A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.
EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
09 November 2007
EDUCATION MANAGEMENT INFORMATION SYSTEM (EMIS); ENSURING QUALITY THROUGH
Chairperson: Prof S
Documents handed out:
Committee Report on Oversight Visit to Eastern Cape, Mbizana
Committee Report on Study Tour to the People’s Republic of China, August 2007
[Reports available at Committee
Reports once published]
through Education Districts presentation
Progress report on
rollout of Education Management Information System (EMIS)
Management Information System - Education Statistics
Audio recording of
Representatives of the Department of Education reported on the rollout of the
Education Management Information System (EMIS) at all levels of education
service delivery as well as the development of capacity and service delivery
within education districts.
The rollout of EMIS has been progressing, though challenges are seen in all
provinces. The system holds promise for providing refined information to the
various stakeholders to enhance decision making. Demand for software and
training has been created at the school level and technological solutions to
security problems have been found to ensure data integrity.
On the district level, practices existing before 1994 have affected the service
delivery of current districts. The need for a uniform legal definition of a district and the provision
of power and authority to the districts were emphasized. Means of
implementing quality education and improvement of service delivery in all
educational institutions were discussed as well as broad time frames for achievement
of that implementation.
Progress report on rollout of Education Management Information System (EMIS)
Mr Firoz Patel (Deputy Director General: System
Planning and Monitoring, Department of Education) noted that Mr Albert
Chanee, a representative from the Gauteng Provincial Government, was the only
provincial government representative as notice of the meeting was not sent out
to the provinces as it should have been. However, the Department has been in
discussion with provinces about the report.
Mr Patel moved on to discuss the background of the Electronic Management
Information System (EMIS).
As was the case in all educational systems, the information collection system
in place for education in 1994 was in desperate need of improvement. Several
education departments existed at that time, and each had its own methods and
systems of collecting information. Some were computer-based, and some were
still manual in nature. At that early stage, integration of all data sets would
a very difficult process, so a new system required a fresh start. The
Department has faced considerable challenges in this project, but improvements
are taking place, particularly within the last three years. During that time,
increased recognition has been given by National Treasury on the importance of
information for decision making and evaluation. EMIS was prioritized by the
government in the medium term budget policy statement of October 2005.
Recognition for EMIS has been given both nationally and internationally. It is
a term and concept relatively new to the education field, having appeared in
the literature in only about the 1990s. Prior to that time, the term used for
similar activities was “education statistics.” However, that process entailed
little beyond counting numbers and retaining them in archives for analysis of
long-term trends. The recognition of and demand for EMIS has evolved because of
the need for scientific or evidence-based decision making and planning within
One of the biggest challenges has been coordinating EMIS with provincial
education departments. As in all other areas, in terms of the totality of
functions of intergovernmental structure or organisation, it has been difficult
initially to pull nine education departments together on simple issues such as
common forms, dates for actions, databases, data fields, and the numbering of
EMIS is coordinated through the heads of education department committee
(HEDCOM), subcommittee for EMIS (on this point the slide in the presentation is
incorrect). The members of the subcommittee are the Department of Education,
provincial education departments, HSRC, Research Institute for Education and
Planning at Free State University, STATS South Africa (STATSA), and union
representatives. The subcommittee is one of the oldest and most active within
HEDCOM; it meets at least four times a year to allocate tasks to technical
committees. Much of the work on the project has been done through this
A significant injection of additional funding to national and provincial EMIS
units came last year (2006-2007). Before that point, in some provinces no funds
or resources were available for these tasks. When they made the bid for EMIS,
the plans were structured around a national EMIS. The mandate for EMIS is one
of the only educational functions specifically mentioned within the National
Education Policy Act. A national EMIS means the provinces as well as the
Department of Education. To produce such a uniform system, they sought a
conditional grant but were unsuccessful in obtaining one. They still received
allocations, part of which went through the equitable share for provinces. In
terms of all priorities from ECD conditional grants to personnel grants made a
year or two ago, once it goes to the equitable share, after it is announced as
a government priority in October, they still struggle to find allocations
between the provincial governments and the provincial education departments.
With the assistance of National Treasury, the Department was able to extract
particular funds in 2006 for use in 2007, so for the first time the Department
is clear about what money is going to be available, which allows them to
The different levels of resources and the different timing of actual knowledge of
those resources pose a particular challenge to the development of a national
implementation plan. If the provinces do not have the resources that are needed
or accurate schedules, full implementation cannot occur. The national service
can only move as fast as the slowest province.
National EMIS units are jointly managing the EMIS improvement plan with the
provinces and heads of department. They meet quite often to discuss the systems
In terms of the second point, mandates and strategies of EMIS, the National
Education Policy Act requires that the minister of education monitor and
evaluate standards of education provision, delivery, and performance to a large
extent through the use of national education statistics.
