ATC160526: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education concerning the Petition from 31 church and school representatives of Graaff-Reinet, calling for relief in respect of various matters pertaining to the provision of quality education, submitted in terms of Rule 312, dated 24 May 2016
Report of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education concerning the Petition from 31 church and school representatives of Graaff-Reinet, calling for relief in respect of various matters pertaining to the provision of quality education, submitted in terms of Rule 312, dated 24 May 2016
The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, having considered the Petition from 31 church and school representatives of Graaff-Reinet, calling for relief in respect of various matters pertaining to the provision of quality education, submitted in terms of Rule 312 of the National Assembly, reports as follows:
On Tuesday, 1 September 2015, the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education convened a meeting to consider the Petition from 31 church and school representatives of Graaff-Reinet, calling for relief in respect of various matters pertaining to the provision of quality education, submitted in terms of Rule 312 brought by Hon A T Lovemore. The Portfolio Committee also called the Department of Basic Education to form part of the meeting to give the perspective and response from the Department.
Input by Hon A T Lovemore
Hon Lovemore briefed the Portfolio Committee on all aspects of the petition relating to the 31 church and school representatives of Graaff-Reinet, calling for relief in respect of various matters pertaining to the provision of quality education. She indicated that she was not the petitioner, but had submitted the petition on behalf of representatives of the churches in Graaff-Reinet and chairpersons of all School Governing Bodies in Graaff-Reinet. The Petition detailed challenges faced in Graaff-Reinet, broadly under the following themes:
- Teacher shortages and unfilled vacancies;
- Lack of provision for children with special educational needs;
- The lack of pre-schools in Graaff-Reinet (only one as per the Petition);
- Children suffering from Foetal Alcohol Syndrome requiring specialised teachers trained to deal with their problems; and
- Policy in respect of the automatic promotion of children in senior schools.
In conclusion, the Petitioners indicated that the Constitution guaranteed the right of all children to an education. It was the poor children who were being disadvantaged, which could exacerbate the problem of inequality in our society. The Petitioners indicated further that the situation prevailing in their town was not unique and that the problems enumerated in their District were being experienced throughout South Africa.
Input by the Department of Basic Education:
A response from the Department of Basic Education was as follows:
Graaff-Reinet was a predominantly Afrikaans speaking area/district that was experiencing massive teacher resignations since 2013. These teachers, like elsewhere in the country, cashed in on their pensions only to come back into the system in a short period of time. Other teachers were also exiting the system on a regular basis through national attrition.
On Teacher vacancies:
The Department of Basic Education (DBE) convened an intervention meeting with the Eastern Cape Provincial Education Department (ECPED) and the District Director of Graaff-Reinet on 5 August 2015. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss progress update in relation to the filling of vacancies, particularly in the Graaff-Reinet district. It must be noted that the District Director had not been given the delegation in writing to appoint temporary teachers except for substitutes. The delegation to appoint temporary teachers was centralised at the provincial head office.
The DBE reported the following key issues raised in the intervention meeting:
- The ECPED had started a process of identifying critical vacancies in the Province, given the budget shortfall. This approach was informed, in part, by the teacher shortages challenges in Port Elizabeth (Northern Area). The Province needed to deal with the teacher shortage issue in all Districts to avoid unrests related to filing of posts in the Province.
- About 577 vacancies had been identified as critical vacancies to be filled through a bulletin process. The 577 posts include 33 vacancies identified in Graaff-Reinet. The District Director indicated that the District had already started a process of filling 4 vacancies identified as critical posts.
- It was agreed that
- The ECPED would revise the list of critical vacancies to include all new submissions from Graaff-Reinet and other outstanding Districts;
- The ECPED would follow due processes to ensure that the list was approved and published for Districts to start filling the posts;
- The District would utilise teachers identified in different sources in the Province together with the Funza Lushaka graduates provided by the DBE;
- The District Director would release a communique to the Graaff-Reinet community members’ representatives providing progress update; and
- The ECPED would provide progress update in relations to the commitments made at the meeting.
To date, the Department had learnt that the Provincial Treasury had requested time to verify the identified posts before approval. This was due to the provincial government’s directive stating that all decisions with financial implications needed to be approved through the Accounting Officer of the Provincial Treasury. The verification process would include confirmation whether the posts were budgeted for and appear on the post establishment of the ECPED. It was therefore imperative to institute a process to either expedite the activities around the verification process by Provincial Treasury or to isolate and prioritise critical posts identified in Graaff-Reinet. Currently only 23 (that included 3 posts for the Incremental Introduction of African Languages) vacancies out of the 30 in the Petition were still vacant.
On the lack of provision for children with special educational needs:
The Province was aware of the challenge caused by the condition in Graaff-Reinet. Admittedly, the Eastern Cape (EC) had over the years focused its support and interventions to special schools and very little support provided to full service schools and other mainstream schools to implement inclusion. Steps taken to provide the much needed relief in this area included:
- Aberdeen Primary School had recently been declared a full service school to assist with learners with barriers to learning. The Inclusive Education unit had conducted workshops for the school principal as well as the teachers;
- Progressive three (3)-day training of 120 teachers from selected mainstream schools across the province with five (5) coming from Graaff-Reinet, started on 27 August. The training focused on, among other things, Learning Disabilities, Preparations to Teach in an Inclusive Classroom, Recognising Barriers to Learning;
- The three-day training programme was accredited by SACE; and
- The Province had approached the University of Johannesburg (UJ) to provide training to 120 teachers on Remedial Education from 2016 onwards - a two-year course which would be broken down to short courses. This course would be made available online from 2017.
On the matter of only one pre-school being available in the Graaff-Reinet area:
The DBE reported that there were three more pre-schools in Camdeboo that were not referred to in the petition; whose staff were paid by the Department, namely:
- Kroonvale Pre-primary,
- WE Pienaar Pre-primary, and
- Union Pre-primary.
On the matter of children suffering from Foetal Alcohol Syndrome who require specialised teachers trained to deal with their problems:
The District had a list consisting of learners with various disabilities except learners with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). The list was compiled by the Institutional Level Support Team (ILSTs). In addition the Inclusive Education unit conducted workshops on FAS.
On the Policy of automatic promotion of children in senior schools:
There was no policy of automatic promotion of children in senior schools. The district implemented the National Policy pertaining to the Programme and Promotion Requirements of the National Curriculum Statement Grades R – 12. In terms of the current policy, Regulations pertaining to the National Curriculum Statement Grades R-12, promulgated as Notice No. R1114, in Regulation Gazette No. 9886 of 28 December 2013, a learner may only be retained once in the Further Education and Training Phase in order to prevent the learner from being retained in this phase for longer than four years.
In conclusion, the Department indicated their preparedness and willingness to work with the Petitioners to ensure that all challenges identified were speedily addressed as a matter of urgency.
The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, having considered the Petition from 31 church and school representatives of Graaff-Reinet, calling for relief in respect of various matters pertaining to the provision of quality education, submitted in terms of the National Assembly Rule 312, reports that:
The information and documentation submitted by the Department of Basic Education in response to the Petition sufficiently addresses the matters raised in the Petition. The Portfolio Committee is satisfied that the response is an adequate start to addressing the concerns raised by the Petitioners. The Portfolio Committee commends the Department of Basic Education for the adequate and speedy response to the Petition at short notice. The Portfolio Committee further appreciates the offer from the Department of Basic Education to work with the Petitioners to ensure that all challenges identified are speedily addressed as a matter of urgency.
Report to be considered.
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