Good morning members of the media.
Let me start by thanking you for making yourself available for this media briefing this morning to discuss our plans in the Basic Education sector for the 2016/2017 financial year.
As you are all aware it has been a difficult week for the education sector with the devastating destruction of school infrastructure in Vuwani and surrounds in Limpopo. This is going to have enormous financial implications for the sector and we are awaiting reports from the Province to assess the true extent of the damage, but I am afraid initial reports do not look good and the damage could be as high as hundreds of millions of rands.
We continue to condemn the violence and call on everyone to make sure that education facilities are protected and ensure our future generation’s progress is not hampered by the actions of the day.
What is happening there is completely devastating.
Business Of The Day
On a more positive note we have had a very productive year in the Basic Education sector and a lot of work has been done in the past financial year to improve education systematically for South African Children. We have aligned our Action Plan to take into account the 2030 timelines prescribed in the National Development Plan (NDP). Our Action Plan to 2019: Towards the Realisation Towards Schooling 2030, outlines the plans for the Basic Education sector and charts our path towards efficient quality education.
Improved learner achievements and school performance continues to be our main goal. This Budget Vote therefore, focuses on learning and teaching in the sector, Equity, quality, and inclusive life-long learning opportunities for all.
I am pleased to report that we are looking forward to the release of the SAQMEC IIII results in June. These are the international assessments we take part in as South Africa. They are conducted in Southern and Eastern African countries and the preliminary report indicates that we can look forward to significant improvements in our overall results.
These international assessments are an important barometer to note where we need to focus our interventions in order to improve, but also to track progress where it is made.
One of the things that has come out markedly in previous assessments is the low literacy levels of our learners and it is for this reason that we have embarked on the Read to Lead campaign. This campaign is focused on turning South Africa into a reading nation. We all need to start to read recreationally for pleasure. Adults and children alike. Research indicates that learners that read for pleasure are often up to two grades ahead of their peers who don’t read for fun. You need to learn to read before you can read to learn. This campaign will focus on an advocacy aspect that promotes reading, but also on ensuring that schools are equipped with libraries and leaners have access to books.
In my Budget Vote last year I announced that we will embark on an ambitious plan to supply 1000 libraries per year. We can report that more 3 000 school, mobile and trolley libraries as well as classroom reading corners have been provided to schools – this has been through the generous donations and direct involvement of the private sector, NGOs, and individuals. I am particularly indebted to those South Africans who have volunteered their time and resources to act as the Ambassadors of the Read to Lead Campaign.
Our interventions are bearing fruit and we can report that we are seeing progress in areas that have been a persistent impediment in the past. We are pleased to report that drop-out rates are declining and we have seen improved retention rates up to Grade 9; increased gender parity across the system; and more young people matriculating yearly than ever before. The Statistician General recently released data that shows we have more African graduates in university than ever before as a result.
We are still experiencing challenges in drop-out rates from Grades 9 to 12 and it is for this reason that we have introduced the Second Chance Matric Progamme as a means to mitigate this.
We are also moving full steam ahead with curriculum differentiation for more effective inclusive education, and the introduction of the three stream curriculum model – this includes occupational vocational, technical vocational and the current academic streams. We believe giving learners more options based on their particular aptitudes will ensure they complete schooling in areas that speak to their abilities and at the same time address the skills needs of the country in order to stimulate the economy.
ICT is an area we continue to work on improving and we have seen some of our Provinces make huge advancements in this area by leading the charge on the digital front.
Through Operation Phakisa, we will roll-out ICT programmes that will develop and modernise the skills of our teachers and learners to match the needs of the changing world.
Our approach is in support of the NDP assertion that “greater use of technology, backed by high-speed broadband, could open new opportunities” for teachers and learners.
Technology is also assisting in enabling non-invasive teacher development programmes and in particular self-assessment and self-improvement teacher development programmes that are non-intrusive but enable teachers to address skills gaps on their own through specifically designed ICT interventions.
On the curriculum front we have a lot we can be proud of as the Basic Education sector. We can say we have achieved curriculum stability in terms of curriculum reform and are working with a world class curriculum that is supported by all stakeholders in the sector.
We continue to focus on the promotion and improvement of Mathematics, Science and Technology education. We will also look to strengthen our human resource development strategies with this outcome in mind.
We still have areas where inefficiencies persist in the system and one such area is in the rural education setting. In the MTEF for 2016 we will improve support to rural and small schools after an intensified programme of rationalisation and mergers of unviable schools has been finalised in all Provinces. The merging of schools is not an easy process and we anticipate we will come across challenges as these processes unfold, but we will deal with them as they arise as this is an absolute necessity if we hope to see real change in the form of quality education in these schools. We call on the support of all communities and parents especially to ensure these processes go ahead as smoothly as possible.
Another area we are confident will assist in addressing inefficiencies is the remodeling of National Assessments. This process is currently underway and we look forward to the outcome of the process that has taken on board inputs from various stakeholders in the sector.
We are acutely aware of the importance of Early Childhood Development and continue to work towards ensuring the provisioning of appropriately qualified ECD practitioners as well as the requisite LTSM.
We continue to find huge value in nurturing partnerships in the education sector with various role-players, this includes business, civil society and labour among others through the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT).