Therefore the aim of EMIS is to promote the development and operation of
education and training management information systems for accountability (how
many learners are there, are all there that should be there in terms of the
population), for planning (learner numbers are used for allocations to
provinces so they must be correct to prevent overfunding or underfunding), and
for monitoring to achieve quality and ensure effective service delivery within
the national education system.
The National Education Information Policy came about in August 2004 and was
intended to deal with all the free-for-all policies that had existed before
that. It tells of non-conformance to standards, the completion of survey forms,
protocols of data formatting, and submission of data along a required timeline.
In terms of EMIS policy, education information standards are to be developed
and under that policy, there is a committee made up of representatives of
interest groups and experts, including provincial representatives, Statistics
South Africa (STATSSA), the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), and the
Department of Communication that is coordinating standards. Published standards
will be handed out to members – the Education Management Information Systems
policy and the standards around the requirement of completion of forms by
provinces and the submission of the forms and processes and procedures are two
instruments that have been powerful in bringing the EMIS together. Standards
are being finalized in terms of a data dictionary, in terms of collection of
information, procedures for quality assurance, for database management. These
standards are applicable and are of interest to the public at large because a
number of research organizations can use them to determine what are the
technological specifications and issues around data collection.
EMIS expertise never existed in South Africa or even internationally because it
is so new. In their participation in international forums, there is still a
major struggle. Even when pulling in experts to assist them, they discover that
even the experts are grappling with the issues and the work that they have done
is sometimes even more advanced than what the experts have done. Part of the
problem has been that education systems are different than systems at other
government service delivery sites such as hospitals or motor vehicle
registration centres because they are loosely coupled systems. Each school is
its own juristic personality and there are 12 million units of information.
Education information is also very costly to collect in the traditional way. In
a number of countries where education statistics are collected, the data
integrity must be totally protected – all information collected undergoes a
massive quality assurance process. In terms of participation in UNESCO
structures for education information, the finalization of any one dataset in
the discipline of education statistics takes around two years to complete. Some
countries are 4 or 5 years behind in the completion of these databases. There is
currently pressure to have information available in real time. However, that
level of availability means that particular policies will need to be followed.
The first policy is that collection take place from a single source, and there
must be a single entry of truth. All operational systems must be built.
For instance, in the provisioning of educators, surveys must be sent out every
month and these are operational processes where a school informs a district of
a vacancy and the district must decide over that particular vacancy taking into
account other processes.
Mr Patel cautioned that computers cannot solve problems within the educational
system they have if the proper procedures are not in place; without them no
computer system in the world can provide quality data. The issue is ensuring
quality; if the school does not keep the system informed, it is only as good as
the people who have the time to enter the data.
Their vision is that all operational systems, like examinations and graduation
databases, be built on top of operating institutional systems and must be of
use to national, provincial, district, and school level users. No one is going
to supply information from the school level if the information is not of use to
them on a day-to-day basis. Therefore they aim to provide a single operation of
truth. The reporting layer of business intelligence is placed on top of all the
other databases, which it links together. This layering allows for more
meaningful analysis and decision making. HEDCOM has adopted a strategy to move
away from aggregate data within specific areas such as number of learners in a
particular grade, their age, racial groups, etc. to the collection of unit
record data from source, i.e., from the school record-keeping systems themselves
such as admission forms, daily registers, and class lists. This makes for a
very large system. It will take time to fully develop, though it has advanced
in its development.
The Department has focused on showing schools the importance of data to the
school itself to allow it to make decisions itself rather than waiting for
aggregated data to be sent and allow action to be taken only then. EMIS is not
only for decision making at the national level but also at the school level, so
the Department plans to implement the South African School Administration
Management System (SA-SAMS) as the basic standard for all school data
collection to improve and standardize data collection at the school level.
SA-SAMS contains information such as age, sports participation, parent
occupation, class list information, fee information, school budget, curriculum,
maps, timetabling, etc.
SA-SAMS is the first step in building a national unit
collection system and its development is underway. Because the Department did
not have the resources to roll out the system to all schools in the country, it
distributed CDs containing the relevant software free of charge while a plan
for implementation or training was being developed to allow entrepreneurs at
the school level to realize the benefits of the system for that school without
training or use being mandated. This has created a demand for both the software
and corresponding training at the school level and produced champions in the
schools to take the process forward.
