ATC211208: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Innovation on the Consideration of the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) Report on Follow-Up Hearings on Gender Transformation at Tertiary Institutions 2019/20, Dated 8 December 2021

Higher Education, Science and Technology

Report of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Innovation on the Consideration of the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) Report on Follow-Up Hearings on Gender Transformation at Tertiary Institutions 2019/20, Dated 8 December 2021

1. INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

The Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Innovation (hereinafter the Committee), having considered the Commission for Gender Equality’s (CGE) Report on Follow-up Hearings on Gender Transformation at Tertiary Institutions 2019/20 on 24 November 2021, reports as follows:

 

  1. Background

Transformation remains an important aspect of the Post-School Education and Training (PSET) system. One of the founding values of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa is non-racialism and non-sexism. The Education White Paper 3: A programme for the transformation of Higher Education (DoE: 1997) explains that the transformation of higher education requires that all existing practices, institutions, and values are viewed anew and rethought in terms of their fitness for the new era. It further states that successful policy in higher education must also create an enabling institutional environment and culture that is sensitive to and affirms diversity, promotes reconciliation and respect for human life, protects the dignity of individuals from racial and sexual harassment; and rejects all other forms of violent behaviour. Additionally, the White Paper for Post-School Education and Training aims to have a post-school system that can assist in building a fair, equitable, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa.

 

1.2 Mandate of Committee

Section 55(2) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa stipulates that “the National Assembly (NA) must provide for mechanisms (a) to ensure that all executive organs of state in the national sphere of government are accountable to it; and (b) to maintain oversight of (i) national executive authority, including the implementation of the legislation; and (ii) any organ of state.”  Rule 227 of the Rules of the National Assembly (9th edition) provides for mechanisms contemplated in section 55(2) of the Constitution.

The Committee plays an oversight role over the Department of Higher Education and Training and the Post-School Education and Training (PSET) institutions to monitor progress towards the achievement of the transformation goals, including the implementation of Employment Equity Plans and policies to address gender-based violence.

1.3. Mandate of the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE)

The CGE is an independent statutory body established in terms of Chapter 9 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996. The Commission’s mandate is to promote respect for, and the protection, development and attainment of gender equality. To this end, the Commission for Gender Equality Act, 1996 (Act No. 39 of 1996), as amended, gives the Commission the power to monitor and evaluate policies and practices of organs of State at any level; statutory bodies and functionaries; public bodies and authorities and private businesses, enterprises; research and make any recommendations to Parliament. Furthermore, the CGE receives and investigates complaints of gender discrimination; and conducts public awareness and education on gender equality. The CGE has powers to subpoena and to institute litigation.

The Annual Performance Plan (APP) 2019/20 required the Commission to conduct hearings looking at gender transformation in universities. The hearing served as a platform to: understand gender dynamics accompanied by a slow pace of transformation within institutions of higher learning; taking into consideration the labour legislations aimed at  transformation, more especially, Employment Equity Act, 1998 (Act No. 55 of 1998), Basic Condition of Employment Act, 1997 (Act No. 75 of 1997), Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, 2000 (Act No. 4 of 2000), regional and international instruments to which South Africa is a signatory and applicable common law developments.

1.4. Purpose of the Report

The purpose of this report is to account in accordance with Rule 166 of the National Assembly (NA) for the work done by the Committee in considering the CGE Report on Follow-up Hearings on Gender Transformation at Tertiary Institutions Hearings 2019/20 as referred to it for consideration in terms of Rule 338 by the Speaker of the National Assembly on 27 October 2020.

 

 

2. Summary of the presentation on Follow-up Hearings on Gender Transformation at Tertiary Institutions 2019/20

2.1 Background

The CGE was represented by its Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Ms J Robertson. In her opening remarks, Ms Robertson started off by outlining the mandate of the CGE as per section 187 of the Constitution and the CGE Act, 1996 (Act No. 39 of 1996).  

During the 2017/18 and 2018/19 financial years, the CGE embarked on investigations that were specifically targeted at gender transformation within various institutions of higher learning around South Africa. During the 2017/18, the University of Johannesburg (UJ), University of Free State (UFS) and Stellenbosch University were identified and for the 2018/19 financial year, University of Zululand (UniZulu), University of Mpumalanga (UMP) and Nelson Mandela University (NMU) were identified for the investigation. The aim of the investigation was for the Commission to gain proper understanding of gender dynamics and slow pace of gender transformation within the various institutions of higher learning. The Commission had also observed that there were low levels of compliance with legislation that specifically targeted gender transformation.

