A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.
EDUCATION AND RECREATION SELECT COMMITTEE
26 October 2005
CONSIDERATION OF NEGOTIATING MANDATES FOR EDUCATION LAWS AMENDMENT BILL [B 23B-2005] AND PANSALB ANNUAL REPORT: BRIEFING
Documents handed out:
Education Laws Amendment Bill [B 23B-2005]
Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature Negotiating Mandate
Free State Legislature: Negotiating Mandate
KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Parliament: Negotiating Mandate
Western Cape Provincial Parliament: Negotiating Mandate
Limpopo Legislature: Negotiating Mandate
Gauteng Legislature: Negotiating Mandate
Mpumalanga Legislature: Negotiating Mandate
PANSALB Presentation to the Select Committee on Education and Recreation: PowerPoint Presentation
The Department of Education briefed the Committee on the three main issues covered by the Education Laws Amendment Bill [B 23B-2005]. The Department highlighted the importance of reading the Bill in conjunction with the South African Schools Act, 1996 and the Employment of Educators Act, 1998.
Seven of the nine provinces presented their negotiating mandates on the Education Laws Amendment Bill [B 23B-2005]. Amendments were proposed by the Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature, the Free State Provincial Legislature and the Western Cape Provincial Legislature. The KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Legislature sought clarity on a number of provisions in the Bill. The Gauteng, Limpopo and Mpumalanga Provincial Legislatures supported the Bill with no amendments.
The Department agreed to amend the long title as suggested by the Free State Provincial Legislature and prepare this for the next Committee meeting where the mandate would be finalized. The other amendments suggested by the provincial legislatures were rejected.
The Pan South African Language Board (PANSALB) briefed the Committee on its mission, vision and activities for the 2004/5 year. Committee members noticed that people were not eager to speak or study in their home languages as they felt they needed to speak English to be successful. Members were also concerned about the fact that provinces did not utilize all their official languages and that the more developed languages received more funds from PANSALB than the underdeveloped marginalized languages. The Committee also suggested that Members of Parliament should receive incentives from PANSALB if they debated regularly in their home languages. The Committed hoped to interact with PANSALB on a more regular basis in the future.
Department of Education Briefing
Adv Boshoff (Department of Education) briefed the Committee on the purpose of the Education Laws Amendment Bill. The Bill had been introduced to the Committee in its previous meeting and brought amendments to two pieces of legislation, namely the South African Schools Act, 1996 and the Employment of Educators Act, 1998. It was extremely important that the Bill be read in conjunction with these two pieces of legislation and within this framework in order to understand its contents.
The Bill dealt with three main issues. The first issue the Bill dealt with was discipline in schools and more specifically the aspect of suspension. It prescribed how to deal with the rights of the perpetrator facing the disciplinary process and the rights of the remaining innocent learners who could be affected by the actions of the perpetrator. It introduced the precautionary suspension procedure which was on the spot handling of the situation by the governing body without the permission or authority of the Department.
The responsibility to act quickly would now lie with the governing body and discipline would lie within their domain. The governing body would have to act within seven days in order not to require permission from the Department. However if it dragged out the situation and exceeded the seven days it would need the permission of the Head of Department. This ensured that the perpetrator was not unduly prejudiced in the process.
The Bill also addressed the issue of normal suspension and introduced suspension in the stage between the governing body recommending expulsion and the finding made by the governing body which may include the authority of the Head of Department. It therefore took into account both the rights of the perpetrator and the innocent learners and it provided a solution within the school where the governing body could play a direct role.
The Bill also dealt with the fact that if an expulsion had been recommended by a governing body and the Head of Department was not in agreement, it could impose an alternative sanction after consultation with the governing body or could refer it back to the governing body so that it could provide alternative sanctions. In the past the Head of Department had not had the power to provide alternative sanctions so if it rejected expulsion the learner was not punished and the effect of discipline was lost.
The second major issue could be seen in Clauses 3 to 5 in the Bill which dealt with the norms and standards and the amendments needed in order to deal with the state funding of public schools. It also dealt with the enforcement of exemptions and the rights of parents regarding schools enforcing compulsory school fees.
In terms of the norms and standards there was a new policy directive that moved away from the provincial quintile to the national quintiles. This amendment was needed in order to establish that quintiles for poor learners would now be at a national level and the distribution of poverty across the country would therefore be different in the various provinces. The old notion of provincial quintiles would be discarded and the percentage used would not reflect the poverty of the nation as a whole.
