Honourable Chairperson of the NCOP
Chairperson and Members of the Education Select Committee
Minister and Deputy Ministers present
Honourable Members of the NCOP
Ladies and Gentlemen
For the past three financial years, I have been lamenting the effects of the violent service delivery protests on schooling. In the North West for instance, schooling was disrupted in three education Districts, depriving learners in 171 schools a cumulative total of 139 school days. Learners found themselves sitting at home, or loitering about the streets, or worst still, venturing into antisocial behaviours that could be detrimental to their lives and future – and these are because of violent service delivery protests that have no direct bearing on schooling. Aggrieved communities continue to use schools as bargaining chips, or as sites to draw attention, especially when they decide to torch and gut schools down.
Most recently schools were torched in in Limpopo as a result of service delivery protests; and in Mpumalanga a school was torched because the communities are aggrieved about bi-election results. Also concerning, are the high levels of violent behaviour in our schools – learners physically attacking other learners; learners physically attacking teachers; and teachers attacking learners. We are appearing as gradually losing our moral compass as a nation. What is it that infuriates our children to such unprecedented levels? A child leaves home with a knife to stab another learner in class; a toddler holding a brick, which is larger than the palm of his hand, attempting to assault a teacher with it. Girls fighting in class with one of them literally stomping on the other, until the victim had a deadly epileptic attack. I can go on and on.
Do these children have any form of parental care or guidance from a responsible adult at home, or is there an expectation that schools will now play such a role? Parentis in loco – a concept used when the integrity of teachers is attacked, is not a substitute for the roles that parents and / or guardians at home. When schools and provincial education departments take drastic and decisive action to protect vulnerable children and teachers, we are accused of infrindging on the learners’ rights to basic education – what about the human rights of the victims??
Surely, we can all agree that such levels of vandalism and violence cannot be condoned. We must heed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s call on Thuma Mina, and collectively make it our business to protect our schools and our school communities – teachers and learners alike, so that we are able to deliver qualitatively so, on our children’s right to basic education, in an unhindered fashion. There is no amount of anger or animosity that could be used to justify the torching of learning sites, and such violence meted on vulnerable learners and teachers. We must all agree to rebuke such behaviour, and resolve to act against such unbecoming behaviour.
Chairperson, let me also inform this House that we are now intervening in the North West Education Department in terms of section 100(1) (b) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. We are among the five departments in which section 100(1) (b) of the Constitution has been invoked. We have already informed the Chairperson of this House in writing about our intervention, in compliance with section 100(2) (a) of the Constitution. We have developed an Intervention Plan, and have consulted with a wide range of stakeholders on the focus and extent of the intervention.
Within the short space of time we have been intervening in the North West, we have managed to engage the communities, with the support of the DPME as well as the MEC for Education in the North West, who was accompanied by two of executive colleagues. We can report that some of the schools that were closed due to service delivery protests have now been reopened, and children are back at school. In collaboration with the North West Education Department, we will roll-out catch-up programmes during weekends, public holidays, and school holidays, as we strongly contend that the North West children must be given the same opportunities as their peers in other parts of the country to succeed in life.
Chairperson, thank you for the 2018/19 Debate on Vote 14 – Basic Education, which is delivered and debated on the year, in which we are marking the centenary celebrations of President Nelson Mandela and umama Nontsikelelo Albertina Sisulu. President Ramaphosa said during his inaugural State of the Nation Address, we honour President Mandela and umama Sisulu “in a year of change, a year of renewal, a year of hope.” Through the centenary celebrations of their lives, we are not merely honouring the past, but we are building the future – yes, a “new dawn” for South Africa.
Strategic realignment of the basic education sector
Chairperson and Honourable Members, during our 2017/18 Budget Vote Debate, I reminded this House that in 2015, UNESCO had adopted the global education agenda, Education 2030, which is part of the seventeen UNESCO’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that make up the Agenda 2030 for sustainable development. SDG 4 in particularly, calls for an inclusive, quality and equitable education and lifelong opportunities for all.
