The Minister of Education, Naledi Pandor MP, answers oral questions in the National Assembly
5 September 2007
"There is, in fact, no stipulation of "up to two years suspension for learners who fall pregnant" in the Measures", the Minister of Education said, answering oral questions in the National Assembly today.
"Rather the Measures state the following:
'No pre-determined period is specified for this purpose, since it will depend entirely on the circumstances of each case. However, it is the view of the Department of Education that learners as parents should exercise full responsibility for parenting, and that a period of up to two years may be necessary for this purpose. No learner should be re-admitted in the same year that [she] left school due to a pregnancy.'
"Learners may request or be required to take leave of absence from school, so as to address pre-and post-natal health concerns, as well as to care for the newborn baby",
The Minister answered 10 questions. They dealt with schooling in Khutsong, mud schools in the Eastern Cape, transport for the disabled, schoolgirl pregnancy, the school-recovery plan, refugee children and the National Education Evaluation Unit [see full replies below].
Mr M Johnson (ANC) to ask the Minister of Education:
(1) How many mud structures are being used as schools in the Eastern Cape;
(2) Whether her department will meet the deadline set by the President to eradicate such structures and replace them with proper school buildings; if not, why not; if so, what are the relevant details?
(1) According to our National Education Infrastructure Management System (NEIMS), recently completed, there are 206 Eastern Cape schools with inappropriate infrastructure. It is likely that there are other schools built of mud but which are well maintained and therefore not classified as inappropriate infrastructure on the NEIMS database.
(2) There is no deadline set by the President in this regard. However, the Eastern Cape Education Department has a "Prioritisation of schools for ten year infrastructural development plan". According to this plan, 50% of the mud schools will be rebuilt between 2007 and 2009. I will provide the Honourable Member with a copy of this plan.
Mr RPZ van den Heever (ANC) to ask the Minister of Education:
What progress has been made to enable learners to catch up with lost learning as a result of the recent national strike?
Due to the fact that there were different levels of disruption in the provinces, the provincial education departments have developed plans that respond to their specific needs. Some provinces lost up to three weeks of teaching, while others lost no more than a day or two. In some provinces, teaching time was not disrupted at all, but mid-year tests and exams had to be postponed.
The recovery plans have been more successful in some provinces than in others.
Our part in the recovery plan has been the provision and large-scale distribution of learning materials.
During the past two months radio adverts, learning-material distribution via newspapers, and lessons on SABC Learning Channel have contributed to our overall strategy.
In total to 93.8 million copies of these materials will have been distributed by the end of October 2007.
In addition, the Department has purchased over four million workbooks for English and Mathematics. They have been sent to 89 distribution points, from where they will be delivered to schools.
Mr B Mthembu (ANC) to ask the Minister of Education:
What progress has been made with the institution of a national monitoring unit for monitoring the performance of educators in school?
The Department is currently finalising proposals for the establishment of a National Education Evaluation Unit and it is anticipated that it will be up and running in early 2008.
Mrs HI Bogopane-Zulu (ANC) to ask the Minister of Education:
What is her department doing to address the challenges faced by children with special needs, for example teachers who cannot read and write Braille teaching blind children or those who cannot sign teaching deaf children?
There have been several initiatives at national and provincial level for teachers of learners with low vision and complete vision loss, as well as teachers for deaf and partially hearing learners.
The Department of Education coordinated 3 week-long workshops in April and May 2007 for educators in this sector, involving consultants from the Stockholm Institute of Education and the participation of South African Stakeholders, namely the South African National Council for the Blind, BlindSA, the Deaf Federation of South Africa (DEAFSA) and Sign Language Education and Development (SLED).
The workshops dealt with issues relating to blindness and low vision as well as to deafness and partial hearing. The Department of Education is currently buying assistive devices for learners who have special educational needs.
While the national Department of Education has plans to continue training for educators in February and March 2008, provincial departments of education have begun training in these areas. They are also training educators in the use of South African sign language.
The focus this year is on the 135 special schools most in need of upgrading and improvement of their physical plant, material resources and assistive devices, transport, admission and curriculum delivery. This focus will ensure that adequate support is provided to large numbers of learners in the short-term. The Department of Education is currently developing a long-term strategy for ensuring that all learners with special education needs are supported adequately whether in mainstream, full service or special schools.
Mr GG Boinamo (DA) to ask the Minister of Education:
Whether, with regard to the various problems with the management of the school feeding schemes around the country that the Auditor-General identified in his reports on provincial education departments for 2005-06, she has introduced any measures to improve (a) accountability for and (b) performance of the school feeding scheme in the provinces; if not, why not; if so, what measures?
Whether she intends extending the feeding scheme to include school holidays; if not, why not; if so, when will this be done?
In terms of agreed policy, for 2007/08 the National School Nutrition Scheme provides school meals on school days for about 6 million learners at 18,000 schools at a cost of just over R1 billion. My Department works closely with provinces in the implementation of this important programme.
Various measures have been taken to improve accountability; these include internal audits and regular reporting. Irregularities and shortfalls are identified and solutions are developed at scheduled inter-provincial meetings.
At the second 2007 quarterly meeting between the national and provincial programme managers, performance indicators, financial reporting and business plan templates were reviewed and finalised; and letters were written to provinces to correct irregularities.
I have been asked to extend the scheme to all school days and to provide meals to secondary schools. No plans have been made to provide meals during school holidays.