In developing and implementing a national unit record system and tracking
system, the system of linkages and integration will be developed to join the
schools to provincial educational departments and the provincial departments to
the national department. Such a system would allow information about a student
who has left one school to go to another to be known within a week of the
event. This process is subject to every school being online or using manual
systems and nodal points. However, if it was working throughout the country, no
learner would show up in a school more than once. This advance would produce
major efficiency gains. Data quality checks have revealed a level of
overreporting found, which in turn allowed the department to visit schools
where the overreporting was occurring. A 2% quality audit will be stepped up to
a 4% quality audit this year. A business intelligence reporting system has also
been developed that links all of the operational databases together. Data
audits can be performed through this system, which improves the quality of all
data, allowing full implementation of data standards and enhancement of systems
and training in data management areas.
For the full system, all schools must be fully computerized. Informally schools
are engaging in the process, but they are often reluctant to invest time and
money to participate in a formal system only to have their equipment being
stolen, which presents an additional challenge in terms of data storage. If all
data for a school is stored on that school’s computer and the computer is
stolen, it is a difficult and costly process to recreate all of the data that
was lost. With the EMIS system, data can be sent to a central computer at the
State Information Technology Agency (SITA), and if a computer is stolen it can
be replaced the following day with a laptop. This ensures data integrity and
avoids frustration resulting from an inability to function within the SA-SAMS
Operational and transversal systems within the EMIS are the Learner Unit Record
Information Tracking System (LURITS), the National Education Information
Management System (NEIMS), personnel databases, and examination databases. Some
members are aware of NEIMS because of other presentations the Department has
done, but they have not yet been invited to give a presentation on that system
to the Committee. Mr Patel stated that perhaps they could give such a
presentation some time in the new year. NEIMS contains
information about the infrastructure of schools through things such as photographs,
sketch plans, aerial images of the school, measurements of classrooms, and
conditions of classrooms. EMIS allows all of these datasets to be brought
together and related information to be linked. Above all of that is a reporting
layer that will allow decisions to be made and to allow other stakeholders such
as unions, parliamentary committees, government
generally, and researchers to access information and make use of it.
LURITS is the learner unit record information tracking system. It contains information
of each learner by ID, so 12 million records can be pulled into the transversal
On the issue of improvement of the structure of the Department of Education,
the Department has not yet been able to organise to deal with all challenges
because they are dealing with collection of information from 35 000-39 000
institutions. It is a massive exercise to run surveys, collect the forms,
capture the information at the provincial level, and then clear information as
necessary. All of these functions were then placed in a single new directorate
charged with creating a systems design and development of the national
information system to decide how information will move from the school through
the rest of the system. The directorate was established in April and the new
director was appointed two months ago.
They have restructured to improve capacity in the area of data management,
reporting, and dissemination. Historically the Department has had much
difficulty publishing data on time because it was not received in a form that
they could use. Recent publications show that this problem is being
ameliorated. Before April of this year for the first time, they were able to
supply interim and preliminary figures to the Minister of Finance for the coming
year. Data for 2007 are already available and are being used for planning
purposes. Areas covered include both statistical analysis and geographic
information. This enhanced reporting capability also allows the Department to
fulfill international obligations to provide information to UNESCO.
Another component in the improved information monitoring and evaluation is
fulfilled by another directorate that utilises information for study and
analysis. The directorate then makes proposals around policy interventions. For
example, a number of years ago EMIS identified a massive underage and overage
enrolment. The information produced by the system has allowed class enrolments
in excess of 100% to be reduced to close to 100%, indicating greater
Mr Patel then moved to the issue of allocations. Even three years ago, the
amount allocated to these efforts was not even one third of what it is
currently, and the current amounts are still not ideal because of the
inconsistencies seen among the different provinces. Government priority is
reflected in the amounts allocated. Provinces like the Northwest Province,
Gauteng, the Western Cape, and KwaZulu Natal are speeding ahead while others
like the Eastern Cape and Limpopo continue to lag behind in terms of implementation
and training with the new system. The Chair asked whether it was the province
that determines these issues of the amounts to be spent. Mr Patel responded
that it was, but now the Minister has made it a priority. The Chair then asked
if the Committee could be provided with information about the proportionality
of the allocations in the different provinces, that is, how much the amount
changed rather than how much it is for a particular time. Mr Patel replied that
the Committee would be provided with information about what they expected the
provinces to have, compared to what was allocated. He stressed that National
Treasury allows requests to be made only based off of the plans that the
Department has; there is no guarantee that those funds will be allocated as
requested. However, they can provide information about how much money was
requested compared to how much was allocated to a particular province. He
pointed out that there have been improvements; for example, the Eastern Cape
and Limpopo used to have no money allocated, and now they have allocations in
this area. The same is true for the Free State, which has always been moving in
a favourable direction. In response to a question from Mr B Mosala (ANC), Mr
Patel pointed out that the chart he was explaining gave information on
additional funds allocated, not total budget amounts.
