Mass Literacy Campaign and Qids-Up: Department of Education briefing

Basic Education

18 October 2007
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Meeting report

EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
19 October 2007
MASS LITERACY CAMPAIGN AND QIDS-UP: DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION BRIEFING


Chairperson: Prof S Mayatula (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Kha ri gude Mass Literacy Campaign
Quality Improvement , Development, Support and Upliftment Programme for Public Schools (QIDS UP)
Quality Improvement , Development, Support and Upliftment Programme (QIDS UP)
National Reading Strategy
Overview and Analysis of the Department of Education Annual Report 2006/7

Audio recording of meeting

SUMMARY
The Department of Education briefed the Committee on the Kha ri gude Mass Literacy campaign, which aimed to reach 4.7 million illiterate adults, and reduce the illiteracy rate by at least 50% by 2015. It was linked to national and international policies and initiatives It was overseen by an inter-Ministerial Committee and was firmly located within the public service, and was to be run  through a Section 21 company. The budget and services were tabled and discussed. A Green Paper for Adult Education and Training was being drafted. A pilot would be run on youth offenders in rehabilitation centres. Questions by Members addressed the training of offenders, the difference between this and the Adult Basic Education and Training campaign, clarity on the targets and the number of illiterate people in South Africa, clarity on the targets, and how these plans differed from past projects. Further questions addressed recruitment of volunteers, and the plans beyond the initial five-year stage.

The Department briefed the Committee on the Quality Improvement, Development, Support and Upliftment Programme for Public Schools. This was focused at primary level, was to be a long term and high impact intervention programme, and would target 3500 no-fee primary schools serving 1.2 million learners. The main focus was adequate provisioning of resources to support learning and teaching. Provinces were already budgeting for this and a dedicated unit had been established in the Department. Discussions by Members focused on the provincial budgeting, the OSD salary scales, the union oppositions to the project, the focus on the primary schools and whether it could be extended to secondary schools, the challenges in some provinces and credibility of numbers.

The Department then focused on the National Reading Strategy, which aimed to promote reading across the curriculum, and encourage reading for enjoyment. It  focused on support to schools, increasing access to books, providing support to teachers and promoting life long reading. Toolkits had been developed for 2008, and learner performance would be monitored. Questions addressed the space capacity problems in schools, the use of mother tongue, whether the manual was prescriptive, and support by teachers.

MINUTES
Kha ri gude Mass Literacy Campaign: Briefing by Department of Education (DOE)
Ms Gugulethu Ndebele, Deputy Director General, Social and School Enrichment, DOE gave a presentation on the Kha ri gude Mass Literacy Campaign (MLC). She noted that the campaign target was to reach 4.7 million illiterate adults, and reduce the illiteracy rate by at least 50% by 2015.This campaign would be supported by the full range of government department initiatives and all sectors participating in it. The literacy campaign was linked to national and international policies and initiatives like the FIFA 2010 Soccer World Cup and the social grant programme. She discussed the elements of the plan , the phases in the eradication of illiteracy, organisational structures and proposed budget, showing tables that split up the targets by years. Targeted learners included the youth, women and disabled.

Ms Ndebele noted that the campaign was overseen by an inter-Ministerial Committee and was firmly located within the public service. It was however sufficiently autonomous from Departmental line functions to allow for speedy and flexible implementation. It was to be run through a Section 21 company.

The proposed budget was tabled, showing an allocation of R20 million for 2007, rising to R480 million in 2009.

The service by and to youth were discussed, and she indicated that youth would be actively involved as trained volunteers or as learners. They would be encouraged to attend formal teacher training after their work experience.

The campaign had been approved by Cabinet in August 2007 and instructions were given to draft a green paper for Adult Education and Training (AET). A pilot would be run on youth offenders in rehabilitation centers. She set out the progress in preparation of materials, noting that this included Braille and sign language. Partnerships would assist in identifying sites, learners, and materials. She then discussed the rationale for revamping the adult education programmes and what was still under discussion.

Discussion
Mr B Mthembu (ANC) commented favourably on the presentation, but asked for clarity on the inter-ministerial committee, and wondered if this meant that to date there had been  no framework for adult education and training. If so then there was a need to link up with these campaigns and clarify what the training for adults, would entail. There was a narrow conceptualization of adult training but the green paper was a policy framework.

Ms Ndebele replied that the Department already had an Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) policy and legislation, but had identified through a number of departments that there had been conceptual issues around some political acts, implementations and policies. There was a need to look at the whole system. The green paper was using those two policies as a starting point, and proposing a revamp for education and training. The emphasis was on adults needing to get certificates, and there was a problem with this in the current situation. The Green Paper process would set timetables, and would have help from the minister.

Mr B Mthembu  asked, in relation to the campaign target, whether the objective was to eradicate illiteracy totally, and asked for clarity on the target of 4.7 million.

