the WCED for successfully handling the various factors that affect the delivery of education within budget constraints, ensuring the best possible outcomes under the circumstances.
In the past year, their primary focus was on creating educational spaces and ensuring the placement of every learner, a goal they achieved. This accomplishment came at a considerable cost in terms of effort, particularly from Department officials who worked during the December 2022 holiday to have classrooms ready for January 2023. Mr Walters commended the team and emphasised the importance of expanding access, hiring teachers and delivering classrooms.
He noted that the Department's budget, which exceeds R28 billion, is one of the largest institutional budgets in the Western Cape, making their targets substantial. They achieved 62 per cent of their targets fully, 27 per cent partially, and fell short on 11 per cent. Their spending reached 99.9 per cent of the adjusted budget, and their financials received an unqualified opinion with no findings.
Looking ahead, Mr Walters mentioned their ongoing systemic testing in collaboration with Progress in International Language Studies (PIRLS), which revealed positive outcomes in the foundation phase focusing on mathematics and language. Moving forward, the priorities will remain placement, addressing learning losses and emphasising foundational pedagogy.
In closing, Mr Walters acknowledged the Department's remarkable achievements, such as the speedy construction of schools, and the successful placement of every learner. He recognized that while not everything is perfect, they are there to be accountable and expressed gratitude to the committee for their oversight and the opportunity to present their progress and challenges.
Discussion, Part A: 1
The Chairperson expressed gratitude and introduced the proceedings by stating that the Committee would first cover the introductory remarks from pages 5 to 20, Part A of the report. She tasked the procedural officers' assistant to provide additional annual reports to those who requested them.
The Chairperson then opened the floor to questions, starting with Amber Christians, limiting questions to three per member. Followed by further discussions on part A.
Mr F Christians (ACDP) expressed his gratitude to the Chairperson, the Minister, the HOD, and the Department for their hard work and efforts. He proceeded to ask a series of questions:
Mr Christians inquired about the effectiveness of the Rapid School Build programme concerning learner placement. Does the programme assist with the placement of learners and request information on the current status of learner placement?
The second question raised concerned the issue of high school learners who struggle with reading. Mr Christians expressed concern that despite the emphasis on foundation phase education, many high school students still faced challenges in reading and writing, leading to dropout rates and negative activities involvement like gangs. He sought information about the Department's current efforts to address this issue and improve literacy among high school students.
Mr Christians then directed his attention to a specific point on page 12: "except all the uncommitted funding surrendered to National Treasury (NT)." He requested clarity on this matter, seeking more information about why this funding was surrendered.
Mr K Sayed (ANC) thanked the Chair and extended greetings to the Department and the Minister. He raised a series of questions.
In reference to page 8 of the report, Mr Sayed inquired about the Department's preparedness for the impact of the Western Cape's increased population, as the newly released Census 2022 data placed the Western Cape as the third largest province. He sought the Minister's perspective on how this population growth would affect the Department's work, particularly regarding learner placements in the near future.
Moving on to page 10, Mr Sayed referred to paragraph 5, which mentioned an increase in the infrastructure budget and its role in facilitating the Rapid School Build programme. He requested details from the HOD about the rationale for selecting certain schools and areas for this programme and the number of mobile classrooms used.
Mr Sayed's final question, located on page 13, pertained to school safety. He sought information on the criteria used to determine the deployment of school resource officers, aiming to gain insight into the rationale behind this decision.
The Chairperson expressed her thanks and informed the attendees that the Department had a display set up where any education-related queries not related to the Annual Report would be addressed. She acknowledged that sometimes questions might pertain to the current financial year instead of the previous one covered in the report. To facilitate assistance with such queries, the Department sent officials to provide information on the current financial year. The Chairperson thanked Members for their attention.
Mr C Fry (DA) had two questions and a comment:
On page 11, he inquired about the R11 439 million earmarked for furniture to be surrendered to the provincial treasury. He wondered if there was a possibility of retaining that money and initiating a new tender, considering that the national tender had expired. This would be pertinent given the financial constraints expected in the current year.
Moving on to page 12, Mr Fry commented on the significant increase in irregular expenditure, which had risen from R26 million in 2021/22 to R57 million in 2022/23, almost doubling. He sought information on whether the Department implemented controls to address and reduce irregular expenditure.
Finally, on page 13, Mr Fry expressed concern regarding implementing policy priorities underpinning the Department's performance. He specifically raised questions about the educational quality and adequacy in the agricultural sector, citing examples of overcrowded classrooms and the need for better infrastructure to ensure quality education in this field.
Response from WCED on Part A: 1
Mr Walters began by stating they would address the questions as a team. They acknowledged the abundance of questions and suggested addressing them one by one while directing his colleagues to be prepared to provide input. The initial focus was on questions related to school admissions and expenditure.
Regarding the first question about whether the Rapid School was open for admission, Mr Walters answered affirmatively. He emphasised the importance of having both the necessary infrastructure and educators in place for a school to function effectively. He mentioned the provision of teachers for a specific class and the need for adequate physical space. They acknowledged the rapid growth in the province and mentioned their efforts to accommodate it.
In response to the second question concerning reading, Mr Walters highlighted the challenge of fixing reading issues in older students, stating that reading was a fundamental skill that should be addressed at a younger age. He mentioned that only 53 per cent of 10-year-old children could read with comprehension, which had prompted the Department to shift its focus towards the foundation phase. Due to their efforts in this area, they expect to see improvements in the coming years. Mr Walters stressed the importance of addressing foundational issues to improve education overall.
He also mentioned the Back on Track programme, which focused on mathematics and language as foundational subjects. These subjects were considered pillars of education, and without a strong foundation in them, other subjects might lag behind. The Department was committed to ensuring a solid educational foundation, hoping to see positive results in the future.
Mr Walters closed by referring to Mr Leon Ely, Deputy Director-General (DDG): Corporate Services (CS), WCED, to address the question about uncommitted funding, indicating that this topic would be discussed in more detail later.
Mr Ely began by addressing concerns about the unspent funds within the Department. He explained that the Department had applied for these funds from various sources and was in the process of seeking their return, particularly for traditional brands. He pointed out a specific case related to The Mass Participation, Opportunity, and Access; Development and Growth (MOD) programme where uncommitted funding arose due to a lapsed tender. The Department had expected the tender to be renewed, but this did not happen. Uncommitted funds cannot be rolled over, and they must be surrendered to provincial treasury. The challenge here was that the funding was earmarked for specific purposes, and they needed to discuss this matter with the provincial treasury to find a solution.
Regarding the question on page 11, which also pertained to the MOD programme, Mr Ely mentioned a similar situation. The Department had participated in a programme and assumed that NT would renew the contract. However, issues arose due to the presence of a transversal contract and criteria for opting out of it. Given the economies of scale associated with national tenders, he explained that proving value for money when opting for a non-transversal contract was difficult.
Mr Ely then addressed the increase in legal expenditure. He noted that the Department had received an unqualified financial audit, meaning there were no material statements or control deficiencies. However, there were issues related to irregular expenditure. The increase in legal costs was mainly attributed to a contract for school furniture. The Department interpreted the law differently than the Auditor-General (AG) of South Africa. To resolve the matter, the WCED sought legal advice to interpret the opinion and the legal counsel concurred with the AG's interpretation. As a result, the contract had to be cancelled. This had implications for service delivery, and the timing of the irregularity was due to the AG's assessment occurring after the Department had already acted on the contract. The increase was not primarily due to control deficiencies but rather stemmed from differences in interpreting the law. The Department intended to ensure that major contracts undergo legal vetting in the future to ensure compliance with legal interpretations.
Mr Walters continued to address the remaining three outstanding questions, inviting Mr Salie Abrahams, DDG: Education Planning, WCED, to provide detailed responses to each:
Infrastructure and school selection
Mr Walters acknowledged the question about school infrastructure and the criteria for selecting schools. This is a crucial aspect of education planning and development, as it directly impacts the quality of education provided to learners. Mr Abrahams was expected to provide comprehensive information on how the Department determines the infrastructure needs of schools and the criteria used for selecting which schools receive specific improvements or investments.
Volume and impact on the Department
Mr Walters emphasised the importance of managing the volume within the education system. This is a significant concern because when the system experiences a surge in the number of students, it can strain the capacity to deliver quality education effectively. It becomes challenging to juggle multiple tasks simultaneously, potentially affecting the overall performance of the system. Mr Walters expressed confidence in the resources allocated by the treasury, indicating that these resources were essential to accommodate the growth in student numbers. This growth was evident in the Department's efforts to increase the number of classrooms and teachers. It would be important for Mr Abrahams to provide a detailed account of how the Department has addressed this increase in demand and how the resources provided by NT have been utilised to ensure quality education despite the surge in student numbers.
Rationale for school resource officers:
School resource officers play a critical role in maintaining discipline within schools. Mr Walters explained that they are deployed in situations where discipline has broken down, which is a concern in some schools. It is essential to understand the precise criteria and processes the Department uses to identify schools needing these officers, how the officers operate within the school environment, and how they contribute to restoring discipline and creating a conducive learning environment. Additionally, Mr Abrahams should provide insights into the impact of these officers on the schools they are assigned to, highlighting specific instances where their presence has made a difference.
Policy direction and challenges:
Mr Walters recognised the multifaceted challenges associated with policy direction and objectives aimed at improving performance, retaining students, increasing enrolment in agricultural schools, and ensuring the safety of students in schools. He emphasised that achieving these objectives was not a straightforward task, as it depended on various factors, including resource availability, admission pressure, and the qualifications of teachers. It is important for Mr Abrahams to elaborate on these challenges, providing specific details on the resources required to implement these policies effectively and the strategies the Department is using to overcome obstacles. In addition, he should discuss the progress made over the years in these areas, emphasising the Department's commitment to achieving these objectives despite the complexities involved.
Mr Walters concluded his remarks and deferred to Mr Abrahams for further elaboration and detailed responses to these critical education-related questions.