The CEO noted that the Commission’s decision to place a special focus on institutions of higher learning was triggered by disturbing media reports, as well as complaints reported to the Commission by both employees and students in the sector. These included:

  • Media reports of sex-for-marks scandals;
  • Allegations of sexual harassment at institutions of higher learning;
  • Slow transformation around lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer and asexual (LGBTQIA) issues;
  • The placement of women and persons with disabilities (PWD) in senior management, as well as the addition of gender policies.

The CGE conducted a follow-up investigation during the 2019/20 financial year in ensuring implementation and compliance with the recommendations contained in the Commissions’2017/18 and 2018/19 reports regarding the above-mentioned institutions, including:

  • To identify institutions that do not comply with the Commission’s recommendations;
  • To obtain reasons for non-compliance;
  • To demand or assist the institutions with compliance were possible;
  • To invite the institutions that do not comply for follow-up consultations; and
  • To compile a report on the outcomes of the follow-up consultations.

The CEO presented the findings of the hearings for each institution that was investigated by the Commission as follows:

2.2 University of Johannesburg

  • The University had an Accelerated Academic Mentoring Programme (AAMP) and it aimed at providing career development opportunities with the goal of giving a stimulus to the transformation of the academic staff profile, in terms of race and gender.
  • The University had 1.1 percent people with disabilities (PWD), which is less than the prescribed number by law.
  • White males and females were overrepresented at the level of associate and full professor.

2.3 University of the Free State

  • The Commission raised its concern relating to the state of accommodation in and around QwaQwa campus. The University provided outsourced accommodation and access to water was still a major concern as students were required to buy water, and also travel long distances on foot.
  •  The accommodation provided by the University was not LGBTQIA friendly. Specific reference was made to a case relating to a transgender woman who had to leave the Bloemfontein Campus in 2017 after she was place in a male residence, and had to wait for six months for her transferring transcripts from the University.

2.4 Stellenbosch University

  • The transformation was taking place at a very slow pace and there was still a greater representation of men in many of the senior positions as opposed to women.
  • There was a significant number of women representation with students as opposed to men, but no expressed mechanisms were put in place to retain some of these women who were student employees.
  • There was a limited budget in relation to gender transformation programmes.
  • The Student Placement Policy made no mention on persons with disabilities were accommodated.
  • The GBV policy was not gender sensitive, and made no provision for incidents of bullying.

2.5 University of Zululand

  • The University developed a policy and procedures on Talent Management. The policy targets women and people with disabilities (PWD) for training programmes aimed at developing leadership readiness.
  • The Commission recommended that the University must reflect and work on the previous recommendations by the Commission in the 2018/19 report.

2.6 University of Mpumalanga

  • The Commission applauded the progress made by the University in allocating funds to address GBV, HIV-AIDS, Tuberculosis, networking, collaboration and partnership with stakeholders.
  • The University implemented the New Generation of Academic Programme (nGAP) by appointing female lecturers within various departments of the University. 46 percent of nGAP scholars were female.

2.7 Nelson Mandela University

  • The University planned for the establishment of a safe haven; a secluded space, situated away from student accommodation where the survivors of GBV violations can reside as they are supported to transition back into their normal routines. The perpetrators were often students who shared the same residential spaces, which result in the re-traumatisation of victims.
  • The University lingered behind in respect of a gender parity of its staff members in the faculties of science, engineering and law. Women’s representation in the faculties of science was 32 percent and engineering 27 percent.

2.8 Sol Plaatje University

  • The University did not employ any person with disability in the top and senior management.
  • The University did not have resources to offer courses to students with hearings or visual impairments.
  • The University progressed in increasing the representation of women in senior management and slightly in the student representative council (SRC).
  • The University installed perimeter fencing at the central campus which resulted in significant improvements to the security of residences.

