The Department of Education presented its strategic plan and budget vote 2008/9, 2010-2012. The presentation comprised an overview of the Minister’s broad priorities as well as the ministerial goals. Departmental strategies were also outlined with special attention paid to the introduction of the Learner Unit Record Information Tracking System and prioritising teacher development and performance.
The major feature of the discussion was the funding and implementation of the National Schools Nutrition Programme. The training and monitoring of district managers and district capacity also came up repeatedly. The Committee was assured that these matters would be attended to and that the problem most often was not that districts do not have the capacity, but rather they suffer from poor management.
The Kha Ri Gude mass literacy initiative was also queried. The questions centred on how fast the response would be, should an individual decide to undertake teaching a class. The Department said that much of the bureaucratic restrictions had been eliminated and private contractors had been brought in to further increase efficiency. Teacher training and employment was raised and the Funza Lushaka programme and importation of foreign teachers was specifically mentioned. The Department’s response was that the negative perceptions about teaching in this country were being changed and that the use of foreign teachers was a temporary measure while Funza Lushaka is used to build up teaching capacity domestically. Search and seizure measures, as a method to bring about safe and caring schools, were queried. The Department responded that this was widely supported, in line with the Education Laws Amendment Act, and there did not seem to be any major ethical conflicts. The structure and distribution of funding was discussed in all spheres of the education system but the most concern centred on the Nutrition Programme and the provision of textbooks to provinces. The Department responded that any misallocation noted by the public could be reported to the Department via their call centre (0800 20 29 33). Only once problems were reported could the Department take action. On the matter of textbook provision and the single textbook catalogue, tentative steps were being taken to unify the buying of textbooks in order to obtain better prices.
Consolidated expenditure for total education 2008/9 is projected at R122, 878, 295 mil with a 15,5% increase in 2009/10. The budget vote 2008/9 was R104, 020, 749 mil with a15,6% increase in 2009/10. The allocations per province were all given increases above projected inflation.
Mr Duncan Hindle, Director General: Department of Education (DoE) briefed the Committee on its strategic plan for 2008-2012 and its budget and operational plans for 2008/9.
He noted the Minister’s continuing emphasis on an evidence-based approach to policy making and review. The Minister’s five broad priorities are: Dealing with Poverty, Human Resource Development, Quality Improvement, Health Education and Institutional Development. The tools to be used to deal with poverty were: No Fee schools, the National Schools Nutrition Programme (NSNP) and giving special attention to rural education. Human Resource development would focus on Further Education and Training (FET) schools and colleges, higher education outputs, adult education and mass literacy and co-ordination of human resource development.
The Ministerial Goals for 2008/9 were: improving learning outcomes, preparing for e-learning in schools (second chance program for repeating matrics), increasing the number of No Fee schools, finalizing the recapitalisation of FET colleges, the Kha Ri Gude mass literacy programme, Reviewing Adult Education programmes, Implementation of the Education Laws Amendment Act, Building on Funza Lushaka teacher bursaries and improving the NSNP.
There was no move toward developing new strategies, rather a focus (in line with “Business Unusual”) on the efficient implementation and accountability in current programmes. Obtaining better data via the Education Management & Information System (EMIS) and Learner Unit Record Information Tracking System (LURITS) was highlighted. Mr Hindle made particular mention of LURITS, stating that EMIS provided only aggregate figures whereas LURITS would enable tracking of students as they move between provinces. The problem they had picked up was that provinces were not admitting to the loss of learners in an effort to maximize their funding. This was inefficient and LURITS would allow the DoE to adjust funding according to learner tracking as well as being able to trace an individual learner’s performance, it would increase quality information available for decision making.
Mr Hindle went through the priorities for Systems Planning and Monitoring, General Education, Further Education and Training, Social and School Enrichment, and Higher Education.
The handling of textbook buying was discussed with the focus on a more centralized buying approach. The Department saw textbooks as a non negotiable.
Minimum and maximum sizes of schools would also need review and monitoring in the coming year. The DoE had made a commitment to universal enrolment for all children 0-4 years olds in line with Early Childhood Development (ECD).
The first fully national matric examination was raised as it would have its debut at the end of 2008. It would comprise only 29 national papers, meaning the process of matric examinations would be streamlined and improved.
Dinaledi schools (Maths and Science-focus schools) were to be increased. This was to be combined with increased focus within schools on a greater participation and pass rates in these subjects for girl learners. As said in previous meetings, the NSNP would continue to be provided exclusively in primary schools.
Consolidated expenditure for education 2008/9 was projected at R122, 878, 295 mil with a 15,5% increase in 2009/10 to R134,745,789 mil. The allocations per province were all given increases above projected inflation. The provincial allocation was R104,020,749 mil with a 15,6% increase in 2009/10. The national allocation for 2008/9 was R18, 857, 546 mil with a 15,1% increase in 2009/10.
Ms J Masilo (ANC, North West) asked about the 60% target on No Fee schools and wanted to know if the department would revisit the Quintile model to ensure the quintiles assigned to schools matched the ability of the children and parents to pay the prescribed fees. She asked about the progress made on the recapitalisation of FETs. She asked about the partnerships with NGOs. She expressed concern about how educators were frustrated and suggested that more monitoring was needed to provide clearer information
Mr Hindle replied that there was no change in the rules for No Fee schools. He said that 2007 was the first year of implementation and he believed that funds allocated had arrived too late, leaving schools with no funds with which to begin the school year. The first allocation should be made in November to solve this administration problem. He stated that if quintiles seem to be incorrectly assigned that this needed to be reported to the department via the call centre (0800 20 29 33). He explained that quintiles ranking of schools from poorest to richest was necessary, but discretion was to be used and corrections must be made within bounds. As to the FET recapitalisation, he noted that this was the final year of the conditional grant. The evidence-driven approach the DOE had adopted was tied to the question of having more information in all spheres and that it was evidentially clear that there were many children in need of special needs education.
