Equal Education (EE) and the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) have sent a shadow report to the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education highlighting key aspects of the Department’s successes and failures during the last financial year (2013/2014).
The issues examined in the submission relate to:
· Scholar transport,
· The National School Nutrition Programme,
· Underperforming schools,
· The section 100(1)(b) intervention in the Eastern Cape, and
· School Infrastructure.
The purpose of the submission is to aid the Portfolio Committee in its preparation for the 2013/14 Budget Review and Recommendation Report (BRRR) – set to be adopted on 21 October 2014.
The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education will meet today at 09:00 (14 October 2014) in Committee Room V475 in the Old Assembly, to review the Department’s 2013/14 Annual Report. The Department of Basic Education will be reporting on its performance over the last financial year and will be an opportunity for the Committee to interrogate the Annual Report. EE and the EELC have submitted their shadow report to assist the committee in its monitoring and evaluation of the Annual Report.
There have been some positive developments in education during the 2013/2014 financial year:
· The promulgation of the regulations on the minimum uniform norms and standards for school infrastructure,
· Improving expenditure trends by provincial education departments on infrastructure grants,
· Improvement in the delivery of schools through the Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) grant.
· Improvements in the provision of school nutrition, particularly in the Eastern Cape, where approximately, 1.5 million learners have been reached through the programme.
However, a number of areas of concern remain the most critical. These include:
Provision of scholar transport:
Seven years ago Parliament’s research unit pointed out the effect of the lack of provision of transport for many learners in rural areas who had to walk long distances to school – which included include high drop-out rates, frequent absenteeism, and high prospects of sexual and physical exploitation of learners when making the journey to and from school on foot. The Research Unit’s report concluded that the Department of Transport should “champion” the development of a national programme of scholar transport and “should work closely with the [Department of Education] in order to facilitate a multi-faceted approach to learner transport problems”.
Despite this recommendation, the national policy on scholar transport has now been in the making for more than five years. The absence of a this policy has resulted in the inconsistent and unfocused provision of scholar transport services at the provincial level and a lack of proper budgeting for the service, to the detriment of learners.
The shadow report recommends:
• The adoption of the draft National Scholar Transport Policy of 2009
• The DBE should collect and verify data on the number of learners who need scholar transport, particularly in the Eastern Cape.
• A grant for the provision of learner transport, particularly in rural areas, where learners have to walk long distances to and from school, should be established. Alternatively schools should provide boarding facilities for those learners in high school.
There are thousands of schools across the country which should be declared as “underperforming schools” in term of the South African Schools Act (s58B). These are schools which require specific attention and intervention from the DBE due to their continued poor performance. These schools are overwhelmingly situated in poor (often rural) areas and attended by the most vulnerable learners in the country.
Despite this, we are concerned that the DBE is not dedicating sufficient attention to identifying schools in this category. The DBE does not appear to have adopted a clear and ascertainable national policy or guideline on how provincial education departments are meant to address underperforming schools. This not only fails to comply with the provisions of the South African Schools Act, but also continues to fail the many vulnerable learners at these schools who desperately require specific interventions from the state.
The shadow report recommends that:
• The DBE must comply fully with s58B of the Schools Act and report to Parliament on such compliance.
• Reports on compliance with s58B must include information on the number of identified underperforming primary and secondary schools.
• The adoption of a detailed national policy or guidelines on measures to identify and address underperforming schools; and the allocation of a budget for this purpose. These guidelines should not be limited to identifying underperforming schools only through academic performance, but should also include school safety and school management related issue as well as monitoring of drop-out and repetition rates (secondary schools), absenteeism, curriculum implementation.
• Adoption of specific performance indicators on underperforming schools in the APP and Annual Report.
Section 100(1)(B) intervention in the Eastern Cape:
In 2011, the Eastern Cape Department of Education was placed under national administration through a Constitutional provision of Section (100)(1)(b). The six identified priority areas in the implementation of Section 100(1)(b) were:
• Management of human resource capacity
• Implementation of the National School Nutrition Programme
• Procurement and delivery of LTSM
• Effective management and provisioning of learner transport
• School infrastructure development programme: priority mud and unsafe schools
• Education systems and operations: planning, accountability, supply chain management, financial management.
During a recent visit to a number of schools in the Eastern Cape, EE and the EELC were told that the main challenge schools experienced were around poor school infrastructure. All the schools we met with, barring one, stated that they experienced water shortages that impacted negatively on teaching and learning
The shadow report recommends:
• Allocation of additional funding to schools that need water. Taking into account that there are seasons when there is very little rain to fill water tanks at schools.
The introduction of regulations on the minimum uniform norms and standards for school infrastructure must be welcomed. However there remain concerning aspects with these norms and standards. They do not apply to schools that are already in the process of being built and improved upon, or those which have already been scheduled to be built or improved upon in the MTEF period (2013/14 – 2014/15 – 2015/16).
The ASIDI program has experienced significant reductions in financial allocations due to DBE under expenditure of its budget with the most significant cut occurring in the 2013-2014 financial year – from approximately R5 billion first allocated in the 2011/12 to a revised allocation of 1.955 billion in the 2013/14 budget. The frequency and volume of reporting under ASIDI is commendable, but the conflicting nature of reports on progress and delivery (example, confusion as to targets, number of schools meant to be built and when these schools are to be built) is a point of much concern.
An examination of the Education Infrastructure Grant (EIG) expenditure trends of the Eastern Cape, KZN and Gauteng shows that all three provinces are spending their allocated budget well. However there are concerns with the transparency of the EIG programme. Without the availability of planning documents, clear targets, reporting against targets and contracts with service providers it is difficult for Parliament to hold the DBE accountable.
The shadow report recommends:
• Parliament to request National Treasury and the DBE to cost the norms and standards for school infrastructure. They may request Parliament’s Budget Office and the Financial and Fiscal Commission to provide assistance.
• Clear and consistent reporting by the DBE on ASIDI expenditure and progress to the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education.
• The DBE must make information publically available on the EIG so that progress can be adequately monitored by all relevant stakeholders.
Yoliswa Dwane (Equal Education): 021 387 0022
Dmitri Holtzman (Equal Education Law Centre): 021 461 1421
Hopolang Selebalo (Equal Education): 021 387 0022
Lisa Draga (Equal Education Law Centre): 021 461 1421