Ms Ndebele said that the 4.7 million adults referred to were the number who had not attended school at all. Those who had some schooling, but had not attained a certain level of literacy, amounted to about another 5 million. The target was focused on those who had never attended school. Both the ABET and the campaign systems should work together to achieve the goal.

Mr B Mthembu  noted that the plan was not clear as to when the targets would be reached and asked for clarity.

Ms Ndebele replied that the phase 2 figures were vital as part of the conceptual plans for 2010, but until the Department had defined the pilot side for implementation in 2008 the figures could shift, and may not be the full 3.22 million. The major implementation would take place in 2008-10, and the numbers would be conveyed to the Committee from time to time.

Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) commented that although the Department had good plans, this did not necessary translate into good implementation .He was concerned about the illiteracy plans, noting that similar plans many years ago had come to nothing.  The Minister of Correctional Services was said to have rehabilitation plans for the offenders. He was sceptical about including this Department as it had its own problems.

The Chairperson wanted clarification whether Mr Mpontshane was suggesting that youth offenders should not be included in the literacy plan. He said that the inclusion did not mean that anyone currently in a facility would be taken from that facility. 

Ms Ndebele understood the scepticism because the Department was aware of previous efforts and failures. A campaign like this should not only  be an educational campaign, and the difference was that DOE would be mobilising communities, organisations, church groups and other stakeholders to achieve an effective campaign.  The Masifunde campaign had proven to be successful and showed progress. Any volunteers would need to have credibility and come with recommendations from their community, and proven  learning objectives. The Department would be aiming to find committed people. The new efforts should break down the scepticism of the past.  so that we know that they are serious about this ,so we are not just recruiting people.

Mr A Mpontshane asked how the volunteers would be recruited. 

Ms Ndebele replied that DOE must still finalise materials and set up information systems to assess the numbers and the ratings. Once the planning had been done it would look at the logistics of recruiting volunteers.

Ms M Matsomela (ANC) noted that this was a five-year plan, and asked what would happen after the five years . She further noted that there was a high probability that the current numbers of illiterate people might increase, especially in areas without any conducive learning environment. In addition, to implement these plans in rural areas could be a problem, as this would involve issues of accessibility. She wondered how these issues would be addressed.

Ms Ndebele replied that beyond the five years, as set out in Phase 3, there was mention of continuing other literacy programmes. It was very difficult to eradicate illiteracy completely, but the Department had already set up learning units that kept picking up additional learners. The reason why DOE had the revamp was also to help those who had no qualifications at all but went to school. This would be addressed at national and provincial levels.

Quality Improvement , Development, Support and Upliftment  Programme for Public Schools (QIDS-UP): Department of Education (DOE) Briefing
Ms Palesa Tyobeni, Deputy Director General, GET, DOE, noted that the QIDS UP was  mostly an affirmative action programme targeting schools serving poor communities, where quality of education was often compromised due to lack of basic minimum resources, overcrowding and shortage of skilled personnel for effective learning and teaching. It was to be a long term and high impact intervention programme. The scope of the project from 2007-2009 would focus on 14 districts, the criteria for which were detailed in the presentation (see attached document) and in particular would target 3 500 no-fee primary schools serving 1.2 million learners. The key focus areas were adequate provisioning of resources to support learning and teaching; improved learner competencies in literacy and numeracy, improved management and leadership of schools; improved support for learning by district offices and strengthened monitoring and evaluation of learning outcomes. There would be a basic resource package, which would include learner and teacher resources, and this would be dependent on the budget per province.

Preliminary budget figures had already been drawn. Most provinces had already increased their allocations for QIDS-UP in the current budget, and in almost all provinces there was already capacity to manage the programme. A dedicated unit had been established in the Department.

Ms Tyobeni set out some of the provincial activities to date. Challenges from the Department’s side included the difficulty sometimes in obtaining information from the provinces as to what had been done, and the need to exert constant pressure to follow up.

Discussion
Mr Mthembu  commented that the Department should be congratulated for coming up with a good campaign and addressing issues on quality improvement. He asked for clarity on the funding. The Minister had announced in 2006 in the budget speech that substantial money was set aside for this campaign, yet Ms Tyobeni had indicated that the availability would depend on provincial budgets. He asked for clarity.

Ms Tyobeni replied that although the Department was providing resources, the provinces had to budget and state what would be expected in return for the money. The provinces must decide how much to allocate to implementing these plans in the financial year. The Department too had a limited budget and would have to prioritise across the plans, and this was one of the reasons for the partnerships. The Department would also have to continue to persuade Government of the need for money for this programme.

Mr Mthembu noted that the programme was to be dependent on the Outsource Distribution (OSD) salary scale. A number of unions were not in favour of the project and there had been accusations about misrepresentations. He was concerned that any misinformation would affect the running of the programme, pointing out that implementation was dependent on teachers.

