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EDUCATION SELECT COMMITTEE
13 APRIL 2005
EDUCATION STRATEGIC PLAN AND BUDGET: DEPARTMENT BRIEFING
Documents handed out:
Department PowerPoint presentation: Budget 2005/06
The Department of Education answered Member’s questions on its Strategic Plan that could not be answered due to time constraints at their previous meeting. Officials also briefed the Committee on the 2005/06 budget. Members were primarily concerned with the Further Education and Training (FET) programme, the physical conditions and infrastructure of schools and the shortage of science and mathematics teachers. Regarding the budget, Members questioned the Department’s administration costs, the effectiveness of the School Information Management System (SIMS) in nodal areas, and the use of Cuban teaching assistants (tutors).
Ms H Lamoela (DA) said that staff in schools, especially in the Eastern Cape, were largely temporary, rather than on permanent contract.
The Chairperson said that no more children should learn under trees and asked for a timeframe on when this situation could reasonably be expected to be resolved.
Ms P Tyobeka, Department Acting Director-General, responded that the definition of ‘learners under trees’ had various meaning withing in the Department. The definition could mean students who actually learned under trees, or those that learned in any unacceptable or unsafe conditions. The Department therefore had a broad conception of those learners and saw both situations as problematic.
Mr P Benade, Department Chief Financial Officer, said the Department had compiled a School Register of Needs in 1996 and again in 2000 to assess the infrastructure of schools. The Department was currently compiling an updated Register and had allocated R30 million for this project. The updated Register would include photographs of all school buildings, inside and out. The information would be stored in a comprehensive database. The funding would largely come from external donors. The Netherlands had already contributed R12 million. The Department was confident it would be able to secure the balance of the funds from other donors.
The Chairperson asked about the shortage of science and mathematics teachers. Without proper qualifications, the teachers’ level of maths understanding would be the same as the students they taught. He cited a Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) study that showed that 55% of teachers wanted to leave the profession. If this was indeed the case, the teachers’ output was probably suboptimal.
Ms Lamoela suggested allowing maths teachers that had left the profession to return, since many of those that left were among the best.
The Chairperson said that although many good teachers existed that might not have the best qualifications, teachers should still have both the qualifications and motivation to teach. They should be both qualified and good at teaching.
Ms Tyobeka explained that many people who had gone into teaching, had done so because in the past career choices were more limited. Since 1994, teachers had had the freedom to look into other opportunities and were taking them. Therefore, they were not necessarily ‘unmotivated’. This was a large reason for the HSRC statistic. The Department was trying to attract teachers who chose teaching as their ‘first choice’.
Another problem was that in the teaching industry, teachers had few incentives to progress up the career path. Not every teacher could become a school director or boardmember. There had to be other ways to show job advancement. The Department was awarding more remuneration to teachers who stayed in the profession, and it was exploring other incentives. The insuffienciency in maths and science teachers was largely because their skills were highly marketable and the government could not compete with the private sector’s offers. Maths and science teachers were therefore more mobile. The Department was looking at South Africa’s own base of teachers rather than looking outside the country. However, if people left the teaching profession for other opportunities within South Africa, the Department did not see it as a total loss.
Mr Benade responded that it was largely ineffective to seek teachers who had left the profession to return. The greatest need for teachers was in rural areas, and those teachers that had left did not want to live in nodal and rural areas.
Ms Tyobeka said the Department was concerned with children who were in conflict with the law and that they were included under the broader unit of ‘children in distress.’ The Department jointly worked on this issue with the Department of Social Development.
Department budget briefing
Mr Benade presented an overview of the budget from 1998/99 to the projected numbers for 2007/08. In total, the 1998/99 budget was R6.5 billion; the 2005/06 budget was R12.4 billion (a 3.8% real increase from the previous year) and the budget for 2007/08 was projected at R14.5 billion. Transfer payments to higher education institutions and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) for 2005/06 were R10.8 billion, an increase of 3.5% from the previous year. The increase in higher education payments for the previous three years was largely due to inflation, which was now approximately 5%. 2005/06 marked the first year the NSFAS would spend more than R1 billion on loans and bursaries because it was now collecting interest. The Department’s operational funds and the expenditures (excluding those for higher education institutions and NSFAS), had totalled R1 634 million in 2005/06. Of this figure, R918 million had been allocated to the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) and approximately R142 million had been allocated to HIV/AIDS programmes. The conditional grants and earmarked funds for 2005/06 totalled R1.06 billion.
