Education Labour Relations Council, SA Council for Educators; National Student Financial Aid Scheme: Budgets & Strategic Plans 2

Committee: Basic Education

Date of Meeting: 05 Jun 2007

Summary

No summary available for this committee meeting.


Minutes

EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
5 June 2007
EDUCATION LABOUR RELATIONS COUNCIL, SOUTH AFRICAN COUNCIL FOR EDUCATORS; NATIONAL STUDENT FINANCIAL AID SCHEME: BUDGETS & STRATEGIC PLANS 2007/08

Chairperson:
Prof S Mayatula (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) presentation
Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) Strategic Plan: 2007 to 2010
National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) presentation
NSFAS Facts & Figures Sheet
NSFAS Strategic Goals and Objectives, Plans of Action and Measurable Outcomes
South African Council for Educators (SACE) Strategic Plan: 2007 to 2010

ELRC
, SACE and NSFAS websites

SUMMARY
Representatives from ELRC, SACE and NSFAS presented their strategic plans. Both SACE and the ELRC have benefited from levy increases which will enable them to expand their operations, the ELRC to set up provincial dispute prevention and resolution and negotiation support centres and the SACE to manage the continuing professional development points system as outlined in the National Policy Framework for Teacher Education and Development.

Committee members lambasted SACE for previous poor performance. Both NSFAS and SACE are not well enough known. NSFAS continues to grow in numbers of loans awarded and recovered and in terms of funding from the private sector. The courses for which financial aid is given, however, do not closely match national needs.

MINUTES
Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) presentation
Mr Dhaya Govender, CEO: ELRC, presented the strategic plan. ELRC is not involved in the current wage negotiations. ELRC provides an independent forum for government and labour to bargain and consult and also undertakes training, development and research. It is funded solely by levies collected from employers and employees. Levies will be increased from R1.50 to R5.00 on 1 July. This increase (from R13.6 million to R44 million) will enable ELRC to provide dispute resolution services in provinces, and further research, training and development in dispute prevention and resolution and negotiation. The provincial offices will be housed in the South African Council for Educators (SACE) offices in four provinces, initially. Only four new posts will be created – in finance, research and development. Nationally, ELRC promotes collective bargaining on, for example, post-provisioning norms, and concludes and enforces these agreements. It communicates with stakeholders through its publication, The Negotiator.

Provincial offices have different objectives: in the Free State they are educator safety, advertising and filling of posts, Further Education and Training Institutions and skills development plans. Limpopo’s aims are to fill vacant posts, implement the Integrated Quality Management System (IQMS) and Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) and Early Childhood Development (ECD). The research department will review and prioritise research recommendations and develop an implementation strategy. Shop stewards will be trained and deployed in all provinces. 71% of the budget will be allocated to dispute prevention and negotiation resolution support services. Administration and executive services consume 21% of the budget and the remainder is allocated to training, development and research.

Discussion
Mr G Boinamo (DA) asked whether the levy increase had been negotiated or imposed, what role the ELRC was playing in realising a settlement between employees and employers and what was being done about the unacceptable level of violence in schools.

Mr R Ntuli (ANC) asked how ELRC had contributed to stability in the Eastern Cape. He also said that educators were often suspended for six months with full pay, which was an unacceptable waste of money.

Ms M Matsomela (ANC) asked, in the context of the current strike, what issues the Department of Education and government should address, exactly what skills had been developed, in terms of the strategic plan, how ELRC proposed to meet its stated objective of reducing unemployment and its progress so far.

Mr A Gaum (ANC) commented that collective agreements were sometimes not implemented, and asked if this was because of incapacity.

Mr B Mosala (ANC) asked what informed the Free State objective of safety of educators.

Mr Govender replied that the levy increase was negotiated with all stakeholders. ELRC’s role in the current strike was limited because the issue was ‘transversal’. He acknowledged that school safety was very important and said that the Western Cape safety programme would be implanted in other provinces. ELRC spent significantly on skills development because it employed previously disadvantaged individuals and trained and developed them. They would report in detail on their successes later in the year. Learnerships would be offered again. They had not been offered in the previous financial year because funds had run out. The responsibility to enforce collective agreements rested with the Department of Education. The regulations made for a long process which the state must deal with. ELRC’s constitution allowed the Department to approach ELRC and this process was shorter. Instability in the Eastern Cape was not significant and ELRC had liaised with unions and the Department.

