SA Council for Educators, Education Labour Relations Council, National Student Financial Aid Scheme: Annual Report briefings

Basic Education

11 October 2005
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Meeting report

EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
12 OCTOBER 2005
SA COUNCIL FOR EDUCATORS, EDUCATION LABOUR RELATIONS COUNCIL, NATIONAL STUDENT FINANCIAL AID SCHEME: ANNUAL REPORT BRIEFINGS

Chairperson:
Professor S Mayatula (ANC)

Documents handed out:
SA Council for Educators Annual Report, 2004/05 PowerPoint presentation [document available here shortly]
SA Council for Educators Annual Report, 2004/05 ( available shortly at
www.sace.org.za)
SA Council for Educators briefing
Education Labour Relations Council Annual Report, 2004/05 PowerPoint Presentation
Education Labour Relations Council Annual Report, 2004/05 (available shortly at
www.elrc.org.za)
Education Labour Relations Council: Executive Summary of Annual Report
Education Labour Relations Council briefing
National Student Financial Aid Scheme Annual Report, 2004/05 (available shortly at
www.nsfas.org.za)
National Student Financial Aid Scheme briefing
Human Science Research Council and Medical Research Council briefings:
-
HIV prevalence among SA educators in public schools
-
Predictions for Prophylaxis and Antiretroviral Therapy in SA public schools
-
Alcohol use among educators in SA public schools
-
Absenteeism among educators in SA public schools
-
Health status of educators in SA public schools
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Study of demand and supply of educators in SA public schools: Potential for attrition

Relevant Webites
SA Council for Educators:
www.sace.org.za
National Student Financial Aid Scheme:
www.nsfas.org.za
Education Labour Relations Council:
www.elrc.org.za

SUMMARY
The South African Council for Educators (SACE), Education Labour Relations Council and National Student Financial Aid Scheme reported on their Annual Report for the financial year 2004/05.

The SA Council for Educators (SACE) presented on its structure, service delivery, financial and administrative issues. Representatives reported on financial constraints in co-ordinating the actions of teachers, and restoring the dignity of the profession. Its funding surplus was due to delay in the appointment of the new Council. About 10 000 educators had registered for the Continuous Professional Teachers Development.

Members were particularly concerned with improper relationships occurring between teachers and pupils. Members also felt SACE should rethink plea bargaining where an accused has admitted some wrongdoing.

The Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) then presented on its mandate, programmes and performance, financial results, structures and research conducted among educators in public schools. The ELRC reported on significant dissatisfaction among teachers and therefore an increasing attrition rate. Many educators in public schools suffered from poor health, and there was high HIV/AIDS prevalence. Alcohol use was highest in the Northern Cape. Absenteeism was significant and teachers were not being held accountable. ELRC was faced with problems of financial sustainability unless the levy was increased.

Members expressed concern about the lack of commitment by teachers and suggested employers insist they behave in a professional manner. Hard-working teachers should also be given the recognition and reward they deserved. Clarity should be sought on the best role for principals.

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) presented its financials, objectives, and human resources, functions and focus areas. Their major business was assisting needy students at higher education level. Members asked for clarity on a number of issues, including the means test, the balance between funding in urban and rural areas, and how they administered awards.

MINUTES

SA Council for Educators briefing
The newly-appointed Chairperson of SACE, Ms A Cereseto, said that in her previous capacity as a Councillor for the last few years, they had encountered many financial constraints. She reaffirmed their commitment to the goals of ‘professionalising’ teaching by ensuring teachers continuously upgraded their qualifications. Their inability to wholly exercise oversight before August 2005 had been because of the late appointment of the new Council.

The SACE Deputy Chairperson, Ms M Jiya, added that the Council had been set up to co-ordinate the actions of teachers, and to restore the dignity of the profession in quality education.

Mr R Brijraj, Chief Executive Officer, then briefed the Committee on SACE finances, service delivery, structure and financial and administrative issues. He attributed their budget surplus to a delay in the appointment of the new Council. Staff cost of R6 million had attracted public attention, but half of that had gone into improving expertise for service delivery.

