A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.
EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
8 May 2001
NATIONAL SCHOOL REGISTER OF NEEDS: BRIEFING
Mr R P Z Van den Heever
Documents handed out:
Tirisano Priority 4:End Physical Degradation in Schools
Factors which contribute to reduced service delivery
Expenditure trends presentation document
Overview of current programmes
Briefing on National School Register of Needs: Survey 2000
National School Register of Needs: Survey 2000
Department of Education: News Bulletin, Volume 4 Issue 3, April 2001
The Department briefed the Committee on the current state of affairs at schools and how they are addressing problems. The feasibility of comparing information captured in the National School survey in 2000 against that of the1996 survey was questioned as a different data capturing method was used in each survey. Members were also shocked to learn that funds that had originally been donated to education had been allocated elsewhere by the National Treasury.
Department of Education
National Schools Survey
Ms Lulama Mobobo and Dr Charles Sheppard delivered the briefing. Ms Mobobo proceeded to give the committee a summary of the main findings of the National School Register of Needs survey conducted in the year 2000. The survey was the result of information gathered by means of a questionnaire that principles had to complete. Independent contractors had done the last survey in 1996. The purpose of the survey was to collect information and to update all data fields.
The survey was conducted over a total of 27148 schools throughout the country. Ms Mobobo stated that there had been a general decline in the number of learners in schools at present. The learner-educator ratio had dropped generally in the country with the exception of the Gauteng and the Western Cape where it had increased.
The number of shortages in classrooms by schools had declined since 1996 from 49% to 40%. The provision of facilities and equipment for sanitation, telecommunications and power had generally improved over the last four years. The condition of school buildings had deteriorated since 1996 and this was an indication of the lack of investment in buildings. The increase in the number of computers and media centres in schools has been minimal since 1996 with the exception of the Gauteng and the Western Cape seeing major increases.
A survey of criminal incidents at schools showed that burglaries, assault and serious crimes was at its highest in the Eastern Cape and Kwazulu-Natal. What was alarming was that more than 293 schools had reported more than two incidents of serious crimes such as rape and murder.
Ms Mobobo stated that generally infrastructure in schools had improved over the last four years, as fewer schools were unfit for education. However, certain challenges had emerged to improve on infrastructure in rural and remote areas.
Dr Charles Sheppard proceeded to give the committee a brief overview of the Department's activities. Tirisano Priority 4 was a project undertaken to improve the level of investment in school infrastructure, to develop a policy for capital investment in the provinces and to improve integration between government departments. The Department thus had to compile information on expenditure trends in various areas such as land acquisition, acquisition of new buildings and the maintenance of current buildings.
Some of the Department's current efforts are as follows:
(i) The reconstruction of flood damaged schools
(ii) Programmes for the construction of school facilities such as Thula Makote project - to build multi-purpose education and community centres
(iii) Projects for the electrification of 1700 schools per annum
(iv) Programmes to improve planning capacity
(v) The development of a policy for sanitation
The Department is also engaged in efforts to improve their planning and service delivery. The lengthy tendering process, high frequency of contractors, lack of financial reporting and the non-planning of maintenance functions have been identified as contributing to reduced service delivery. Attempts are being made to fast track the tendering process, to develop effective financial reporting systems and to implement a policy for maintenance.
Prof L Mbadi (UDM) asked why the process of rebuilding of schools damaged by tornadoes in 1997 in the Eastern Cape was taking so long. He also stated that in rural areas sanitation is lacking as many communities still use the pit system of toilets. What is being done to address the issue?
Dr Sheppard stated that the National Treasury had used funds for the repairing of roads that had originally been donated for the rebuilding of schools in the Eastern Cape. Members were shocked to hear this. He did however add that the European Union had donated R29m for the rebuilding of schools in the Eastern Cape. Ms Mobobo stated that they had installed a few new toilets in the Eastern Cape. She added that some of the pit toilets being used were structurally dangerous and that they should be closed down.
Ms Nana (ANC) referred to criminal incidents in Kwazulu-Natal and stated that the issue goes beyond criminal activity. She asked whether the Department had been interacting with the department of Health to address the issue of the psychological effects of violence on children. She felt that it was not a safety and security issue but rather a health and education issue.
Ms Mobobo stated that the Department is engaged in a programme with the department of Safety and Security to deal with the issue of crime in schools in the nodal areas. She conceded that they do not have a dedicated programme with the department of Health on the psychological effects of crime on children.
Dr B Geldenhuys (NNP) stated that independent observers had conducted the 1996 National Schools survey whereas school principals provided the survey information in 2000. How reliable is it to compare the results of the two surveys given the divergence in the sources of information. He also stated that the present Article 21 schools use trust funds to maintain their school buildings. Mr Geldenhuys was concerned that government wishes to implement a Bill to eradicate trust fund mechanisms as the above.
Ms Mobobo stated that the 1996 Survey cost the Department R11m. It was beyond the Department's budget to incur such expenditure, as it would have most probably cost close to R20m. The Department conceded that the 2000 survey could have a subjective feel to it as principals would have the tendency to present matters worse than what it was in reality.
Dr Sheppard stated that he was not aware of the trust fund issue. He asked Mr Geldenhuys to enlighten him further on the issue after the meeting.
Mr I Vadi (ANC) asked to what the Department ascribes the decline in enrollments in seven of the nine provinces.
Ms Mobobo stated that the decline has mostly been at grade 1 entry level. Some of the factors contributing to the decline are the decline in fertility rates and in literacy levels of females.
Mr S Ntuli (ANC) stated that farm schools seem to be a great challenge to the Department. How many "unfit for education" schools are there?
Ms Mobobo stated that the Department does not have a norm for what is to be classified as an "unfit for education" school. What the Department has focussed more on is the conditions of buildings of schools rather than the educational aspect per se.
Mr L Kgwele (ANC) stated that the Department had been struggling to get signed agreements with farmers to allow the Department to move into their farming areas. What specialised work is being done to address the issue? Is clustering of schools an option?
Dr Sheppard stated that clustering is being considered as an option. Funds have been provided by the European Union to develop a model in this regard. Farmers have been reluctant to enter agreements as they have concerns over issues like the provision of buildings, water, electricity and sanitation to such schools. He stressed that negotiations with farmers are ongoing.
Ms J Benjamin (ANC) asked whether the Department has in the designing of schools taken violence into consideration. She added that in the Western Cape prefabricated school buildings are common even though crime in these areas is high. Crime ridden areas should have schools that are more securely built to make it more difficult for thieves to gain access to them.
The meeting was adjourned.