The result of the drive to make education cheaper for the poor was the introduction of no fee paying schools. If there was a threshold level paid by the state it would now be possible for the Minister to identify schools that would get the threshold limit or more and would limit the demand for compulsory school fees. This Bill was needed in order to impose this limitation on certain schools.
The Bill would identify specific schools through a process based on the quintiles and the threshold limits provided by the Department as being able to run their businesses. The businesses mentioned here referred to the funds allocated to the non-capex costs of those schools. The Bill acknowledged that one would not only find a concentration of poor learners in poor schools. Poor learners would also be found in rich schools. Therefore the concept of the individual learner still existed and those poor learners situated in schools that enforced compulsory school fees were better protected.
It also tried to establish that parents were more properly informed of their rights. This was done by introducing paper trails to ensure parents were informed of their rights before they could be taken to court. There had to be adequate proof that parents were not liable to pay schools fees so that judgements could not just be given in the absence of parents who then lost everything. The immovable property of parents was also protected so that they suffered no undue hardship. Lastly, the Bill ensured that learners could not be discriminated against because their parents could not pay their school fees. Learners would be allowed to carry on with their normal activities.
The third major issue was Clause 7 of the Bill which dealt with the issue of the recommendations of the governing body regarding the appointment of educators. The current situation was that the name recommended was the candidate that had to be appointed. This approach caused difficulties as it left no discretion to the employer and ran foul of national legislation which was applicable to all employers.
The Bill emphasised five important criteria that had to be applied when making appointments. The current legislation only took due cognisance of this five criteria while the Bill ensured that this criteria had to be taken into account and formed the basis of the whole selection criteria. The Bill still upheld the framework where a recommendation was made by a governing body in the form of a list of three names all suitable for the post. The Head of Department could appoint one of these three candidates but had to apply the same criteria. If the Head of Department felt that the recommendations had not complied with the criteria he or she could go back to all the applications and apply the same criteria to make a selection from the candidates. Or he or she could start the process anew and advertise to fill the post.
If the Head of Department referred back to the original applications he or she would only make a temporary appointment. The governing body would then be allowed to appeal against the appointment within a 14-day period. If it did not appeal the appointment would become permanent. If it did not appeal the outcome of the process would determine the final appointment. The rights of the employer and the governing body were therefore recognised and the appointment process was also speeded up.
The Bill also introduced four other clauses. Firstly, new definitions were explained. Secondly, Clause six dealt with the movable assets of schools where an inventory was now required. This was a pragmatic arrangement to ensure property belonging to schools was now well protected. Thirdly, Clause eight dealt with the conversion. This was another tool that could be used by employers to convert temporary appointments of employers who had been through the appointment process into permanent appointments. It was merely a tool and created no compulsion for employers to use it. Lastly, Clause 9 repealed a number of redundant laws.
Report by Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature
The Eastern Cape Provincial legislature (introduced by special delegate Msong) after considering the Bill resolved that due to the nature of the Bill it felt that there was a need to conduct public hearings but due to time constraints it was not possible. It resolved that the following mandate be conferred. Firstly, it supported the principles, objectives and substance of the Bill. Secondly, it proposed the following amendments. It proposed that temporary appointment be clearly defined. The conversion of a temporary appointment to a permanent appointment should be accompanied by funds and benefits. The first "of" in Clause 7 of the Bill had to be replaced by "or". The words "parent of a learner" had to be replaced by the words "any person representing a learner" so as to cater for foster parents, adoptive parents and so forth. Lastly, it further recommended that two weeks be provided to conduct public hearings before the consideration of the final mandate.
Adv Boshoff stated that he had failed to mention two aspects. During the process of passing the Bill it was subject to the scrutiny of the National Assembly and the Portfolio Committee. The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee highlighted two typographical errors in the Bill that needed to be corrected. The National Assembly approved the Bill with these typographical amendments. However, the Bill in the Select Committee did not reflect these corrections. Before the next meeting on the finalization of the mandate, the Department would prepare a formal document containing these corrections.
The first correction referred to Clause 2. Before the word "school" the term "one week seven" had to be omitted and substituted with the word "seven" without italics. Therefore the time frame would only be seven school days and not one week. The second correction was that after the word suspend "of" had to be omitted and replaced with the word "or". This error had occurred during the printing process.
