ATC110222: Report Oversight Visits to the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, dated 22 February 2011

Higher Education, Science and Technology

Report of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education on oversight visits to the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, dated 22 February 2011.

 

The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, having undertaken oversight visits to the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, reports as follows:

 

1.         Introduction

 

1.1        A multi-party delegation of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education and the Select Committee on Education and Recreation conducted oversight visits as follows:

 

1.1.1          On Wednesday, 26 January 2011 the delegation visited the region of Ntabankulu, in the Alfred Nzo District Municipality, Eastern Cape. The Committee held meetings as follows:

 

o        Ntabankulu Circuit Office – Meeting with Members of the Provincial Legislature and officials of the National Department, Provincial Department and the Provincial Legislature.

 

o        Ntsikayezwe Senior Secondary School – Meeting with relevant stakeholders, educators, principals, unions, parents, school governing bodies and community.

 

o        Ntabankulu Senior Secondary – Meeting with relevant stakeholders, educators, the school governing body and parents.

 

1.1.2          On Thursday, 27 January 2011, the delegation visited the region of Bergville, in the Uthukela District, KwaZulu-Natal. The Committee held meetings as follows:

 

o        Khokhozane Primary School - Meeting with relevant stakeholders, educators, the school governing body and parents.

 

o        Mpumuzi Primary School – Meeting with relevant stakeholders, educators, the school governing body and parents.

 

1.2               In the spirit of co-operation the Committee had invited officials from the Ministry and Department of Basic Education to form part of the overall delegation on the oversight visits.

 

1.3               The purpose of the oversight visits was to assess the state of readiness of schools in these regions and the impact the extreme weather has had on them. There was an additional need to give support to the provincial departments of education in identifying the challenges and assisting in finding effective solutions to many of the challenges being faced. The visits formed part of the Committee’s oversight responsibility to monitor and support progress in the implementation of education priorities, more specifically the expectation pronounced during the 2010 State of the Nation Address, for both learners and educators to be in school, in class, on time, learning and teaching seven hours a day. The Committee also aimed to assess school readiness in terms of the level of delivery of learner and teacher support material (LTSM), specifically workbooks to Quintile 1 and 2 schools as a key government initiative identified to improve the quality of schooling.

 

1.4        The visits coincided with the oversight programme of the provincial legislatures who were conducting oversight visits at selected schools in both provinces since the commencement of the school year. In an effort to accommodate our delegation, it was agreed that the Committee would join the provincial committees in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

 

1.5        This report provides a summary of the key issues that emerged from the interaction with stakeholders, officials of the National Department, provincial departments as well as the committee’s deliberations, observations and recommendations.

 

2.         Delegations

 

2.1               Portfolio Committee on Basic Education: Hon H H Malgas, MP (ANC) (Chairperson), Hon N Gina MP (ANC) (Whip), Hon Z S Makhubele MP (ANC), Hon A Mda MP (Cope) and Hon N M Kganyago MP (UDM).

 

2.2               Select Committee on Education and Recreation: Hon R N Rasmeni MP (ANC – North West) (Acting Chairperson), Hon M G Boroto MP (ANC – Mpumalanga), Hon S H Plaatjie MP (Cope – North West), Hon M J R De Villiers MP (DA – Western Cape) and Hon D Z Rantho MP (ANC – Eastern Cape).

 

2.3               Portfolio Committees on Education:

 

2.3.1          Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature: Hon M Mrara MPL (Chairperson), Hon M B Nodada MPL, Ms M Daniels (Committee Coordinator) and Mr M Mkosi (Researcher).

 

2.3.2          KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Legislature: Hon M Frazer MPL, Hon S Nkosi MPL, Hon Inkosi N Shabalala, Mr K Mkhwanazi (Committee Coordinator) and Mr S Hlatshwako (Researcher).