I also reminded this House that in our local context, we have translated the UNESCO SDGs into our Action Plan to 2019: Towards the Realization of Schooling 2030, which is designed to achieve the long-term vision of education as encapsulated in our world-renowned Constitution and the National Development Plan (NDP), Vision 2030. Our Constitution declares basic education as an inalienable basic human right for all South Africans; while the NDP directs that “by 2030, South Africans should have access to education and training of the highest quality, leading to significantly improved learning outcomes.
Therefore, the Constitution, the NDP, as well as the continental and international conventions, provide the moral imperative and a mandate to Government to make access, redress, equity, efficiency, inclusivity and quality educational opportunities, widely available to all citizens.
Chairperson, our strategic vision for a transformed, realigned and repositioned basic education sector is that “of a South Africa, in which all our people [irrespective of race, socio-economic background, and religious beliefs] will have access to [quality and efficient] lifelong learning, education and training opportunities, which will, in turn, contribute towards improving the quality of life, and building a peaceful, prosperous and democratic South Africa”.
As we approach the end of the fifth administration of our democratic Government, when we reflect on the work we have done so far, the following quintessential observations remain pertinent in the trajectory of our journey as a sector –
- We have successfully created a single seamlessly integrated education sector, based on the values and principles enshrined in our Constitution, as well as the regional, continental and international protocols.
- We have accelerated the implementation of the principles of social justice, namely access, redress, equity and inclusivity, and made progress in efficiency and quality outcomes to afford lifelong educational opportunities to our young people.
- We have brought about stability in curriculum implementation, which has led to a sustained improvement of the teaching and learning outcomes, and strengthened our National Curriculum Statements through the introduction of the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS), which is viewed as one of the best in the world.
- We have repositioned, realigned, and strengthened the basic education sector, in preparation for providing young people with skills, competencies, and knowledge for the changing world. This we continue to do through the implementation of the Three-Stream Curriculum Model, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Entrepreneurship programmes, and the UNESCO’s International Bureau of Education Framework for Future Skills and Competencies.
- We have established a solid foundation for accountability, and provided strategic leadership in provincial efforts to provide quality education through monitoring, evaluation and reporting on key activities focusing on our core business of teaching and learning in the classroom.
Chairperson, we are the first to acknowledge that, while we have made such good progress in our journey towards a democratic South Africa and its basic education system we desire, we are still striving for the foundational skills of reading, writing and counting (arithmetic), as well as having the basic necessities in place for quality teaching and learning to take place, especially in the early Grades.
We are doing our level best to ensure that the improved accountability and compliance measures we continue to implement, and provide monitoring and evaluation oversight over, that such improvements translate to the internal efficiency of the system and the quality educational outcomes. It is important to report that during the 2016/17 audit cycle, the audit outcomes of our provincial education departments has improved admirably –
- none of our provincial education departments received adverse or disclaimer audit outcomes;
- four provincial education departments received qualified audit opinions;
- four received unqualified audit outcomes with findings; and
- One received an unqualified audit outcome with no findings.
The 2016/17 findings of the Auditor-General, were reinforced by the 2017 MPAT (Management Performance Assessment Tool) assessment report, compiled by the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME), which showed reciprocal improvements in the assessment standards based on the four key areas of strategic management, governance and accountability, human resource management, and financial management.
We will continue to utilise the accountability and compliance instruments to ensure that the basic education system operates seamlessly and optimally; and that imperatives of access, redress, inclusivity, equity, efficiency and quality characterise the basic education sector in everything we do. Deputy Minister Surty will elaborate more on the progress we are making in these six areas. We wish to implore the House to be robust in its oversight responsibilities, so that the basic education sector in our country, does not only comply with legislative and regulatory frameworks, but produces children who possess the requisite skills, competencies and knowledge for the changing world.
