Good morning ladies and gentlemen, let me start by thanking you for joining us on a Sunday morning. It has most certainly been a busy start for those of you who cover education in particular, and even though it is early in the year I have already seen many of you between the release of the Matric results and the various back to school visits.
We have been crisscrossing the country visiting schools to get a first-hand look at the situation on the ground at the start of schools. We have visited the North West, Gauteng, and last week we were in Eastern Cape and I must report that we have been pleased with what we have found so far. You are welcome to join us on Tuesday when we will be going to visit schools in Xhariep in the Free State.
I am not the only one who has been monitoring schools, officials do this as part of their regular oversight on the system as well.
Annually, the Department of Basic Education develops and distributes a sector plan to all provinces, for provinces to align their Learner Teacher Support Material (LTSM) management plans so as to ensure that all LTSMs are in schools before the end of October.
The Sector Plan categorically sets out key stages in the provincial textbooks and stationery procurement and delivery process and provides deadlines that needed to be achieved if textbooks were to be in schools by end of October every year. According to the sector plan, delivery of materials to the district/provincial warehouses and to schools should be between September and October latest November of each year. Provinces were to procure textbooks according to the suggested time line provided on the Sector Plan.
School Readiness assessment seeks to determine how ready the system is to commence with the core business of teaching and learning. This assessment covers a wide range of issues including availability of LTSM. For schools, the entire value-chain includes ordering, receipt, and distribution and extends to matters of retrieval of LTSM issued in the previous academic year to ensure the school is ready for the new academic year.
The primary purpose of the readiness visits is to identify any challenges that may adversely impact on effective learning and teaching at the beginning of the year and ensure that they are addressed promptly at the appropriate level of the system.
As in the past years, the assessment for the 2018 academic year was conducted in two phases as follows:
- Pre-closure Assessment from 20 November to 01 December 2017;
- Opening of schools in January 2018 from 17 to 26 January 2018; and
- Follow-up Assessments both telephonic and through targeted visits between February and June 2018. These will focus on assessing progress on issues picked-up both during the pre-closure monitoring and at the beginning of the academic year monitoring.
From the Pre-closure Assessment report there were some schools which had not received textbooks by December. However, when follow-ups were done in January opening of schools, these schools had received their relevant LTSM. This trend was observed in all provinces.
While there are isolated cases where some schools are missing a few text book which are being attended to, we are happy with the overall initial reports from the opening of schools.
It must also be noted that the DBE has developed a plan for the development and digitisation of one (1) title per subject. This is in a bid to make the material more freely available and also to assist in cutting costs. However the sector is facing challenges regarding use of state developed titles as core text books as provinces continue to identify commercially sourced titles instead.
Education Sector Lekgotla
The 2018 Basic Education Sector Lekgotla held last week at the Saint George Hotel and Conference Centre was heralded as a huge success. It brought together four hundred and fifty (450) delegates. These included Members of the Executive Council (MECs) for Education, Provincial Education Department (PED) officials; District Directors; Teacher Unions, Chairperson of Portfolio Committee and Select Committee on Basic Education; the South African Council of Educators (SACE); Umalusi; Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC); National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT); Universities South Africa; Department of Science and Technology, Department of Higher Education and Training; South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA); Congress of South African Students (COSAS); the Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa (ISASA); DBE officials; School Governing Bodies (SGBs) Associations and other stakeholders.
The presentations and discussions were extremely robust and valuable for taking the education system forward.
We discussed and reflected on progress that the sector has made in relation to its commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG4), the National Development Plan (NDP), the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) and Action Plan to 2019: Towards the Realisation of Schooling 2030. Some of the presentations made at plenary on Day 1 of the Lekgotla included an address by Professor Volmink, followed by presentations on the following key topics:
- 2016 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS);
- Analysis of the 2017 National Senior Certificate (NSC) Results;
- Sector Alignment, Progress to Skills for a Changing World;
- Entrepreneurship and 21st Century Skills; and
- Report on the Quality Assurance of the DBE NSC November 2017 Examinations.