Mr Abrahams, addressed various questions, providing detailed insights on the Rapid School Build programme and related matters:
Relationship between programme and admissions:
Mr Abrahams explained that the primary goal of the Rapid School Build programme is to address the issue of unplaced learners. The programme evaluates admissions and classroom capacities to determine its impact. He mentioned that the HOD had also touched on this aspect. Mr Abrahams offered to share more detailed information about how the programme's infrastructure expansion relates to school admissions.
Growth and planning challenges:
He addressed the question regarding the growth of the student population in the Western Cape, particularly in the last five years. He mentioned that the Western Cape experienced a higher growth rate than other provinces. This growth is attributed to both the annual increase in students seeking access to the education system and changes in human settlement patterns. He emphasised the challenge of aligning education facilities with the locations where students live, and the associated complexities of planning new schools, given various factors, including environmental considerations and budget constraints.
Rationale for selecting schools:
Mr Abrahams explained that the primary factor influencing the selection of schools is the availability of land. Land availability takes precedence in decision-making due to environmental sensitivities, town planning requirements, and factors such as urban and rural area needs of the Western Cape. The Department focuses on building schools in underserved or impoverished areas, for example, locations close to Du Noon, Imizamo Yethu, and Wallacedene. He highlighted the ongoing challenge of rapid settlement growth in these and other areas.
Innovation in the Rapid School Build programme:
Mr Abrahams highlighted three key innovations within the programme. The first was the design, emphasising incorporating technology and energy considerations. He mentioned that schools sometimes need to be built in areas without basic services or infrastructure, necessitating innovative solutions; a northern and eastern expansion corridor was identified. The programme has successfully partnered with municipalities, such as the City of Cape Town, to address this issue. The second innovation involves the various building technologies used, such as quick-setting concrete technology, to ensure that schools are robust in the Western Cape's climate conditions. Safety and quality have not been compromised. The programme also maintains transparency and has qualified engineers guiding improvements. Lastly, Mr Abrahams mentioned that the programme uses multiple building technologies, including prefabricated, mobile classrooms, and new construction technologies methods. The Department has qualified engineers overseeing these technologies and is committed to constant improvement.
Number of mobile classrooms:
In response to the question about the number of mobile classrooms used in the programme, Mr Abrahams clarified that the programme employs various building technologies, including prefabricated mobile classrooms and new construction methods. He emphasised the importance of transparency and quality and assured that qualified engineers would guide further enhancements. A breakdown of the various types of methods used will be provided.
Rationale for agricultural schools:
Mr Abrahams concluded by discussing the rationale for selecting schools, the link between placement, and the types of schools developed. The programme is not solely focused on adding classrooms but considers capacity and the type of school needed. He noted that while enrolment and admissions were addressed at the primary school level, the immediate focus is on high schools, particularly those requiring laboratories and workshops for skills-based education. The Department is willing to provide more detailed plans regarding these aspects of the programme.
Minister Maynier responded to a question regarding the Census 2022 and its implications for the Western Cape. The Minister acknowledged that the Census data indicated the province's significant growth, with a population of 7.4 million residents, making it the third-largest province in the country.
He noted that the early data from Census 2022 suggested that admissions pressure in the Western Cape would intensify. The province had previously experienced an average of 23 000 additional learners annually. However, the Minister emphasised that this pressure was likely to increase even further. In response to this challenge, the Minister explained that the province would need to enhance its Rapid School Build programme over the next five years. This programme aims to not only construct more schools but also to maintain a consistent pace of construction over the coming years to cope with the rising demand.
The Minister acknowledged that additional financial resources would be necessary to achieve this. Relying solely on infrastructure grants from the national government would not suffice. The province would need to explore alternative sources of funding to sustain the accelerated school construction rate. This might involve looking into NT's budget facility for infrastructure and seeking financial support from international financial institutions. The Minister emphasised that given the combination of increasing pressure in the province and potentially decreasing funding sources, it was a reasonable assumption that the Western Cape would face significant admissions pressure over the next three to five years.
Discussion, Part A: 2
Transversal contract expiry and surrender of R11 million:
Mr M Kama (ANC) inquired about the expired transversal contract, which led to the surrender of R11 million during the financial year. He sought information on the specific expiry date of this contract in that financial year. Understanding the contract's expiry date can provide insight into why the transaction wasn't completed earlier in the reporting year. Additionally, Mr Kama wished to know the impact of this contract expiry on the MOD programme.
R140 million Over Collection and Outstanding Claim Receivables:
Mr Kama questioned the R140 million over collection on Departmental receipts, which is attributed to long outstanding claim receivables. He requested an explanation of what these outstanding claims are. Understanding the nature of these outstanding claims can shed light on why they were not collected earlier and their impact on the Department's financial management.
Organisational structure and vacancies:
Mr Kama's third question pertained to the organisational structure, particularly the vacancies within the Department. He sought information on the duration of these vacancies and whether they had been filled. Additionally, he inquired about the status of acting positions within the Department, specifically the acting chief director and acting directors. Mr Kama wanted to know whether these acting positions had been permanently filled and, if not, how long they had remained in an acting capacity.
Unplaced learners for next year:
Mr Sayed inquired about the Department's ability to provide an estimate of how many learners are currently unplaced for the upcoming academic year. This information would offer insight into the potential pressure the Department will face in accommodating these learners.
Challenges of unequal learner distribution:
Mr Sayed highlighted a concern related to the unequal distribution of schools and learners, as indicated in the table on page 32. The table shows that certain areas, such as Metro East, have a high learner population but a relatively lower number of schools, while other regions, like Cape Winelands, have more schools but fewer learners.
His question seeks an explanation of how this situation contributes to challenges in learner placement and inequality in access to education. He also asked whether the Department considered these challenges when making decisions about new school construction.
Cost of deploying school resource officers:
Regarding school resource officers, Mr Sayed asked for the total cost of deploying these officers to every school in the 13 priority areas for Law Enforcement Advancement Plan (LEAP) deployment. This information would help in understanding the financial implications of this safety measure.
Handling cases of teacher misconduct and learner safety:
Mr Sayed cited a specific case where a teacher faced allegations of sexual harassment against a learner but continued to be employed at the same school. He questioned whether a strategy or approach is in place to address such cases where teachers are responsible for compromising learner safety. He emphasised the need to address such cases with fairness and justice.
The Chairperson acknowledged Mr Sayed's questions, noting that the first question pertained to the current financial year, while the session was primarily focused on the previous financial year. However, the Chairperson expressed flexibility in addressing current challenges and encouraged the Department to share information if available. The Chairperson's response reflects an understanding of the interconnectedness of issues across financial years and the importance of addressing both historical and contemporary challenges in the education sector.
Response to Part A: 2
Mr Walters began by assuring the Committee that the Department is actively working on placing learners for the upcoming academic year and reaffirmed their commitment to placing every learner, similar to their past performance. He acknowledged the unique challenges in high-growth areas, particularly related to land availability and the need to provide school spaces in proximity to where students live. The core challenge the Department faces is the limited availability of suitable land for school construction.
He pointed out that issues with discipline in schools and the vandalising of school infrastructure stem from deeper societal problems that manifest in the school environment. Mr Walters underscored that fostering respect and setting boundaries are critical elements in tackling these issues, drawing a parallel between these issues and the discipline required during committee meetings.
Mr Walters also discussed the importance of creating a sense of ownership within communities to address vandalism. He mentioned that some solutions include improving the design and location of infrastructure to deter vandalism, such as placing solar installations on double-storey structures with balconies to make them less accessible for vandalism.
Mr Walters emphasised that addressing these challenges requires a broader societal shift towards values and respect and fostering a sense of ownership within communities. He suggested that the committee and other stakeholders have a crucial role to play in helping the Department achieve these objectives. Mr Ely would provide further responses to the committee's questions.
Mr Ely responded to several questions from the Committee. He explained that the R140 million over-collection in departmental receipts is due to long-standing claims for right-to-union secondment claims, which the Department is now recovering from the relevant institutions.
Regarding the financial implications for school resource officers, Mr Ely noted that the current allocation is about R54 million for the entity, and the specific financial details would be provided to the committee separately.
In response to the question about when the MOD programme contract expired, Mr Ely mentioned that the Department would submit the reply in writing as he didn't have the information available at the moment.
Dr Sigamoney Naicker, Chief Director: Inclusive Education and Special Programmes (CD: IESP), WCED, highlighted that the challenges related to school safety in the Western Cape are not unique to the province and can be found in various contexts worldwide. He referred to incidents mostly in thw Cape Flats, but other areas where youth engage in disruptive behaviours.
Dr Naicker discussed the integrated approach of the Western Cape's school safety programme, emphasising practical programmes and initiatives aimed at empowering communities, schools, and school governing bodies (SGBs). He mentioned youth clubs that focus on promoting the rights of young people and addressing various issues, including health, economics, social problems, and emotional challenges.
He also stressed the importance of building the social fabric of society, particularly in disadvantaged areas, to address these challenges effectively. Dr Naicker acknowledged the school safety programme's significance and the need to explore its costing, considering that school safety is a unique responsibility within the education department. He suggested that a departmental discussion should be held to assess the risks associated with school safety efforts.
Mr Abrahams addressed the questions about the rationale for prioritising the construction of schools. He referred to a table on page 32 of the report that shows the distribution of schools across the educational jurisdictions in the Western Cape. He explained that the metro area is under-capacitated, and their priority is to establish more schools in that jurisdiction. Specifically, they are focusing on Metro East, which includes areas like Helderberg, Strand, Somerset and Makhaza, and the northern regions of the metro. This is due to the high demand for school places in these areas.
Mr Abrahams emphasised that the decision to prioritise certain areas is based on multiple factors, including the number of learners, class sizes, and the need for equal access to education. He mentioned that the province's rural areas, such as the West Coast, Murraysburg, and Saldanha Bay, also require attention. They are working on plans that take into account both the number of learners and the spatial considerations.
He noted the importance of innovative partnerships with municipalities to ensure that the schools are constructed in the right locations and in line with the needs of the communities. The collaboration with local governments and district offices in the City of Cape Town is particularly strong, and the Department is committed to addressing the school placement shortfalls in the Metro East and Metro North regions.