We also have critical inter-departmental collaborations that serve education in the areas of improving whole-district performance, improving the health of our children in schools, and in ensuring that our schools are safe from crime, drugs and substance abuse. Our teaching and learning strategies and plans require the involvement of other partners in civil society
and the private sector, to enhance what is already in place.
The Department will intensify its role as articulated in the National Education Policy Act (NEPA, 1996) of monitoring and providing support for basic education programme implementation by provincial education departments
We will scale up provincial oversight visits over the 2016 MTEF period and we will better integrate our activities strategically with the cooperation of our partners.
One such partner which is worth mentioning is Teach South Africa. We have recently signed an MOU with this NGO who are assisting the Department by recruiting young graduates from Mathematics and Science intensive degree programmes at the leading universities in the country to become teachers. These graduates serve communities around the country for a period of two years before they enter their chosen career. What is encouraging to note is that over 50% of the graduates that entered the Teach South Africa programme have been retained in the education system. This is helping us immensely in addressing the shortage of Mathematics and Science teachers especially in rural areas where it is often difficult to recruit suitable qualified teachers in these important gateway subjects.
Overview of Progress in the Schooling System
The 2002 – 2014 General Household Survey conducted by Statistics South Africa and research conducted in the DBE show that we have made progress in securing universal access, retention and participation rates in our public schooling system. This includes –
- Participation of the 0-4 year-old children in Early Childhood Development (ECD) facilities, has increased from 7.5% in 2002 to 48.3% in 2014;
- There has been an increase in Grade R participation by 5 year-olds from about 40% in 2002 to 87.2% in 2014;
- Primary Education participation by the 7 to 13 year-olds is near universal; and participation in compulsory education by the 7 to 15 year-olds, has increased from 97.8% in 2005 to 99% in 2014;
- Participation in Secondary Education (Further Education and Training Band) by the 14 to 18 year-olds, has increased from 88.3% in 2002 to 90.7% in 2014;
- Participation by 5 year-old learners with disabilities in our educational institutions, increased from 80.4% in 2009 to 83.9% in 2014;
- Participation by 7 to 15 year-old learners with disabilities in our educational institutions, has increased from 77.8% in 2009 to 93.4% in 2014; and
- The percentage of 15 to 24 year-old youth who have completed Grade 9 and above has increased from 63.4% in 2002 to 78% in 2014.
Budget allocation, Vote 14 for the 2016 MTEF Period
As the Basic Education Sector we are acutely aware that we have much to do, but we need to do it without “new money” in these tough economic times where we are seeing Government reduce expenditure in a number or areas. We are cognoscente of the fact that we need to make the system more efficient if we need to get done what needs to get done with the budget we have.
The 2015 MTEF overall budget for the Department of Basic Education was R21.511 billion. The overall budget allocation for 2016 MTEF period before the reduction of the baseline increased by 4.7% from the 2015 MTEF allocation to R22.528 billion.
With the baseline reduction and the reprioritisation of the 2016 MTEF allocation, the resulting 2016 MTEF allocation for the Department of Basic Education is R22.270 billion – an increase of 3.4% from the 2015 MTEF allocation.
We will go through the detailed breakdown of allocations later today when we present the Budget Vote to the National Assembly.
However one worth mentioning is the success of the Funza Lushaka bursary programming which aims to attract learners into the teaching profession.
During this current financial year, a total of 13 980 Funza Lushaka bursaries has been awarded to student teachers for the Initial Teacher Education – the target was exceeded by 980. The Department has exceeded the target of placing at least 85%, and successfully placed 93% of Funza Lushaka graduates in our public schools. However, the target of placing 8 600 teachers who are 30 years of age and younger, could not be met – only 6 107 could be placed (71%).
Ministerial Task Team on the alleged “educator posts for sale”
It was last year at the Department of Basic Education Budget Vote in the National Assembly that I announced I would be appointing a Ministerial Task Team to investigate allegations of corrupt activities in the appointment of promotional posts in the sector. This was dubbed the “Jobs for Cash” Task Team by the media.
I am pleased to report that much has been done since that initial announcement and we are close to being able to release the final report.
The Ministerial Task Team has submitted its final report to me, which I have processed through Cabinet. Cabinet recommended that we should develop a plan of action as Government’s response to the report, which should include wide consultations with relevant Basic Education stakeholders and partners.
We can report that the Council of Education Ministers, the Heads of Education Departments Committee, teacher unions as well as the principals and school governing body associations have been consulted. This was done after written representations were made to the Ministerial Task Team. During the consultations, stakeholders requested an extension of the release of the report to allow them time to refine their inputs and make verbal representations. After consulting with the Ministerial Task Team, I agreed to postpone the release of the report by fourteen (14) days. Therefore, the Ministerial Task Team report will now be released around the 20 May 2016.
Amidst all the calls for me to publish the report by the likes of the opposition and certain NGO’s it becomes important to emphasise the importance of ensuring that all processes are followed to the letter. We believe that the processes are as important as the outcome of the report to ensure that the report is of the utmost integrity and that all stakeholders are satisfied that the process has been a fair and just one.
To conclude the theme underlining this year’s budget is the realignment of our plans, programmes and operations as a sector to improve education quality, efficiency and inclusivity. We will continue to work closely with our Provincial Education Departments to ensure that the learner is at the centre of everything we spend hard earned tax-payers money on.