For the current financial year, the chart shows that Gauteng Province and
KwaZulu Natal are moving aggressively in terms of the rollout of SA-SAMS and
LURITS, development of a business intelligence system, and improvement of data
quality. Mr Patel explained that LURITS was based on four pillars: the
development of a system for gathering information about a learner, the
deployment of the platform with its system architecture and infrastructure
including things such as cabling and connectivity, provincial planning and
support for deployment in the form of new staff or training for existing staff.
The technical system development began 1 October. They would have preferred to
begin sooner but it was difficult to get SITA to understand what the Department
is doing. Since then they have escalated it to the CEO and IT officer level and
now have full cooperation from SITA, who has placed members of its senior
management on the project. The project has progressed to a completion of about
75%, and in March or April, the Department should be able to demonstrate the
Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) inquired what is
necessary to develop a technical system at the national level. Mr Patel replied
that it involves designing a computer system at the school level that can
accommodate a database of all learner information. This is occurring at the
national level and once it is developed it will go to the provinces. The Chair
asked how this could be accomplished in schools where there are no computers
and how those schools would be affected by this system. Mr Patel stated that
this is only the national design, which is currently 75% completed and will be
finished in February 2008.
Mr Mpontshane asked who was responsible for linking the school to the system if
the computers are available. Mr Patel replied that it would fall to the
provinces as part of the infrastructure, even though the Department would
prefer the responsibility to be at the national level.
The Department’s information and communication technology strategy includes
budgeted ways to include information even from schools without computers. If
the strategy works, forms filled out manually will go to a district office for entry
or the principal will be provided with a laptop so that information can be
entered electronically from home if they have access.
In terms of deploying the system, meaning installing software, they are working
with SITA to ensure that all infrastructure is in
place to allow that process. That process is 60% complete. The Chair noted that
this process still will have nothing to do with schools that do not have
computers and Mr Patel confirmed that he was correct initially, but they are
dealing with the problem going forward. The Chair expressed concern with making
claims that a system is 100% complete when some provinces still have 60% of
their schools without computers. He confirmed that the numbers Mr Patel was
giving pertain to the national level, not to capacity within individual
provinces. Mr Patel stated that a provincial deployment depended on adequate
funding and training to support the planned implementation. Depending on the
situation, implementation may take place at the district level rather than the
The Chair inquired whether the chart indicated that all nine provinces were 90%
ready to implement the system. Mr Patel responded that the Department was
working with the provinces to determine the budget levels and timeframes in place
to allow implementation; that was the reference for the 90% completion. Other
processes need to fit in to the total system by 28 February 2008. They are 25%
complete right now and will be 100% complete by January 2008.
There is a large backlog of information to be entered into the NEIMS, and 40%
of the backlogs are in Eastern Cape. The national assessment report pertaining
to this is available on the Department website at http://www.education.gov.za/dynamic/imgshow.aspx?id=2737.
Photographs will soon be made available.
The SA-SAMS is being used by schools but they are not live or linked. Its use
has been most accelerated in the Free State and has also been moving in the
Western Cape. This system will feed whatever information the school has
captured into the other systems. Provincial education departments are rolling
it out and the role of the Department is to maintain the system, to deal with
requests for the software, and to update it as necessary. They will also ensure
that it meets the needs of the National Curriculum Statement as well as other
relevant policies. Mr Patel then went over the specific numbers of schools that
have received the SA-SAMS on CD. Official training has been completed in some
schools and some provinces are receiving data through the pilot efforts.
In the Northern Cape, part of the reason that some schools do not have the
system is because of redemarcation of schools in the North West Province. Plans
are in place to determine how many schools still require training. Some schools
are using third-party developed software. Numbers from the Western Cape are not
listed because they developed another unit record system but are moving to the
new system this year.
NEIMS is also able to tell how many schools have computers. The increased
number of computers means that the whole process can speed up.
The Department now has a protocol with STATSSA wherein they will assist the
Department with capacity but also to begin to ensure that the Department’s
statistics meet STATSSA standards.
STATSSA has the mandate for quality assurance of statistics in South
Africa. They are obligated to declare collections by other parties as official
in terms of the Statistics Act. The statistics being produced by the Department
right now are official only within the Department, but their goal is to have
Department numbers approved by STATSSA and therefore recognized by law as
official statistics. To that end, they are working to comply with the South
African Statistic Quality Assurance Framework (SASQAF) and they are
collaborating with UNICEF for the enhancement of EMIS in regard to monitoring
children’s rights. They are also working with Social Development and the
Department of Labor to monitor children who leave school. Even though those
children are no longer the legal responsibility of the Department of Education,
the Department can still assist other agencies who are responsible for them
with information gathered by EMIS and to ensure that their educational rights
are being honored.
