Report of Ministerial Committee on Rural Education and adoption of Minutes

Basic Education

13 June 2005
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Meeting report

EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
14 June 2005
MINISTERIAL COMMITTEE ON RURAL EDUCATION: BRIEFING

Chairperson: Professor S Mayatula (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Ministerial Committee Report on Rural Education

SUMMARY
The Department briefed the Committee on their report into rural education. The report contained practical recommendations to help the national and provincial Departments of Education develop an integrated, multi-faceted plan for improving the quality of education. It had been drawn up after consultations with officials from the national and provincial departments, interviews with key stakeholders, and a process of public hearings.

The Committee congratulated the Department on the comprehensive and relevant report. Members raised concerns with regard to transport, hostel schemes versus learner lodgings, the meaning of ‘quality of education’, the establishment of agricultural schools, and further incentives for teachers.

MINUTES

Ministerial Committee briefing
Professor Ben Parker (Chairperson) and Dr Anel Gordan (Member) of the Ministerial Committee gave the presentation. Professor Parker was also Chairperson for the Centre for Education Policy Development, Evaluation and Management (CEPD) at the University of Fort Hare, and Dr Gordan was also a farmschool specialist, Associate of the CEPD, Research Co-ordinator and main report drafter. They outlined highlights of the long report, such as the practical recommendations to help national and provincial departments develop an integrated, multi-faceted plan for improving the quality of education. The report had been drawn up after extensive consultations with Department officials, interviews with stakeholders like trade unions, farmers and farmworkers, and extensive public submissions.

Discussion
Mr G Boinamo (DA) asked whether they were recommending the establishment of agricultural schools. Professor B Parker explained that the Committee had not meant that rural schools should become agricultural schools, but that they should emphasise environmental education in all schools. The school nutrition programme should help communities establish their own vegetable gardens. The learners would thus engage in practical activities, and the local economy would be boosted through the selling of vegetables. The schools that had successfully implemented Eco-Schools Projects had seen a transformation in the environments and ethos of their schools.

Ms P Mashangoane (ANC) stated that farmers needed to provide school buses. Ms D Nhlengethwa (ANC) wanted to know why buses provided for Model C schools in rural towns could not also pick up children from other farm/rural schools when they passed them on the road. Professor Parker suggested that the transport system be further rationalised. Local taxi-drivers could provide economic growth in rural areas. In-depth research was needed on the cost of transport schemes.

Ms Nhlengethwa asked whether former Model C schools could be merged with rural schools if enrolment at the schools declined. Professor Parker valued the Member’s recommendation and promised to relay it further.

Ms H Zille (DA) needed clarity on ‘quality education’ in terms of the learner’s ability to read, write and calculate at the appropriate level irrespective of economic background. Professor Parker admitted that this needed more research. ‘Quality’ was currently understood in terms of outcomes and learner achievements. There was no concrete substantiation for assessing learner competence.

Ms Zille took exception to the ‘one size fits all’ approach, as farmschools were different and some ran more effectively than urban schools. Professor Parker admitted that the ‘one size fits all’ approach did not work. Each province operated differently and the Department did not prescribe solutions.

Ms Zille questioned the Committee’s recommendation for reintroducing the hostel system. Would this clash with community initiatives? Mr B Mosala (ANC) mentioned the provision of hostel accommodation in the Free State to prevent children having to walk long distances. Had this had any impact on education in the area, and could it be copied in other provinces?

Professor Parker responded that not enough research had been done in this regard. At anecdotal level, the Free State hostel accommodation situation had been successful. However, some children had been deemed too young to be accommodated in a hostel environment. Hostels could be replicated in other provinces, but needed to be balanced with ‘lodgings’. Accommodating children in lodgings would boost the cash circulation in the local economy. The suggestion of lodgings was valuable and would be passed on.

Mr Mosala wanted more clarity on ‘historically advantaged schools’. Professor Parker explained there was a a distinction existed between Section 20 and Section 21 schools. Richer parents could afford to pay higher fees, to employ more teachers and pay for more resources at the Section 21 schools (S21), while poor communities in rural areas could not do the same at Section 20 schools.

Mr Mosala asked whether there were extra incentives for teachers working in rural areas. Dr Gordan agreed that there were additional costs to teaching and learning in rural environments. High quality teachers needed to be attracted and retained.

Mr Mosala questioned whether there was a different curriculum for rural schools. Professor Parker replied that there was not.

Mr I Mfundisi (UCDP) enquired whether teachers travelling long distances to work would be given housing subsidies like their urban counterparts. This question was not answered.

Mr Mfundisi observed that teachers were often ‘migrant workers’ and not part of the local communities. Professor Parker explained that the Committee recommended the Department offer four-year education bursaries to matriculants if they would return to teach in rural communities. Such graduates would be more likely to stay because they were part of the community, culture and traditions.

Ms L Maloney (ANC) emphasised the need to integrate traditional customs with the teaching curriculum. Professor Parker also supported integrating indigenous traditions with the timing with school holidays. He strongly recommended that local languages be used in the foundation phase of learning. There was a dichotomy between mother-tongue instruction and the democratic rights of parents to choose the language of instruction.

Ms Nhlengethwa felt forestry should be included in the curriculum so students could be absorbed into this industry. Professor Parker welcomed this and felt the national curricula should include small-scale farming and forestry in a broader, more flexible approach to education.

The meeting was adjourned.

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