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EDUCATION AND RECREATION SELECT COMMITTEE
7 September 2005
DEPARTMENT BUDGET AND PROGRAMMES: WESTERN CAPE DEPARTMENT BRIEFING
Chairperson: Mr B Tolo (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Briefing by Western Cape MEC
The Western Cape Department Member of the Executive Committee (MEC) gave an overview of the state of education in the province. He covered the national school nutrition programme, the provision of learner support material, the removal of ‘learners under trees’, the budget allocation for 2005/2006, and current spending patterns.
It was a popular perception that education in the Western Cape was ‘problem free’ because of the high matriculation pass rate. The truth was that the province had inherited many inequalities, and the Department had embarked on intervention strategies. The interventions included ‘Victim to Victory’ workshops, campaigns to address low numeracy and literacy levels, drug abuse interventions, maths and science projects, winter and spring schools, matric camps, common June and September examinations, curriculum cluster meetings and workshops, training of school governing bodies (SGBs), capacity-building for school management teams (SMTs), and ongoing monitoring and evaluation systems.
The Department was taken to task by the Committee about poor gender representivity in senior management.
Western Cape Department briefing
Mr Cameron Dugmore, Department MEC, briefed the Committee on the national school nutrition programme, the provision of learner support material, the removal of ‘learners under trees’, the budget allocation for 2005/2006, and current spending patterns.
Members were concerned about:
- mother-tongue education,
- the learner tracking system,
- gangsterism in schools,
- selling of school land,
- the type of food on the nutrition menu,
- payment of service providers,
- the cost of school transport,
- gender imbalance in the Department,
- companies supplying learner support material,
- the meaning of ‘schools under trees’, and
- the use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction.
Mr J Thlagale (ANC: North West) commented that sometimes the use of Afrikaans was used to exclude groups of people who were not proficient in the language. Afrikaans and English usage should grow concurrently.
Mr Dugmore responded that 98% of schools in the Western Cape had dealt with issues of access and admission. According to the Schools Act, governing bodies of existing schools determined language policy. The idea was to promote multi-lingualism. Out of 1 500 schools, 700 were Afrikaans medium schools. It was a fallacy that there were single medium schools. There were three official languages in the Western Cape: English, Afrikaans and IsiXhosa. There was a need to balance the language approach with the issue of admission. He cited a school in Saldanha that had created space for IsiXhosa learners and a teacher. The issue was thus one of accommodation and not only language. The ‘Language in Education Summit’ had endorsed mother-tongue education. IsiXhosa, as one of the official languages, had also been made compulsory. A language campaign had been mooted where EMDC teachers could be employed as itinerant teachers.
Mr Thlagale interpreted that ‘learners under trees’ meant learners in congested classrooms and dilapidated buildings. Mr Dugmore replied that three schools were ‘platooning’ in Khayelitsha. Equity and redress was needed in a situation where there were 45-55 learners in one classroom. The Department would be building two schools in Khayelitsha to ease congestion.
Mr M Sulliman (ANC: Northern Cape) remarked that Section 21 schools bought their own learning support material. He enquired whether Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) companies, ‘white-owned companies’ or Small, Medium and Micro-Enterprises (SMMEs) were supplying these schools.
Mr L Ely, Department Chief Financial Officer, explained that Section 21 schools were not bound by affirmative procurement policies, whereas non-Section 21 schools were bound by these policies. According to the policy, preference would be given to African, coloured and Indian women. Circulars had been sent to schools to buy from historically disadvantaged individuals (HDIs). Management teams had been deployed to schools to ascertain whether schools were in compliance with the procurement policies.
Mr Sulliman questioned why the Department wanted to do away with school transport in the metropolitan area when national policy stated that transport should be provided. If a Mitchell’s Plain parent wanted to school his/her child in Sea Point, how would the Department handling such an issue?
Dr M Theron, Department Director: Special Needs Education and Primary Schools Feeding Schemes, responded that the Department could not pay for that kind of transportation. They were concerned about the safety of the learners because their were lives at risk. A transport policy with more than a five-kilometre radius had budget implications.
Ms J Masilo (ANC: North West) needed clarity on payment of service providers. Sometimes SMMEs were ignored. Payment sometimes took up to one year or there was no payment from the Department.
Mr P Swarts replied that big companies were often paid timeously while small companies waited for up to a year to be paid. The Department had undertaken a needs assessment at schools regarding the number of learners and whether schools had been using stock allocated. The Department did not want to perpetuate wastage and wanted to alleviate storage problems. New service providers were procured at new schools by 1 April 2005. The Department of Health had been consulted as to how much stock to deliver. Financial systems had been changed to ensure sound financial administration. Bread deliveries at schools, for example, had to be signed and stamped daily to verify delivery. Invoices would be double-checked.