Reports published by the Department are available on their website at http://www.education.gov.za/. There is
also a special link for EMIS, where a user can download information about
available statistics into a separate spreadsheet, at
http://www.education.gov.za/emis/emisweb/statistics.htm. The Department has
published national guidelines about how to complete survey forms, and they have
capability for electronic data capture. The form is handwritten, but there is a
machine that can read the numbers from the form and put them into the system.
They are also performing another capacity assessment of provincial education
departments, as is done every year.
Challenges still to be faced include late submission of data by provinces.
HEDCOM and the minister have become involved to ensure that provinces are able
to comply, so the situation is improving. However, some provinces face serious
challenges in areas like proper staffing of critical posts. For example, in the
Eastern Cape a single person was responsible for managing the entire EMIS
system. The country as a whole is also facing a skills crunch in advanced
statistical analysis; there are not enough skilled researchers to examine the
available figures. Misinterpretations result and the Department is less able to address complicated issues such as those
presented in Parliamentary questions. It is in the interest of all to have
up-to-date info to allow improvement in the lot of the people of South Africa.
They are exploring different ways to deal with this situation, such as by
collaborating with higher education institutions through grants to set up a
chair or an instructor unit to shape skills of people in EMIS. There is also
difficulty in recruiting and retaining personnel with scarce skills. Qualified
managers come to a job for six months and then leave. The Department is
exploring innovative salary packages, but the culture is deeply ingrained and
the mentality that one package is suitable for all different civil servants is difficult to break.
Mr Patel turned then to the provincial reports and spoke about efforts within
the Eastern Cape on different EMIS-related projects. The Chair asked what the
origin of the figures given with respect to training for the SA-SAMS system. Mr
Patel replied that 1500 schools were targeted based on the amount of funds that
were available. The Chair asked if the reason why only 1500 were targeted out
of 6000 total schools in the province was because of lack of prioritisation by
the province. Mr Patel responded that it was. Ms. Van der Walt then asked what
the criteria were for selecting target schools.
Mr Patel responded that criteria were selected by the provinces and
included availability of electricity and computers. The Chair queried if a
province’s choice to include a small number of schools was informed by it being
a disadvantaged province or by a lack of prioritisation by the province itself.
Mr Patel stated that the small number was a consequence of underfunding.
Mr Patel turned to improvement efforts within the Free State. He noted that principals who participated in physical learner head count
in August 2007 where discrepancies were found, were told that they faced dismissal
if they provided fraudulent figures.
With respect to Gauteng Province Mr Patel noted that progress was moving well.
The Chair again asked for clarification on the total number of schools compared
with the numbers of schools reported as having undergone training. Mr Patel
answered that for Gauteng, the 1 248 schools where training was done were out
of a total 2 403 schools.
Mr Patel then reported on progress in KwaZulu Natal, which included electronic
data capturing and business intelligence systems. He gave information also for
Limpopo and Mpumalanga. At that point, rather than going through the remainder
of the provincial reports, Mr Patel focused the attention of the Committee on
the challenges faced in the provinces. In the Eastern Cape, even simple
functions such as help desk assistance and generation of statistical reports
are difficult to achieve. Mr Patel noted that the lack of human resources seen
in Gauteng would probably be addressed in the short term but would be adversely
affected by the mobility of workers with scarce skills mentioned earlier.
Gauteng also faces problems of poor network connectivity, data quality, and the
receipt of information from the largest amount of independent schools. The
Northern Cape faces a unique challenge in long delays in their procurement
process because of forms not being properly completed. In the Western Cape,
theft and related property issues reinforce the need not to store data on
school property, which will be assisted by better security and new technologies.
Mr A Chanee (Gauteng Provincial Government) noted that, at the provincial
level, Gauteng has standardized 13 years of EMIS data and pulled it into the
business intelligence solution. They have also automated the reporting
requirements for the annual performance plan and the annual report. Mr Chanee
highlighted the efforts taken in Gauteng at the operational level to ensure
that the single source of truth is really truthful. They have examined what is
going on at the operational level, both with regard to
what is going on within the schools and what services are being provided by the
provincial education department. One thing identified is the sometimes
incoherent history about services to schools over the last 13 years, so there
is an effort to systemize the transactional data of services offered to
schools. This helps build up the input model as to the level and quality of
inputs into the educational system and there has been tremendous expansion in
Looking at the way in which schools were targeted, Mr Chanee noted that
rollouts were not done in schools that already had school administration
packages. By the end of the academic year, rollout will be complete to all
public ordinary schools in Gauteng. They have requested improvements
to the SAMS to enable direct uploads into LURITS to prevent school
officials from having to enter information twice and to avoid duplicate systems
Ms Sigcau stated that the work that has been done is apparent but she
is concerned about the Committee having reliable information to allow them to
make good decisions. In her view, they can only get accurate, reliable
information from the schools themselves. It is clear that there remain many
schools where it is not possible to have the system operating because of lack
Mr Patel responded that the current information is reliable. Decisions and
policies are being made based on a situation that is known. The new system will
improve the quality of decision making in that it will be fine tuned. Policies
and processes can be put in place and can measure the impact of those on
particular learners. Decisions being made currently have a solid foundation;
the new system would allow measurement by more specific means, but the information
currently available is not incorrect.
