Accelerated & Shared Growth Initiative-South Africa & Education; Higher Education restructuring update

Basic Education

11 September 2006
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Meeting report

PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION

EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
12 September 2006
DEPARTMENT'S ASGISA PROJECTS; UPDATE ON RESTRUCTURING HIGHER EDUCATION: BRIEFING BY DIRECTOR GENERAL
 

Chairperson: Prof S Mayatula (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Department of Education and Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative - South Africa (ASGISA)
Update on the Restructured Higher Education Landscape

SUMMARY
The Department conducted a presentation about education and the needs of the economy and what educational provision is being made for growth in the economy. The plans and targets for every educational level from
Early Childhood Development to Tertiary Education were noted. The Department's special ASGI-SA projects were explained and progress on these were outlined.

discussion centred around the need for teacher progress with the pupils to be measured in the educational system, as well as the need for focus schools which would centre on specific skills. This would include technical high schools as well as art, drama and other skills that are needed in the country.

A second briefing was made on the progress of the mergers of the Higher Education institutions. The changes made in the restructuring of the technikons and universities were covered as well as the support been offered to those still in the process of transformation.

The Committee was concerned about correct procedures being followed to ensure smooth mergers and pointed to the bad press coverage and unrest at the University of Limpopo. Equal conditions of service for merged institutions was also highlighted by the Committee.

On the matter of ASGISA, it was suggested that focus schools needed to be developed for specific needs. Also suggested was that there should be training for teachers and that there should be consequences for those that did not produce the required results

MINUTES
Department of Education (DOE) and Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative - South Africa (ASGISA)
Mr Duncan Hindle (Director General) in his presentation dealt with education and the economy, education provision and contribution to accelerated and shared growth as well as Special ASGI-SA projects that are happening at the moment. He stated that education was important for the growth of the economy and quality education at all levels was important. A comparison was made between enrolment in public and private schools from Grades one to twelve between 1999 and 2005. He went through the plans at each educational level to meet the demands for
priority skills and developing appropriate targets and programmes for these. Three special ASGI-SA projects were discussed (see document).

Dr Molapo Qhobela (Acting Deputy DG and Chief Director of Higher Education Development and Support) provided an update on the Restructured Higher Education Landscape in South Africa. He outlined the background from November 2002 until 2005 and the formal moves that Parliament had taken to restructure Higher Education. He outlined the university and technikons which had been restructured and the technical support provided to the merged institutions. He provide a specific progress report for the following universities: University of KwaZulu-Natal, University of South Africa, Tshwane University of Technology, North West University, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, University of Johannesburg, University of Limpopo, Walter Sisulu University. He concluded by explaining how funds are being used to support other institutions and how future goals are being reached.

Discussion
The Chair stated that it would be easier to start with questions for the last presentation. There would be ten minutes given for questions for each presentation and committee members needed to be specific in their questions when asking them.

Mr G Boinamo (DA) asked why different amounts were given for the different institutions.

Ms M Matsomela (ANC) asked how decisions are made with regard to funds and whether it is cost effective or not. She also asked how conditions of service are being harmonised at the universities. She wanted to know what was been done about the strikes particularly at the University of Limpopo.

Mr R Van den Heever (ANC) noted the media reporting on the strikes at the University of Limpopo and how the media was giving the merger of universities and technikons a bad name, even though progress had already been made.

Mr R Ntuli (ANC) stated that there were huge differences in staff salaries, especially at the University of Venda.

Mr Van den Heever questioned the stability of the institutions while the mergers are taking place. He noted that the Minister of Education had mentioned that the Vice-Chancellor of a university had to be surrounded by armed bodyguards because of the instability there.

Mr Ntuli commented that there are implications for conditions of service and that all stakeholders need to be consulted.

Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) commented that he was worried about the conditions of service that would be delivered throughout the merger process. Equality in education is a challenge that must be overcome.

Ms M Matsomela (ANC) asked what the direct merger costs were in merging these institutions.

Dr Qhobela replied that there is a difference between a merger and an in-corporation of a faculty to another institution. There was a merger between the University of Natal and the University of Durban-Westville together to form the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He stated that the in-corporation of a campus and its infrastructure is taken into account in the merger costs and he mentioned the example that a faculty of the University of Stellenbosch was incorporated into another university campus. He pointed out that throughout the merger process all relevant parties are involved in the process and the Department of Education is very careful in the way that it conducts the process. It makes sure that the council of the institution makes the final decision. Thereby it is ensured that all the steps followed are legal.