The theme for the Lekgotla was: Equipping Learners with Knowledge and Skills for a Changing World. Provincial Education Departments (PEDs) and Teacher Unions were given an opportunity to present under the sub-theme: Identifying Challenges/ Gaps and Strategies.
The key message from the Lekgotla is that the system is indeed on the rise and we should embrace the optimism in the system.
Key recommendations from the Lekgotla included, but were not limited to the following:
- Continue to foster partnership and collaboration. Government, non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders need to work towards a common plan of action in the drive to improve reading and literacy, especially in the Foundation Phase;
- In working towards decreasing the skills shortages in the country and meeting the NDP targets, there was a need to align the curriculum with industry and business to allow for synergy and collective agreement in meeting the skills needs;
- Increasing the number of focus schools in respect of the critical skills focus areas;
- Integration of the Arts into the Mathematics, Science and Technology (STEAM);
- Continue to focus on Inclusive Education to ensure education access to more learners with special needs in order to increase the number of learners who attain the necessary skills and a NSC qualification;
- Develop a clear understanding of the African context, knowledge systems, values and how to utilise African ways and means of imparting knowledge in pursuit of the decolonisation agenda; and
- A need to prioritise Initial Teacher Training for Life Orientation and Teacher Development in dealing with all components of Life Orientation.
We had extremely interesting and robust commissions that came up with their own recommendations, these included:
- Commission 1 – Languages: Teacher development and provision of reading resources remains a priority. Much work needs to be done to bring about parity of esteem of African languages with English and Afrikaans.
- Commission 2 – BCM and Services Subjects: Establish focussed schools e.g. Hotel schools, Maritime schools; Assessment of content for Business Commerce and Management (BCM) and Services to reflect practical work.
- Commission 3 - MST and Arts and Culture subjects: Intensive research must be undertaken for South Africa to implement a STEAM approach effectively and to understand the resource requirements and other implications for implementation.
- Commission 4 - Social Sciences/ Religion and LO: Promote resource based teaching, promote local history, festivals, and excursions. The status of LO could be raised by employing qualified and competent teachers with dedicated subject advisors to support the teachers.
- Commission 5 - Teacher development, ICT, LTSM and EMGD: Need a measurement system to verify impact of interventions in given areas of teacher development. There should be accountable and ethical leadership at schools; Clear levels of accountability, monitoring and evaluation; Clear consequence management particularly on matters of curriculum completion; better induction of newly qualified educators.
- Commission 6 - Exams and assessment: Phasing in of higher cognitive demand of assessment; Focus on assessment for learning as opposed to recall; Assessment capacity building, Integration of Technology in Assessment.
- Commission 7 - Social cohesion: LO should be examinable; Increase contact time for LO; The Sector should foster Integrated School Health Services (ISHP) and provide health services; the sector should raise the bar in response to issues relating to social cohesion.
- Commission 8 - Current and future competencies and curriculum: Adopt the UNESCO International Bureau of Education (IBE) competence framework with additional skills that are responsive to the South African context; Expand the integration of technologies in the education system; Adopt the information, media and IT literacies for teachers and learners.
All of these recommendations will be developed into implementation plans that contain short, medium, and long term plans. The report of the Lekgotla will be presented at the HEDCOM of 12 February 2018 and thereafter to the CEM. The Provinces will convene their provincial Makgotla and come up with recommendations that are school specific, to ensure that this does not end up as a high level talk shop, but filters all the way down to school level.
School admissions update
School admissions and finding places for learners in schools, especially in our more urban and highly populated areas continues to be a challenge. We are seen this being a high emotive issue in some instances, such as what has unfolded at the Hoërskool Overvaal in Vereeniging.