The typographical errors raised by a few of the Provincial Legislatures had therefore already been addressed.
Adv Boshoff replied that regarding the request that the concept of temporary appointment be clearly defined it was important to read this concept together with the Employment of Educators Act that actually dealt with this and other employment concepts in detail. These concepts were also linked to the Personnel Administration Measures (PAM) which were part of the Employment Educators Act. The concept of temporary appointment had therefore been dealt with in detail in other legislation which all fell within this specific framework.
The Bill only dealt with the situation of the Head of Department referring back to the original applications for a post if he did not approve of the three names recommended and that this was a temporary appointment up until the appeal by the Governing Body or the absence of the appeal. The Bill also dealt with the conversion of temporary appointments to permanent appointments which were also covered in the Employment of Educators Act and PAM. The Bill only hoped to make this conversion process less costly and time consuming.
The request that the word "parent" be replaced with "any other person representing the learner" was also not required. The Schools Act already defined parents as not only being biological parents but also foster parents or any other person representing the learner in terms of this Act. The Bill had to be read in conjunction with the Schools Act.
Adv Nawa (Department of Education) pointed out that regarding the request that conversions be accompanied by funds and benefits, the Bill stated that conversions could be made but there was no compulsion to do so. The reason for this provision was that there had been instances of educators remaining at a school for five years but were still only appointed temporarily. Without the conversion provision temporary posts that were made permanent would mean that the normal appointment procedures would have to be applied which would mean that these temporary teachers could lose their posts.
The Chairperson responded that the Eastern Cape had two weeks to conduct public hearings as the meeting of the Committee for the finalization of the mandate would occur in two weeks’ time.
Report by Free State Provincial Legislature
The Free State Provincial Legislature amended the Bill as follows. Firstly, in Clause 7 after "suspend" the word "of" needed to be omitted and substituted with "or" Secondly, when referring to the long title and Clause 6 one could see that the words "disposal" and "alienation" had been used interchangeably. Thirdly the long title, which provided for what the content of the Bill entailed also referred to "movable assets" whilst the content of the Bill in Clause 6 referred to "any assets" implying both "movable" and "immovable" assets. Lastly, it was recommended that authority be conferred on the Free State delegation to vote for the adoption of the Bill.
Adv Boshoff responded that the long title used the term "movable assets" while Clause six only referred to "assets" with no description of the type of assets. This might be an issue that the Committee would need to consider.
The Chairperson was of the opinion that the words "movable assets" should be removed from the Bill and only the word "assets" should be included. The reason for this was that by including "movable assets" the school could still sell land as it was not moveable.
Adv Boshoff agreed with the Chairperson but pointed out that immovable property of schools belonged to the state already and could therefore not be alienated by the schools. However, the language use in Clause 6 and the long title could lead to conflicting interpretations. It would therefore be better to amend the long title to also reflect "assets" and would therefore be consistent with Clause 6.
Adv Nawa commented that if the term "movable assets" was removed from the long title it would mean that Section 58A (2) also had to be amended. This stated that no person may dispose of any assets owned by a public school without the written approval of a Member of the Executive Council. Public schools could only own movable assets therefore this term led to confusion. This was especially due to Section 58A (1) referring to "any assets" of a public school. He suggested that Section 58A (2) be changed from "owned" assets to "any" assets.
Adv Boshoff replied that one could become very technical regarding the immovable property of public schools due to this property being taken back by the state. There could also be situations where schools had bought their own land and this could not be taken back by the state. He therefore suggested that Section 58A be left as it was so that it did not matter what the nature of the asset was except that it was owned by the school.
Mr M Sulliman (ANC, Northern Cape) stated that this matter had to be resolved as the purpose of this meeting was that the provinces reach consensus over issues in the Bill.
Ms C Booyse (State Law Advisor) observed that the intention of the Clause was to protect and allow for the disposal of assets by public schools and certain procedures had to be followed. She was of the opinion that Section 58A (2) should retain assets "owned".
The Chairperson suggested that the Department should debate this issue and return to the Committee with their decision. However, the Committee would in the meantime take the position of the state law advisor (Ms C Booyse) unless the Department requested that they change their position in the future. The Committee agreed.
