Honourable Members of the NCOP
Officials and distinguished guests
It gives me pleasure to be part of such an important Debate in the NCOP. I must declare upfront that the provision of Early Childhood Development (ECD) is a share national competence between the Department of Social Development for the zero to four age cohort; and the DBE for the cohorts older than four year-olds. There are other Departments that provide specialised support services, such as the Department of Health, and to a lesser but essential extent, the Department of Home Affairs.
Early Childhood Development (ECD) and Grade R Mandate
Chairperson and Honourable Members, I am happy to report that the DBE and the Department of Social Development, are currently working together to conduct due diligence on existing childhood education and care services for the 0-4 age cohort. This is part of the process to move the core responsibility for provisioning and monitoring of ECD services to the DBE, as envisaged in the National Development Plan (NDP). There are currently approximately 18 000 registered ECD centres in the country, providing services for children from birth to 4 years.
In terms of the Grade R mandate, the provisioning of Grade R is currently not part of the compulsory basic education mandate (Grade 1-12) in South Africa. White Paper 5, published in 2001, states that –
“the State will follow a phased approach to introduce publicly funded Grade R classes across the whole public schooling system towards a compulsory and universal provisioning by 2010”.
Due to challenges in scaling up, the target was moved to 2014; and currently to 2019 in line with the NDP stipulations.
Funding of ECD, with a focus on the Grade R Mandate
The legislative imperative regarding the mandate for the provision of Grade R had implications, especially in terms of funding; as Grade R provisioning, was not a fully funded function of Government. As a result, this has had a direct effect on the position of Grade R provisioning on the list of priorities of Provincial Education Departments, given the reality of competing priorities.
Grade R is currently funding model through the National Norms and Standards for Funding Grade R, which stipulate that the Provincial Education Departments must provide for Grade R learners at 70% of the Grade 1 total learner cost. The cost must include teacher provisioning. This funding level, together with other considerations such as availability of infrastructure, have an impact, not only on the number of places for Grade R learners at public schools, but also the number of educators / practitioners, as well as the level of their remuneration.
The funding for Grade R is provided for under Programme 5 (Early Childhood Development) of the provincial budget programme structure. The sub-programme – Grade R in Public Schools, provides for centres in Public Ordinary Schools, whilst the sub-programme – Grade R in Community Centres, provides for Grade R in community centres.
The allocated Grade R funding, should cater for both personnel and non-personnel cost drivers. The funding from the 2015/16 to the 2018/19 per province, and the overall the expenditure on Grade R has increased by 28% – that is, at an average of 5.6% per annum. KwaZulu Natal had the highest growth in funding over this period at overall growth of 47% – that is at an average 9.4% per annum. The lowest growth has been in Gauteng at 12% overall growth – that is at an average of average 2.4% per annum.
One of the challenges of the provisioning for Grade R, has been underspending of allocated budgets. Not all provinces spend all their budgeted funds. Even though KwaZulu Natal has recorded the highest growth, in terms of the budget in the last three financial years to 2018/19, the expenditure patterns show that it is one of the provinces that consistently underspend. In the context of the limited funding available, it would reasonably be expected that all provinces should spend all allocated budget. This, however, does not imply that the available funding is adequate to cover all the needs.
Despite the funding challenges, most Provincial Education Departments have consistently increased enrolment of Grade R learners in the public schools. The average growth in enrolment between 2014 and 2017 was 4% – that is an increase from 777 960 learners in 2014 to 809 605 learners in 2017. Only Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal recorded negative growth over this period of minus 12% and minus 4%, respectively.
Grade R Teachers / Practitioners’ qualifications, and their remuneration
In terms of the Minimum Requirements for Teacher Qualifications, the minimum requirement for teaching in a public school is NQF Level 6; or a three-year teaching qualification. Currently, only 33% – that is 8 135 of the 24 268 Grade R teachers / practitioners, meet the minimum teaching qualifications; and thus can be employed as fully qualified teachers in the mainstream.
As indicated above, the remuneration of Grade R teachers is one of the areas that is directly affected by the current mandate, and level of funding available. The common practice, is that Grade R teachers / practitioners are paid a monthly stipend. The level of payment, taking into account its own needs, only the North West Province that appoints all its Grade R teachers in educator posts, as fully qualified educators, and are paid the normal educator salaries. The rest of the Provincial Education Departments pay most of their teachers / practitioners employed in public schools a monthly stipend, which ranges from R5 000 for a Level 4 qualification in the Free State; to R10 800 for Level 6 and above qualification in the Western Cape. KwaZulu Natal pays a flat rate of R6 500 across all levels of qualifications; with only Mpumalanga paying the lowest at R6 340 across all levels of qualifications.
Critical to note, is that most Provincial Education Departments are progressively converting the employment of fully qualified Grade R educators / practitioners into fully paid teachers through provincial determinations. About 46.5% of appropriately qualified personnel in Grade R, are employed in permanent teaching posts with full benefits.
On the one extreme in the Free State and Gauteng, all Grade R teachers / practitioners are employed on contract, and paid a stipend. On the other extreme, in KwaZulu Natal, Mpumalanga and North-West, all qualified Grade R teachers / practitioners are paid as teachers receiving full salary with full benefits. It must be noted however, that the North West and Northern Cape inherited ECD Practitioners who were qualified as teachers at REQV13, from the Bophuthatswana Government. In Limpopo, Grade R posts were funded at 100% until 2015, when the department decided to hire Grade R practitioners on 3-year contracts.
Also important to note, is that Provincial Education Departments, through sub-programme on the Funding of Grade R in Community Centres, do provide for funding. In his 2018/19 policy Statement, the MEC for Education in KwaZulu Natal indicated that the province is considering an upward adjustment of the stipend paid to Grade R Practitioners. In addition, he indicated that the province has provided 1 000 Practitioners, who were placed in ECD centres, particularly Crèches. Of the 1 000 Practitioners, 572 were awarded bursaries to register with Umfolozi TVET College for a qualification at Level 4.
While the initiative of the MEC in KwaZulu Natal is plausible, we wish to advise him to be cautious and avoid creating possible legitimate expectations across the system. Matters relating to remuneration, are essential subjects of the Bargaining Chamber.
Admittedly, funding for the provisioning of Grade R, has not been adequate. However, most provinces have progressively increased the provisioning for Grade R, as shown by the steady rise in enrolment of learners in public schools. In addition, provinces have progressively absorbed qualified Grade R teachers into their teacher post establishments, despite the financial constraints they face.
Going forward, Chairperson and Honourable Members the DBE is committed to the universalisation of Grade R by 2019. Through processes within the sector, including engagements with teacher unions in the Education Labour Relations Council, various options of resourcing are being considered. These include the areas of infrastructure, teacher supply, and other major resource areas.
Additional resources to reach 100% funding levels for Grade R, remains the main challenge and a risk that may delay the achievement of universal Grade R by 2019. This, the sector must be conscious of, including the existing funding gaps between Provincial Education Departments, as well as the shrinking buying power within the sector. The sector must also prepare for the potential bulge in the inflow of learners, who would otherwise enrol in private / community institutions.
I thank you