UNICEF submission on Education Budget 2007

Basic Education

05 March 2007
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

Education Portfolio Committee

6 March 2007

Prof S Mayatula

Document handed out:
UNICEF submission on Education Budget

The UNICEF representative in South Africa gave an overview of South Africa's educational challenges, the  commitments made by the President in his State of the Nation address and those made in terms of the Millennium Development Goals and then related this to the 2007/08 Education budget. These commitments include expanding the provision of free and compulsory education to all children from birth to eighteen, providing adequate infrastructure to all schools and addressing the dropout rate. All education stakeholders should be mobilised around and aligned to using education to meet national social and economic goals and she identified the challenges in how to target, allocate and spend these funds correctly. The Committee did not dispute any of the challenges but were interested to hear more of the presenter’s views on School Governing Bodies (SGBs), monitoring and evaluation, learner pregnancy and learning difficulties.

Mr Macharia Kamau, UNICEF’s South African representative, said that South Africa had made great strides in the last twelve years in education. For instance, primary school enrolment had increased from 99% in 2000 to 103% in 2006. But South Africa operated at a much higher level than the rest of Africa. South Africa’s trading partners were its donors. Therefore it should challenge itself differently to the rest of Africa. Education is the largest component of the 2007 budget (R104.4bn) but South Africa had the lowest returns in terms of outcomes. The challenge was to target and prioritise resources for children to address the following: 
• high drop out rates for boys at secondary school and higher ones for girls at tertiary level;
• low uptake for children aged 0 – 5 in Early Childhood Development (ECD = 16%). Basic education should be redefined as being from birth to eighteen, and free, compulsory and inclusive as research has shown that investment in ECD leads to better performance in later years;
• the condition of the 5 000 poorest schools – with an estimated 350 000 learners;
• the unknown status of thousands of learners/children in rural/farm schools;
• 5.9% of 15 to 19 year olds that were HIV positive;
• violence in schools 
• the estimated 1.7 to 2.5 million orphans in the country.
Reaching the un-reached 600,000 out of school as dropouts or children in remote areas.

Target expenditure on principals to improve management and leadership (at all levels) and in particular at school level for quick and effective turn around strategies The President alluded to these challenges in his 2007 State of Nation Address.

The key to meeting these goals was to relate education goals to social and economic outcomes so that all role players were aligned to use education to meet these goals. Universal primary education was critical in supporting progress towards other Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), particularly poverty/hunger, gender equity/empowerment, child mortality, maternal mortality and sustainable environment. All MDGs were inter-related and interdependent. The focus should be on quality of management and teaching practices so that returns in terms of efficiency/effectiveness could be made on investment. To do this, there would have to be accountability and participation (parental/community involvement). Much of the success of former Model C schools was due to parental involvement. Monitoring and evaluation of the education system was also essential.

The United Nations advocated an Integrated Holistic Approach to Learning (IHAL). Its critical components are that:
Learning outcomes must target social and economic goals
There must be a corresponding (not either or), investment in: infrastructure, teaching and learning materials and management and teaching skills.

Complementary strategies encompass learner participation; gender balance; community and parental participation, private sector investment and monitoring and evaluation, especially of retention and learner performance at key intervals

The cost of not investing in education and other MDGs would be institutional (high drop-out rates, low participation and morale, high repetition and lack of parental and community engagement); social (inability to fight AIDS, violence and crime, gender inequality, child mortality and increased social security and health costs) and economically and politically, SA would face poverty, unemployment and slow economic growth and instability.

Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) said that Mr Kamau had referred to an inspectorate (when talking about monitoring and evaluation). South Africa had peer appraisal, which did not seem to be working. What did Mr Kamau suggest? And did teacher unions elsewhere oppose each other, as they did here?

Mr R Ntuli (ANC) said that it would be difficult to implement ECD from birth to five because there was a lack of teachers. If former Model C parents were better at strengthening schools, perhaps Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) was needed. How could the education system be fast-tracked and advocacy strengthened?

The Chair added some background to Mr Mpontshane’s question. South Africa did not only have teacher peer review, there were also subject advisors at Education Management Development Centres.