The Department stressed the importance of invoices to service providers. It was the Department’s policy to pay service providers within 30 days. It was the service provider’s responsibility to pay a sub-contractor. After a needs analysis had been completed, the National School Nutrition Programme might be extended to include high schools by April 2006. The Department was working within budget and was trying to spend the balance of the money between October 2005 and March 2006.
Ms F Mazibuko (ANC: Gauteng) asked about the subsidy for independent schools. Mr Dugmore responded that independent schools employed their own teachers and aligned themselves with the national curriculum, such as Marist Brothers, Catholic convent schools, and Islamia Colleges. Independent schools did not encompass private schools like Bishops and Herschel. The Department had allocated R34 million in transfers.
Ms Mazibuko questioned whether the printers were ready for the new curriculum in January. Mr Dugmore responded that they were on track for Grades 7 and 10 for January 2006.
Ms Mazibuko asked about the ‘lifespan’ was of a computer costing R900. Why could the Department not buy computers directly in bulk from big companies? Mr Dugmore replied that the Department had been assessing proposals from the government and the Mark Shuttleworth Foundation as they were proponents of open source software. Open source software could adapt software for different purposes.
Ms Mazibuko queried why the Department wanted to sell school land. What happened if learner numbers increased? Was the Department not trying to make a ‘quick buck’? Mr Dugmore explained that some former Model C schools had been built on ten hectares of school land, while state schools had three to five hectares. The Department needed to speed up the process of selling school property because they needed to build more schools and anticipate different patterns of public habitation. Classrooms needed to be placed where communities needed them.
Ms Mazibuko stated that more schools were needed because learners were migrating to the Western Cape, particularly to Afrikaans schools. She had observed that schools in Gauteng were predominantly English. Mr Dugmore replied that there was a backlog of schools. 65 new schools had been needed in 2004. 16 schools had been built, so they only needed 49 schools now.
Ms N Madlala-Magubane (ANC:Gauteng) asked what mechanism the Department had put in place to curb gangsterism in schools, as the situation seemed ‘out of hand’. Mr Dugmore answered that the Department had been working with the Department of Safety and Security and Social Services to deal with the problem. There were comprehensive programmes to create positive rolemodels for learners in the community. Forty schools were involved in a pilot programme, such as the Safe Schools Project, Adopt a School and Proudly Manenberg.
Ms Madlala-Magubane wanted to know whether there was any other way of tracking learners, because the union (Solidarity) was unhappy about the need for racial classification on forms. Mr Dugmore explained that there were many ways of tracking. Each learner could be supplied with a unique number and an identity photograph. The learner could be tracked through tertiary level. A loyalty programme could also be used.
Ms J Masilo needed clarity on whether the R6 million earmarked for IT infrastructure was the same R6 million earmarked for computers. Mr Dugmore replied that the R6 million was earmarked for school administration, like access to email and not ‘Mind the Gap’ programmes.
Ms Masilo needed clarity on the Ikapa R125 million loan scheme. Mr Dugmore responded that six FET colleges had been beneficiaries of the Ikapa loan scheme. Emphasis had been placed on African and rural women as major beneficiaries. These women were employed within one year of leaving college. If the economy was to grow at 6% per annum, it needed recapitalisation support.
Ms Masilo expressed her disappointment that the senior managers present were all male. She wanted to see a 50% representation of women next time. Mr Dugmore humbly accepted her rebuke. He admitted that there was a gender imbalance, but pointed out that there had been different MECs since 1994. Little transformation had taken place. A human capital strategy was needed which would include women and the disabled. He had only been the MEC for 14 months and was proud of his male colleagues’ accomplishments.
Mr Tolo asked what the Department did about weak school managers/principals. Were they trained or redeployed? Mr J Linus replied that weak managers could be assigned a ‘mentor principal’ or a ‘curator principal’, go for training or have disciplinary measures taken against him/her.
Ms Mazibuko enquired what type of food the schools nutrition programme menus contained. Mr P Swarts responded that there were 13 national warm and cold menu options. These menus were applicable to all provinces. The Western Cape was using one menu.
Ms Mazibuko questioned the amount spent on each learner in the school-feeding scheme. Mr P Swarts answered that service providers spent R1.15 in the metropolitan area and R1.25 in rural areas.
Ms Mazibuko asked how much was spent per kilometre per learner on school transport. Mr L Ely replied that cost per kilometre depended on the condition of the roads and the distance travelled. The cost was R2 500 per learner per annum.
Mr Tolo felt that learners should be taught in their mother tongue. Parents perceived English to be better, so it was time to demystify the superiority of English. The weak results in maths and science could be as a result of learners not being taught in their mother tongue. Parents needed to be made aware of this situation. Mr Dugmore responded that advocacy was needed where parents could be made aware through the media, for example. He suggested a national campaign of awareness on this issue.
The meeting was adjourned.
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