Report from KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Legislature
The KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Legislature agreed to support the Bill subject to the following questions of clarity. Firstly, clarity was required on the practicality of the proposed section 35(2) (b) which was categorizing learners into quintiles. What would be the process if a learner with wealthy parents were placed into a quintile school, and vice versa? Secondly clarity was required on the possibility of including an appeal procedure for the action taken by the school in the proposed section 41(1). The delegation was further mandated to consider any additional amendments provided that they did not alter the essential elements of the Bill and consensus was reached on the proposed amendments by the KwaZulu-Natal delegation.
Adv Boshoff replied that the Bill in the norms and standards only provided the framework for the quintile process. Once these quintiles were placed in practical situations it would lead to more sharply developed norms and standards. The Bill was just the framework and it was important to note that this framework had to be linked to the inhabitants of the school as it was the learners in the school that determined whether it had a shortage of resources. It was therefore important to link it to the natural person first of all and from there determine which schools were poor. The identification of schools within quintiles was already in place but was linked to provincial quintiles. The mere movement to national quintiles should therefore not be impossible to implement. This was also because the usage of the poverty of learners to identify specific schools was not a new idea.
The second issue raised by the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Legislature was the issue of an appeal in Section 41. The Schools Act provided that the school would be the juristic person and would therefore be the legal entity. The Schools Act referred to the school having the authority to act when dealing with the responsibilities of the governing body. Except for Section 41, the words "governing body" had been used in the current legislation. This led to confusion over the question of what the difference was between governing bodies and schools. Section 41 could be referred to as a technical amendment to deal with this confusion. The governing body would still deal with the issues but would do so on the behalf of the school and would still perform the same functions. However, Section 41 would remove confusion over whether governing bodies were also juristic persons and could therefore be sued or was it merely the functionary of the school who therefore had to be sued.
Adv Nawa (Department of Education) added that an appeal to the Head of Department in terms of the issue in Section 41 had been included in the original Act. This meant that a parent could appeal to the Head of Department if a school wished to take legal action against the parent. This meant that the appeal had already been covered.
Mr D Visser (Department of Education) referred to the request for the clarification of Clause 35 (2) (b) which referred to schools being identified according to national quintiles. The Bill proposed that only one set of criteria be used, i.e. the poverty of the community around the school. Due to this being on a national level data from Stats SA would be used. Provinces were currently busy re-ranking their schools and this re-ranking was according to the majority of parents situated around the schools. If it so happened that there were rich children going to a school that had been ranked as a poor school their parents would not pay school fees as the majority of the parents around the school were still poor. If poor children went to a school that had a majority of rich parents living in its area, the poor parents could apply to the Department for an exemption so that they would not be forced to pay school fees.
Report from Western Cape Provincial Legislature
The Western Cape Provincial Legislature conferred the authority of the Western Cape delegation in the NCOP to support the Bill with the following amendments. Firstly, Section 9(1); paragraph 2(a) (1) should be substituted with: "The governing body may suspend a learner, with reasons, who is suspected of serious misconduct, from attending school with immediate effect as a precautionary measure on reasonable grounds, provided the learner is given the opportunity to make representations to the governing body as soon as is reasonably possible but no later than 48 hours after the suspension, requesting that the suspension be revoked."
Secondly, to insert the following clause before Section 41(6): "A public school must keep a register of all parents who have outstanding school fees and have been handed over to enforce the payment of school fees by process of law, which register must detail the initial debt, interest accrued, legal costs, collection commission and other related costs."
Adv Boshoff responded that the first amendment dealt with the administrative rights of the learner. This was that a decision to suspend a learner should be taken by the governing body. The question was whether one should limit or postpone that right by allowing the governing body to give reasons only after it had made its decision or whether reasons should be given before the decision was made so that it would also influence the decision making process. A similar situation existed where teachers were discharged from service while being absent. The courts have ruled very strictly in this situation that reasons had to be given before a decision was made.
The Unions have also attacked the constitutionality of the provision that teachers could be discharged before reasons were given. The reason for its unconstitutionality was because it took the right away from the individual to influence the decision makers. Although the proposal seemed to be reasonable it involved a risk and would be influenced by the above challenges by the Unions against the Employment of Educators Act. Most importantly, the emphasis had always been that if at all possible reasons must be given before the decision was made.
However, there were situations where emergencies could arise. The normal rule of law stated that if an emergency arose normal rules were not applicable. Any person would be obliged to intervene in an emergency situation not only the governing body. Legislation for emergencies could not be made and the Bill only dealt with the normal run of the mill situations. It sought to provide for fair administrative justice in everyday situations by requiring that decision makers reflect on all relevant information before making any decisions.