 

2.4               Provincial Departments of Education:

 

2.4.1          Eastern Cape: Mr S N Mfokazi, Ms S Somtsewu, Ms A S Mapekula, Mr A Tantsi, Mr G Msikili, Mr V Matwasa, Mr E N Mthembu and Chief Fortyman Sigcawu.

 

2.4.2          KwaZulu-NatalMr C P Lancaster (Midlands Cluster Manager), Mr M Mchunu (Acting Circuit Manager) and Mr K Mbele (Planning and Infrastructure).

 

2.5               Ministry of Basic Education: Mr R Van den Heever, Parliament Liaison Officer.

 

2.6               National Department of Basic Education: Mr M Dintsi: Deputy Director, Physical Planning and Mr M Tshitema: Deputy Director, Quality Improvement and Development Support.

 

2.7               Parliamentary Staff: Mr M Dlanga (Committee Secretary: Select Committee on Education and Recreation), Mr L Brown (Committee Secretary: Portfolio Committee on Basic Education), Mr D Bandi (Content Advisor), Mr L Mahada (Parliamentary Researcher) and Ms O Siebritz (Committee Assistant).

 

4.         Engagements at the Ntabankulu Circuit Office, Ntabankulu, Eastern Cape

           

4.1               The delegation was warmly welcomed by Hon M Mrara, Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Education, Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature. He explained that although the Committee had requested to meet the full provincial committee, this was not possible due to the provincial committee programme of visiting schools during this time. This meant that all Members of the Provincial Legislature were site visiting various schools in the seven Districts identified as part of their oversight and monitoring responsibilities. The Chairperson suggested that the Committee link up with his team in Ntabankulu and form part of their programme for the day.

 

4.2               Challenges

 

Hon Mrara drew the Committees’ attention to the challenges faced in the region as follows:

                                   

4.2.1          Prior to these visits there had been numerous visits by a range of stakeholders, politicians and officials from various organisations over the past few years. Unfortunately during these visits, many commitments were undertaken by these groups - commitments that, to date had not been met. A major challenge was how to manage the process of commitments made when dealing with the numerous challenges.

 

4.2.2          During the December 2010 period, there had been changes in the appointment of a new Head of Department and MEC for Education. Since schools reopened on 19 January 2011 there was very little time for the new incumbents to be properly inducted into their positions. This led to a host of meetings during the December 2010 – January 2011 period on the issue of the readiness of schools for 2011 and how best to move forward. These meetings helped in establishing a sense of clarity and direction for the coming new school year.

 

4.2.3          Financial and budgetary constraints saw the province exhaust the approximate R24 billion budget allocation. Due to accruals and maladministration the province was faced with an over-expenditure of around R1.6 billion in the 2010/11 financial year.

 

4.2.4          School Nutrition Programme – this has been suspended due to mismanagement of funds.

 

4.2.5          Scholar Transport – With the exception of the farm schools this has been suspended. Although at least R300 million was budgeted for, this project was also affected by mismanagement and corruption. With investigations underway, individuals had already been suspended.

 

The provincial department was faced with a dilemma and needed to make hard choices as many of the service providers were owed by the department. It was necessary to start afresh to prevent a repetition of previous problems.

 

4.2.6     The province had to suspend at least 3 000 temporary teachers in its employ. With many schools employing as many as 50 percent temporary teachers, this meant that some schools would cease to function when the suspension was implemented. There was a need for the Province to re-instate these temporary teachers.

 

4.2.7     There was also an urgent need to address the issue of foreign teachers in the employ of the Provincial Department vs. temporary and unemployed teachers, a matter that was creating considerable tension.

 

4.2.8     Administration was generally corrupt and needed to be overhauled. According to Hon Mrara, there were allegations that syndicates operated with the assistance of government officials to acquire tenders to provide services. Tenders for the distribution of learner and teacher support material had been cancelled due to alleged fraud in the tendering processes. This had left at least 1 100 schools without the necessary stationary and workbooks. The province had resolved to piggy-back on the Limpopo and Gauteng Provinces’ tender processes that had been completed. Investigations were ongoing in respect of dumped stationary to the value of R3 million the previous year.