Department programme budgets for 2005/06 included:
- Administration, including the construction of a new Department building and development of the e-Government portal - R120 million.
- Planning and Monitoring, including the Education and Management Information System (EMIS) that collected and managed data from schools - R40 million.
- General Education, including an HIV/AIDS grant and the Revised National Curriculum Statement for teachers of English as a second language and indigenous languages - R231 million.
- Further Education and Training, including recapitalisation of the FET college sector and support for Cuban teachers of mathematics and science - R212 million.
- Quality Promotion and Development, including the NSNP. - R954 million.
- Higher Education, including transfer payments to higher education institutions and NSFAS - R10 810 million.
- Auxiliary and Associated Services, including provincial support and co-ordination initiatives - R32 million.
Ms J Masilo (ANC) asked what percentage of the Department’s budget went to administration.
Ms Masilo questioned the numbers allocated for the transfer payments to higher education institutions and NSFAS for 2005/06.
Mr Benade responded that the percentages for the transfer payments rose because of the restructuring of higher education. The Department’s administrative budget was about 20% of the total budget. This amount included expenditure on the support staff for the Minister, Deputy Minister and senior managers.
Ms N Madlala-Magubane (ANC) asked what procedures the Department had in place to monitor literacy programmes. She also asked which were the two pilot provinces for the Department’s sustainable system for budgeting, auditing and procurement.
Mr Benade said the sustainable system test pilot would examine one better-performing province and one province with more administrative difficulties.
Mr J Thlagale (UCD) said that South Africa had the responsibility to help bring about peace in central African countries, and asked what role the Department had played in this effort.
Ms Tyobeka responded that the Department had assisted the Democratic Republic of the Congo with its education system by helping set up EMIS there.
Ms Lamoela congratulated the Department on its development of a comprehensive website and asked when it could be accessed.
Ms Tyobeka said the Department website was in the pilot stage and was constantly improving. In a month or two it would be fully operational.
Ms N Mazibuko (ANC) asked to what extent the Department was monitoring the infrastructure development of schools.
Mr Benade responded that the Department had co-operated with the Department of Public Works at both the national and provincial levels. The School Register of Needs would document infrastructure development. The Department was in need of specific statistics on education that could be accessed from a central database. The Schools Information Management System (SIMS) was being test piloted in nodal areas for this purpose.
Mr M Sulliman (ANC) asked when the literacy programmes would be completed. He questioned what the Cuban teaching model looked like.
Ms Masilo said that although there were some good school buildings, they often had poor support specialists like therapists and psychologists.
The Chairperson said it was problematic that mentally disabled children were learning in the same classes as other students and that they would be better served in their own programmes. Schools should emphasize teaching in indigenous languages since students performed better in their own languages.
Ms Tyobeka said that the efforts to teach mentally disabled children in classes with other children were well intended, but there were many problems. The plan was overambitious and the Department was reflecting on it.
Ms Mazibuko asked if there were reliable HIV/AIDS statistics from the districts.
Ms A Qikani (UDM) asked about the qualifications of the Cuban tutors and if those qualifications had been tested or otherwise verified by the Department.
Mr Benade said many had asked if the Cuban tutors could communicate in English effectively. The tutors initially spoke basic English, but typically within three months of teaching, they had already begun speaking the local languages too. The tutors had not taken over the role of teachers or taken away jobs from South African teachers; they were a support to the teachers.
The Chairperson asked what kind of monitoring the Department had conducted for the NSNP since there were many problems on the ground.
Mr Benade responded that the Department was monitoring the NSNP at an increasing rate. The Department had taken the programme over from the Department of Health in April of 2004 and had had to sort out the pre-existing staff issues and fulfil the service provider contracts.
The meeting was adjourned.
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