Ms C Booyse agreed with Adv Boshoff. She highlighted that the Constitution in Section 33 allowed for the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act and called for administrative acts that were lawful, reasonable and procedurally fair. She therefore believed that the formulation in the Bill was preferable.
Adv Boshoff referred to the second amendment and stated that although the idea of a school register was in principle not a bad idea, it would add an administrative burden on public schools which the Committee should consider. The amendment gave the idea that due to this document being official it could be made public and could be used for legal purposes and this would also potentially conflict with the individual’s right to privacy. The creation of a School Register in the form of an official document would therefore have a number of unintended repercussions.
Ms C Booyse argued that the school had to in normal events produce records when taking a matter to court in order to prove how they came to a certain amount. They therefore usually already had these records without the existence of a School Register. The creation of an official School Register could infringe on Section 14 of the Constitution which was the right to privacy and could therefore have unintended consequences.
Ms H Lamoela (Western Cape) responded that there were two reasons why this amendment was suggested. Firstly, it had been found that unpaid school fees that were for instance only R100, would once entering the legal process escalate to for instance R1000. Secondly, school meetings preparing for the new schools fees for the following academic year had also discussed by what percentage school fees had to be raised in order to cover the legal fees of the school. This School Register was introduced in order to cover parents against these legal costs. She believed that if this document existed it would naturally be a confidential document and parents would not be compelled to have their names listed. It was reiterated that the document had been created purely to cover parents with regards to legal costs.
The Chairperson argued that the school had the responsibility to collect school fees from the parent. Parents in turn had to be aware of their responsibility to pay school fees. However the Bill contained provisions that assisted parents who could not afford to pay school fees. Parents who were able to pay school fees but did not, had to be taken to task so that irresponsibility was not encouraged on the part of the parent.
Adv Boshoff added that it was important that the Committee take into account that the reasons provided by the Western Cape Provincial Legislature were more reflective of the problem of the legal fees of attorneys. He highlighted the existence of a prescribed legal fees document for legal practices and if attorneys exceeded these fees they could be taken to the legal board and prosecuted and punished. Secondly, if the Register was going to be confidential it defeated the whole purpose and would only be an administrative burden.
Ms H Lamoela (Western Cape) disagreed and argued that the confidentiality of the document related to the right to privacy of the person.
Ms Vilakazi (KwaZulu-Natal) stated that those parents who could not pay school fees due to certain events such as the death of a spouse should be required to explain themselves to the school and be considered by the governing body.
The Chairperson reiterated that if a parent could not pay school fees due to their situation that included events such as the death of a spouse they could apply for exemption. The Bill covered all parents who could not pay school fees. This issue dealt with parents who could pay school fees but did not.
The rest of the provinces in the Committee agreed with the State Law Advisor’s opinion that the amendment should not be made.
The Chairperson ruled that the amendment would not be accepted due to this being the decision of the majority of the provinces.
Report from Limpopo Provincial Legislature
The Limpopo Provincial Legislature (Mr Thlagale: North West) recommended that the Limpopo delegates in the NCOP support the Bill as introduced in the National Assembly.
Report from Gauteng Provincial Legislature
The Gauteng Provincial Legislature (Ms Mazibuko) had received inputs and submissions from stakeholders and members of the public in line with the Legislature’s Constitutional obligation of facilitating and promoting public involvement in the legislative process. The critical amendment introduced by the Bill from the viewpoint of members of the public and stakeholders was the determination of quintiles by the Minister. This amendment was highly appreciated as it would enable more learners to access education particularly those from poor social backgrounds.
The Gauteng Provincial Legislature supported the principle and detail of the Bill for the following reasons. Firstly the amendments introduced adequate systems for the administration of justice in schools. It gave the Minister powers to determine norms and standards for school funding which would bring equity across provinces. It distinguished between access to learning and the ability to pay and protected the rights of poor parents and school assets. The provision on the employment of educators would introduce a number of efficiencies.
Report from the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature
The Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature supported the Bill as it stood, notwithstanding the fact that the Bill had to clarify the role of the Principal versus the Head of Department, and the School Governing Bodies on matters dealing with the running and management of the School. It conferred authority on the Mpumalanga delegates in the NCOP to vote in favour of the Bill.
The Chairperson reiterated the fact that those provinces that had not submitted Negotiating Mandates would not be allowed to submit any amendments at a later stage.