Ms M Matsomela (ANC) asked for some information on international best practice regarding curriculum management, teaching practice and parental involvement.

Mr A Gaum (ANC) agreed that schools that were under-performing needed to focus on management and teaching (qualifications, capacity and discipline). He asked for more information on international experience of interventions in schools that were under-performing.

Mr G Boinamo (DA) said that learners with undiagnosed but severe learning difficulties were also a problem in class.

Mr Kamau said that if a word such as ‘inspectorate’ had a stigma, the word itself could be forgotten. By inspecting he meant monitoring and evaluation according to outcomes that were agreed on by all stakeholders. Trade unions had different objectives to parents, whose objectives differed from teachers, learners and others. Standardised objectives were the key to alignment. Government was responsible for job creation but also for providing an entrepreneurial framework and cognitive education. Therefore the nation needed to pull together to reach social and economic goals.

He agreed that it would be a challenge to provide ECD for children from birth to three. It would be necessary to focus on community care forums, not formal education, and to mobilise party and government structures and the public to organise themselves. Possibly the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) could be part of the initiative, along with unemployed parents.

He agreed with Ms Matsomela that communities should be mobilised because they currently did not hold themselves responsible for education but saw it as something delivered by government. Improvement of management and teaching practice was not easy, but still possible. He suggested starting with the 5000 worst schools in groups of 100, with the teachers and principals attending courses run by service providers in school holidays for 18 months. Standardisation was the key element; the training given to rural and urban schools should be the same. If teachers and managers failed, we should be brave enough to tell them they were in the wrong profession.

To Mr Gaum, who asked about poorly-performing schools, his answer was the same: performance and discipline should be aligned to clear targets. Management structures should enforce standardised discipline. Parent Teacher Associations were excellent tools for quality assurance all over the world. South Africa treated its poor parents as if they had no aptitude to know what their children needed. This was wrong.

He agreed with Mr Boinamo that dropouts and the learning disabled were a big problem as they frustrated themselves and their teachers. It would have to be decided if they were a priority for South Africa now, though.

Mr B Mthembu (ANC) said that School Governing Bodies were not effective. He wondered if there was a relationship between the socio-economic status of parents and their involvement in their children’s schooling. He acknowledged that South Africa did not get a return on its education investment so common norms and standards were needed to ensure quality. He asked Mr Kamau to “tell us about quality”.

Mr B Mosala (ANC) said that it appeared that the UN in South Africa had been unable to visit farm schools.  Did they have a strategy for ‘reaching out to develop them?”

Mr N Gcwabaza (ANC) asked how other countries dealt with learner pregnancy. What if the father was also a learner? How did one make him take responsibility but stay in the system?

The Chair asked how having only one external examination (Grade 12) compared with other countries. (South Africa used to have Standard 6, the Junior Certificate and Standard 10.)

Mr Kamau replied that there would be detractors of ECD for children from birth to three. They would say that it had nothing to do with education. All of South Africa needed to be mobilised around socio-economic goals via education. One of the challenges would be to manage the fears of the privileged. Another would be minority language groups. Unfortunately some languages had to have priority.

He acknowledged that parents’ involvement in schools was related to their socio-economic status. Social space, with poor peoples; places of work, home and school being far apart from each other was a legacy of apartheid and made involvement in school more difficult. It was a long-term goal to reorganise social space so that school, work and community were close. The more privileged in South Africa already enjoyed that.

Quality was a package driven by the following working together: management, teaching practice, curriculum, parental involvement and infrastructure aligned towards common standards and goals.

An information-collecting survey was needed on rural learners who were unreachable before a strategy could be devised. It was not possible to simply drive onto commercial farms.

Learner pregnancy was a problem in South Africa and some of its neighbours. It was due to the way the family had been disrupted by apartheid. Parents who were learners had to have education, even if it was not at the same site as other learners. Regarding fathers, the key to the problem was prevention.

Having only one external test was peculiar to South Africa and having it at the exit point was too late. Parents needed to know annually if their child was on track. Better former model-C schools were already offering this.

The Chair asked Mr Kamau to send material on assessment and thanked him for his valuable input. The meeting was adjourned.


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