Ms Tyobeni replied that these issues would not compromise the programme. She had spoken of resourcing for effective teaching  and training teachers. The question of OSD was raised in a circular, but did not affect the resources of the school. It did impact upon personnel and staff, though not on all of them. The Department would like to have teaching assistants for teachers who had huge classes, and to assist with students who were disabled.

Mr Mthembu  noted that the focus of the programme was on primary school, but there was also mention of Grade 12 results, and he wondered whether the alignment would in time leave out the need to go to secondary schools.

Ms Tyobeni replied that the Department wanted to focus on the current challenges. This meant a focus on grade 12 results. However, the importance of overcrowding of classes at the lower levels was not always appreciated.  Better funding would result in the programme being able to go to the secondary level as well. However, at the moment a focus on the primary level would spread out positively, over time, to the secondary schools.

Ms Matsomela stated that all schools should adhere to those standards set out in the QIDS-UP, and that this should be applied to all schools. Some special appointments had been made to drive the QIDS–UP,  yet some provinces had not applied it and there had been lack of commitment. She believed that the Department should hold someone accountable for commitment, so that it was effective.

Ms Tyobeni replied that additional work over and above the target was up to the provinces. The provincial context differed and the Department needed to allow for the fact that each province allocated money to the poorest areas or communities. However, it must be clear about the key deliverables for a minimum of 3 500 schools. The aim was that all schools should have the basic necessities. The Department would look at the progress and monitor the programme. It was aiming for a South African home grown strategy for quality learning.

Ms D Van Der Walt (DA) wanted to know why the activities in some provinces were not listed..

Ms Tyobeni said that Limpopo and Northern Cape were facing major challenges in implementation, and the Department was working on the matter.

Mr Mpontshane  stated that the summary of provincial activities, including school nutrition, showed glaring differences in schools and provinces. He asked if the target figures were reasonable, and whether the activities would not amount to a drop in the ocean. He was also concerned about the credibility of the numbers, and suggested that this be checked.  

National Reading Strategy
Ms Palesa Tyobeni gave a short presentation on the National Reading Strategy. This was intended to promote reading across the curriculum, and encourage reading for enjoyment. The Reading Programme focused on support to schools, increasing access to books; providing support to teachers through provision of resources as well as techniques for inculcating a love for reading, scheduling time for reading within the school time table and developing reading skills in learners. The specific aspects of each of these areas were outlined, and the strategies ranged right throughout the schools. Specific support to teachers included a teacher’s manual to assist teachers with the teaching of reading in the foundation phase, guidance on how, what and when to teach matters, and encouraging reading in the classrooms every day. Toolkits had been developed for Grades R and 1 and 1 000 boxes would be delivered to schools at the beginning of 2008. The “Drop and Read” campaign was aiming to provide books and support, with guidance to parents, teachers and care givers. Learner performance would be monitored by having a systemic evaluation to assess performance across the system on overall literacy.

Discussion
Ms Van der Walt (DA) commented that the presentation was quite ambitious one and she hoped that the plans could be implemented. In regard to the presentation, she indicated that the Minister of Arts and Culture was also involved in creating a culture of reading. She wondered if the reading corners would work, particularly since there was such a shortage of space in many schools. 

Ms Tyobeni replied that the Department recognised the space capacity problems, and as the Department provided books, it would simultaneously provide the shelves or cupboards with wheels, which were attractive and practical. Although there might not be space to sit and read the book in the corner, the reading shelves would be a specific focus area in the classroom. 

Ms Van der Walt added that one of the goals was to produce books in mother tongue right from the beginning. Although she appreciated that some of these plans were already being implemented in English, she asked about the other languages. She also asked whether cultural stories written in mother tongue were also to be interpreted into other languages.

Ms Tyobeni replied with that books and stories were intertwined. The Department had  6 titles. If stories were originally written in the home languages then the Department would tend to leave them so, but if already translated, then these would be used to promote multiculturalism. Some of the books that had been submitted to us had been translated in two or more languages already, and would be used in this form.

Mr Mthembu asked about the national reading strategy, which was to be guided by training manuals. He asked how the prescriptive “how, when and where” to teach approach would be reconciled with teacher development.

Ms Tyobeni replied that the manual was not prescriptive; it was a guidance drawn by qualified teachers that would help in implementing this plan .

Ms Matsomela noted that teachers and assistants would foster the need to read for enjoyment. She was also concerned with parents, many of whom also needed to read for themselves, and said it would be difficult to foster a reading culture. The Department would have to be quite creative in addressing this problem.

Ms Tyobeni replied that  where parents were not helping out, the teachers needed to be always available and encourage these students to read.

The meeting was adjourned

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