Ms Sigcau pointed out the current need for categorisation of schools, and there
must be a system that provides accurate information so they are able to do that
correctly. While the system is being completed, she wished to know how the
Committee can get reliable information so that it can do its work.
Mr Patel replied that the incorrect categorisation of schools is not occurring
based on data. There is no way to get accurate information on the actual
situation of every household from the official statistics because community
dynamics change. The available statistics are used for a broad brush approach.
The policy contains mechanisms for change, but there are managerial issues in
that the people with the power to make changes are not making change that will
provide benefits even before all of the data are collected. Provinces need to
be listening to contestation and providing answers.
Ms Van der Walt inquired about the total number of schools receiving training.
She was concerned that out of 24775 schools given in eight of the provinces
(excluding the Western Cape), by her calculation 4156, not even 20%, have done
the training, with the rest not targeted because of lack of funding. She felt
there should be greater pressure on the provinces to put schools in a position
to participate in the system.
Ms Van der Walt queried about the minimum level of precautions being taken in
provinces besides the Western Cape to allow procurement delays to be lessened.
Mr Patel responded that the minimum would be burglar proofing. The decision to
provide security personnel is made at the provincial level. However, in his
opinion the solution to the problem lies in using technological means of
safeguarding the data. He stated that a
holistic approach must be taken to safety and security because of the lack of
respect for schools manifested in these thefts.
Ms Van der Walt was concerned that Limpopo was listed as engaging in none of
the improvement activities in one part of the presentation but that it will be
targeted in the next quarter. She wished to know when that quarter was due to
end. She was concerned about the pace at which progress was being made and
would like to see school figures divided according to primary and secondary
Mr Patel replied that the lag in Limpopo is a result of funding. He stated that
figures can be provided that are broken down according to primary and secondary
The Chair asked about the problem of schools not operating all of the time
because of funerals or other reasons. He wished to know if the system helped
address that problem or enabled tracking of it.
Mr Patel responded that tracking of utilisation of school days can be done with
the new system. He stated that school time must be treated like a budget. The
system is able to track activities such as examinations, time for sporting
activities, time for funerals, administrative tasks, etc. However, he cautioned
that principals must be empowered with information about the need to account
for school time. He gave an example balancing the need of a school to be part
of a community by closing for funerals with the need of the school to operate
if funerals are happening every day. Once the system is in place, those things
can be tracked as long as the principals are giving accurate information. The
Department is in the final stages of a study of absenteeism and have proposals
to manage learner attendance systems on the national level.
There has been continual improvement. In the last 10 years, the provinces have
had the power to make decisions and the power to make their own policies and
bureaucratic systems. There has now been a decision to form a national
framework to combat instability from restructuring within the systems that are
in place. He cautioned that all parts of a national system must move together.
Mr Ntuli asked about financial management of provinces in terms of allocation
of funds to schools. He stated that allocation is a problem everywhere. For
instance, 102 schools within Gauteng Province are reported as being among the
poorest of the poor despite Gauteng’s small size and large amount of resources.
He acknowledged that the reports may not be accurate, but there was no formal
denial of that report by the Gauteng government. If there is so much financial
mismanagement in such a small province with good infrastructure and no
historical baggage from the time before 1994, it is very concerning to think
about what is going on in other provinces and difficult to be assured that
learning can take place from the first day of school.
Mr Mpontshane inquired about the reports of disparities in provincial
facilities. He was concerned that disparities within the system were
perpetuating themselves. He asked if the Department could intervene with extra
funding to empower districts to keep this from happening. He has observed
instances of good infrastructure in schools but also the authority of
management undermined by inspectors.