Dr Qhobela discussed the issue of the unrest at the University of Limpopo and that the council did not have closure with regard merging. Infrastructure needs still had to be met at the university in question. He also notrd that different institutions have different partnerships.

Mr Ntuli stated that the employer usually determines the salary of the employee and that there needs to be support and accountability with the different institutions as the mergers occur. It must be ensured that everything that needs to be covered, is covered, as the instability is multi-faceted.

Mr Ntuli also mentioned that an independent assessor would also be necessary in the process of transition as there are other forms of instability among the students. He said that a student leadership programme would help improve the quality of life of the students at the institution. He mentioned that problems needed to be anticipated and dealt with before they appeared.

Dr Qhobela said that all direct merger costs were spent as and how the institution needed the funds through the merger process. All preliminary costs were discussed and approved, invoices were submitted and amounts allocated and re-imbursed as needed.

The Chair commented that campus infrastructure is very important in the merging of institutions and different forms of incorporations need to happen in order for division not to occur.

The discussion turned to the first presentation by Mr Hindle dealing with ASGI-SA. Due to time constraints, the Chair asked whether the first presentation should be discussed at that time or to further the discussion at a later date. It was decided that those who could stay for the discussion should do so. However those that could not, were released to  go to other committee meeting commitments.

Mr A Gaum (ANC) thanked Mr Hindle for the presentation. He stated that the ASGI-SA specific projects did not mean more of the same kind of education but a change of direction. Ireland had imported engineering skills to meet the shortage in that country and South Africa lacked engineering skills to a certain extent as well. Education was an important and relevant step in fulfilling that skills need. It was suggested that focus schools needed to be developed for specific needs.

Mr Gaum also suggested that there should be training for teachers and that there should be consequences for those that did not produce the required results. The standard of teaching should be of a high quality so that all pupils can have the same quality of education.

Ms J Matsomela asked about the challenges facing ASGI-SA and how they are been dealt with. She commented that there is a vibrant Higher Education sector which has the knowledge and professionalism, but that there also needs to be research done and incentives given.

Dr Qhobela mentioned that the timeline for the mergers of institutions had been the last 18 months and that there was support for the institutions that are going through the processes of change and that the plans laid forth have been realised.

Mr Mpontshane pointed out that the quality of the degrees from the University of Zululand have been under question. Before the mergers the University of Zululand’s degrees were of quality even though they were perceived not to have been.

Dr Quobela replied that historically disadvantaged people did not have the same quality of education, which included the University of Zululand and that the process of change would be through the changes that would happen across the board. All the programmes would be accredited and people would be going forward.

Mr Hindle proceeded to answer the questions on the ASGI-SA and Education presentation. He said that the specific projects are intensifying already and that the projects have to be made relevant to business leadership. Part-time courses are also relevant to the business community, which included those that come under the N1 to N6 qualifications. The equality question that was asked could be answered in the way that the transformation is a process and that right now 400 schools are under transformation. This number would grow to all schools eventually.

Mr Hindle suggested that the Technical High School sector had been one that had been neglected, especially with regard to the pre-matric level. He commented that there a common standard needed to be built. To measure the progress made, there needed to be evaluation and then intervention and then further evaluation, so that the quality of the education could be measured.

Mr Gaum suggested that having technical high schools would be favourable but at the same time other focus schools were necessary as well. He raised the point of accountability, as well as the fact that teachers had never been dismissed for incapacity although in other sectors, employers have dismissed employees for incapacity.

Mr Boinamo commented that the fees for Higher Education students were too expensive and he enquired whether there was a way to bring the fees down

The Chair noted that infrastructure was also important with regard to schools and quality education. Focus schools needed to be properly situated in order to be accessible to all. He added that higher education fees did not cover only tuition but also text books, residential fees and transport to the college or university.

The Chair made an announcement about the Peoples Assembly in Oudtshoorn on 14 and 15 September. Two teams of five people in each would go from this Committee, one team for discussions and oversight and the other for endorsements. The meeting was adjourned.


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