Mr Abrahams discussed the positions and appointments within the WCED. He explained that the Chief Director, District position was advertised and filled from 1 September 2023. Additionally, positions indicated as acting roles were also advertised, along with the vacancies initially indicated. He mentioned that they had experienced the untimely passing of the previous incumbent of the Directorate of Strategic People Management, which led to the restructuring of the organisation. Consequently, the post has also been advertised.
Mr Abrahams emphasised that the Department is committed to ensuring service delivery is not compromised with these various appointments and restructuring efforts.
Discussion, Part A: 3
Mr Kama raised questions regarding the composition of the leadership within the WCED, particularly focusing on racial and gender diversity. He expressed concern about the underrepresentation of Africans in leadership positions within the Department, given that Africans constitute the second-largest population group in the province. Mr Kama questioned whether the lack of African representation was due to a perceived lack of qualifications or interest among Africans in the province and sought an explanation for this underrepresentation.
Additionally, Mr Kama inquired about the Director for Business Strategy and Stakeholder Management, specifically regarding rumours that the director had been seconded to the Department of Economic Opportunities and Tourism. He sought clarification on the status of the business strategy and stakeholder management role, including who was currently fulfilling these responsibilities, who was responsible for the director's salary, and whether the associated programme had been discontinued. Mr Kama also requested information about the redeployment of staff previously associated with the director and the programme in question.
The Chairperson noted that there are currently 7.4 million people in the Western Cape, making it the third-largest province in the country. The Chairperson pointed out that the equitable share formula plays a critical role in determining the provincial budget and mentioned that an update of data is necessary. She asked if there were engagements with NT and provincial treasury regarding the data update and its implications.
She highlighted that NT is conducting a review of the factors influencing the education component of the equitable share formula. She asked if there have been discussions about how this review will impact the provincial budget.
She mentioned that the province is already facing a financial challenge with a need for R3 billion to cover public wages, which is currently being implemented. Considering the financial constraints, she questioned where the additional funding for building new schools would come from. She inquired about the possibility of raising provincial loans for capital investments, specifically for building new schools. She asked how the Department plans to secure funding and what the process might look like when presenting a business plan to provincial treasury for these new school construction projects.
Response to Part A: 3
In response to the Chairperson's questions, Mr Walters addressed several critical issues related to education in the Western Cape. First and foremost, he recognised the province's burgeoning population, which stands at 7.4 million people. He acknowledged the necessity of updating data, particularly regarding learner numbers, to ensure that the province's equitable share accurately reflects its requirements. However, he cautioned that implementing data updates can be a protracted process, often taking two to three years. Given the current fiscal constraints, there is likely to be a sense of urgency to expedite these updates.
Moreover, Mr Walters discussed the ongoing review of the education component in the equitable share formula by NT. He expressed concerns about this review and highlighted its potential risks to the province. His primary concern centred around whether provinces experiencing population growth would be adversely affected by changes in the formula. He argued that the formula must be revised to ensure fairness and equity, particularly for provinces grappling with population increases. This would be essential for the Western Cape to continue delivering quality education as it grapples with rising learner numbers.
Continuing, Mr Walters acknowledged the significant financial challenges facing the WCED. The province will require an additional R3 billion to cover public sector wages for the upcoming 2023/2024 financial year. This substantial financial commitment already strains the provincial budget. Mr Walters noted that this wage allocation has already been partially implemented and has not yet been reimbursed by NT to the province. This financial burden, coupled with the need for more funding to construct new schools, presents a complex fiscal challenge.
To address this, Mr Walters highlighted the possibility of exploring alternative sources of finance, such as provincial loans. This would necessitate a closer examination of the financial implications and mechanisms for accessing such loans. While it is an early-stage consideration, it underscores the pressing need to secure additional funding to meet the growing population's demands and increase learner enrolment.
Finally, in response to Mr Kama's questions regarding representation within the Department, Mr Walters recognised the importance of achieving greater equity in leadership positions. Mr Kama pointed out the need for a more diverse leadership team, encompassing a broader spectrum of racial and gender backgrounds. Mr Walters acknowledged that there is always room for improvement in promoting equity and diversity. He noted that progress has been made, especially in appointing more women to permanent positions and reducing the number of acting appointments. This is a positive step toward achieving better representation within the Department.
In conclusion, Mr Walters emphasised the challenges faced by the Western Cape's education sector due to population growth and fiscal constraints. He recognised the importance of addressing these issues and exploring alternative financing methods. Additionally, he affirmed the commitment to achieving greater equity and diversity within the Department's leadership ranks.
The Chairperson asked the WCED if it had access to the equitable share formula or if there were any concerns about it.
Mr Walters elaborated on the functioning of the equitable share formula, emphasising the need for transparency and fairness. He indicated that provinces should not experience losses when they are in a phase of growth. His primary concern was related to the undisclosed factors in the formula, denoted as alphas and omegas, which are crucial for understanding its impact. Expressing this concern, he pointed out that if these undisclosed factors negatively affect growing provinces, it would be unjust and illogical. He highlighted the importance of the formula serving the province's needs and expressed confidence in raising these issues with NT and provincial treasury in various meetings.
The Chairperson responded to the query regarding the equitable share formula. She suggested that obtaining the formula should not be a challenging task as it can be requested from the Financial and Fiscal Commission (FFC) or other relevant departments.
The Chairperson then moved on to Part B of the discussion.
Minister Maynier shared his thoughts on the revision of the provincial equitable share formula, particularly focusing on the education component. He mentioned that a proposal from NT is currently under consideration by the education sector. He noted that it has not yet reached the Council of Education Ministers. Minister Maynier indicated that given the ongoing debate, it is unlikely that a new formula would be implemented before the 2025/2026 financial year. He suggested that the Committee has a role to play in scrutinising these proposals in the next term and debating the most appropriate formula to benefit the education sector, not only in the Western Cape but also across South Africa.
Discussion, Part B: 1
The Chairperson announced the continuation of the discussion, specifically focusing on pages 21 to 40 of the document. She also reminded the participants that if they had any queries or sensitive matters that needed to be addressed privately, the education officials were still present and available to assist at a separate table. The Chairperson mentioned that each Member could pose up to three questions in this part of the discussion.
On page 23, Mr Fry inquired about the strategies and plans in place to increase the number of schools and classrooms, given the budgetary concerns and the growth in the number of learners compared to schools.
On page 28, he expressed concern about the increasing number of sick leave days used for depression among teachers. He questioned whether there were secondary interventions or plans for psychosocial support for teachers, particularly since he believed the existing support might not be sufficient to reduce the number of sick leave days. He also asked if psychologists and social workers extended their support to teachers in addition to students.
On page 23, Mr Kama inquired about the impact of the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic on the readiness of the 2023 matric students for their Grade 12 examinations. He asked if COVID-19 contributed to their results and how effective the catch-up programmes, including the Backward to Basics programme, were in mitigating these challenges.
On page 24, he asked if the Department had information on the number of learners leaving the Western Cape school system to go to other provinces, particularly concerning the substantial net in-migration mentioned in the report. He was interested in understanding whether such out-migration data was available and if it could help analyse the challenges related to in-migration.
On page 27, he inquired about the involvement of local businesses in benefiting from the NSNP. He also sought information on awarding NSNP contracts and how the Department ensured diversity and avoided prolonged contracts with the same service providers.
Mr Sayed asked why the Department's Annual Report no longer includes information on learner-teacher ratios, particularly concerning the average learner-teacher ratio, which had been tracked from 2014 up to 2020. He sought an explanation for this change and expressed his interest in understanding whether there had been a shift in methodology. This change appeared to be of concern to him.
Mr Sayed wanted to gain an in-depth understanding of the success of the Pop-Up banner campaign mentioned on page 26 of the document. He asked for specific details on the achievements and effectiveness of this campaign, especially regarding learner admissions and placements.
He inquired about the status of the situation at the Rawsonville School, emphasizing the impact on learners who experienced difficulties due to the lack of learner transport. He mentioned that the problem persisted until January and requested a comprehensive update on this issue.
The Chairperson noted that Mr Sayed was referring to page 96 and Mr Sayed clarified that he was creating a link.
Mr Christians addressed the information on page 26, specifically in the third paragraph. He noted that there had been a decrease in the number of public schools achieving below a 60 per cent pass rate, dropping from 37 in 2021 to 29 in 2022. While Mr Christians acknowledged this as a positive trend, his primary concern centred around a practice he noted.
He sought clarification on the accuracy of this practice, which involved schools guiding students toward subjects where they had a higher likelihood of passing. The emphasis was not on the students' personal preferences or alignment with their career aspirations, but rather on achieving a higher overall pass rate, with tourism being a particular focus. He expressed the need for confirmation regarding this practice. He stressed that it required further examination to ensure that students were not being compelled into subjects that did not serve their best interests.
Moving on to his second question, which related to page 29 and the ECD function within the Department, Mr Christians shared that they had encountered heart-warming stories during the committee's visits to various ECD centres. Nevertheless, he expressed the desire to better understand the management of these facilities and how they might impact learner placement. He emphasised the importance of ensuring that the encouragement of ECD attendance aligned with foundational reading and overall student development. He inquired whether the transition in management would have a positive impact on students' educational journeys and whether it might become compulsory in the near future.
In his final point, Mr Christians addressed the issue of Schools of Choice on page 34 and the vision behind this project. He found it heartening to see a commitment to providing quality education to learners in underserved communities. However, he pointed out that the statement implied a recognition that not all schools currently provide quality education. This acknowledgement presented a significant challenge for the Department. His concern focused on the difficulties parents faced when attempting to enrol their children in preferred schools, especially if they could afford to do so. He cited the example of Manenberg and similar disadvantaged communities, where gaining admission to high-performing schools proved challenging. Mr Christians shared a personal experience of facing difficulties in securing a meeting with the principal of Wynberg Boys’ High School over a two-year period. He emphasised the problematic nature of this situation, as it discouraged parents who aspired to provide their children with a better education. He concluded by urging the Department to address this issue to ensure equal access to quality education for all learners and expressed his gratitude to the Chairperson.
Response to Part B: 1
To Mr Fry's inquiry about historical legacy and plans to increase the number of classrooms, Mr Walters explained that various factors, including financial resources and the growing nature of the education system, constrain such plans. He emphasised that they aim to expand resources where possible but are limited by budget and other constraints.