Ten thousand educators had been registered to be part of its Continuing Professional Teachers Development (CPDT) programme. Their primary objective had been to persuade educators to maintain a professional portfolio to ensure growth and be exemplary of life long learning. Educators had been struck off for sexual harassment and gender offences. The Council had networked and had organised workshops to ensure better professional ethics in schools, and was busy looking into the exam fraud raised by the Minister. They operated a 24-hour helpline and the idea was to set eventually set up a 24-hour call centre as a focal point to guide teachers. He felt delivery would be optimised if levies were increased. Advocacy outreach and research had been too slow.

SACE was administered by 25 staff. Equity and gender representivity was more than satisfactory, and staff were trained on a regular basis. SACE was also in full compliance with asset management guidelines, and only contracted out information technology personnel. The SACE register was electronically managed.

Revenue was determined on a cash received basis and they had had to rely on the Department statistics and payroll to pinpoint educators that had not paid their levies. Revamping their register and database was a priority, and they were hoping this would give information on teacher supply and demand. Other priorities were to give fine educators due recognition and reward, and to undertake specialist research to advise the Minister on policy.

Discussion
The Chairperson wanted clarity on the ‘Sefatsa’ case. What was SACE opinion on improper relationships between teachers and pupils? He felt the accused should have been dismissed and not suspended after a plea bargain. SACE should have struck the teacher off their role when he admitted wrongdoing.

Mr R Brijraj responded that the Council was resolute in its strong condemnation of gender harassment and violence. They scrutinised media reports and then conducted their own investigations. In the ‘Sefatsa’ case, a formal complaint had not been made and witnesses had not appeared at the hearing. Therefore they had entertained a plea bargain since they were unable to substantiate the allegation. The accused admitted guilt of an improper relationship and was fined R5 000, was struck-off the register and suspended for ten years, and was undergoing counselling. On introspection, the Council felt they had been quick too enter into a plea bargain and had been advised to reassess its methodology. If any new evidence came to light, it reserved the right to re-open the matter. The Gauteng Department had failed to get the evidence, and the incident had occurred in 2002. They had immediately informed the Department of the case but the latter had not dismissed the accused based on the SACE evidence.

The Chairperson wanted to know which organisations nominated people for appointment to the Council. Ms Cereseto answered that educational trade unions and higher education institutions provided nominations for the Minister to approve.

The Chairperson asked for clarity on surplus funds. How would they ensure it did not happen again? Mr Brijraj answered that they usually budgeted for a structural meeting before appointment of the new Council. This had not taken place before the end of the financial year in March and therefore there were reserves of R700 000. He felt it was a learning experience for rectification. The Minister could appoint without nominations but needed to be considerate to bigger constituencies. However if they did not nominate by the cut-off date, the Minister could act without their mandate.

The Chairperson asked if there were any similar partner organisations in other African countries. He mentioned that the Committee would soon be travelling to Ghana and Mali. Mr Brijraj answered that they have had strong contacts and links with Namibia. The Council would like to be a part of the Committee’s trip.

The Chairperson asked for clarity on their revenues. Mr Brijraj answered that income was based on membership fees.

The Chairperson asked for more on the SACE programme for professional development of teachers. Mr Brijraj answered that they ran ad hoc programmes because of inadequate resources. They had formed a partnership with Intel to teach teachers free of charge on the use of Information Technology (IT). The law did not require SACE to provide development programmes, but only to provide an oversight role. He felt SACE should be visible and assertively leading professional development. They should scrutinise and endorse programmes and give pointers. In-service training programme were being provided to teachers in need.

Ms P Mashangoane (ANC) felt the educator’s levy of R2 was inadequate in terms of the responsibility. He wanted to know who determined the amount of the levy. Had SACE registered temporary educators? What was the timeline for holding the ethics workshops? How did discipline cases reach SACE? The Committee had received reports of improper relationships between teachers and pupils in Mafikeng, and asked if SACE was aware of this.

Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) cited instances of unions refusing to deliver assessment results to a central venue and a resultant stand-off between the union and the Ministry. He asked at what point did SACE intervene as part of their mandated oversight role? The Chairperson also mentioned a stand-off in the Eastern Cape.

Ms M Jiya said there was the need for advocacy on the meaning of professionalism. If teachers were made aware of the importance of their jobs, humility might kick in. Ms C Ngobeni, SACE Registration Manager, added that registration was based on qualifications and schools were obliged to register temporary teachers.

Ms Cereseto added that they wanted to implement their mandate, but Council did not meet often and decisions were often postponed. She said SACE felt like a "slow train pushing up a hill". Educators quibbled about the R2 levy so funding had become an issue. Advocacy was necessary to make teachers aware of the SACE mandate and to pay their levy. Unions were problematic in terms of insubordination. She added that anybody could report a contravention of the Code of Conduct to the Council.

Mr K Funnah, SACE Legal Affairs Assistant Manager, added that workshops on ethics were conducted on a continuous basis. The legal affairs division was passionate about workshops on education and alternative forms of discipline. They follow complaints from the newspapers, the Department and the electronic media among others, and then followed internal disciplinary procedure. They would follow up on the report from Mafikeng.

Mr Brijraj added that the levy had only been increased once from 40 cents to R2. The Council had raised it with the Minister’s support, but they relied on the goodwill of the unions. They had promoted and advocated for World Teachers Day to celebrate the role of educators. SACE would be in a difficult position to intervene in stand-off; but could be called upon too mediate. It did not want to be seen to be interfering in labour disputes, but where unethical conduct was involved, it would investigate.

Ms M Matsomela (ANC) asked if they had ensured that the development of educators was not done at the expense of learners. Had they involved learners in the ethics workshops?

Mr B Mosala (ANC) asked if there was order in the profession. He felt SACE was incapacitated and lacked support. Teachers tended to forget they operated under a code of conduct and that it was a challenge for SACE to succeed in it mandate. In terms of contraventions of the Code of Conduct, at what point did SACE interact with the School Governing Bodies (SGBs)? Were members of the Council nominated by organisations?

Mr M Mpontshane asked if the Department directive that teachers should not be appointed as councillors was adhered to. What was a SACE view on teachers engaging in party politics?

Mr K Funnah answered that they had organised workshops on ethics for educators. However, they would need to also capacitate members of the community on ethics issues and on how to report cases. They had written to school principals regarding allegations and considered the steps taken. They had relied on feedback from the SGBs.

Ms Cereseto added that their Office asked various bodies for nominations. The Minister appointed five Council members while other groupings also nominated suitable people.

Mr Brijraj added that 18 union members and 12 others made up the Council. The Minister was then given a choice of five nominations to appoint as Chairperson. The Council had worked with the SGBs and shared information on disciplinary process. From his perspective, there was order in the profession but professional competence would take time.

Educators could not take up Councillor’s positions on a full-time basis and would need the Department’s approval before resignation. They had always encouraged educators to be patriots and had no problem with those who practice cultural, political and religious practices outside of school. Ms Jiya added that where teachers embarked on professional development during school hours, they had to provide for a substitute.

Education Labour Relations Council briefing
Mr M Govender, ELRC General Secretary, said its mandate included maintaining calm labour relations in public education through dispute resolution mechanisms. Many educators - particularly women - had graduated through the National Professional Diploma programme. Their research had indicated significant dissatisfaction among educators and resultant increasingly attrition rates, especially after redeployment. A study of 17 088 educators had revealed that 12.7% were infected with HIV. Such high prevalence was due to migratory labour practices. There was a need to find other ways to address the shortage of educators in rural areas.

It was important that educators have medical aid to pay for treatments. Alcohol use by educators was not a major problem, but was highest in the Northern Cape. Significant absenteeism of educators related to various illnesses and had to be managed properly by the provincial government. The health status of educators remained poor.

The Labour Relations Act standard as applied at disciplinary hearings. Dismissals were on the decline and this could be attributable to the fact that the Department was doing an effective job in dispute resolution. Salaries were also on the decline and if the provincial government did not pay temporary educators timeously, the situation could become explosive. The employment of temporary teachers was due to ‘casualisation of labour’ and budget restraints, especially in the Eastern Cape. Terms and conditions of employment were also being lowered.

