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EDUCATION AND RECREATION SELECT COMMITTEE
10 May 2006
DEPARTMENT STRATEGIC PLAN 2006-2010 & BUDGET AND OPERATIONAL PLANS 2006/07: BRIEFING
Documents handed out:
Department of Education Strategic Plan 2006-2010 & Budget and Operational Plans 2006/07
Information on spending on no fee schools
The Deputy Minister and Department of Education presented their strategic plan for 2006-2010 and Budget and Operational Plans for 2006/07. The Committee raised the issues of mother tongue tuition, management problems in schools, conditions in no fee schools, participation by parents in school governing bodies and the School Nutrition Programme.
Deputy Minister of Education briefing
The Deputy Minister, Mr E Surty apologised because he would leave in the middle of the meeting to attend another meeting with the Minister. He also apologised for the late distribution of the Strategic Plan.
The Deputy Minister stated that the Strategic Plan 2006/07 holds no radical departure from the Strategic Plan 2004/05 but refines and consolidates the earlier plans.
The Department of Education is, amongst other, involved in the following activities:
-Improving higher education
-Recapitalising the higher education institutions. R1.9 billion has been budgeted for this use.
-Developing FETC (Further Education and Training) colleges
The Department of Education has already:
-Improved the curriculum in schools
-Established 50 FETC colleges
-Put sophisticated ICT (Information and Communication Technology) systems in use at schools
The Department of Education will in the future:
-Develop teacher’s skills. The Department and the union have already agreed on Phase 1 of this plan.
-Improve the population’s literacy. Development cannot be expected if people do not get a good foundation in schools. Many schools do not even have a library. The Department had started a literacy campaign and the Embassy of Netherlands has donated R40 million for this purpose.
-Create a stable environment in schools
-Conduct oversight evaluation where the provinces must report to the Department monthly on building of new schools/classrooms, sanitary conditions and other developments.
Department of Education briefing
Mr D Hindle (Director-General) gave the briefing that covered the Strategic Plan 2006-2010 and Budget and Operational Plans 2006/07 (See document). He noted that the target of a maximum of 85% on personnel expenditure was achieved as only 79% of budget was currently being spent on salaries.
Ms N Madlana-Magubane (ANC, Gauteng) was concerned because in some areas, learners have to travel long distances to find a school that teaches in their mother tongue.
Mr T Setona (ANC, Free State) highlighted the paradox that learners have a right to be taught in their mother tongue, yet schools that teach in for instance Afrikaans were criticized for excluding others.
Mr M Thetjeng (ANC, Limpopo) had discovered that in historically black areas, learners were taught in their mother tongue only from first to third grade, while a second language was introduced earlier in English-speaking schools.
Mr Hindle acknowledged that these were complex issues and that the schools themselves decided the language policy. The government wanted the learners to be taught in their mother tongue yet they did not want ethnic schools.
The Chairperson said it was a problem that some people equated English with intelligence.
Mr Hindle thought that every school should at least offer one African language.
Mr Setona asked to what extent learners in grade one to three could make a choice.
The Chairperson answered that parents choose for them.
Ms Madlana-Magubane noted that some parents did not know their role and followed the teacher’s recommendations. The communities were often also ignorant.
Ms J Vilakazi (IFP, KwaZulu-Natal) asked why some black children had to learn three languages: English, Afrikaans and an African language.
Mr Hindle said that they had to if a majority of the parents at the school had decided so.
Mr M Sulliman (ANC, Northern Cape) said that services provided for the learners at the no fee schools were lacking; no nurses were visiting for instance. He asked if national or provincial authorities were responsible for the feeding schemes that were discovered in the Northern Cape.
Mr Thetjeng asked what was being done about the unequal conditions at schools. He was concerned about decreases in teachers’ salaries since there were shortages of teachers in sciences and maths. Also, learners could not choose their desired topic because of lack of equipment. He also thought there should be fewer but better equipped FETC colleges.
Mr Setona pointed out the problem with management and leadership in schools; the lack of infrastructure and transport that made it difficult for some kids to go to school and the problem with some schools not allowing African languages to be taught.
Ms Vilakazi said that the Department should produce a detailed plan to address the situation in the various schools.
Mr Hindle noted that there were detailed plans for the situation in the various schools. The Department was currently developing a list of schools that did not allow African languages and the IEC (Independent Electoral Commission) would oversee governing body elections at schools. He further noted that 20% of the learners attended no fee schools and that the total number of fee free schools was 2 900, but that South Africa was not ready to make all schools free. The schools were divided into quintiles regarding their condition. The deciding factor was the area in which the school was located. They did however use their discretion in this regard. The goal was to get schools in uniform, good condition. The learners have common curricula through primary school but after that they can choose their topics. One must however be realistic and acknowledge that not every school can afford to offer every subject. ICD (Integrated Community Development) has been introduced in rural areas. He agreed that some schools had management problems and that good management was important because it was often a deciding factor as to whether a school is good or bad. Some Principals were for instance reluctant to hold their teachers responsible for their actions.
Mr P Benade (Chief Financial Officer at the Department of Education) answered that the salaries had not been decreased but that more money was allocated to schools. Regarding the recapitalisation plan for FETC colleges, there were individual three-year plans for each of the 50 Colleges, that the Colleges had developed the plans and that a binding agreement regarding the recapitalisation existed between the Department of Education and the Colleges. The provinces paid the allocated money directly to the Colleges. The Colleges were monitored by monthly reports and there was a penalty clause in the agreement for non-performance.
Mr Thetjeng asked if they were considering a more business-like approach to the management problem at certain schools by for instance entering into contracts with Principals that could be reviewed every three years.
Mr Hindle answered that there were no such contracts, but that the issue could be explored.
The Chairperson addressed the following problems:
-NSNP (National School Nutrition Programme)
-Gauteng is not a part of the no fee school programme
-Lack of attendance at SGBs (School Governing Bodies) by black parents
-The issue of standardising education
-Former comprehensive schools did not make use of their equipment, for instance mechanical equipment
Mr Hindle answered that more children could be fed and that the NSNP were currently only targeting primary school children at no fee schools. They had no legal means to put pressure on Gauteng because the school fees were determined in September and the no fee school agreement was signed after that. Gauteng must however join next year. The reason why some parents did not attend the meetings of SGBs was part structural and part unwillingness. Politicians must convince parents to take part in schools’ democratic institutions. Mr Hindle thought that norms for the standard of school facilities and teaching were desirable. He said that he was very upset when schools had unused equipment, but believed that the opposite was a more common problem. The Department of Education would inform the Committee of progress in six months’ time.
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