The Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) and the South African Council for Educators (SACE) reported on their respective strategic plans and budgets for 2008/ 09.
The ELRC presented on its mandate and mission, and the functions, highlighting dispute resolution, traditional services and the core services of the various business units. They reported that transformation and development was a critical focus in the current financial year. The equity target of employing disabled persons was highlighted. The forecasted growth in the education sector meant that the role of the ELRC was to be of increased importance. The budget had been approved by the Minister and a revised and updated version would be available to the Committee. The budget was broken down across six programmes, and the increase in income related to the increase in levy income. This had made it possible to undertake training and development in dispute resolution, and increase research and development services. The Council highlighted extensive research conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council, the importance of learner performance, Occupation Specific Dispensation, proper remuneration and hours of educators, dispute resolutions, training of panelists and the HIV/AIDS support programme as major focus areas.
The SACE presentation highlighted professional development of teachers and the national drive toward this end was a recurring theme. The Council had recently acquired its own building. Ethics was a major concern and this was to be addressed by working through the backlog of disciplinary hearing as well as calling for any educators found guilty of misconduct to be struck from the roll. The challenges faced were a need for legislation to deal with schools who employed unregistered teachers, lack of funding and teacher recruitment. The budgeted income for 2008/9 was R39,9 million. The Continuing Professional development points system was also discussed and a far more eclectic approach to crediting teachers was revealed, including community development, workshops and short courses as options for teachers to improve and obtain points.
Key issues raised in the discussion by Members revolved around the importance and implementation of the HIV/ AIDS support programme. Performance monitoring was of particular interest, including the monitoring of the teachers, principals and measuring the improvement of performance of the schools.
Members queried the registration of teachers, the process and any requirement to register. Professional development was also put under question, with concerns raised around the implications for taking resources away from the children as well as shifting a teachers' focus away from teaching and toward studying. Disciplinary mechanisms and the deregistration of those found guilty was discussed and the Committee was assured that this did take place when appropriate. The salary scale of teachers with improved qualifications must be addressed. Other issues highlighted included dispute resolution, the OSD and its implications, the investigation process carried out by the SACE, the complaints mechanism, schools being closed to hold memorial services, and the enforcement of a dress code.
Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC): Strategic Plan and Budget 2008/9
Mr Dhaya (M) Govender, CEO: ELRC gave an overview of the strategic plan for the Council, raising the mandate and mission. A recurring theme was the creation of a quality public education sector , efficiency and non partisan administration. The budget had been approved by the Minister and the updated version would be made available to the Committee. The education sector was expected to treble, therefore an increased role would be played by the ELRC. The equity target was a major focus, with the ELRC exploring various avenues to appoint persons with disabilities. The other equity targets had already been achieved.
Mr Jeff Moshakga, Chief Financial Officer, ELRC, outlined the budget, broken down according to the six programmes run by the Council. He indicated the increase in income due to the increase in levies which had risen from R3 to R10 in August 2007. He said that increased spending on dispute resolution training, and research and development was now made possible. He noted that funds had been allocated to dispute resolution, dispute prevention support, negotiation support, training and development, research, knowledge management and support services.
The importance of learner performance was highlighted, and it was explained how this related teacher, principal and district official performance. The Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD) was concluded at the end of March. The innovations in this regard were a specialist stream for teacher education, office based educators, and reviewed salary progressions. The OSD was linked to aims of proper remuneration and consideration of the hours of educators.
60% of disputes were said to be in appointments and dismissals, and this number was seen as too high by the ELRC. With a view to solving this problem, the professional development of panelists was now being addressed by means of training. The HIV/AIDS support programme received some attention, with particular reference to the cooperation with teachers’ unions and the USA government to source additional funding.
South African Council for Educators (SACE) Strategic Plan and Budget 2008/09
Ms Anthea Cereseto, Chairperson: SACE, presented the strategic plan and budget. She noted that there had recently been the purchase of a new building to house SACE. The Continuing Professional Teacher Development (CPTD) system was part of a national drive. Research was conducted in 36 schools as to how to implement this, and it should be rolled out in 2009. The issue of ethics was highlighted. This was being achieved through the training of educators and through progress being made on the disciplinary hearings. The SACE was committed to getting through the backlog. The Council had recently taken a resolution to have the names of offending teachers struck off the roll.
Mr Rej Brijraj, General Secretary, SACE, continued the presentation. One of the challenges faced by SACE was registration. SACE had requested legislation to be able to deal with institutions that employed unregistered teachers. Funding and teacher recruitment were raised as additional challenges. He explored their mandate and three-year plan in the context of the purpose and aims of the Council, noting that the Council was the main decision making body where policies were generated. The professional development of educators also received attention, referring to the CPTD points system and the eclectic credit system encompassing community activities, workshops and short courses as ways for teachers to improve outside of formal education.
The financial report was presented by Mr M Mapindani, CFO, SACE. The proposed 2008/9 budgeted income was R39,9 million. Expenditure of that income was allocated across registration, professional development, publicity and communications, work on the Code of Ethics, building reserve, and administration expenses. He also highlighted the finance, human resources and premises assets.
Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) referred to the ELRC mandate to maintain labour peace. He asked if it was within their mandate to investigate factors that could lead to labour unrest.
Mr Mpontshane, referring to settlement of disputes, wanted to know what was happening with teachers who had been displaced, and noted that some had been out of their positions for more than two years. He asked why was settlement taking so long.
Mr Govender said the timeframe for handling disputes was sometimes as long as 3 years and this was unacceptable. The ELRC must change the way they managed these cases. The Council had a firm commitment to this and were engaging in training to expedite the processes. Part of the solution would also be early identification of unfounded grievances that had no basis, to cut the number of cases being investigated. One problem with teachers who had been displaced due to disputes was that it was difficult to send them back to their old community. Invariably they must be placed elsewhere.
Mr B Mosala (ANC) asked what was being done about teachers found guilty of misdemeanours, noting that they would then “province-hop” to continue working. He asked at what point would such a teacher be deregistered.
Ms Cereseto replied that deregistration would be applied against those who had been through the disciplinary process and were found guilty. SACE was not really in favour of naming and shaming but the names of deregistered educators would be made available for the purposes of checking up on those making application for new appointments.
Mr Brijraj added that it was not the intention of the Council to disgrace teachers. The Council would prefer to take a corrective view and names would be made available for public protection. He said professionalism was a two-way street and SACE would intervene if a complaint was received. If the Council received the evidence to back up the complaint, the teacher or official would be put to order.
Mr R Ntuli (ANC) asked about the code of conduct and said there was a need to look at professional ethics in a different way. He said that chronic underperformance by teachers was a disservice to the child and the taxpayer. He would like to see action being taken in such event.
Ms Cereseto addressed the issue of performance. The focus here was more on conduct, and the Council would examine the level of offences rather than incapacity by an educator. Monitoring was part of the work of the Department of Education. The CPTD points must be linked to the school plan, problems and career pathing.
Mr R Ntuli (ANC) referred to the ELRC HIV/AIDS support programme and asked for further detail.
Mr Govender said that teacher unions had secured aid from USAid as well as the Centre for Disease Control, therefore the USA government would decide on the acceptability of the HIV/AIDS intervention programme. The ELRC would support teacher unions in this.
Mr G Boinamo (DA) asked why offending principals were not dismissed from schools.
Mr Govender noted that the annual Performance Contract for principals was a mechanism to make principals answer for the performance of their schools. This could also be extended to district officials as they carried responsibility for the schools in their district. The whole idea here was to show an improvement of results. He said the Council needed a ranked continuous evaluation system for teachers, and pointed out that it was a mistake to scrap such systems in 1996. They needed to reintroduce these measures and the system must recognise improvements
Mr Boinamo enquired if the registration of teachers was only applied to public school teachers, and what was the situation in regard to teachers at private schools. He asked whether SACE had mechanisms to compel unqualified teachers to obtain qualifications in a given time, and whether, if they failed to do so, they could be removed from the system.
Ms Cereseto answered that registration applied to all teachers, public and private. Provisional registration was given to unqualified and under-qualified teachers. She said schools were now resorting to appointing professionals who did not hold qualifications as teachers. SACE had registered these people due to the skills shortage, as it could not deny the schools the opportunity to fill these positions.
Mr R van den Heever (ANC) asked if there was a conflict between the trade union rights and the professional development of teachers. He asked to what extent could the Councils could ensure the rights of teachers as well as ensure their performance. He said educators must have an acceptable salary dispensation. This must then also be linked to improved performance and services.
Mr Govender answered that curriculum impacting on the work of teachers was an issue that needed to be explored. He did however say that this was not an issue of labour rights.
Mr BJ Snayer, Executive Councillor, SACE, said there were conflicts with union functions. Much ground had been covered by OSD, to the extent that many of these issues had been resolved. Although these provisions were in place, there was still a need to deal with the matter from a higher authority. SACE would respond to complaints and would also take that opportunity to do a whole school evaluation. In this way they had often discovered dysfunctional elements in the system. .
Ms M Matsomela asked about the budget allocation, in the ELRC budget, for dispute prevention support services. She pointed out this was a rather large allocation and asked how effective this sector was in light of last year’s long strike. She then questioned the OSD agreement introducing requirements for additional qualifications. She wondered if this would be at the expense of classroom work. In regard to the Further Education and Training Sector (FETC) sector she suggested that research be done on other country’s models.
Mr Govender responded that OSD was seeking to transform teacher delivery by paying teachers appropriately and commensurately, expecting them in return to perform better. He said that qualifications remained a focus of parents and governing bodies. This was an important area and a qualification threshold was necessary. It was hoped, by having teachers able to progress through learning levels, that this would keep good teachers in the classroom. He added that training and further education should be done after hours.
Ms P Mashangoane (ANC) thanked the ELRC for the eye opening presentation. On the prevention, care and treatment of HIV/AIDS initiative, she asked how a reduction in infection rates of educators and their families would be achieved.