Regarding concerns about the well-being of educators and learners, Mr Walters noted that COVID-19 had brought attention to the importance of mental health and self-care. He highlighted the need for individuals to prioritise their well-being and discussed the programmes and initiatives in place to support educators and learners.
He also mentioned that Mr Haroon Mahomed, WCED, Chief Director: Curriculum and Assessment Management (CD: CAM), and Mr Juan Benjamin, WCED, Chief Director: Curriculum Management and Teacher Development (CD: CMTD), would provide information on catch-up programmes and initiatives for learners.
In response to concerns about learners being forced into specific subject choices, Mr Walters noted that the Department strives to provide a broad education and mentioned the importance of setting school boundaries to ensure discipline.
Regarding the issue of quality education, he clarified that quality education remains a vision of the Department. While there are pockets of quality in schools, the goal is to extend this to all learners.
Mr Walters then explained the Schools of Choice project concept, emphasising its aim to provide more choices and opportunities for parents and learners, especially in oversubscribed schools.
He concluded by asking his colleagues to provide further details and answers to the specific questions posed by the members.
Mr Abrahams responded to the question regarding the catch-up programme and the performance of the 2023 cohort, who were in Grade 9 in 2020. He noted that interprovincial discussions had indicated that this cohort might perform less well than previous ones. In response to this, the province has implemented various programmes to support these learners.
Mr Abrahams mentioned that detailed information on these programmes, including those run during holidays such as April, June, July, and the spring Back on Track programme, was available. He highlighted that the number of learners receiving additional tuition on Saturdays had been increased by approximately 8 000. He also mentioned that detailed information on supplementary programmes in each district was available and had been shared with the National Department of Basic Education (NDBE).
This response indicated the proactive measures taken to address the challenges faced by the 2023 cohort and improve their academic performance.
Mr Naicker addressed the NSNP question. He explained that the WCED has a centralised model for the NSNP, where tenders are advertised, and service providers bid. Contracts are awarded for a period of three years. This centralised model primarily benefits service providers and some others, but a decentralised model would benefit a larger percentage of local businesses. However, the challenge with decentralisation lies in the need for rigorous monitoring and evaluation to ensure high quality. While some provinces in South Africa have decentralised models, the NDBE seems to be moving toward a centralised model to ensure quality and uniformity.
Mr Naicker also addressed the issue of ECD. He mentioned that ECD had been shifted from the Department of Social Development (DSD) to the NDBE with the goal of improving literacy, numeracy, the foundation phase, throughput rates, and limiting the number of children dropping out. The aim is to enhance the overall quality of education. However, the process will take time, and a critical challenge is aligning the curriculum in the ECD phase to develop literacy and numeracy effectively.
He emphasised the importance of ECD in improving self-confidence, motivation, and the perception of education for young learners. Mr Naicker acknowledged that South Africa faces a challenge due to a significant portion of the population living in poverty, and it is essential to create a pedagogical environment in ECD that instils a positive attitude toward education. He stated this is crucial for addressing the issue of educational success in a country with a high number of disadvantaged individuals.
Mr Naicker provided valuable insights into the challenges and aspirations of ECD in South Africa, highlighting the significance of ECD in shaping the future of the nation.
Ms Ruth Leukes, Director: Early Childhood Development (D: ECD), concurred with the perspective provided by Dr Naicker. She emphasised the importance of establishing processes and ensuring the quality of teaching and learning in the crucial age range of birth to four years. Ms Leukes highlighted that the ultimate goal is to ensure that all children in the system receive equitable opportunities for quality education. Her remarks underscore the significance of ECD and the commitment to providing equal educational experiences for all children in the Western Cape.
Mr Ely provided detailed responses to two questions. First, he addressed the issue of net migration of learners in the Western Cape. He explained that the responsibility for interprovincial comparisons and tracking learner migrations lies with the NDBE. The WCED tracks first-time registrations in the province and subjects this data to scrutiny by national counterparts to identify any duplicate registrations. This helps determine net migration, which can be complex due to factors like learners dropping out of one system and then re-entering another system.
Mr Ely emphasised the importance of data assurance processes to verify first-time registrations and ensure accurate data. He mentioned that the WCED will gain access to anonymised national data sets to conduct their analysis to provide more reliable insights into net migration.
Regarding the second question about transport in Rawsonville, Mr Ely explained that transport approval is not a condition for accepting placement. The WCED assesses qualifying learners and applies discretion when deciding on transport assistance. While the general policy requires learners to live more than 5 kilometres from the school to qualify for subsidised transport, exceptions may be made based on certain conditions. Mr Ely assured that the transport routes and requests had been resolved and data on learners from Rawsonville would be provided if the Member could specify the learners in question.
Minister Maynier provided additional information related to the question on pop-up schools. He mentioned that the pop-up school intervention was part of a broader campaign, which he described as extraordinary. The campaign included various elements such as YouTube views, posters, fleets, and outreach through radio and print media. He highlighted the campaign's impact on the success of admissions for the 2022/23 academic year and directed attention to the details in the Annual Report on page 44.
In response to Member Kama's query, the requested information related to net migration of learners to and from the province can be found in several sections of the Annual Report and additional sources.
Firstly, page 58 of the Annual Report provides information for the year 2022, indicating that out of the 17 512 learners who entered the Western Cape, 13 424 were from the Eastern Cape.
Secondly, for more detailed information on the origins of learners, Mr Kama was referred to page 81 of the Provincial Economic Review.
Lastly, there is a presentation from the Budget Committee in September 2023, including a slide (Slide 17) that offers insights into net migration patterns.
Mr Sayed expressed his appreciation for Mr Kama's involvement and asked the Department questions related to school safety, particularly in the context of the Annual Report. He inquired about the slow response times from the safe schools’ unit when schools report safety concerns and sought information on measures the Department plans to implement to address this issue. He also wanted to understand how the Department intends to build and enhance relationships with the surrounding school communities to involve them in ensuring the safety of teachers and learners, especially during the holidays, to prevent robberies and burglaries.
Further, Mr Sayed raised concerns about learners' vulnerability to involvement in gangs and violent behaviour due to their backgrounds and the locations of their schools. He asked if the Department has collaborated with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to develop programmes that go beyond just physical safety measures, emphasising the need for support and guidance for at-risk learners. Mr Sayed sought information on existing programmes and any plans for future initiatives in this regard.
Mr Christians emphasised that his concerns were not merely theoretical, stating that he has visited schools like Mondale and others and is well aware of the dynamics on the ground. He acknowledged the challenges related to high demand for certain schools like Mondale, which often have thousands of applicants for very limited spots. However, he stressed that the blame for underachieving learners cannot be solely attributed to the students. Instead, he focused on the importance of ensuring quality education and teachers.
Mr Christians asked about the progress regarding deploying quality teachers to schools and inquired about teacher turnover, highlighting cases where multiple teachers leave a single school in a short period. He reiterated the need for quality teachers to equip students properly.
Additionally, he raised the issue of learners who aspire to excel academically and have parents with the financial resources to send them to better schools but face difficulties in doing so because they do not reside in the specific school's area. Mr Christians clarified that his concern was related to cases based on merit and not a blanket policy.
He appreciated the assistance provided by an educational specialist, and conveyed that his primary goal was to ensure the improvement of learners' educational experiences.
Mr Kama began by emphasising the need for the provincial government to carefully listen to the challenges and socioeconomic factors that affect service delivery and to respond effectively.
Mr Kama asked if the provincial government had considered the progressive proposals presented in the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill to address the widespread inequalities in education instead of rejecting them. He inquired whether the Department found any clauses in the bill to be progressive in addressing the challenges.
In reference to the collaboration between schools and donor funds mentioned in the fourth paragraph on page 33, Mr Kama requested a performance report for these schools to gain insight into their results and stability. He wanted to understand if the issues experienced by certain schools were unique or similar to others and whether the Department had any strategies to help schools facing similar problems.
On page 40, Mr Kama sought clarification on how the growth posts are allocated. He also asked about the Department's response to allegations that growth posts are used to perpetuate inequalities, with schools encouraged to enrol more learners to obtain additional posts, which might not address the actual needs regarding class sizes or teacher-to-learner ratios, particularly in comparison to former Model C schools.
Response to Part B: 1
Mr Walters acknowledged Mr Christians' and Mr Sayed's points about the importance of addressing quality education and the challenges related to teachers and learners.
He mentioned that the Department is actively engaging with schools performing under 60 per cent in terms of academic results. The Department conducts thorough analyses, identifying various issues such as leadership failures, lack of expertise, or motivation. They spend up to three hours with these schools, providing advice and guidance on improving results. Mr Walters emphasised the crucial role of school leadership and the commitment of teachers to achieving better outcomes.
He pointed out that systemic changes are necessary to improve overall quality, as some schools cannot be significantly improved by merely injecting more resources. Leadership, teaching culture, and a committed teaching staff are crucial factors in a school's success.
Mr Walters also mentioned that the Department's priorities include a focus on quality teaching and learning, and he expressed a willingness to provide more information about the Back on Track programme. He agreed with Mr Christians about the importance of setting boundaries and promoting discipline in schools, highlighting the role of adults, including the SGBs, in maintaining a positive learning environment.
Mr Walters then indicated that Dr Naicker would respond to questions related to safer schools, after which he would address questions regarding collaboration with NGOs.
Dr Naicker addressed some of the points Mr Sayed and Mr Christians raised. He first touched on the issue of turnaround time in response to complaints about school safety. The Department has a call centre in place to address such concerns, ensuring effective communication and swift responses.
He also mentioned the concept of social capital, acknowledging that networking and collaboration are crucial in working-class communities, but these efforts may be limited. However, the Department has introduced various programmes to engage students beyond regular school hours, including school holiday programmes, after-school activities, and initiatives related to arts, culture, sports, and life skills. These programmes are aimed at providing support to students and promoting their well-being.
Dr Naicker responded to Mr Christians' passion and suggested reading Miseducation, a book by a British sociologist that delves into the reasons behind the success of middle-class children and the challenges working-class children face in education. He emphasised the complexities of the educational landscape and the need for systemic interventions to address these issues, recognising that the challenges faced by working-class children are not easily resolved and may persist for many years.