Mr Patel responded that with respect to infrastructure, the numbers do not
reflect a year-to-year disparity. They begin from year 0. In terms of the
equitable share since 1994, some provinces have taken allocations meant for one
thing and spent them in other areas, so the numbers are not indicative of an inherited
backlog. Infrastructure has now been
removed from the equitable share and put into the conditional grant managed by
the National Treasury, which takes into account provincial backlogs. A careful
reading of the intergovernmental Crystal report states that education was not
prioritized in terms of provincial allocations for infrastructure previously,
but the Minister of Finance has announced a 2.7% increase. So the fight is not
lost. The Department has electronic information about the bids that have been
made. It includes what percentage of the bid they expect the provinces to get
and what percentage is fulfilled. By demonstrating progress with limited funds,
they will be able to open the discussion again with National Treasury and take
up the issue in the bidding process once they have determined the speed at
which they can move.
Presentation on Ensuring quality through education districts
Ms Palesa Tyobeka (Deputy Director General: General
Education and Training, Department of Education) gave a short
presentation giving information on the processes being used for determining
districts. There has been a lot of stress in the system on what is happening
with districts, and at the national level there is now a directorate to focus
on the district system. Recognition has been made that education districts are
the link between education sites and the provincial education departments and
the national department institute of quality education. They play a critical
role in ensuring that education needs are understood and that national
objectives are achieved.
To date, districts have been organized according to provincial preferences and
needs rather than a national framework. There have been differences in
structure from province to province so the quality and intensity of service
delivery has varied from district to district across the country.
In many ways, what existed before 1994 continues to affect what is happening in
the districts now and the pace of change. Differences in per capita
expenditures, services to different groups, and in teacher/learner ratios have
influenced different provinces differently. Services have been greatly
affected. Provinces like Western Cape, Northern Cape, and Gauteng, which have
not inherited great parts of homelands, have benefitted from amalgamation. They
have been able to provide more and better services than others and have been
able to deal better with parts of Department of Education and Training (DET)
characterized by underfunding, underprovisioning, and greater numbers of
underqualified teachers. Other provinces inherited much greater numbers of
students from former homelands and have been hampered in their ability to move
forward and the amount of services they are able to provide is compromised.
Looking at all provinces combined, all nine offer core services but those that
inherited greater portions of House of Assembly or House of Delegates regions
have more services that can be offered. Ms Tyobeka then detailed the legal
position of education districts, particularly the lack of a precise legal
definition and the lack of any prescribed powers or functions.
The directorate that has been established has recognised that all these factors
require changes to be made. The perception is that the recognition has taken
too long a time, but it is happening now. The changes must focus on support for
learning, by providing power and authority to the districts, and high quality
support to school leaders. The Department has begun a process toward forming a
policy framework to express a national vision and standardize roles, powers,
and responsibilities as well as providing a normative framework.
To give a sense of how different the different districts are, Ms Tyobeka stated
that a district serves 84 schools in the Northwest Province; one in Gauteng
provides services to 126 schools; a district in Limpopo can be responsible for
providing services to 835 schools. That is the kind of differentiation that
The scope of the policy framework encompasses a common understanding of the
concept of an education district and the powers and structural components
involved. Ms Tyobeka noted a discussion the day before involving a proposal to
form the United States of South Africa, but she noted that the country is not a
federal state, so there must be a common understanding throughout the country.
The policy development process is intended to ensure that roles are uniform and
terminology is standardized, as well as development of a detailed organogram.
In terms of the services that must be provided, the overriding purpose of the
basket of services should be to advance implementation of quality education and
to improve service delivery in all educational institutions. Core functions
within the basket of services include various planning and coordination roles,
monitoring and developing curriculum development, financial management
services, and psychological and therapeutic services for all learners.
The broad time frames that are being used for their work include a process that
has run throughout to the year to HEDCOM and back, to the Council of Education
Ministers (CEM) and back, and there will be a meeting of a small committee of
heads that will finalize a document to be be looked at by the provincial heads
of education on 13 November 2007. That document will provide guidelines for the
entire system to uniformly delegate authority to districts. The hope is for
approval of that document by CEM in January 2008. Then, because the provinces
are at different states of readiness, some with limited funds and capacity to
deliver in the ways described, they will at national level put together and
cost a phased implementation program to be presented to Treasury for funding.
By January 2009 they hope to begin working in all the districts so that all the
districts in the country are positioned to support quality learning in the
The Chair asked Ms Tyobeka that the term “law” be more specifically
defined in her presentation, such as a particular act or other law.
Ms Tyobeka agreed that the question of the legal status of the districts
requires an examination of the conceptualization of the status. If districts
have no legal status, it is difficult for them to do their work but she agreed
with the chair that they must be careful where they look to find the legal
status, and the Department has been using that caution. However, she reiterated
that this links into what is meant by implementation. This is an area of
concern to the entire system. The provinces are discussing all of these issues.