He requested that the Committee receive the table of quintiles that had been compiled. He referred to a newspaper article that argued that no fee schools were merely a farce as parents still paid money for school uniforms and the transportation of their children. What was the Department’s view on this issue?
Adv Boshoff responded that there were no legislative provisions that made school uniforms compulsory. School uniforms rested on the decision of parents. Learners who did not comply with the rules of school uniforms were not punishable by law unlike parents who were compelled by law to pay school fees. Subsidies only existed for children that lived more than one and a half hours away from their schools in the form of transport or hostel facilities. Transport provisions therefore did exist but one could question the level of these subsidies. The main issue was that poor parents could now say that they had access to free education for their children due to the creation of non fee paying schools.
Mr M Gustaffsen (Department of Education) highlighted that the Tables of Quintiles was available in the norms published for public comment in September in the Government Gazette.
Adv Boshoff stated that if the Committee agreed the Department would amend the long title as suggested by the Free State Provincial Legislature and prepare this for the next Committee meeting where the mandate would be finalized.
Ms C Marivate (Chief Executive Officer of PANSALB) briefed the Committee on the activities of PANSALB. Its slogan was "one nation, many languages" where language was the common denominator that linked all people in all spheres. Its vision was to achieve the equal status and the use of all the official languages. Its mission was to achieve the recognition, implementation and the furtherance of multilingualism.
PANSALB conducted a number of activities during the 2004/5 year. The focus areas, the objectives and outputs of these activities were discussed in great detail. Some of the focus areas of PANSALB was status language planning, language in education, translation and interpreting, linguistic human rights and mediation, the development of marginalised languages, standardisation and terminology development, literature and the media, lexicography and literature and the media.
PANSALB conducted its activities through a number of bodies including National Lexicography Units (NLUs) and National Language Boards (NLBs). One of the most important bodies created by PANSALB was the Provincial Language Committees (PLCs). The PLCs had been established in all nine provinces and they promoted and ensured the use of languages in the provinces. One PANSALB Provincial Manager had been appointed for each province and there were also PANSALB offices in every province.
Ms A Qikane (Eastern Cape) enquired how PANSALB conducted their programs in rural areas that did not have access to electricity as most of its programs required computers. An example was the rural areas in the Eastern Cape.
Ms Marivate responded that the PANSALB programs had been designed specifically for public servants in municipalities, the safety and security sector and the health sector. This was done by approaching the front desks or entry points of these offices to check if the public officials at these desks understood other languages. While some of these officials understood some of the official languages most of them did not. They therefore provided a program that public officials could access on their computers through the internet. These officials could with the assistance of unemployed language professionals acquire knowledge of about 300 words so that they could communicate on a basic level in all the official languages. This program therefore did not target rural people. If public servants did not have access to electricity PANSALB would have to make a plan to ensure that public officials were granted access to the program.
MTN saw the PANSALB program and had bought it for schools they had adopted in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. PANSALB had not personally visited these schools in order to see how the program had been implemented. However, these schools must have had electricity in order to use the program.
Ms F Mazibuko (Gauteng) commented that each province had its own dynamics and own official languages. However, offices and documents in the provinces were only using one of their official languages. To what extent was PANSALB requiring that provinces use all their official languages in their offices and documents instead of just one or two of them? Secondly, Ms Marivate had mentioned that African people were not learning their own languages while other national groups were learning these African languages.
The Minister of Education had also said that indigenous languages should be used as first languages in schools with English then becoming a second language. To what extent had PANSALB been assisting the Department in achieving this aim? Many African parents believed that their children had to study in English so that they could find work one day; this was leading to the neglect of home languages. Parliament had also neglected to use the other official languages and the translations of Parliamentary debates and documents were extremely poor. To what extent was PANSALB planning to get people to be proud of their home languages and to use them more often and to move away from the belief that they had to use English to be successful?
Ms Marivate replied that the problems regarding the language dynamics of provinces were being addressed by PANSALB through the Draft National Language Policy Framework which required provinces to come up with their own language policy frameworks. Gauteng was still a challenge as although the majority languages had been selected on the basis of research done in the provinces there were still a number of speakers of the other official languages due to everyone converging in Gauteng. She suggested that a rotation model be adopted based on the national language framework so that annual reports and newsletters of the legislatures and government departments could be published in the other official languages on a rotation basis.