Mr Benjamin discussed the Department's efforts to address quality education and its associated challenges, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 impact.
He mentioned the Back on Track programme, which aims to target specific grades, including Grade 4, Grade 7, Grade 8, and Grade 10, as these transitional phases are crucial in a learner's educational journey. The programme focuses on students in the middle group of learners (Codes 3-5) who often face challenges as they progress through the system.
Additionally, the Department is targeting teachers associated with these learners to enhance their understanding of the curriculum and teaching methods, with the goal of creating professional learning communities. Subjects such as languages and mathematics, along with other subjects associated with the Grade 10 pathway, are a primary focus.
The programme also addresses the psychosocial and health needs of students and provides support to parents or caregivers who may need assistance in helping their children succeed in these challenging environments.
The early indications of the programme's impact had been positive, even in schools with large student populations and historical underperformance at Grade 12 level. The Department is committed to continuing its efforts to change the culture of teaching and learning in these schools to improve overall educational outcomes. He noted that some environments are not conducive to teaching and learning.
Ms Heather van Ster, Chief Director of Districts (CD: D), explained the Department's approach to school safety and collaboration with NGOs.
The WCED actively participates in various safety committees, including those related to social and cultural issues and anti-gang strategies. The provincial joint school safety committee involves government departments at both provincial and national levels. Further, the Department has the flexibility to co-opt specific NGOs based on the current needs and projects. The WCED provides ongoing training to school safety committees and emphasises the importance of working collaboratively with various stakeholders, including community members, local government departments, and NGOs.
Integrating these efforts is crucial for successfully implementing the nine-point safety plan in schools. The Department recently organised an Education Safe School Summit, where training and support were provided to schools on the significance of working with local NGOs and how to establish effective collaborations to enhance school safety.
Mr Walters addressed the last two points raised during the discussion. He mentioned that collaboration schools and donor-funded schools are generally performing well, and the assistance provided to them has been beneficial. The Department has regular quarterly meetings with these schools to monitor their progress and receive reports.
Regarding the question about growth posts, Mr Walters referred to his colleague's explanation and did not provide further details on this topic.
Mr Matthys Cronjé, Chief Director of People Management and Practices (CD: PMP), highlighted the three main focus areas related to the allocation of growth posts:
1. Newly built classrooms: Growth posts were allocated for newly constructed classrooms. This helped ensure that schools have the necessary teaching staff to accommodate learners in these new facilities.
2. Grade extensions: When schools expanded, especially when learners progressed from one grade to the next (e.g., from grade 9 to grade 10), growth posts were allocated to provide the additional teaching staff needed for the expanded grade levels.
3. Implications of curriculum changes: Growth posts may also be allocated based on any changes in the language of learning and teaching within a specific school. If a school makes changes in the language used for instruction, additional posts may be required to accommodate these changes.
Minister Maynier provided additional details on the Back on Track programme, which aimed to address the impact of COVID-19 on learners and has been implemented during term time on alternate Saturdays. He stated that the programme currently serves up to approximately 15 000 learners, particularly in the foundation phase, highlighting its significant impact.
Regarding the BELA Bill, Minister Maynier mentioned that the Bill is still in the National Assembly and will be debated shortly. He pointed out one key aspect of the Bill, which focuses on universalising and expanding grade R to address educational inequality. However, Minister Maynier acknowledged the financial constraints associated with this proposal, with an estimated cost of over R12.6 billion. He emphasised the need for a thorough debate on how to fund this initiative within the current financial limitations.
The Chairperson sought clarity regarding the R12.6 billion budget. She wished to know whether that was a provincial budget or a national budget.
The Minister confirmed a national budget.
The Chairperson announced that there would be a break until 11:15. She reminded the meeting that an education table was available outside for specific queries or sensitive matters that attendees might want to discuss. The break included refreshments, and the session resumed at the specified time.
In the session following the tea break, the Chairperson indicated that the committee would continue discussing the Annual Report from pages 41 to 60. She also requested that the members keep their questions brief to allow time for questions from the public, emphasising the importance of completing their work efficiently.
Mr Christians suggested that Members restrict themselves to a single round of questions and refrain from unnecessary follow-up queries. He emphasised the significance of hearing from the public during the Annual Report discussion.
Discussion pages 41 - 60
The Chairperson announced that Mr Christians had moved a motion to limit the questions to one round. In this round, she would allow all Members to ask their questions, and they would proceed to the next 20 pages of the Annual Report after completing their questions.
Mr Fry, firstly, expressed concern about the significant loss of approximately 10 000 learners between grades 11 and 12. He sought clarification on the reasons behind this trend and the Department's plans to minimize such dropouts. Additionally, he inquired about the practice where some schools do not promote grade 11 learners to grade 12 if they are expected to fail in an attempt to maintain better overall results.
Secondly, he asked about coding and robotics programmes in schools. He wanted to know about the collaboration between the Department and other institutions or external programmes that offer coding and robotics for learners. He sought information about the nature of this collaboration and whether it involves a public-private partnership.
Mr Sayed first addressed the learner dropouts mentioned on page 57 of the report. He requested clarification on whether the Department keeps track of learners who transition to colleges or other streams, as not all of them are necessarily dropouts. He wanted a more detailed explanation to understand the actual reasons for the decrease in the number of learners.
Secondly, he inquired about the School Evaluation Authority (SEA) mentioned on page 47. He wanted to know about the value this body adds and whether it justifies the expenditure as an independent entity.
Finally, he raised a question related to Page 49 regarding the organisational leadership quality score of -45. He requested elaboration on this aspect to understand its significance.
Mr Kama raised a question related to page 41, specifically the second paragraph. This section discusses the Department's appointment of 344 out of the 587 Funza Lushaka Bursary holders. He expressed the need for clarification on how this number was determined. He pointed out that the Auditor-General (AG) remarked in section 211 of the report that the evidence presented did not support this achievement.
The Chairperson inquired about the number of children involved in the coding and robotics pilot programme, specifically in the context of the 500 schools mentioned on page 59 of the report. She sought information on the scale of participation in this programme.
Response to pages 41 - 60
Mr Walters mentioned that the drop in student numbers from grade 11 to grade 12 is not unique to this specific grade transition but is also observed in other grade transitions, such as from grade 4 to grade 5. Some students may be held back for not meeting requirements. On the topic of coding and robotics, he deferred to Mr Benjamin and Mr Mahomed to address those questions. Regarding the tracking tools for students attending colleges, he explained that the Department no longer has access to such information as the colleges resort under the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). The change in control might explain the reported numbers.
Minister Maynier expressed his condolences for the passing of Karen Bydell, School Evaluation Authority (SEA): Chief Evaluator, known to some Committee Members. He mentioned that a new Chief Evaluator will be appointed on 1 November 2023, and an official announcement will be made soon.
Regarding the impact of the SEA, Minister Maynier highlighted that it plays a practical role in evaluating schools and providing support to those who need improvement. The Chief Evaluator identifies serious challenges in schools, which are then escalated for immediate intervention by the Department. This process demonstrates the authority's impact in improving the quality of education.
Minister Maynier also mentioned that a longer-term four-year strategy for the SEA will be considered once the new appointment is made, to increase its impact in the future.
Mr Cronjé provided additional information on the Funza Lushaka bursaries and reported evidence. He explained that the Funza Lushaka programme is primarily administered by the DBE and the DHET in other provinces. They also work with the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), which is the primary bursary holder.
In response to the question about the provincial output indicator (POI) 101, Mr Cronjé noted that while there was a significant improvement in attendance compared to previous years, some managers were unable to attend due to operational reasons. The primary beneficiaries of this indicator were office staff in the provincial office.
Mr Walters asked if Mr Mahomed or Mr Benjamin could respond to the coding and robotics questions.
Mr Mahomed mentioned that WCED collaborated with multiple partners, including the Cape Town Science Center, for the coding and robotics programme. However, he did not have the exact numbers for the learners who participated in the pilot. He also mentioned that WCED can include this information in the report. Additionally, WCED is working on establishing coding and robotic clubs in 500 schools. Mr Benjamin may provide further details.
Mr Benjamin highlighted that the WCED is collaborating extensively with various organizations in the field of coding and robotics. This includes working with the Human Computer Interaction (HCI) entities, teacher unions, the DBE, Google, and others. Currently, coding and robotics are being rolled out in 500 schools across the province. While no formalised curriculum is in place, the enthusiasm and interest among students and educators drive the efforts to establish a well-defined curriculum for this field.
Mr Abrahams provided clarification, noting that the data regarding learners moving from one grade to the next should be seen within the context of cohort sizes and enhanced progress through the education system. The larger cohort sizes are partially a result of a surge in births in 2004-2005, leading to more learners enrolling in grades 10, 11, and 12. The improvement in promotion and progression rates indicates that learners advance through the system more effectively and aren't necessarily leaving the system. The data should not be misinterpreted as a significant dropout rate, as the WCED has reported a 73 per cent grade 11 retention rate for the year under review, highlighting a positive trend in retaining learners within the education system.
Discussion pages 61 - 80
Mr Sayed raised two important questions. Regarding learner placement, enrolment, and retention trends, he sought information on the historical trends of unplaced learners in the Western Cape, including hotspot districts. Further, he inquired about the specific proactive measures implemented in response to the challenges faced in the year under review.
Concerning physical infrastructure and safety, he mentioned the case of Hillside Primary School in Mitchells Plain and questioned whether the Department was updated on the latest developments concerning the security fencing project. This project was of significant concern due to its impact on school safety and the influence of criminal activities in the vicinity of the school.
Mr Christians raised several important questions and concerns:
He inquired about the limited expansion of the collaboration schools programme, which had previously received significant funding from donors to improve the quality of education. He asked why the programme was not extended to weaker and poorer areas to further enhance the quality of education.
Mr Christians expressed concern about the lack of effective career guidance programmes for Grade 12 learners. He mentioned that many students struggle with subject choices and suggested the need for different interventions to guide learners in making the right subject choices for their future careers.