Ms F Mazibuko (ANC, Gauteng), asked about “search and seizure” and if it violated teacher council policies on grounds that it violates human rights and was not part of their job description. With this in mind, she asked if this would make implementation impossible. Ms Mazibuko then raised examples of schools where the NSNP had been reduced to only two days a week and where volunteers did not receive their stipend. She asked if the DOE was monitoring the NSNP closely and suggested a more basic approach. She brought up the problem of child-headed households where the primary school children would receive a meal but the high school children would not. How was the department sticking to protocols regarding this problem? She asked about Kha Ri Gude and if this was set up to ensure that there were no frustrations. She queried schools that have fewer than 50 learners and the implementation of boarding schools in these situations. She wanted to know what the approach was to multi-grade schools in rural or farm schools. She suggested that different measures were needed and that the same yardstick could not be used to monitor these schools. She asked what level of resources was being dedicated to these schools.
Mr Hindle replied that now that the legislation was in place for searches, it was time to formulate procedures to aid implementation. He was not aware of anything in the teacher’s code of ethics to prevent this. The Department was also looking to the community to play a part and did not want to make teachers policemen.
He said they were monitoring the conditional grant of the NSNP and noted a study done by KPMG that stated that the programme was attaining its goal of helping children learn better. In situations where there were problems with the NSNP, their only recourse was to withhold future funds. He said the suggestion of re-appropriating funds (transfer from one province to another) was declined by the Treasury and as a result the DoE has limited power to effect change. The DoE has committed to provide meals to quintile 1, 2 and 3 schools and the NSNP cannot be extended to high schools yet for budgetary and efficiency reasons. The matter of the volunteer stipends would be investigated.
Mr Hindle said that Kha Ri Gude was not tied up in government bureaucracy and that their offices have the freedom and capacity to respond to any requests. He referred to the current drive to identify people to do the tutoring to aid mass mobilization. He added that the private contractor SAB&T would further increase this responsiveness.
Mr Hindle addressed the closures of small schools in the North West province. He said that these small schools were both economically and educationally inefficient. He noted that the planning in the past was at fault and remedial action was necessary.
The Chairperson then asked if there were any conditions placed on the NSNP.
Mr Hindle responded by saying the conditions were as follows: the NSNP endeavoured to feed children 198 days a year at a cost of R1,50 per child per day and these meals be provided before 10 o’ clock in the morning. According to the KPMG report a one-size-fits-all approach could not be used. Some level of centralization would be necessary. He did not think the model was at fault, rather the management of the NSNP that gave rise to the problems. It was the Minister’s view that funds should be directly streamed to schools and that schools should then be monitored.
The Chairperson asked if it would not be possible to have different norms and standards for multi-grade schools.
Ms Madlala-Magubane (ANC, Gauteng) asked what reason was given when the NSNP was declined for high schools. She also wanted to what was being done about corruption in Section 21 schools. She expressed concern at the department’s inability to attract teachers domestically and the use of foreign teachers. She asked about the Funza Lushaka bursary scheme specifically related to this. She suggested the use of retired teachers. She highlighted situations in the North West where there were computers but no teachers to instruct learners in ICT. She also asked what the benefits of principal training were.
Mr Hindle responded that the Treasury did not give a detailed reason when it declined expanding the NSNP to high schools. There was an initiative to bring schools under the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) to curb corruption. On Funza Lushaka, he said that the department needed to change the perception that there were no jobs in teaching. The importation of foreign teachers was seen as a temporary measure while the DoE developed local teaching capacity. Willing retirees were on the database and were considered a valuable resource for staffing shortages.
Ms K Kgareba (UCDP) asked about planning and monitoring. She raised the issue of the Integrated Quality Management System (IQMS) where a whole school’s evaluation was based on the performance of just a few teachers. She voiced her displeasure at this approach. She also asked how children with mental disabilities were identified for recommendation to special schools. Finally she asked about the allocation of funds to the food providers of the NSNP.
The Chair stated that currently education was not value for money and wanted to know what the Director General’s take on this was and how the problems could be solved. He asked about the training of district officials and how a culture of teaching and learning was being instilled. He said such a culture was missing from township and rural schools and asked what the DoE was doing to address these issues. He highlighted IQMS, saying that this system did not work and asked about moderator evaluation shortcomings. He also asked what the differences in resources assigned to Dinaledi schools were.
Ms Masilo asked about the co-ordination of human resources, noting that the vacancy rate in many departments was very high. She too raised the issue of district official training as well as enquiring about the support staff at special schools.
On the centralized purchase of textbooks, the Chairperson said that he agreed with a textbook catalogue.
Mr Hindle said some provinces had tentatively agreed to transfer allocated textbook funds back to the DoE in order to take advantage of the economies of scale of larger buying power. He said the Department was not going to ditch IQMS, it would take too much to create a new system. Learner performance was built into IQMS and moderation must first be done at school level. If the school submitted a report that all teachers were good or outstanding, a detailed external moderation would be carried out.
On the allocation of funds to the NSNP, too much micro managing would be detrimental. He suggested limiting stipends as an alternative to direct control.
Mr Hindle said spending of provincial budgets was improving and funds were actually reaching schools. He said the attitude of district managers was authoritarian and problematic. He added that norms and standards would need to be developed and many districts were fully equipped to perform functions but were poorly managed.
The meeting was adjourned.
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