Budget allocation, Vote 14 – Basic Education for the 2018 MTEF Period
Chairperson, I must state upfront that budgetary constraints in the sector have attracted a lot of attention over the past year, largely because of the weak economic growth – the basic education sector, like most other service delivery areas, had to reduce what it purchases. This has occurred while enrolments in our schools have increased substantially, largely due to demographic factors. I would like assure this House that we are monitoring this dichotomy – that of budget constraints versus increasing enrolments at our schools – very carefully, and we are engaging with the National Treasury accordingly.
One way in which we are supporting our provincial education departments, is to strengthen human resource and financial management and planning; though we must concede that such an exercise, in a context of budgetary constraints, is not an easy task to do. We are working hard with our provincial education departments to ensure that our budget and expenditure management is regular and compliant with applicable legislation and regulations.
Chairperson and the Honourable Members, allow me to highlight the following in relation to the Budget Vote 14 – Basic Education for the 2018 MTEF period –
- The overall 2018/19 budget allocation for the DBE is just under twenty three billion Rands (R22.7 billion).
- In addition Chairperson, the total Conditional Grant allocations for the 2018/19 financial year, amounts to R17.5 billion; and the total earmarked funds, amount to R2.6 billion.
- I must commend the National Treasury for allocating R29.2 million as a general budget support allocation for Rural Education Assistants Project (REAP). This amount will increase with a total of R58.3 million in the outer two year of the 2018 MTEF. Through this Grant, we are currently identifying unemployed young Matriculants to be appointed as Education Assistants in curricular and co-curricular activities in six rural districts in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal and Limpopo.
Chairperson, I am glad to report that the Ruling Party has really lived up to its commitment of making education its topmost priority. The 2018 MTEF allocations for provincial education departments will increase from R240.7 billion in 2018/19 to R253.6 billion in 2019/20; and R271 billion in 2020/21. This represents a net increase of 19.8% relative to the 2017/18 total allocation for provincial education departments. More importantly, none of our provincial education departments show any decrease in their 2018 MTEF budget allocations.
Chairperson, in one of its reports – Educational Equity and Public Policy: Comparing Results from 16 Countries, UNESCO illustrates the importance of ensuring that public spending is equitably distributed, and that rural and poor communities are prioritised. Credit must go to the ANC-led Government for its strides in this respect. We need to make sure that, inspite of the current economic and fiscal climate, we continue to prioritise programmes and funding that will particularly have a direct and positive impact on our rural and poor communities.
Strategic focus areas currently in our radar
Chairperson, we wish to highlight a few ongoing programmes that extend beyond the ongoing objectives of the basic education sector. The extension of these programmes goes much deeper into the content, substance, quality, and relevance of our work, in the context of an ever changing world.
The first focus area is the review of our progression and promotion policies, especially in the lower Grades. The overwhelming message from education specialists is that it does not make any educational sense to make young children between six and ten years to repeat a Grade. According to these experts, children who repeat, on the whole, gain absolutely nothing. On the contrary, for many affected children, repetition is a powerful early signal for failure – a signal that lasts through the individual’s life. To improve the efficiency of the system, we are also focusing on Grades 9 to 11, as repetition and drop-out rates are also high in these Grades.
The second focus area is Early Childhood Development (ECD). One of the NDP directives states that “there should be a policy and programme shift to ensure that the DBE takes the core responsibility for the provision and monitoring of ECD. Other departments should continue to provide services in a supportive capacity. Resource allocation should gradually reflect the changes in institutional responsibility for ECD”. This is strategic, to ensure that ECD from birth, becomes the foundation of the entire basic education system. In taking the core responsibility for the entire ECD landscape, we will ensure that the transitional arrangements to do so, are smooth and seamless.
The third focus area is the reality we have repeatedly stated that the internal efficiency of the system and quality basic education outcomes can only be achieved through specific and deliberate interventions in the early Grades. Our primary focus is to improve the quality of learning and teaching as well as quality outcomes in the early Grades. We have introduced a variety of interventions in this area, which include the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA), the Early Grade Reading Study (EGRS, which was piloted in the North West and Mpumalanga), and the Read to Lead Campaign to equip our learners in the Foundation Phase with the requisite skills and competencies for a changing world. After all Chairperson, leading nations, are indeed reading nations!!