 

4.2.9     Learners experienced many challenges gaining acceptance into Higher Education Institutions (HEI) which was exacerbated by the points system for admission. It was disappointing that the Further Education and Training (FET) Sector in the province was becoming less effective, experiencing inter alia a current low enrolment of 14 000 students, which was way below the set target of 80 000 for 2014.

 

Overall, the Province was not ready for the opening of schools for 2011 for a variety of reasons. Schools, however, would have most probably been ready if not for the above-mentioned challenges.

 

Due to time constraints the meeting resolved to move on to the stakeholder meeting and reconvene at a later stage to follow-up and seeks a way forward.

 

5.         Stakeholder Meeting at the Ntsikayezwe Senior Secondary School, Ntabankulu

                       

5.1               The meeting was officially opened by Hon Mrara, Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Education in the Eastern Cape Legislature. The purpose of the meeting was to ascertain the challenges faced by the schools in Ntabankulu and the surrounding areas; key to which is the readiness for the opening of the schools, the availability of scholar transport and the delivery of Learner Support Material.

 

5.2               Challenges

 

The following are the challenges that were raised by the principals of various schools in       the Ntabankulu area:

 

5.2.1 Most schools lacked adequate infrastructure such as buildings, laboratories, libraries and computer classrooms. Some schools had visible cracks, which        posed a danger to both learners and educators.

 

5.2.2          There was a view that primary schools were given priority over high schools which had been neglected.

 

5.2.3     The funds allocated to schools were received late. This disrupted the planning programmes of the schools. Some schools had backlogs that date back to 2008.

 

5.2.4     There were schools with temporary teachers who were on suspension. The view was that whilst the department was conducting the audit on teachers, temporary teachers should be allowed to teach until the investigation had been completed.

 

5.2.5     The Provincial Department of Education had suspended the School Nutrition Programme until further notice. The schools were of the view that there was no valid reason for the suspension. The alleged corrupt activities that led to the suspension of the school nutrition programme had to be investigated - but not at the learners’ expense.

 

5.2.6     The status of access roads and bridges that linked schools and the communities were in a neglected state. This caused learner absenteeism during the rainy season.

 

5.2.7     The Ntabankulu area fell under the Lusikisiki District. There was a need to revisit the demarcation of the area and consider integrating the Ntabankulu Circuit into the Mt Frere District.

 

5.2.8     The majority of schools were neither fenced nor electrified. Members of the community acted as security guards due to the number of burglaries experienced by the schools in the past.

 

5.2.9     There was insufficient non-teaching staff such as clerks and administrators. Educators were sometimes performing administrative duties which infringe on their teaching time.

 

5.2.10   Rhwantsana Junior Secondary School was hit by a storm in 2009. At this school learners were literally studying under trees. It was difficult to teach in the sun or when it was raining. The Provincial Department was aware of the challenges at Rhwantsana. Following an inspection of the school, the National Department of Basic Education promised to build a library. The school was of the opinion that it would be preferable to first build classrooms. The challenges at Rhwantsana had been reported in the press, television and radio news without any help forthcoming.

 

5.2.11   The schools did not have access to the basic necessities such as clean water and proper ablution facilities. The infrastructure projects were sometimes abandoned without being completed due to alleged corruption in the tendering process.

 

5.2.12   The furniture provided to schools was substandard, breaking within months of being procured by the schools. The quality of the furniture which includes desks and tables should be investigated.

 

5.2.13   Although some schools had received learner support materials, many were still waiting for their delivery.

 

5.3    Responses to the challenges

 

            Members of Parliament, Members of the Provincial Legislature and Officials from the National Department of Basic Education deliberated on the engagement with the stakeholders and responded as follows:

 

5.3.1 It was acknowledged that the Portfolio Committee on Education in the Eastern Cape Legislature visited Rhwantsana Junior Secondary School in the past. The issue of Rhwantsana was brought before the Eastern Cape Provincial Cabinet for consideration. The Cabinet had approved 400 classrooms to be built between January and March 2011. The submission for the construction work in Rhwantsana had to be done by the district. Rhwantsana was also included in the list of schools to be constructed in during the financial year.