He questioned whether the Department had considered the possibility of implementing a dual system, where both physical classrooms and online learning coexist. He emphasised the success of remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic and suggested that this approach could enhance the quality of education, especially where technology infrastructure is available.
Mr Kama inquired about the discrepancy between the planned annual target of 1 100 technology-enabled classrooms (smart classrooms) and the actual achievement of zero. He sought clarification on the reasons for this shortfall, particularly related to the hindrance caused by internal ICT governance. He also requested an explanation of how these challenges have been addressed and resolved.
Mr Kama questioned the postponement of the plan to increase the number of learners in no-fee schools to the 2023/24 financial year for implementation. He sought reasons for the postponement and additional information regarding this decision.
Response to pages 61 - 80
Regarding proactive steps taken to address learner placement and enrolment issues, Mr Walters emphasised that the Department placed every learner in the year under review, taking steps such as implementing the Rapid Build Programme to increase the number of available spaces and growing the teacher basket to meet the needs.
He also addressed the question about areas where pressure related to unplaced learners was most significant, but no specific information was provided in the verbal response.
Mr Walters mentioned the fencing issue at Hillside Primary School, stating that the Department is aware of the problem, but further details or actions were not provided in the oral response. He suggested that additional information could be provided in writing.
The WCED responded that the fencing issue for a school in Mitchells Plain was on the fencing list and has been completed.
Mr Sayed emphasised that written documentation from WCED confirms that Hillside Primary School in Mitchells Plain was originally listed to receive a fence in 2021. As of 2023, the work on this fence has not yet been completed.
Mr Walters responded by emphasising that expanding collaboration schools depends on collaborating partners showing interest and capacity to take on additional schools. He stated that the Department is not in the business of creating partners but welcomes those who approach them with collaboration proposals. He mentioned that during quarterly meetings, these collaborating partners report on the schools they manage, both successes and challenges.
Regarding the issue of Grade 9 learners making the right subject choices, he requested that Mr Mahomed or Mr Benjamin provide an answer to the question.
Minister Maynier acknowledged the Member's observation of the disconnect between the curriculum, teachers' instruction, and learners' understanding. He emphasised that this misalignment is a national issue. In response to this problem, the Department has successfully secured additional funding to address it. WCED plans to extend the impact of career guidance programmes, particularly focusing on Grade 9 learners at a critical juncture for subject choices. Their approach includes setting up career clubs in secondary schools and enhancing the training of life orientation teachers to provide more effective guidance to learners. Furthermore, the G4J Strategy is a multi-stakeholder initiative that seeks to involve various entities, including the private sector, in fortifying the education pipeline to improve the situation.
Mr Walters clarified the issues related to e-learning and why the project achieved zero. He explained that there were various complexities, including challenges within the supply chain processes and the industry itself, which affected the project's timelines. Delays in product deliveries played a crucial role in the project's outcome, but the Department aims to rectify this in the following financial year.
Mr Benjamin explained that the decrease in the number of learners, POI 202 was due to a timing issue regarding when learners were classified as no-fee learners. The decrease in the reported number was merely due to when they drew a line for reporting purposes. Mr Walters emphasised that they have included all the learners who qualified for no-fee status.
Minister Maynier noted the Department's improvement in coordination, planning, and execution, especially in terms of admissions and infrastructure. He mentioned the effectiveness of the war room, a coordination body involving provincial and district representatives. Despite the complexity of the education environment, there have been significant improvements in integrated planning and execution.
Follow up questions from Members
Mr Christians asked about online learning and the potential for a dual system, where learners could attend class in person or online. He pointed out that some learners are already successfully using online learning.
The Chairperson emphasised the importance of human relationships, social interactions, and honest conversations, expressing concern about the impact of online learning on these aspects.
Mr Walters mentioned that online learning worked differently for various individuals and communities. He said they are exploring the concept, especially for higher grades, to alleviate pressure on the system.
The Chairperson shared her neighbour’s experience with homeschooling.
Mr Christians discussed the benefits and limitations of online learning. He mentioned that his inquiry was about future thinking in situations where online learning could provide an alternative under certain pressures.
The Chairperson then indicated that the Committee would continue reviewing the report from page 81 to page 100 and might open for public questions if they did not complete the report by 12:30. They would return to the report after addressing questions from the public.
Discussion pages 81 - 100
Mr Christians expressed his concern about bullying in schools, particularly physical bullying. He emphasised that despite existing policies and processes for addressing bullying, it remains a significant issue. He highlighted the increasing number of bullying cases. He called for the Department to develop effective strategies for addressing this problem, emphasising the need for counselling and support for both victims and bullies.
The Chairperson acknowledged Mr Christians' concerns about bullying in schools and pointed out that addressing this issue is not solely the responsibility of the Department but also a societal concern. She emphasised the need for collective involvement in children's lives and recognizing underlying circumstances that may contribute to bullying.
The Chairperson then invited Mr Kama to ask his questions.
Mr Kama asked about an entry on page 99 related to improving accommodation and maintenance to increase access to technical, agricultural, vocational, and school of skills. He inquired about the discrepancy between the planned target and the reasons provided, where it was mentioned that the target was included in error in that financial year. He sought further clarification regarding what the target was supposed to be and whether it was still in the planning phase.
Response pages 81 - 100
Mr Walters asked Ms Berenice Daniels, Director: Inclusive and Specialised Education Support (D: ISES), to provide information about the Department's programmes aimed at addressing bullying, and he also requested Mr Abrahams to respond to the query about POI 603.
Ms Daniels addressed the issue of bullying, emphasising that it is a societal problem that requires proactive measures and cultural change. The Department acknowledges that children experience bullying in different ways and ensures that incidents are reported to the district office.
She mentioned two programmes aimed at addressing bullying and promoting social-emotional learning. The first programme involves Persona dolls, which are used in primary schools to teach children about diversity and sensitivity. The second programme, in partnership with the Mahatma Gandhi Institute for the Education of Peace, focuses on building kinder brains through social emotional learning. Teachers participate in these programmes to promote kindness and empathy among students.
She invited Ms Leukes to discuss a pilot programme targeting children aged three to six in the ECD sector. This programme aims to instil values through social emotional learning and is seen as a lifelong investment in developing these skills.
Ms Leukes shared details about a programme to teach diversity and social skills to young children in the ECD sector. This programme will be implemented in 100 ECD sites and focuses on using stories to help children understand diversity and how to treat each other kindly. It is currently a pilot programme, and its full implementation will depend on its success and the availability of funds.
Mr Abrahams explained that the outcome related to developing and repurposing buildings for technical and vocational skills was valid. In the review year, the Department transferred the funds to school governing bodies, who took responsibility for building workshops or revitalising existing facilities. While this might not be measured as a departmental endeavour, progress was made in expanding technical facilities, and the results can be seen elsewhere.
Mr Abrahams expressed his willingness to share the names of the schools and details about the work done in expanding technical facilities.
Discussion pages 101 until 124 (End of Part C)
The Chairperson asked for feedback regarding parents' responses to the Back on Track programme, specifically in relation to the extended school hours and weekend activities.
Mr Walters responded that the feedback from parents regarding the Back on Track programme had been overwhelmingly positive. They had not received any complaints and parents were often eager to enrol their children in the programme, with learners themselves showing a strong interest in the extra classes on Saturdays.
Minister Maynier mentioned that although the feedback may be anecdotal, there has been substantial support from parents for the Back on Track programme. He shared an example of Grade 10 learners at UWC participating in a holiday mathematics programme, where parents were deeply committed and even joined their children in the classes. The parents expressed high praise for the programme and its positive impact on their children's lives.
The Chairperson inquired about the aspects of the Back on Track after-school programme that are effective and suggested implementing these successful elements within the regular classroom environment. The Chairperson pointed out that if learners are motivated to learn mathematics after school, there should be a focus on making mathematics engaging and effective during regular school hours.
Mr Walters explained that the Back on Track programme focuses on the teacher to address the challenge of motivating students during regular school hours. The programme aims to improve teaching practices, leading to better learning outcomes. WCED had observed changes in teaching practices within the classroom, which are expected to influence learning results positively over time.
The Chairperson stated that if there were any burning questions on pages 101 to 124, they should be asked at this time. Otherwise, the chapter would be considered closed.
Mr Christians inquired about the 2629 extra candidates mentioned in the last paragraph on page 102, specifically asking about the pass rate percentage among those candidates who rewrite the exams due to a lack of support for exam preparation.
Mr Bertram Loriston, Chief Director: Assessment and Examination (CD: AE), clarified that the 2629 extra candidates are learners within the existing education system and not more candidates. He mentioned that these learners come from both private and full-time categories, contributing to a higher retention rate after the Further Education and Training (FET) phase.
The Chairperson asked if there were any questions on pages 141 to 160, but no questions were raised.
Discussion pages 161 - 174
Mr Christians wanted to understand how the Department handles different forms of misconduct within the education system, such as assaults, threats, improper, disgraceful, or unacceptable conduct. He was interested in knowing if there were warning signs and requested examples of such behaviour.
Mr Kama asked about the number of disputes upheld (30 out of 85), which is too high and if it concerns the Department regarding their dispute resolution processes, especially considering the disruptions caused by these disputes. He mentioned that he might have more questions to submit later.
Response to pages 161 - 174
Mr Walters mentioned that the number of cases might seem high, but the percentage of cases is relatively small when you consider the large size of the Department with over 46 000 staff. He also suggested that the nature of the Department's work might contribute to the number of cases. He asked Mr Cronjé to explain what constitutes disgraceful conduct. Mr Cronjé explained that disgraceful conduct primarily pertains to cases related to sexual assault or sexual harassment that have been reported.
Mr Cronjé provided context for the disputes, saying that they often originate from grievances, where individuals dispute not getting a position that was advertised. The merits of each case may vary, with some being dismissed, and others having valid concerns. These disputes occur when an official and the employee do not agree on the grievance outcome, leading to a formal dispute procedure.
Mr Walters mentioned that the reported number of disputes may seem high, but it's important to consider that these are the cases where people have actively challenged decisions. There may be more cases not reflected in these figures.
The Chairperson sought clarification on the distinction between improper, disgraceful, and unacceptable conduct and sexual assault, as they appeared separately in the document on page 169. She inquired whether they were under the category of assault or listed separately.