The fourth focus area is that of strengthening the curriculum content, quality, and relevance in subject offerings, such as History; Mathematics, Science and Technology; Agriculture especially in rural schools. We are currently processing invaluable inputs from Ministerial Task Teams, the Basic Education Makgotla, programme-specific Roundtables, and from our strategic partners on the levers that will enable us to achieve this. Attention to quality inclusive education and rural education is part of this focus area.
The fifth focus area is our response to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We have begun to prepare the basic education sector to provide learners with the skills and competencies for the changing world. Critical thinking and problem solving; creativity and innovation, collaboration and communication, social justice and human rights have been identified as critical skills and competencies that our learners must be able to demonstrate.
The sixth focus area is that of improving the coordination and coherence of the sector, by improving planning, monitoring and evaluation oversight. A number of activities are currently underway to improve these processes. An exercise has been undertaken to align our national goals and monitoring with international goals and reporting, through the UNESCO’s SDGs, and the African Union’s Continental Education Strategy for Africa.
The seventh critical area is the refocusing of infrastructure planning, coordination and delivery. The deficiencies found in this area, exacerbated by the inability of the sector to attract the build industry specialists required, and the challenges related to financial disbursements, are getting a special focus. We are in constant engagement with The National Treasury, the Department of Public Works, and our strategic partners in this area. The fact that we had to face two fatalities, related to two Grade R children drowning in pit latrines, is lamentable, and could have been averted.
We are mobilising all available resources, including the participation of the private sector and build industry professionals in our quest to heed the President’s call for the provision of age- and Grade-appropriate sanitation facilities in all our schools. The pressures on providing our schools with appropriate sanitation, will require innovative funding strategies, including generous contributions from the private sector and South Africans.
The eighth area is the tightening human resource management in the basic education system, especially the recruitment, appointment and promotion of education specialists and teachers in our provincial education departments and schools. Chairperson, you may recall that in 2015, I received the Ministerial Task Team’s Phase One Report on the Sale of Posts. I am happy to report that on 08 June 2018, I received the Second Phase Report, which is based on the forensic investigations that were conducted by Forensic Investigators deployed pro bono by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development as well as those from DeLoitte. We are currently processing the report, and we will outline transparent processes going forward; but we will do so, mindful of the legal prescripts on people’s rights.
Last but not the least, is the focus area of social transformation and cohesion. The programmes, through which we continue to promote national unity and pride, as well as social transformation and cohesion, include school sport as well as school choral and indigenous music events. Recently, the Minister of Sport and Recreation and I signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the roll-out of competitive and recreational school sport programmes. We continue to coordinate choral and indigenous music events through the five-year partnership with the Motsepe Foundation. We wish to invite the Honourable Members to attend the national championships on 26-29 June 2018 at The Rhema Church on Randburg. We can assure you, you will definitely not regret it.
Conclusion and tributes
In conclusion, we wish to argue that Radical Economic Transformation, a progressive policy of the Ruling Party, must be predicted on radical social transformation. Basic Education is a fundamental component of this essential premise for sustainable development for livelihood, peace and prosperity. Now that we have laid a solid foundation by advancing the implementation of social justice principles, the next, and the most immediate task in the sector is to deal with these areas which are core to radical social transformation and cohesion. We are already dealing with these areas through the modality of Roundtable discussions and other forms of engagement. We hope that the sixth administration will be seized with this work, and take it to its logical conclusion.
Chairperson, let me thank Deputy Minister Enver Surty, my Cabinet colleagues, the Chairpersons and Members of the Education Portfolio and Select Committees, all Honourable Members of this House, Education MECs, Heads of Provincial Departments and their officials, our Director-General and his team, as well as officials in my office, for their counsel and unwavering support.
I am immensely grateful to all the teachers, principals, parents, learners, SGBs, individuals, and our strategic partners, who work tirelessly to make the quality and efficiency of the basic education system a reality in the various parts of our country.
Last but not the least, I wish to thank my family for their unwavering support.
I thank you.