 

5.3.2     The list of schools that were scheduled to be constructed included those that was abandoned before completion as well as those affected by disasters.

 

5.3.3     The National Department of Basic Education had developed a programme that sought to eradicate mud schools. The challenge was also the prefabricated structures constructed before 1994 that had subsequently collapsed. The Portfolio Committee in the Province had requested that the National Department intervened in this regard.

 

5.3.4 Schools Nutrition Programme: there were schools that had to benefit from the programme but were not receiving it currently. An amount of approximately R7 million was allocated to this programme in theEastern Cape. However, it had been noted that the programme has been open to abuse.

 

5.3.5     Scholar Transport: this programme had been affected by corruption. At St            John’s College in Mthatha, it was discovered that out of four routes that were            approved only one was operating.

 

5.3.6     Substandard school Furniture: the Further Education and Training (FET) Colleges had since been mandated to assist with providing furniture that was supplied to schools. However, only three Further Education and Training (FET) Colleges were capable to provide this service in the province.

 

5.3.7     Temporary Teachers: statistics from the department indicated that there were      approximately 3 000 ghost teachers on the payroll of the Department. After the             department had conducted its own audit it was discovered that only 3 000    temporary teachers were in the system.

 

5.3.8     Re-opening of Colleges of Education: the Portfolio Committee in the Province had been lobbying for the re-opening of the Colleges of Education. It      was noted that this had become a competency of the Department of Higher Education and Training.

 

5.3.9     Integration of Ntabankulu Circuit into Mt Frere: this process was under discussion at a political level. There was a process of re-alignment of districts underway. The department had been assigned the task of creating an organogram in line with the re-alignment.

 

5.3.10   Vandalism in schools: Communities had a responsibility of looking after their       schools. This responsibility included looking after the infrastructure of the           schools and ensuring that schools were not vandalised.

 

5.3.11   Employment of clerks and security guards at schools: schools did fill   vacancies of non-teaching staff; however, there was a moratorium on the filling of vacant posts. This moratorium also included the employment of security guards.

 

5.3.12   Access roads: the District would take up this matter with the Executive Mayor of the area.

 

5.3.13 Curriculum: the District only implemented the curriculum and did not have the power to change it. The District would further strengthen the training of teachers on the curriculum. The department had acknowledged that there were challenges with regard to the understanding of the curriculum by educators in some schools. Curriculum Advisors were sent to support schools. At some schools they were denied access by the unions. The Minister had issued a statement on re-packaging the curriculum and the department was in the process of preparing Intermediate Phase teachers for the implementation of the curriculum in 2012.

 

6.         Engagement at Ntabankulu Senior Secondary, Ntabankulu

 

6.1                       This school was situated in the small town of Ntabankulu. It consisted of a Principal, a Deputy Principal, three Heads of Department and 15 educators. The total number of learners was 644.This school was classified as a Quintile 1 school.

 

6.2                       School Nutrition Programme and Learner Support Material: learners benefited from the programme. The learner support material including textbooks were delivered to the school the week before. It transpired during the engagements that besides minor challenges the school was ready for opening.

 

6.3                       Challenges

 

The following were highlighted as challenges:

 

6.3.1              There was a lack of proper infrastructure such as libraries and laboratories.

6.3.2              Insufficient number of classrooms.

6.3.3              No proper ablution facilities.

6.3.4              The school had two temporary teachers. They have since been suspended due to the current moratorium on the employment of temporary teachers.

6.3.5              Some of the classrooms had leaking roofs.

 

6.4            Responses to the challenges

 

Members of Parliament, Members of the Provincial Legislature and Officials from the National Department of Basic Education deliberated on the engagements and responded as follows:

 

6.4.1          The district office was aware of the challenges at Ntabankulu Senior Secondary School. The school appeared on the list of the schools that needed renovations. It was only roofing that had been listed as a challenge.