Mr GG Boinamo (DA) to ask the Minister of Education:
(1) (a) At which schools in Khutsong has teaching been interrupted by protest action in the area and (b) how many learners are registered at each of these schools;
(2) whether any action has been taken against any educators for inciting educators or learners to boycott lessons or for intimidating other learners or educators; if not, what is the position in this regard ; if so, (a) what action and (b) against which educators and /or learners?
(1) (a) (b) All schools in Khutsong were at one point or another, affected by the unrest at Khutsong. I attach a table to my written answer.
(2) (a) (b) Four educators have been identified as alleged intimidators. Disciplinary proceedings have been taken against Mr Bapupi, Principal, and Mr I.M. Mogale, of Badirile High. Mr Bapupi was found guilty and fined one-month's salary, to be deducted over three months. Mr. Mogale was dismissed on 21 August 2007. Mr T.J. Mathikge and Mr M.W. Dithipe were suspended and disciplinary proceedings are under way. No action has been taken against any learner or learners for intimidation or incitement in Khutsong.
Mr RS Ntuli to ask the Minister of Education:
What are the details of the plan being implemented to ensure that learners, especially Grade 12s, in Khutsong are afforded the opportunity to study for matric examinations and (b) what progress has been made in implementing that thus far?
The plan was to move all Khutsong matric learners to an intensive-tuition centre in the province where they would live, learn and study until the completion of their exams at the end of November 2007.
On 12 August 2007, 441 matric learners moved from their homes in Khutsong to the Vuselela FET college in Taung.
The plan has been put into practice and it is reported that learners are benefiting from the tuition provided by subject specialists drawn from the North West Education Department.
Matric learners who chose to remain behind will write the matric exam in registered exam centres around Khutsong.
Mr TM Masutha to ask the Minister of Education:
What provisions has her department made to accommodate refugee children or unaccompanied minors of school-going age in the education system?
Section 5(1) of the South African School Act 84 of 1996 (the SASA) provides that a public school must admit learners and serve their educational requirements without unfairly discriminating in any way. The word "learner" as defined in the Act includes a refugee child.
This position is even more clearly articulated in paragraph 19 of the Admission Policy of Ordinary Public Schools (Government Gazette No. 19377 of 19 October 1998) where it states that the admission policy applies equally to learners who are non-citizens.
Paragraph 19 is complemented by paragraph 18 of the policy in that it allows the principal of a school to admit a learner even in the absence of a transfer card from the previous school that the learner attended.
The SASA defines a parent as –
the parent or guardian of a learner;
the person legally entitled to custody of a learner; or
the person who undertakes to fulfil the obligations of a person referred to in paragraph (a) and (b) towards the learner's education at school.
This definition is wide enough to include any person, who accompanies a child to school, as a parent of that child.
Mr TM Masutha (ANC) to ask the Minister of Education:
(a) What is her department's policy regarding learners who fall pregnant whilst still at school and (b) what does the stipulation "up to two years suspension for learners " who fall pregnant, mean?
(a) The Department's approach to pregnant schoolgirls is underpinned by the Constitution, section 9 (3), which forbids discrimination on the basis of pregnancy. Specifically, the SASA guidelines for adopting a learner code of conduct, section 3 (3.9), state that "a learner who falls pregnant may not be prevented from attending school". Schools were circularised in 2000 not to expel pregnant learners.
Moreover, our policy is clearly set out in the Measures for the Prevention and Management of Learner Pregnancy, which were developed recently and sent to all public schools.
The Measures discourage schoolgirl pregnancy and encourage children to abstain from risky sexual behaviour. They highlight the importance of positive values, sex education, and HIV and AIDS education programmes.
The Measures provide a framework for educating learners about their rights and responsibilities in relation to pregnancy.
(b) There is, in fact, no stipulation of "up to two years suspension for learners who fall pregnant" in the Measures. Rather the Measures state the following:
"No pre-determined period is specified for this purpose, since it will depend entirely on the circumstances of each case. However, it is the view of the Department of Education that learners as parents should exercise full responsibility for parenting, and that a period of up to two years may be necessary for this purpose. No learner should be re-admitted in the same year that [she] left school due to a pregnancy".
Learners may request or be required to take leave of absence from school, so as to address pre-and post-natal health concerns, as well as to care for the newborn baby.
Mr LPM Nzimande (ANC) to ask the Minister of Education:
(a) What is her department's policy regarding transport for learners with disabilities, (b) what gaps were identified in this policy and (c) (i) how and (ii) when will these challenges be addressed?
(a) Currently policy regarding the provision of scholar transport is a provincial responsibility. Eight of the nine provinces have learner-transport schemes. These learner-transport schemes do not deal explicitly with transport for the disabled.
However, schools for the disabled in most cases provide for learner transport, which is funded both from state allocations and school fees and these costs are considered in deciding on school allocations. Some provinces explicitly fund drivers at schools for the disabled. Provinces also fund hostel places at schools for the disabled. Provincial practices differ in these regards.
The issue of transport for learners with special education needs is currently receiving attention as part of the development of an interim national funding strategy and norms and standards for funding inclusive education.
(b) The adequacy of funding for schools with learners with special needs and for inclusive education (which includes provision for transport) has been identified as a priority issue in the education sector; and
(c)(i) is being addressed through further development of funding policy and through national and provincial budget processes.
(c)(ii) Progress has been made with the funding principles and framework and budget bids have been finalized for the 2008 MTEF.
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