ELRC had been supportive of learnerships and provided internships in keeping with government’s vision of increased opportunities. Their spending was well within budget and had addressed issues of asset management, supply chain and compliance.

Mr J Moshakga, ELRC Chief Financial Officer, said that as a public entity, ELRC had to comply with certain regulations and financial sustainability requirements. Negotiations were ongoing to ensure they survived financially without any increase in levy. R24 million of designated funds were in reserve to augment income. Mr M Govender added that unless levies increased, they could be problems of sustainability.

Discussion
The Chairperson asked the amount of the levy? Who determined the Councillor’s term of office? How did the SGB did manage absenteeism? He felt teachers did not have commitment to their work.

Mr M Govender responded that teachers, the Department and the union paid R1 each. Terms of office were determined by the respective organisations. In terms of the employment contract, educators needed to provide a service to a certain standard in exchange for reward from the employer. Employers were expected to empower its members to behave in a professional manner.

Mr R Brijraj added that there was a perception that the unions condoned misconduct from teachers. The role of the principal had to be addressed since the role of the SGB had brought confusion and had taken away authorisation from the school principal. It was important to reaffirm that the principal manage his/her staff.

A union representative added that because teachers were not given due recognition, many left the profession before retirement age. The focus should be on highlighting the importance of the profession. The SGBs should be made responsible and teachers be held accountable for absenteeism.

Mr M Govender added that perhaps they had to rethink employing teachers on a temporary basis and give them proper recognition. Currently teachers were given 1% of the Integrated Quality Management System (IQMS) for career progression. Previously there had been little performance management.

Ms M Jiya commented that the research on HIV prevalence and the conclusion that women were more vulnerable because of their biological make-up was a wrong premise, and should be challenged.

Mr P Mpontshane asked if attrition was due to the payment of severance packages, and if those who left had to be re-employed to cater for shortages.

Ms M Matsomela wanted clarity on the deficit and the transfer of reserves. The Chairperson asked more on the levies.

Mr M Govender responded that, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, the Department and the unions did not relate to each other, and so objectives had not been achieved. In other provinces, there had been no such disturbances and therefore success rates in achieving objectives were higher. The levy used to be R4, but the unions had insisted on this being dropped to R3.

In answer to various other queries, he said that there was no projection of a financial shortfall. Severance packages were not a driver of attrition. Those who left could not be reinstated into the same positions, but could be re-employed. Women were predominant in the teaching profession (60%), especially in the rural areas.

Mr J Moshakga added that reserves had been transferred to cover expenditure, but this was not actual income. Therefore it had not been mentioned as such in the budget statement.

Mr B Mosala asked for more clarity on labour relations challenges. Mr Govender felt that although staff were unionised, this was not responsible for negative relationships.

National Student Financial Aid Scheme briefing
Mr A Taylor, NSFAS Chief Executive Officer, said their turnover was close to R1.5 billion. Their objective was to help alleviate poverty by assisting students at higher education levels. Allocation and monthly collections had continued to increase. The maximum amount of aid had increased from R20 000 to R30 000 this year and they were aiming to provide the national full cost of study of R31 000 by next year.

Interest rates were calculated using the average inflation rate plus 2%. The value of awards had increased by 3.1% and they had managed R265 million of loan recovery for the Labour Department. About 13 000 awards had been made last year, and the average award size had increased by 7.7%. Recovered funds had increased by 24.6%. Their target for next year was to award R1.2 billion in 120 000 awards, with the additional funds from National Treasury. It was expected to recover R1 billion in loans in 2005/2006. Direct awards to student constituted 98% of budget. Administrative expenditure was at a minimum and procurement had also been limited.

Various appointments had been made in specialised, organised structures and their policy framework had been established. The NSFAS 52 full-time employees were representative. Their main function was to advise the Minister on matters relating to Student Financial Aid in terms of section 4(f) of the NSFAS Act.