 

6.4.2          Ntabankulu Senior Secondary School had been included on the list of schools that had been affected by disasters.

 

6.4.3          The responsibility to build schools resided with Provinces. The National Department assisted only where there was a need. The funds allocated to schools had to be used for their intended purposes. According to the statistics of the Department of Basic Education the Eastern Cape had 395 mud schools; the Provincial Department’s statistics showed that there were 559 mud schools in the province. The National Department had a programme in place to eradicate mud schools. The Department was currently targeting the Eastern Cape and the programme would also be rolled-out to other provinces.

 

6.4.4          An amount of approximately R238, 000 had been allocated to the school. The school paid for services that it did not benefit from, an example being the refuse that the municipality did not collect but which the school was billed for.

 

6.4.5          The schools used its paper budget to pay for services, maintenance and individuals who were protecting the school premises.

 

Major Concern of the Delegation

 

The ongoing education crisis in the Eastern Cape and the delay in dealing with challenges is a matter of concern to the Committee. The Committee urges all parties involved to work together to speedily resolve all urgent matters.

 

7.         Engagement at Khokhozane Primary School, KwaZulu-Natal

 

7.1               This is one of the schools that had been affected by the storms and floods in Kwazulu-Natal. The purpose of the visit to the school was to inspect and observe the extent of damage caused by the storm.

 

7.2               Challenges

 

The following were the challenges that the delegation discovered:

 

7.2.1          The access road and bridge that link the school with the village was in a bad state making it impossible to get to the school during the rainy season.

7.2.2          Learners sometimes missed classes when it rained to avoid being swept away by the rivers when trying to cross them to get to school.

7.2.3          The roof was not properly fixed since the school was hit by a storm in 2010.

7.2.4          The school still needed to receive the learner workbooks although the stationery and the textbooks had been delivered.

7.2.5          The school did not benefit from the School Nutrition Programme or the Scholar Transport Programme.

7.2.6          There were no proper ablution facilities.

 

7.3        The Committee learned during the discussion that the school was on the list of those that had been identified for renovation with the contractor already having been appointed to begin work. The whole district was faced with the lack of ablution facilities and access to clean water.

 

8.         Engagement at Mpumuzi Primary School

 

8.1        Challenges

 

The following were the challenges facing Mpumuzi Primary School:

 

8.1.1     The school was situated on a hill and had been badly affected by storms every year. The School Governing Body proposed that the school be moved from the current location to prevent it from being exposed to the storm. The incidents of storm damage to the buildings had been reported to the department in good time and the relevant data was then captured; however, the response rate was slow. There was a move to try and build overlapping walls and re-roof the entire classroom to counter the strong winds. Although steel structures had been     added, they were still affected by the wind. When it rained all classes leaked and water ran down the inside walls housing electrical sockets, posing the danger of electrical fires. As a result of the damp walls, there was no way of posting educational materials on the walls.

 

8.1.2     The school was also in need of an administrative block – currently a classroom had been converted into an administrative office.

 

8.1.3     It was also reported that a learner died at the school due to strong wind causing a structural beam to collapse on him.

 

8.1.4     The school did not benefit from the Scholar Transport Programme.

 

8.1.5     The Learner Support Material had not been delivered yet; however, the school had used its allocated budget to procure study material whilst still awaiting a       delivery from the Department.

 

8.1.6     The delegation was concerned that although the workbooks were delivered on         the day the committee visited the school, only the literacy workbooks had been           received. The numeracy workbooks crucial to the improvement of numeracy   skills had still not been delivered.

 

8.2         Responses to the challenges

 

8.2.1          Mr Lancaster indicated that the challenge of meeting the infrastructure needs of schools outstripped the allocated budget. Due to budgetary constraints, the province had to cut back and put on hold all projects which had not yet commenced. He agreed that the school buildings were old and experienced regular storm damage. Despite this, the buildings seemed to be in good condition due to the efforts of the school governing bodies and community.