Almost all provinces are confronted by similar challenges with Gauteng and the Western Cape being the most affected. These challenges lead to the sector’s inability to place all learners who have applied to be placed in schools on time for the start of the school year in January. We have noted that:
- Migration of families to metros that are seen as more economically viable creates a situation where learners are more than spaces available in schools;
- Lack of documentation which in some cases would require assistance from other sister departments like the Department of Home Affairs;
- Parents whose school of choice is not in line with provincial regulations;
- Parents applying and accepting placement in more than one school create an impression that there are still many unplaced learners;
- Some parents do not inform schools whether they accept the placement of learners or not and the learner remains on the school list preventing the place to be offered to other learners;
- The actual lack of places especially in English medium schools.
Despite all efforts by the sector to have learners admitted and registered in school before the end of the year, Provincial Education Departments are still inundated with late applications for registration. The challenge is worse with the migration of children from rural to big cities during the December holidays who never return to their rural homes. Some of the children arrive in cities during the middle or end of January without having made any applications to any school.
Parents in rural areas normally do not apply to register their children in schools until the schools open in January.
Late admission and registration affect the commencement of teaching and learning on the first day.
There are still schools where parents queue to apply for their children in January which prevent teachers from going to class to attend to them. The security of the school also gets compromised by this practice.
The department has since January applied a strategy to addresses the challenge of learners who apply for administration to schools at the beginning of an academic year which include, stopping schools from dealing with admission during school contact time and referring all late admissions to district offices to direct applicants to identified schools that have vacancies by taking consideration of proximity and curriculum offering.
We are monitoring the situation in provinces and most have managed to significantly reduce the number of unplaced learners since the start of school, with Gauteng and the Western Cape still having the highest number of unplaced learners. We have numbers from some provinces but other provinces have indicated they can provide updated numbers at the end of the month so we will await the updates and share with you.
The provinces that have provided figures of remaining unplaced learners as of Friday are as follows:
- Free State - 410
- Limpopo - 385
- Gauteng - 5,300
- Western Cape - down significantly form 11,000, new applications still being received from other provinces.
- Northern Cape - 706
- Mpumalanga - 676
School Governing Body elections update
School Governing Body Elections are around the corner and set to take place in March (1st to 31st) this year at all public schools across the country. This is the biggest election process in the country outside of the local government elections.
The election of SGBs is one of the flagships of the education sector that has to be prioritised by all provinces in terms of planning, budget allocation and the allocation of both physical human resources.
Governing bodies have a strategic significance as identified by the National Development Plan (NDP) which calls for the alignment of the interests of all stakeholders to support the common goal of achieving good educational outcomes that are responsive to community needs and economic development.
The SGB elections contribute to the development of a strong sense of community ownership. The performance of schools tends to improve when parents are actively involved and take an interest in the affairs of the school
Western Cape Day Zero plans
Like many across the country we are concerned about the status of schools in the event of Day Zero in the Western Cape. We have been liaising with the province to get a sense of what their plans are in the now quite likely event that the City of Cape Town or the province runs out of water.
The Western Cape Government has indicated that it plans to keep schools open in the event of Day Zero. The provincial government has assessed about 400 schools with existing boreholes, some of which need fixing to ensure water for hygiene and fire safety purposes.
Plans are being finalised for schools that need additional support to secure their water supply. The WCG is considering a range of measures, additional water storage and water distribution to schools.
The department issued guidelines on water saving to schools on 7 November last year and again last week (19 January 2018) as the City introduces Level 6 water restrictions.
The Western Cape Disaster Management Centre has developed comprehensive contingency plans for the province over the past two years.
The WCDMC has activated its Joint Operations Centre that includes representatives from the Provincial education department (and all others) in its ongoing efforts to tackle the drought.
The contingency plans the WCDMC has devised and is implementing already, include addressing the needs of the most vulnerable first, amongst them schools, hospitals and informal settlements.
Schools are well placed to contribute to water saving, given the learner population in the Western Cape. They are also well placed to educate families about water saving, via their children.
Water shortages are not only in the Western Cape but we have seen climate issues affect many parts of the country and we continue to encourage all schools to save water and ensure that they educate learners on the importance of protecting this scarce, precious resource.