Mr Govender said that disclosure of HIV status was still an issue of stigmatisation. The ELRC wanted to encourage educators to seek care and treatment. He said their HIV status was handled by unions on a confidential basis. He added that it was too soon to measure any successes, but the impact must be measured in future.
The Chairperson asked about the large sum of R13 million allocated to administration expenses in the SACE budget.
Mr Mapindani answered by giving a breakdown of the amount. R1.7 million was allocated to structural meetings, R 8.3 million for salaries and the remaining R 3 million was for miscellaneous administration costs.
Mr Mpontshane remarked about the fact that SACE would await a formal complaint before taking action, even if it was aware of a matter that warranted discipline. He asked if people knew about the existence of SACE, to be able to complain. He asked what would be done if the Department itself had acted in an unprofessional manner. He also said SACE must be more vocal to combat party politics in schools.
Ms Cereseto said that SACE did not only wait for complaints, and that it could indeed pursue anything that comes to its attention. The challenge here was obtaining evidence and retaining witnesses.
Mr Brijraj said that teachers must do certain things after hours and must not use their professional status to further their personal interests, but that certain matters could well be discussed in an educational context for the benefit of the children. They had citizen's rights to raise matters, like all South Africans. He also said that in many places the mere threat of a SACE investigation was enough to motivate schools to stop irregularities.
Ms Matsomela asked about foreign teachers in general. She questioned whether there was any prior evaluation of their ability to communicate with South African children.
Mr Brijraj welcomed the suggestion to more stringently evaluate foreign teachers. He felt the Council could engage in screening testing, for example.
Ms Matsomela asked what co-ordination with other bodies was needed to make SACE more effective. She also wanted to know what SACE was doing to support teachers with socio-economic problems.
Ms Cereseto replied that the condition of some schools was bad and hindered performance. Social services needed to support education
Mr Boinamo queried the proposal to raise the salary scale in accordance with a teacher improving his or her qualifications. He said that the lack of such a raise was counter-motivational.
Mr Govender said that there was a drive to bring back qualifications and there would be a review of collective agreements in the next 3 months.
Mr Boinamo made the point that Grade R was the foundation for the culture of learning. He asked how this could be supported.
Mr Govender replied that the provision of Early Childhood Development (ECD) was limited. Training had to be looked at, as well as placement of qualified teachers
Mr Mosala asked if teachers were compelled to register. If not, he asked what could SACE do to compel registration. He added that he found the influx of foreign teachers interesting.
Ms Cereseto said there was no penalty to not being registered and SACE had no jurisdiction over non-registered teachers. This was a problem arising through lack of legislation and it would have to be addressed by amendments.
Ms Mashangoane asked how abuse of powers by traditional leaders in charge of schools could be prevented.
The Chairperson said that perhaps the Portfolio Committee should use its powers to report any abuses of power.
Ms Mashangoane asked whether giving teachers credit for community involvement come at the expense of the children.
Ms Cereseto responded that only community activities that benefited the children or school would count as a credit to the teacher. An example would be setting up a food garden for the school.
Ms Mashangoane expressed a concern about levies and thought they needed review in line with rising costs.
Ms Cereseto said that funding was under review and a new dispensation was requested for the new financial year.
Mr Govender remarked that according to the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) they could probably manage safely until about 2030. If current economic difficulties persisted, the levies may have to be increased by about half of the increases given to the teachers.
The Chairperson referred to OSD and said there was a big divide between model C and public schools. He asked how could that be factored into performance evaluation.
Mr Govender said that in considering the distribution of posts, the system used as a basis certain quintiles and considered how best to advantage schools. Recent research had found a new way of distributing moneys to advantage poor schools. Equal provisioning would no longer be the norm. Qualified teachers must be sent to rural areas. He pointed out that the ELRC did not have the ability to place new teachers where needed. He suggested that a bursary scheme could have placement attached as one of the provisions in exchange for funding. The SACE code of conduct must be enforced. Context was taken into account when evaluations were made. He explained that OSD must measure improvement of performance, not the level at which teaching took place.
The Chairperson brought up the issue of memorial services held for teachers who had passed away due to HIV/AIDS. He noted that schools were routinely closed to allow children and colleagues to attend.
Mr Govender, suggested that the “making up for lost time” principle must be revived. A check must be kept on lost time and sufficient safeguards put in place to counter abuse.
Ms Mashangoane suggested that memorial services be held after school hours.
Mr Mpontshane asked if SACE had a dress code for teachers.
Mr Brijraj commented that they had received a letter from the Director General a few months ago on this topic. The Council ruled that where there were allegations of inappropriate dress, the educators must be brought in line with appropriate dress requirements. There was a need to provide sufficient safeguards.
Mr Govender said that any dress code must be very descriptive and very detailed, otherwise it would be difficult to enforce. The context must also be considered - for instance, the dress code for a teacher of physical education would be very different from that for a classroom subject educator.
Ms Mashangoane said the dress code matter was not simple and any restrictions must be checked.
The meeting was adjourned.
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