With regards to officials interpreting and translating languages, PANSALB had agreed to work with the Hansard section and also to request to present to the Portfolio Committee on Arts and Culture to improve the translations of the Gauteng Provincial Legislatures.
PANSALB also hoped that other provinces would be encouraged to adopt a rotation model after studying the statistics provided by Stats SA.
PANSALB also had a relationship with the Minister of Education where it showed her the research it had done and the results, which showed that if the African language policy was adopted in schools, what the outcomes would be. The various Committees would also provide assistance in implementing this policy. A number of projects conducted by PANSALB had also shown how African languages could assist learning. For example it funded a project where students at university level were taught Chemistry in both English and IsiZulu. The students’ marks improved to a great extent as it increased their understanding.
PANSALB had also met with the Principal of the University of the Western Cape and indicated to him the problems regarding language. He attended a maths lecture and compared his notes with those of the students who had attended the lecture and saw a great difference between the two. Notes containing Xhosa and Afrikaans terminology had been given to the students to help them understand the subject better.
All these projects assisted the Minister in deciding to adopt the African language policy in schools. The challenge would be to introduce this policy at the lower school levels so that this policy could be sustained at the higher education levels. Due to the limitation of funds, PANSALB had written to the Minister asking to be allowed to become involved in the projects that would produce the learning material so that it could use its language bodies and committees to support learning.
PANSALB had also tried to promote pride and interest in official languages by launching competitions. Learners were given incentives to write in their mother tongues and teachers were also encouraged to make sure their learners studied their home languages. PANSALB had also brought officials to schools that studied in their home languages to show learners the job opportunities that existed and that home languages were useful and not inferior. An example was a person who had opened his own company where he translated documents for government institutions. Educators also needed to be told that the country was aware of the conflict between the economy and other languages; however it should not be used as an excuse to discourage learners from learning in their home languages. PANSALB also gave incentives to schools that encouraged learning in home languages.
Model C schools posed a challenge in this regard. PANSALB had introduced a reading competition in some Model C schools where learners were required to read books in their mother tongue. However, most learners brought English books and refused to read in any other language. PANSALB hoped that the Language Committees together with the provincial managers and unemployed language professionals would be able to infiltrate and work with officials in provinces to reach the communities to promote the use of home languages.
Ms J Masilo (North West) highlighted that the Department of Education in Gauteng only used English in Sports. The Home Affairs Offices provided all their documents only in English excluding all the other official languages. What were the possibilities of both these institutions including the other official languages?
Ms Marivate answered that it was true that these institutions only used English and PANSALB had received many complaints from the public. It had a Committee consisting of board members that heard language rights violations. These hearings were also used to sensitize officials and assist in solving the problem. For example, if the officials stated that they did not have anyone to translate their policies and documents the staff of PANSALB would do so. PANSALB would also assist in drafting or formulating language policies. Language rights complainers assisted PANSALB in determining which Government departments were marginalizing people by not providing access to documents in their home languages.
Mr J Thlagale (North West) did not pose any questions but wished to share his experiences on language with the Committee. It was an educational theory that a child learnt better in his own mother tongue. However, in 1953 the Bantu Education Act came into effect which led to learners being compelled to learn in their mother tongue. This occurred while the liberation struggle was at its height. Many people who were now forced to study in their mother tongue had referred to the Bantu Education Act as a "Back to Barbarism Act" as they believed it had closed the door to international opportunities. Many people felt it was better to study international languages.
He had also worked in the language services section of his homeland in the past where he had translated English and Afrikaans documents to Tswana and had also created terminology that was used freely today. He had also attended a workshop in Rustenburg recently that was organised by the University of the North West. The workshop had dealt with terminology that had been used by Parliamentarians. This workshop had been very successful and was an example of the attempts being made to ensure the development of the other official languages. However, there were still many instances where translations were not correct. He had also personally avoided debating in Tswana as the translations were never correct.
The Chairperson highlighted the problem that many authors wished to write books in their home languages but did not receive any sympathy from publishers who refused to publish these books as they argued no one would read them. What needed to be done to get publishers to publish books in the other official languages so that people could read in their mother tongues? Secondly, the promotion of official languages needed to begin in Parliament due to it commanding a great deal of influence amongst the public. There was therefore a need for some form of incentive to get Members of Parliament to debate in their mother tongues. Could this not be a possibility in the future?