Other areas of focus included extending their ‘e-business’ by using electronic loans agreement forms to hasten application processes. They were working on a strategy to comply with the new International Financial Reporting Standards. They also wanted to reach out more to the private sector and small-scale donors. Requests had been made to be exempted from the National Credit Act, so hopefully this would affect them minimally. They were aiming to make all Grade Twelve school-leavers aware of their services.

Discussion
The Chairperson wanted clarity on non-registered students having access to bursaries.

Ms P Mashangoane said she had been impressed by the work of the NSFAS in Limpopo, and felt it should have a wider reach to all financially needy students. She also wanted to know if student who continuously failed, were given awards.

Mr M Mpontshane (IFP) asked if they had applied means tests. What was done to flush out students who had cheated to get awards? Was it possible that students who had had completed studies, but were not yet working, could be blacklisted?

Ms M Matsomela asked what research had been done on organisational information analysis. Were they involved in provincial career exhibitions. She felt they needed to identify a co-ordinator to specifically reach needy students.

Mr R Bhoola (MF) asked if there was any balance between urban and rural areas in terms of beneficiaries of the scheme. How had they advertised the scheme in rural areas? Were the awards given on merit only, or were some other criteria used? He felt consideration should be given to people from the most disadvantaged areas.

Mr B Mosala asked whether they had partnerships with church organisations and if their activities created conflict.

Mr A Taylor responded that students did not have to register to gain admission, but only to receive an award. Schools had requested registration fees upfront and this year NSFAS had paid upfront on major claims. Limpopo had been one of their major focus areas and they had tried to reach as many rural areas as possible. ‘Disadvantaged institutions’ were often more understanding of needy students. Among it advocacy methods were was the use of pamphlets, radio, newspaper etc.

Students were given five years to complete a three-year study course. However, they had been sensitive to students who had genuine cases for not completing their studies. The means test was applied and upgraded annually, and parents with changing circumstance made a contribution. He admitted that there were still some "cheaters" and they had engaged the services of financial bureaus to run credit checks on students’ backgrounds. They had also engaged students to give information on fellow students in preventing fraud.

Students had to inform the NSFAS when they started working or changed their address. They had a detailed loan recovery strategy and made sure no-one was treated unfairly. Research was being done for donors on the criteria for means test, the full costs of study, and the effect of unemployment on students. There was a huge shortage of maths and science students and that was a particular focus area.

Needy students often came from poor educational backgrounds. He thus called on institutions to look at the potential of students and not just results. Most beneficiaries did not come from former Model C schools, but from poor backgrounds. A small percentage of students achieved high grades in maths and science. NSFAS gave special priority to rural students. Discussions were ongoing to ensure most awards went to lower income areas.

Non-government organisations with religious and other affiliations followed certain strict requirements. For example, the International Pentecostal Church had restricted awards to its members and therefore was not included in partnership agreements.

The Chairperson commented that since the Eastern Cape provincial government administered awards, was it possible that that province’s students had not received NSFAS funding? Did unemployed learners incur huge debts because of the interest rate?

Mr A Taylor responded that they allocated to all institutions and the Eastern Cape had received a "double bite". That province had allocated R800 000 to the University of Fort Hare. The main focus of the 5% interest rate, compared to the current inflation rate of 4%, was to avoid depreciation. Moreover, 40% of the bursary was written off if a student completed timeously and passed all subjects. The Committee would be given more material on the scheme and areas of operation.

The Chairperson suggested they put constituencies’ offices on their mailing list. He further asked for clarity on how a bursary was administered and how they applied the means test. What did the award cover?

Mr A Taylor responded that if a student qualified for an NSFAS award, the University would send the name to the NSFAS to advance payment. Means tests calculated the full costs and made allowance for living expenses. The award would be the maximum amount less the family contribution. They also managed additional funds from institutions where the full cost of study was greater than the maximum award. Some extended family members made sure student did not abuse miscellaneous funds. Excluding students on the grounds of inability to pay should be a last resort. Institutions were being encouraged to build a stock of reserves for miscellaneous student expenses.

The meeting was adjourned.

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