South African Council for Educators (SACE) presentation
Ms Anthea Cereseto, SACE Chairperson, said that SACE’s activities had been restricted in the previous financial year because they could not increase their levy. It had now been increased to R5.00 and the organisation’s organogram would be reviewed in order to implement the points system. (Teachers have to complete a number of courses to accrue points and remain registered with SACE.) SACE promoted professionalism and the current strike was not professional and caused some tension.

Mr Reg Brijraj, CEO of SACE, said that SACE had been inadequate in the past because of inadequate funding but the budgetary increase put the organisation back on track. The National Policy Framework for Teacher Education and Development was a significant highlight which would give SACE statutory control over teacher development as well as their conduct and registration. Not all teacher incapacity was the teacher’s own fault and the points system would empower teachers to capacitate themselves. Strengthening the credibility of the SACE database was a specific objective as it would have to be the key to correct information on courses and workshops for the points system to work. In terms of promoting and enforcing professional ethics, SACE would be more proactive in reaching out to teachers. Communication, advocacy and outreach was previously a missing component of SACE’s work. Making the code of ethics known to all educators was a priority. Teacher registration on the database would also have to become more efficient. There would also have to be a stricter process involving the verification of teacher qualifications. Interim funding for implementing the points system was available. SACE was poised to become the first teachers’ council in the world to be responsible for managing teachers’ professional development.

The Chief Financial Officer, Mr Morris Mapindani, gave a breakdown of the budget and operational plans. 16% would be invested annually in a reserve fund to prepare for the possibility when ELRC might not be able to provide office accommodation for them.

Discussion
The Chair noted that, according to the document handed out, several thousand practicing teachers were not registered with SACE. How was this possible?

Mr Gaum thanked the presenters for their frankness regarding their shortcomings but nevertheless found it unacceptable that SACE could not do its job properly for part of the year. What exactly was entailed by SACE’s responsibility for professional development, was their sufficient funding to bear this responsibility and where in the budget was the Department’s support reflected? Why would the points system only be implemented in two years' time and when would non-compliant teachers be deregistered?

Mr R Ntuli (ANC) said that he did not have ‘a vivid picture’ of professional development. For example, how the research unit would identify teachers’ needs. The curriculum was very demanding. Advocacy was important as the average teacher was unaware of SACE’s existence. The current year was half over and no clear-cut plans were evident.

Ms P Mashangoane (ANC) asked how such an important organisation could be ‘squatting’ in ELRC premises and carry out its mandate. She suggested that the issue of unregistered teachers be taken up with the unions. Did SACE have statistics on temporary teachers? She was displeased at their ‘moaning’ about being under-funded.

Ms C Dudley (ACDP) asked what measures were in place to remind teachers of their obligations.

Mr N Gcwabaza (ANC) asked if funding teachers’ professional development was a co-operative effort between SACE and the Department. She also asked why teachers were unwilling to register and who paid for re-issued registration certificates.

Ms Cereseto said that the thousands of teachers who were not registered, were not unregistered because they were unwilling but because they were under the impression that they were registered because the SACE levy deduction was listed on their pay slips. SACE did enlist the help of trade unions to register teachers. For instance, they had a registration table at union conferences. Their was a R30 fee for re-issued certificates. Temporary teachers were also registered on the SACE database.

The lack of a levy increase was ‘a sad history’ but trade unions had destroyed teachers’ professional councils in other countries and SACE had to ‘take things slowly’ regarding levies but they ‘would not let it happen again’. The problems SACE encountered in carrying out its mandate were not due to lack of planning but because some members of the Council were ‘obstinate’.

Mr Brijraj promised a presentation on SACE’s detailed programme later in the year, but basically, over three years, teachers would have to collect a certain number of professional development points. SACE would provide guidance as to how these points should be made up, according to how courses and workshops were categorised. Programmes would now be coordinated. The memorandum of understanding about funding between SACE and the Department was being drafted. Some of the skills levy would be used to fund the system. The planning phase would take two years at least, as there were thousands of potential providers.