Ms Marivate replied that it was true that the publishing industry had focused particularly on the school market in the past and creative writing had suffered. PANSALB had writers’ associations and had formed reading clubs. But the challenge was to work with the Publishers’ Association of South Africa; however this was difficult as international publishing companies were still focusing on their bottom lines and were not sympathetic. PANSALB decided on a strategy where it did not rely only on the big companies but rather indigenous publishing houses were also encouraged to learn lessons from other African countries that had successful publishing houses. Through the program of unemployed language professionals, PANSALB had managed to receive funding from the Limpopo branch of the Twine University of Technology. The University had used R3 million to train people on how to start their own small businesses. PANSALB hoped that the trainees would open up their own independent publishing houses that would support more indigenous writing.
PANSALB had also approached press associations and institutions of higher learning to find out how these institutions could assist PANSALB. For example Unisia had published a collection of essays written in students’ home languages; however this had stopped due to lack of funds. PANSALB had also begun speaking to various publishing houses at universities in the hope of working with them in the future as well as to aid PANSALB in resuscitating publishing houses that had done good work in the past. Lastly, the English National Language Body had also written a submission to PANSALB that tried to find out if a partnership could not be created with the Department of Trade and Industry to assist PANSALB in approaching multinational businesses to assist with publishing costs or book costs so that a culture of reading in home languages could be established. Government could also establish a printing house to aid writers in publishing their work. PANSALB would continue trying to solve these problems.
PANSALB had in the past provided certificates to Members of Parliament who debated in their mother tongue. However, its marketing department would be approached to see if cash incentives could be provided.
The Chairperson also noted that PANSALB spent a great deal of funds on the more developed official languages such as Afrikaans rather than distributing funds to the less developed languages. Should there not be an equitable distribution of funds especially to those least developed languages? What was the rationale behind PANSALB’s funding? He also recognised that 90% of the complaints that came to PANSALB were from Afrikaans speakers complaining about the use of English. However, African people suffered a great deal more that Afrikaans people as most of them could at least understand some English as it was taught in Afrikaans schools. Why did the African people not complain and what could be done to get them to speak out more? Lastly, PANSALB’s budget appeared to show a surplus of funds. Did this surplus exist and if so what was the amount?
Ms Marivate responded that in the 1990s, the Board had created an eight-year plan to reduce the grant given to Afrikaans without killing what already existed and to accelerate the funding of the other nine official languages. This strategy was incremental in nature and as the budget increased the grants paid to the official languages would also increase. This funding went hand in hand with staffing. As staffing increased in the provincial committees, so did the funds given to these committees to spend on the development of languages. PANSALB hoped to accelerate the funding of the nine other languages.
In the past the policy regarding the funding of official languages especially with regards to dictionaries was that of equitable distribution where the more marginalized languages did not receive preference. However, at the present moment if funds were limited, preference was given to projects around the marginalized official languages. Recommendations would also be made to the board to apply this policy within the dictionary units. However, it was important to note that in the past the marginalized official languages had seemed to work so hard with their funds that they performed better than the more developed official languages.
She acknowledged that most complaints made to PANSALB were from Afrikaans people and it reflected the struggle between English and Afrikaans. However, PANSALB was required to hear all complaints although the Complaints Committee acknowledged the fact that Afrikaans was not the only language and the Afrikaners as citizens of South Africa had to be prepared to learn other languages. This was why the program was started by PANSALB in the public service where many Afrikaans public officials were encouraged to learn other languages. Low literacy levels were also a reason for people not being aware of their rights and PANSALB had launched a language rights awareness campaign which had actually not produced positive results as not many complaints from African people had been received. PANSALB felt that other issues such as poverty, health, and housing were much more prominent than language issues. Surveys had shown that although people felt that language was important they felt that government should not give more money to this issue as they needed housing, health care and so forth.
PANSALB had received a grant of R24 million the previous year. It did not have a surplus as any amounts that appeared to be a surplus had already been committed to a number of projects that were not paid once off but in a number of stages. The lexicographical units of PANSALB that did not perform well in terms of managing their finances had their funds frozen. These funds were only released once the units had corrected their mistakes. PANSALB had actually exhausted its budget and would receive additional funds in the following year.
The Chairperson stated that unfortunately due to time constraints the meeting could not be properly concluded. However, he thanked PANSALB for their presentation and congratulated them on the fact that they had an unqualified audit report. The Committee hoped to interact with PANSALB much more in the future.
The meeting was adjourned.
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