Mr Cronjé clarified that the distinction between improper, disgraceful, unacceptable conduct and sexual assault is primarily related to the individuals involved. The former pertains to learners, while the latter concerns adults, specifically in the context of sexual harassment and other related issues.
The Chairperson concluded the meeting and opened the floor for questions from the public. She asked that individuals who wished to ask questions should state their names and any organisational affiliations before posing their questions. Several individuals were noted to ask questions in the specified order.
Questions from the public
Ms Faldielah Jager-Arries, representing the Fadak Foundation, asked two questions. Her first question pertained to the Rapid Build programme and whether it is only for ordinary schools in areas with population growth. Her second question was about the construction of the new Manenberg School of Skills, which was reportedly on hold. She expressed her concern about the need for these schools and the challenges faced by talented young individuals who do not function well in mainstream public schools. She inquired about the criteria for applying to these schools and how the delay in construction affects those who may fall through the cracks as they get older.
Mr Simbongile Dlokodlo, a community leader from Khayelitsha, raised several concerns and questions during the meeting. Firstly, he mentioned that some parents were worried about the placement of their children at schools, as they did not receive clear answers about where their children had been placed. He also questioned the effectiveness of the system, as some parents were told that schools were already full, raising concerns about the purpose of the application process.
Secondly, Mr Dlokodlo expressed concerns about the safety of children at schools, particularly in light of students using drugs during school hours. He questioned the safety of the school environment and whether teachers and the future of the children were adequately protected.
He also mentioned issues with skills development at schools, noting that a school named after Joe Slovo was supposed to become a school for engineering but lacked the necessary resources. Additionally, he highlighted challenges with maintaining sports facilities in the community and the need for more community involvement in school safety and crime prevention.
Mr Dlokodlo emphasised the importance of easing regulations for community involvement, such as food gardening projects in schools. He suggested that schools should be more active in engaging with the community to create safer and more supportive environments for learners.
Ms Daphney Erosi, a representative of Equal Education, shared her concerns as a community member, parent, and grandmother of the unplaced learners in the education system. She expressed that the issue of unplaced learners has been a crisis for quite some time, and it has been a particular concern since 2020 due to COVID-19.
Ms Erosi highlighted that the community and the WCED should collaborate more closely. She called for greater collaboration between WCED and community stakeholders to address the challenges faced by unplaced learners.
She also raised concerns about online registration, emphasising that many parents are uneducated and may have difficulty with online systems. Late applications and the lack of clear timeframes for outcomes were also of parental concern.
Further, Ms Erosi addressed safety at schools and the need for improved psychosocial support. She shared her observations about the lack of adequate support and attention given to some students, which has led to issues like drug abuse among teenagers.
During the public participation session, the Chairperson clarified the language options available to the Western Cape Provincial Parliament speakers. The Chairperson mentioned that participants could pose their questions or comment in any of the Western Cape's official languages, including English, Afrikaans, and isiXhosa. Further, she noted the presence of translators who could provide interpretation if needed.
A resident of Sir Lowry’s Pass village addressed several significant concerns during his interaction with the Committee. Firstly, he raised the issue of fraud and corruption within the education system. While the report mentioned efforts to prevent such malpractice and protect whistleblowers, he pointed out that many whistleblowers face threats, intimidation, and ostracisation from alleged perpetrators. As a result, people are deterred from reporting corruption due to a lack of trust in the system. Hestressed the importance of mechanisms allowing individuals to report fraudulent activities confidentially, emphasising the need for accountability and a safe reporting environment.
The second concern he highlighted pertains to the guidance provided to children within the education system. He raised questions about the practice of steering children from grades 8 to 10, expressing his apprehension that this may lead to students aged 9-12 dropping out of school. He voiced concerns about the limited alternatives available for these students once they leave the educational system prematurely. This underscores the importance of providing comprehensive support and educational pathways for all students, considering their unique needs and circumstances.
Further, he mentioned the issue of school construction in Sir Lowry’s Pass village. He explained that a new school scheduled to open in January has faced delays, potentially affecting students and parents. The primary school has already enrolled students up to grade 8, and the delay in completing the high school could create uncertainty for these students and their families. This issue underscores the importance of effective project management and timely completion of educational infrastructure to ensure that students have access to quality education without disruption.
Lastly, he noted a broader concern about the disconnect between decision makers and the general public regarding education-related decisions. He expressed the view that some decisions are made without sufficient input from the affected communities, leading to a lack of alignment between the actions of policymakers and the needs and expectations of the public. This issue highlights the importance of community engagement, transparency, and collaboration in the education sector to ensure that decisions reflect the best interests of students, parents, and the community at large.
Mr Oscar Victor (unconfirmed) raised concerns about alleged corruption activities within an independent school in the Helderberg area, which has reportedly been ongoing since 2019. These irregularities appear to have escalated under the self-appointed directors who took control of the school.
According to Mr Victor, the current self-appointed directors were originally appointed as a task team to support the school's management for a specific period, from September 2022 to February 2023. The memorandum of understanding (MOU) and the mandate for this task team explicitly stated that they were not to replace the school's existing management. However, as the task team's tenure was coming to an end, certain individuals within the team, acting strategically and irregularly, eliminated the school's board through a questionable process. This process included the removal of the board's chairperson, the school's principal, and staff members who raised concerns about the validity and conduct of the self-appointed directors.
The situation described by Mr Victor has complicated the school's operations and potentially harmed its reputation. He emphasised the urgency of addressing these issues promptly and effectively to ensure that the school can continue its mission and provide a quality education to its students.
The Chairperson asked which grant he was referring to and Mr Victor mentioned that he was talking about a WCED subsidy grant for independent schools.
Mr Yolisa Piliso from Equal Education made several important points during the meeting. He first addressed the issue of unplaced learners, countering the statement of the Head of Department by highlighting that not all learners in the Western Cape are currently placed. He stressed the importance of the Committee being aware of this situation and emphasised that it infringes on learners' right to basic education, particularly those who are marginalised. He urged proactive measures to prevent this issue from recurring, which has persisted for more than five years.
Mr Piliso also questioned whether the MEC had reached out to the Minister to address the lack of capacity in the Western Cape regarding the placement of learners. He mentioned the potential utilisation of Section 58 of the South African Schools Act 84 of 1996, which empowers the MEC to expropriate land for school construction. He inquired whether this option had been considered and sought reasons for any decisions in this regard.
Further, Mr Piliso raised the issue of the BELA Bill. He questioned whether the WCED had sought legal opinions to understand their obligations, especially concerning ECD. He underlined the importance of clarifying the Department's obligations, considering that the BELA Bill and constitutional provisions could potentially affect learners' access to ECD in the Western Cape.
Ms Thenjiwe Makhuphula (unconfirmed) from Masivuke NPO raised several concerns and questions during the meeting. She first questioned the WCED’s decision to decline her application to Rondesbosch High School based on her residence in Khayelitsha or Gugulethu, even if she could afford to pay school fees. She sought clarification on the criteria used for such decisions.
Ms Makhuphula also highlighted her work related to school safety in collaboration with various schools and teachers. She noted that they were not working five days a week, leading to teachers' complaints, particularly due to law enforcement personnel's limited access to schools. She proposed that the WCED secure funding for organisations like Masivuke to enable them to work full five-day weeks. This, she argued, would help teachers focus on teaching while these organisations addressed safety concerns.
Lastly, she mentioned an incomplete building at Qhayiya School, stating that the Department had indicated that learners would start Grade 8 without completing the building. She inquired about the plan for finishing the construction before accommodating the learners.
An unidentified male speaker, who identified himself as a parent, teacher, union activist, and community member, addressed several concerns during the meeting. He began by emphasising the need for guidance teachers in schools, especially for students in grade 10 and grade 11 who may not have received adequate guidance before their transition to grade 12. He suggested that institutions like universities could be invited to schools to provide guidance and explain future prospects for students starting from grade 9.
The speaker raised the issue of school management and questioned the Department's response to certain cases, particularly related to principals who may not be addressing inequalities within their schools. He inquired whether the principals' continued presence might be due to the Department's consideration of equity issues.
The speaker pointed out a potential shortage of teachers in various fields and subjects. He questioned whether institutions like UWC and UCT produced a sufficient number of teachers in different subjects to meet the demand in Western Cape schools. He highlighted the importance of addressing this issue and ensuring that schools have an adequate number of specialised teachers.
He also raised concerns about learners' readiness for grade 10 and beyond and the promotion of students who may not be adequately prepared. The speaker stressed the need to focus on foundation phase education, such as grades 1 and 2, to ensure students are well-prepared for future grades.
The speaker emphasised the importance of stability in schools and expressed concerns about the number of teachers leaving the education system each year. He mentioned efforts to make non-permanent staff members permanent to improve stability.
Regarding the safety of teachers, the speaker mentioned that teachers are under attack at some schools and emphasised the need for communities and community leaders to address this issue. He cited incidents of violence in the vicinity of schools and called for serious engagement to address these challenges.
Finally, the speaker raised concerns about training, especially in different subjects, and highlighted the performance of foreign teachers in subjects like mathematics and physics. He mentioned the importance of ensuring that education messages are conveyed effectively from higher levels to those working in the field, expressing concern about the consistency of district officials and their engagement with communities.
The Chairperson announced that she would not be able to take more questions from the left hand side due to time constraints and the upcoming Public Accounts Committee (SCOPA) meeting. She emphasised that any specific concerns or recommendations should be recorded at the table with the officials outside the meeting room. She also mentioned that if anyone wanted to stay for the SCOPA meeting, there would be an opportunity for public participation. She then listed the names or descriptions of the individuals whose hands they saw on the right side of the room to ensure their questions were noted.
Right hand side
Mr Oscar Ralegoko (unconfirmed) raised several important concerns about the education system and related challenges in the Cape Winelands, Breede Valley Local Municipality.
First, he highlighted the issue of students having to travel long distances, up to 70km, to reach school in a rural area. The long commute times for learners can be physically and emotionally taxing, affecting their overall well-being and educational experience.