The shift toward a focus on providing support for quality learning is happening
but at different times because of the different starting points for the
different provinces. For the more advanced provinces, these issues are not as
significant. Even where capacity building has been done, districts cannot be
staffed or be brought into full compliance with their role if they do not have
Mr Mpontshane agreed that the districts were the weakest link in the education
system and asked whether it would be possible to have a copy of the document
that contains the guidelines that will go to the provincial heads.
Ms Tyobeka responded that the document could be shared but it is not yet
finalised so it would have no legal status even though it has been through CEM.
Ms Sigcau commented that 2009 was too long to wait for the changes that must be
made, such as changing district offices to be centres of support and having
capacity to give professional support. She wished to know if there were things
that could be done sooner than that.
Ms Tyobeka explained that 2009 is the time when they hope to have legally
binding document in place addressing all of these issues, but the process of
achieving the goals begins now.
Ms. Van der Walt stated that she shared the concerns of Ms Tyobeka about
Limpopo and the large areas within that province. She inquired whether greater
specificity could be given about the services provided in psychological,
guidance, life skills, and therapeutic services, which are addressed in an
amendment passed last month, and the specialized services that are referred to
Ms Tyobeka responded that the decision has revolved around whether specialized
functions will be most effectively placed in the school or at the district
level in deciding where services will be provided. For example, some children
may need speech therapy or specialized services that are not psychological
services. These more unusual services would be housed in the district office
rather than at the school.
Mr Ntuli wished to know what the source of the new legal status of the
districts would be and inquired whether a legislative amendment to existing
acts would be necessary. He also inquired whether any change would need to wait
until after the costing was completed. He also asked what determinants would go
into a decision of the size of a district and whether the Committee would be
informed as to what those determinants were to ensure uniformity of workload.
On the second question, Ms Tyobeka replied that the determinants would include
factors such as geography and the number of schools, but the important
considerations for each school will differ. For example, in the Northern Cape,
distance must be factored into the norms.
The Chair asked about the inability to obtain a conditional grant and asked if
that might still be a possibility now that conditional grants are part of the
equitable share. He expressed concern about the newness of the system leading
to allocations being spent in areas other than those intended. He asked what
the Committee needed to know in order to do its part to prevent that from
Ms Tyobeka spoke to the budget issues by saying that they are still fighting
for grants in all areas. She gave examples such as district development. As yet
they have not been able to obtain any grants and are finding it very difficult
to deliver on national priorities because the money flows through equitable
Mr Mosala queried whether districts could play a role in deciding how funds will
be allocated. He stated that the report said that the schools at issue have not
accounted for the initial allocations, so they could not continue transfers. A
principal has money that he can use but he doesn’t know how to account for the
expenditures to the Department, who is awaiting the information from him. One
should appreciate the Department’s direction on this issue and perhaps
districts are moving in a direction where heads of department can participate
in identifying problems and generating solutions. They have been given a
challenge to capacitate themselves and perform at an optimal level. He stressed
the need to be mindful of shortcomings, but he cautioned about the need to
avoid inspectors and the like and the need to use common designations at the
Ms Tyobeka replied that they are dealing with the issue of nomenclature and
linking terms to the services to be provided. Capacity of districts has been an
ongoing concern and efforts have been made in that area, for instance in providing
subject advisors or district managers. Challenges arise when people are in
these positions but are not equipped to do the job; this makes support
particularly difficult. Stopgap measures have limited usefulness, particularly
when they run across the system as a whole. She gave an example from Limpopo of
a single subject advisor who was servicing a large number of schools as an area
where support will not be successful before capacity is built.
Mr Chanee explained that in Gauteng, schools were fully funded and were
notified of budgets by proper processes in September. They were given renewed
budget letters in March. At no time were schools made to believe that there was
no funding available for them. However, some schools did not account for the funds
they had received the previous year. Some had changed from section 21 schools
to section 20 schools. Budgets would not be transferred to the schools but
would be managed by the district on their behalf. A number of schools argued
that the withdrawal of the function was irregular and that the government could
not remove it without proof of the school’s incapacity to manage funds.
Authorization from the MEC was required to allow the funds to be released
because that was contrary to the policy in place. The schools then reported
that they had no budget; they have budgets but they are being managed by the
district. Only about 40 of the approximately 100 schools claiming no budget
actually did not have their funds in place. This necessitated a process of rectification
and moving funds around under a process to make sure that all payments were
accounted for before funds could be transferred back.
Mr Chanee stated that the key lesson learned from the experience is the need
for information management. For example, in treating the Section 21 status of
schools and the removal of functions, schools should have been given notice and
an opportunity to reply before functions were removed to ensure compliance with
the law. Their status has been reinstated but a company has been commissioned
to examine the schools’ capacity to manage its resources and its previous
inability to account for its activities.
The meeting was then adjourned.