The CEO proceeded to provide update in relation to GBV cases reported at universities and TVET colleges, as follows:

2.9 Alleged rape at Ehlanzeni TVET colleges, Mapulaneng Campus

  • The incident reported in the media around March 2021 that student beat up a rape suspect who ended up in the hospital.
  • The suspect was alleged to have raped student at gun point by entering their residence situated outside the campus.
  • The victims were provided with counselling psychological support, and no arrest had been made.

2.10 Alleged rape at Ehlanzeni TVET college, Barberton Campus

  • The incident was reported in the media around June 2021 that a student was raped and the suspect was known to the victim.
  • The suspect was a friend to the victim and it was alleged that he used to party with her at her residence.
  • The victim was provided counselling and psychological support and the suspect was arrested and appeared in court on 30 August 2021.

2.11 Murder case of a University of Fort Hare (Ms Nosicelo Mtebeni – fourth year law student)

  • The accused appeared in Court for the first time on 23 August 2021 in East London Magistrate Court, and he abandoned bail application and the case was postponed to 28 September 2021.
  • The Commission was represented in Court during the first appearance of the accused person and it would continue to monitor the case.

2.12 Ms Yonwaba Manyanya, Thekwini TVET college

  • The deceased in this matter reportedly suffered from fatigue and hunger while living on the streets due to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) alleged delays on payment of accommodation allowance. NSFAS denied any contribution to the death of the student and the Commission was not aware of any legal processes explored by the deceased’s family against NSFAS.

3. Observations

The Committee, having considered and deliberated on the report on the Follow-up Hearings on Gender Transformation at Tertiary Institutions 2019/20, made the following observations:

  • The Committee welcomed the report of the CGE and applauded its work in advocating for gender equality in the higher education sector.
  • The Committee was of the view that the CGE prioritised GBVF cases that were mostly in the public domain as opposed to daily unknown incidents experienced by ordinary people.
  • The Committee noted that the visibility and awareness campaigns of the Commission on GBVF at PSET institutions were inadequate. 
  • It was noted that the Commission ought to have qualitative or quantitative evidence to support its statements on progress made towards improving gender equality.
  • The Committee expressed a concern regarding the overall slow pace of transformation at Stellenbosch University and challenges experienced by students regarding accommodation and water challenges at the University of the Free State (UFS).  
  • The Committee expressed its concern regarding the safety and security of students in some of the University campuses due to poor infrastructure facilities, including accessibility to basic services such as water supply.
  • The inability of some institutions of higher learning in providing safe spaces for victims of GBV incidents was noted as a concern.
  • The Committee expressed a concern relating to the low levels of compliance with legislation that specifically targeted gender transformation by universities.
  • The Committee noted that the allegations of sex for marks at public institutions were disturbing and concerted effort should be made to make it difficult for perpetrators of these incidents to exist at these institutions.

4. Summary

The Commission undertook a follow-up investigation that was specifically targeted at gender transformation within various institutions of higher learning in line with its mandate as a Chapter 9 institution tasked with supporting constitutional democracy. The Committee welcomed the Commissions’ report and applauded its work in making institutions of higher learning accountable to transformation goals in line with the relevant legislation.

 

The Committee’s overall concern was the slow pace of transformation in some of the higher education institutions and non-compliance with the Commission’s recommendations and relevant legislation aimed at promoting gender transformation. The Committee held the view that the Commission’s visibility to ordinary people on the ground was inadequate and that the public did not have the necessary information about the Commissions’ work. In this regard, it was noted that the decentralisation of the Commission’s work and activities to be closer to the public should be prioritised going forward, and its advocacy campaigns should be more regular.

 

5. Recommendations

The Committee having considered the CGE Report on Follow-up Hearing on Gender Transformation at Tertiary Institutions 2019, recommends following:

  • The CGE should improve its visibility and advocacy programme aimed at fighting the scourge of GBVF.
  • The CGE should develop a spreadsheet document to report on progress in the implementation of its recommendations by public institutions.
  • The CGE should work closely with the institutions to assist them with the development of policies aimed at improving gender transformation and address GBV in the post-school education and training (PSET) system.
  • The expansion of the Commission’s hearing to other PSET institutions such as CET colleges and Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) should be expedited.
  • The CGE should follow the cases of GBVF from the PSET system that are before the courts and also provide the Committee with updated regarding their outcomes.

 

 

Report to be noted.

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