 

8.2.2          The District needed to make a submission to the directorate responsible for infrastructure in the Province. The Province of KwaZulu-Natal had a backlog in terms of infrastructure building. The bulk of the budget in Kwazulu-Natal was allocated to the Department of Education.

 

9.         Recommendations

 

The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, having conducted the oversight visits to the

Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal and considered the issues that were highlighted,

recommends the following:

           

9.1       National Department of Basic Education

 

9.1.1          There is a need to ensure that the review of the quintile system that is in process eliminates inconsistencies in the current classification of schools.

 

9.1.2          The Department of Basic Education should submit time frames to the Committee of its strategy to eradicate mud schools.

 

 

 

9.2       Departments of Education (National and Provincial)

 

9.2.1          There is a need to strengthen Inter-Governmental Relations in order to facilitate effective service delivery particularly in services that cut across jurisdictional boundaries. This included the need for schools to improve relations with municipalities and make inputs on their Integrated Development Plans (IDPs) in order to ensure that municipal services are provided to schools.

 

9.2.2          There is a need to ensure that outstanding Learner Support Material, including workbooks are delivered to schools as a matter of urgency in order to facilitate effective learning and teaching. In future the Department should ensure that all learner support material is delivered to school on the first day of schools’ reopening.

 

9.2.3          The Department should monitor schools to ensure that they use allocated funds for intended purposes.

 

9.3       Eastern Cape

 

9.3.1   There is a need for an urgent national intervention to address administrative and

financial challenges facing the province which seriously undermines teaching and learning in the already struggling education system to ensure the following:

 

9.3.1.1    The Eastern Cape Department of Education should lift the suspension of temporary teachers and re-instate them as a matter of urgency as their absence poses serious challenges to teaching and learning.

 

9.3.1.2    The School Nutrition Programme and the Scholar Transport Programme should be re-introduced as a matter of urgency to all the learners who qualify.

 

9.3.2          The Eastern Cape Department of Education should submit reports to the Committee on the findings of the investigations of the mismanagement of funds of the School Nutrition Programme and the Learner Transport Programme, including the manner in which the Department will address the recommendations made in the reports.

 

9.3.3          The Committee would follow-up on reasons for delays of the responses from the disaster fund.

 

9.3.4          The Department of Higher Education and Training should consider re-opening Teacher Training colleges.

 

9.3.5          The schools around the Ntabankulu area should be integrated into the Mt Frere District to avoid school personnel traveling to the district office which is located at Lusikisiki, a distance of approximately 180 kilometers from Ntabankulu.

 

9.4       KwaZulu-Natal

 

The National Department should monitor the implementation of the following:

 

9.4.1          Access roads and bridges that would allow learners and teachers to reach schools timeously during the rainy period.

 

9.4.2          Schools that were hit by flood damage to be renovated by the Province immediately.

 

9.4.3          Learner and Teacher Support Material to be delivered.

 

9.4.4          The National Department had developed a programme to eradicate mud schools. The programme started in the Eastern Cape and would be rolled over to the KwaZulu-Natal Province. Provinces had been requested to identify schools that would benefit from this programme. The Circuit Office acknowledged that the information had been forwarded to the schools. There was a list that had been compiled for the schools that had been prioritised. The challenge was that Provinces sometimes often delayed to confirm receipt of storm damage reports.

 

The Committee requests that the Department submits, in writing, an update on progress in respect of all recommendations made within 10 days of the Department receiving the report.

           

10.        Appreciation

 

The delegation, led by Hon H Malgas MP and Hon R N Rasmeni MP, thanked the Members of the Provincial Legislatures, Provincial Departments of Education and the National Department of Basic Education for the support given during the oversight visit. Although the visit was arranged at very short notice, the legislatures were able to accommodate our delegation and this proved successful.

 

Report to be considered.

 

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