Mr Brijraj said that ‘teachers have been bullied all their lives’ and SACE’s approach would be to incentivise professional development. The first three years of the system would be a pilot. At the end of those three years, teachers without the requisite number of points would be referred to SACE which would consider the possible reasons for the teachers’ failures, for instance lack of access. Only if there was no excuse would teachers be deregistered. He acknowledged that SACE communication had to improve and an intensive programme would be undertaken. The reason that SACE ‘squatted’ in the ELRC premises was poverty but they were addressing the problem.

National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) presentation
Mr Allan Taylor, CEO, noted that NSFAS was established by an Act of Parliament in 1999 to grant, administer and recover loans and bursaries for study at public higher education institutions (HEIs). Its focus is to redress past discrimination, respond to national human resource development needs and to establish an affordable and sustainable student financial aid scheme.

In the 2007 academic year, NSFAS would assist 125 000 students. The number of students awarded loans had not increased substantially (124 730 in 2006) but the average loan size had. In 2006, it was R11 083 and R13 600 in 2007. Overall the total value of loans had increased from R1358 million to R1700 million. In addition, in 2007, 20 000 Further Education and Training (FET) college students would be awarded bursaries of R5 000 each. 98.4% of the total NSFAS budget was spent on student loans and the balance was spent on administration. Private sector funding had increased, as had loan recovery (R32 million every month). Interest on loans was 7% and was now linked to the repo rate.

HEIs which had more poor students received higher allocations from NSFAS than HEIs with richer students. For example, Tshwane University of Technology received 12.8% whereas Rhodes University was allocated 0.55% of the total amount.

Many learners did not know about NSFAS, despite their schools being sent information.

Developments included the establishment of the Fundisa Fund, a savings scheme to enable low-income families to provide for their children’s further study. Also, changes to the National Credit Act meant that an increasing number of institutions mandated NSFAS to handle their student loans. NSFAS and the Treasury had developed a sophisticated system to guarantee study loans from banks. The imminent reduction of the age of majority (from 21 to 18) would make it possible for students to sign all documents relating to their loans electronically.

Discussion
The Chair asked if the repo rate was less than the current rate.

Mr Gaum asked, with respect to the skills shortage and the need for engineers, for example, whether NSFAS students were taking courses that reduced the skills shortage. He was pleased that NSFAS now awarded loans to FET colleges but the amount was small – only R100m for bursaries and how much for loans? Would the amount of funding be increased in the near future?

Mr Boinamo commented that NSFAS was relatively unknown in deep rural areas.

Ms L Maloney (ANC) asked what percentage of loans was written off and whether other departments were buying into Fundisa.

Ms Dudley asked how the percentage of loans awarded per province was worked out and what the issues were around those calculations.

Ms M Matsomela (ANC) raised the ‘perennial’ issue of institutions requiring students to pay registration fees before they had been awarded loans.

Mr Taylor replied that the interest rate was similar to the one used in the past. NSFAS did look carefully at the courses of study with respect to national needs and recent research showed a move from liberal arts to commerce. The poorest students had generally had the poorest schooling, especially in maths and science. NSFAS worked with the private sector to try to address the mismatch and it was talking to Joint Initiative on Priority Skills Acquisition

(JIPSA) people regarding the built environment etc. He agreed that R100 million for FET college bursaries was only a beginning but said that there might not be enough students to spend the full amount on. The average loan to them was R5000. Many mailings did get to deep rural areas, as evidenced by the fact that winners of a recent competition were in deep rural areas. About 2% of all loans had been written off since the inception of the scheme. AIDS would probably mean an increase in this figure. Other departments would start to fund NSFAS, and talks were being held with the Departments of Social Development, Health and Transport. In the Eastern Cape, NSFAS worked closely with the provincial government, who gave R17-18 million to the scheme.

Mr Taylor said that the registration fee problem was encountered less often than it had been. However, a request to the Minister to gazette a regulation that registration must be included in the fees was being considered.

Representatives of the National Board for Further Education were not present and so the meeting was adjourned without their presentation.

 


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