Another concern Mr Ralegoko mentioned was the situation at a new school in De Doorns, particularly related to transportation issues. It appears that the lack of efficient transport options hinders access to education for some students, which is a significant barrier to their learning and participation.
Corruption was another pressing issue he brought up. Specifically, he mentioned alleged corruption related to school bus tenders. The involvement of governing bodies and school principals in such activities can have detrimental effects on the school environment, leading to lower academic performance and even violence. The connection between corruption and the safety of learners is a crucial matter that should be addressed.
He also pointed out the absence of proper sporting facilities in schools and a lack of education in information and communication technology (ICT) studies. This highlights the importance of providing learners with well-rounded and comprehensive educational experiences, such as access to sports and technology education, to prepare them for future challenges.
Mr Ralegoko stressed the need for clear criteria for selecting SGBs. He expressed concern that some SGBs might prioritise financial gain and political interests over the best interests of the students and the quality of education provided. An induction process for SGB members can help ensure that they understand their roles and responsibilities.
Child safety is a critical concern in the community, with community leaders playing a role in protecting learners from gang violence. However, it appears that these individuals are not compensated for their efforts, which raises questions about the support and resources allocated to enhance child safety.
Late arrivals of students due to responsibilities like taking their siblings to ECD facilities can negatively impact their punctuality and learning experience, which might be further compounded by the challenges mentioned earlier.
Lastly, Mr Ralegoko mentioned a school without proper fencing. The absence of a fence around a school can raise concerns about the safety of learners and the accessibility of the school grounds. The lack of government assistance in addressing this issue is also noted.
In conclusion, Mr Ralegoko emphasised the urgency of addressing these educational challenges. He requested budget allocations and solutions to improve the education system and overall well-being of learners in his community.
Mr Daniel Kgosana (unconfirmed) inquired whether the education department currently regulates the profits made by schools, be they public or private. He expressed concern about the excessive cost of education and the impact of inflation on the expenses associated with sending children to school. He alluded to the possibility of schools generating excessive profits at the expense of parents. It is a valid concern to ensure that schools' financial practices are transparent and that educational institutions do not make excessive profits, putting undue financial pressure on parents.
His second question seeks to understand if there are any plans to regulate school profits in the future. He is interested in knowing whether the education department intends to introduce or advocate for regulations to address this issue. This question touches on the role of government in ensuring affordable and equitable access to quality education while keeping the cost of education manageable for parents.
In conclusion, Mr Kgosana's questions emphasise the need for transparency and accountability in the financial operations of schools to prevent financial exploitation and undue burden on parents, especially in the face of rising living costs and inflation. They also bring up the broader issue of affordability and accessibility in education, which is essential for equitable educational opportunities.
A second unidentifiable male speaker raised several important questions and concerns during the discussion.
The first question concerns whether schools in conflict areas can be brought to the same standards as schools in other regions. The speaker is concerned about equity and fairness in educational resources and opportunities and is interested in knowing if deliberate budget allocation can uplift communities intentionally.
The second question pertains to retired teachers and their wealth of experience. The speaker suggests that retired teachers could be utilised to support new teachers in schools, sharing their expertise and experience. This could potentially enhance the quality of education.
The third question centres around the current budget of the WCED. The speaker is interested in understanding the budget allocation, expenditure, and the remaining budget. This reflects the importance of financial transparency and accountability in the education system.
The last question concerns the war room meetings mentioned by the MEC, where decisions are made and actions are evaluated. The speaker is curious whether the public can access these meetings or receive information about decisions and improvements made during these meetings.
These questions reflect the public's interest in transparency, equitable education, and utilising the expertise of retired educators to enhance the quality of teaching in schools. They also emphasise the need for public participation and insight into government processes and decision-making.
In her address, an unidentifiable female speaker expressed appreciation for the dedicated education professionals and empathy for the challenges they face in the sector. She recognises that educators often work long hours, navigate extensive documents, and confront various obstacles in pursuing quality education. Her acknowledgement of their commitment and hard work set a positive tone for her speech, acknowledging the crucial role of those in the education sector.
She touched upon the need to adapt to technological advances and integrate online learning into the curriculum. She emphasised the importance of recognizing that today's learners are tech-savvy and that the education system must leverage modern tools and methods to engage effectively with them. Her insights highlighted the imperative of keeping up with innovative educational approaches to better connect with and educate students.
She delved into the critical issue of defining quality education and its role in preparing learners for future careers. She raised questions about whether the skills learners acquire align with the demands of the economy. This observation underscored the importance of ensuring that education equips learners with the skills and knowledge needed to contribute effectively to the workforce, pointing to a potential mismatch between education and the job market.
Addressing the challenge of unplaced learners, a suggestion was made for a creative solution of implementing shift schools. This concept extends the school day to provide additional educational opportunities, thereby accommodating more learners. Further, she noted the presence of unregistered independent schools catering to foreign learners, which shed light on the complexities within the education landscape and the need for comprehensive solutions.
The topic of parental involvement and empowerment in the education system was another key point in her speech. She highlighted the struggles of working parents, particularly in supervising their children. This concern reinforced the idea that creating safe and supportive environments for learners requires collaboration among different departments and communities.
A second unidentifiable female speaker raised several concerns regarding the effectiveness of the WCED's efforts to prevent fraud and corruption, particularly at collaboration schools. She criticised the Department for not adequately addressing corruption, which they claim is prevalent in some Model C schools. The speaker also expressed dissatisfaction with the pass rates in certain schools and the Department's actions in cases involving educators and principals, suggesting that they disproportionately target black and coloured educators.
The speaker called for immediate action to address issues like teachers or principals sending learners home during school hours as punishment. She also urged the Department to extend support programmes to learners with special needs, including those who may have faced traumatic incidents.
The speaker questioned the Department's ranking in national education results, arguing that if the Western Cape wants more autonomy, it should achieve better educational outcomes. She suggested that some changes could be made to improve the quality of education in the province.
The Chairperson mentioned that if individuals had not had the opportunity to ask their questions during the session, provision was made outside where these could be written down. These questions would then be addressed by the Department afterward, ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to have their concerns addressed.
Response from WCED
Mr Walters thanked the Chairperson for the comments and acknowledged that many issues were raised during the session. He emphasised that the education system does work for many learners, and there are learners from various backgrounds, including those from poor communities, who achieve satisfactory results. The key challenge is ensuring equitable outcomes across the system.
He highlighted that the Western Cape faces challenges due to the influx of people, specifically to urban areas like Gauteng and the Western Cape, which puts significant pressure on the education system.
Regarding the Rapid School Build programme and the School of Skills management, Mr Walters mentioned that there are legal reasons behind the delay, and he offered to discuss these matters offline.
In response to a question about the safety of teachers in schools with overcrowded classrooms, Mr Walters noted the importance of making the right choices for schools and addressing infrastructure challenges.
He also expressed his view that the education system in South Africa offers too many choices, and it may be more effective to focus on a few areas to ensure excellence. However, he acknowledged that the choices evolved over time and are not solely within the Department's control.
Mr Walters continued his response to various concerns raised during the session. He began by discussing the issue of unplaced learners, emphasising that there is a system outside for individuals with specific information about learners who do nit have a place at school. He stressed the Department's commitment to working with teachers and communities to address unplaced learners, particularly in grades one and eight, which serve as the entry points to the education system. He clarified that the SGBs have the authority to make decisions about admissions and exclusions, and the Department can only intervene if the SGBs act unethically or improperly.
Regarding incomplete boarding and classes, Mr Walters mentioned that his colleagues would cover those concerns, suggesting that more detailed information would be available from them.
He also addressed the role of life orientation in providing guidance to learners, acknowledging that the curriculum and subjects are not easily changed. However, he promised to raise the issue in various platforms, engage with teacher unions, and emphasised the importance of providing proper guidance to students, particularly in the life orientation subject. He encouraged the community and school governing bodies to actively raise these concerns and advocate for stronger support for learners.
Mr Walters discussed the importance of effective school leadership, emphasising the need for strong principals who can lead, organise, supervise, handle pressure, and bounce back from setbacks. He pointed out that the principal's role in a school is crucial, and appointing the right people as school principals is essential. He urged the community to focus on appointing the most suitable candidates for these positions. He suggested that it should not be a political or popular vote but a choice based on merit and competence.
Acknowledging the challenges faced in ECD, Mr Walters clarified that ECD is a function that comes to the education department but does not come with extra resources. Providing care and education in this context is challenging, especially with budget constraints. He highlighted the need to balance these responsibilities and ensure that children receive the necessary care and educational support.
Mr Walters noted that the Department has a testing plan in place for grade three, six, and nine learners. This testing plan aims to assess the learners' progress and ensure they meet the required educational standards. He emphasised that education is a complex system with various challenges. The Department is committed to addressing these issues and working with the community to achieve the best possible outcomes for students.
The Chairperson interjected, indicating that there was limited time left for Mr Walters to address the remaining questions and concerns. To ensure that all unanswered queries are adequately addressed, the Chairperson requested that any outstanding responses be submitted in writing.
The Chairperson thanked the Minister and gave him a few minutes to make closing remarks.
Minister Maynier wanted to draw the Chairperson's attention to the fact that it would be Mr Mahomed and Ms Daniels' final Annual Report. He noted that both these individuals were veterans of the Department, with a noteworthy influence on the education sector beyond the province. He mentioned their substantial contributions to education in the Western Cape and how they had impacted the future of thousands of children in the region.
Minister Maynier expressed his gratitude to them and believed that other Committee Members and the public would also share in thanking them.
The Chairperson extended her best wishes to those retiring, expressing the hope that they would remember their colleagues. She thanked the Committee Members for their robust engagement and the community members and leaders for participating in the Committee's sessions. The procedural officer noted all relevant matters and would respond to them. The Chairperson acknowledged that they could not predict the future and that it might be this term's last Annual Report session, expressing gratitude for the cooperation and relationship with the respective offices.
The Chairperson commended the Department for their achievements, including an unqualified audit, the presence of robotics and coding in schools, high expenditure rates, and improved primary and high school retention rates. She acknowledged that these accomplishments were not easy. She then mentioned the need for Members to send their resolutions in writing, with a timeline to be provided via email.
The meeting was adjourned.
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