Education Budget Speech delivered at Provincial Parliament, Cape Town Western Cape Government Education Budget Vote Minister of Education, Debbie Schäfer 29 March 2017 | Western Cape Education Department

Education Budget Speech delivered at Provincial Parliament, Cape Town Western Cape Government Education Budget Vote Minister of Education, Debbie Schäfer 29 March 2017

Madam Speaker, it gives me pleasure to present to you my third budget since I took office in 2014.

It is my privilege to welcome a number of special guests to this debate. For the sake of time, I cannot acknowledge each, so please forgive me, but thank you all for accepting the invitation.

Madam Speaker, today I present to you the 2017/2018 Budget for the Western Cape Education Department against the backdrop of a struggling economy with slow economic growth and high unemployment, where the effects are felt across the province, in all Departments but particularly in Education.

To grow the economy, we have to invest heavily in education. No country can achieve sustainable economic development without substantial investment in quality education. This budget is a budget for Growth and Jobs.

The recent economic crisis has made the need for innovation to address social challenges even more apparent and acute. These social challenges are deep rooted in the communities that we serve in Education.

Given the challenges that we face, we are having to change the way that we think, the way that we operate and we have had to push boundaries that we never thought could be pushed.

A quote by Dr Seuss accurately defines my department's thinking over the last year or so:

"Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try".

Addressing these challenges requires innovative solutions and collective involvement, and I must say that I am fortunate to work with many creative and innovative officials and I am also proud to partner with many dedicated and committed NGO's, as well as the private sector, on which I will elaborate further later on in my speech.

Investing in education is the best investment one can make in this country and contributions from the private sector, NGO's and civil society to the improvement of education outcomes are invaluable not only to us as Government, but also to the learners themselves and their communities. They also assist in complementing our budget, which is much needed.

In the Western Cape, after 8 years in office, we are beginning to reap the benefits of investing in quality education.

Madam Speaker, when it comes to quality education we are lighting the way for other provinces.

The WCED for the second time achieved a clean audit for the 2015/2016 financial year. I would like to thank and congratulate Mr Leon Ely and his team for achieving this. This is as a result of strong internal financial controls and reflects the commitment and innovation of our financial managers and their teams.

The Premier highlighted our achievements in last year's National Senior Certificate, and I am very proud of what we have achieved, but acknowledge that there is still much to be done to improve education in this province, especially the inequalities that still exist.

With the release of the results of the 2016 systemic tests in Grade 3, 6 and 9 Language and Mathematics, I was pleased that we were able to sustain the marked improvements in Mathematics and Language that were achieved in the 2015 Systemic tests.

Further evidence of this was when Sweet Valley Primary School, for the third year running, claimed the Number 1 spot in the country in the SA Mathematics Challenge (previously known as the AMESA Olympiad). Congratulations to Principal Ian Ryan and Deputy Principal and Head of Maths, Mark Rushby who have joined us here today. It is also noteworthy that the Western Cape had 11 schools in the top 20 of the country and 44 schools in the first 100 schools.

Madam Speaker it is clear that despite the challenges that we are facing in the country and in education, there has been a sustained improvement in all three main indicators of success that we have identified.

It shows that our interventions are working, and that the quality of teaching and learning in our schools is improving.

2017/18 budget

Earlier this month, the Provincial Minister of Finance announced that in the 2017/18 financial year, the WCED will receive over a third of the provincial budget - an investment in education of R20 629 billion.

I am very grateful to my Provincial Cabinet colleagues and Provincial Treasury that we did not have to further cut our allocation this year, as we were anticipating with dread.

Madam Speaker, the vast majority of our resources are quite rightly invested in schools that serve poorer communities.

For example, 92% of our budget allocations to items such as textbooks, stationery, learner transport and feeding schemes goes to no fee learners in our province.

Despite the severe budgetary constraints, we have done our utmost to preserve the funding allocated to pro-poor initiatives.

These initiatives include the compensation for fee exemption of poorer learners, learner transport and other forms of funding to schools.

In fact, our poorer schools are prioritised in terms of service delivery and roll-out, which I will highlight throughout my speech.

It is evident that there is a growing number of parents who simply cannot afford to pay school fees. This is an unfortunate consequence of our ailing economy and puts a massive financial strain on fee-paying schools relying on the collection of fees to sustain their daily running costs.

Since 2011, we have supported our schools in providing access to our poorer learners by providing fee compensation. In 2011, the WCED paid out over R20 million with 48 974 learners claiming compensation. Five years later, in 2016 the WCED has paid out more than double that amount, paying over R47million for 77 264 learners in the Western Cape. This year, we are allocating almost R50. 5 million for this purpose.

We will also continue to support the poor Quintile 4 and 5 schools that have been declared no-fee schools through our own funding mechanisms.

Last year we were unable to provide the full amount of nationally prescribed Norms and Standards Funding to schools. I am very pleased that in the new financial year we will be able to do so by allocating an increased amount of R1, 243 per learner in Quintiles 1-3, R623 per learner in Quintile 4 and Quintile 5 will receive R215 per learner.

One of the WCED's biggest cost drivers is learner transport. With increased growth in our Province, this has led to an increased demand for this service. Over the last five years the amount required has increased from R203 million to just over R380 million in this budget. I would love to expand the policy in this regard, but it is simply unaffordable.

As an alternative to learner transport, the WCED also provides subsidised hostel accommodation, where available, in order to provide a safe environment where learners are able to participate in a variety of sports activities, receive extra academic support from staff, as well as receive 3 meals a day. To meet this growing need, we are therefore allocating an increased amount of over R55.3 million to increase access to our hostel facilities.

In education, we deal with the effects of poverty every day with thousands of children from poor communities arriving at school hungry.

In the Western Cape we are committed to ensuring that 478 144 of our poorest learners receive not just one, but two nutritious meals at 1010 schools every day.

This programme has expanded year on year, with allocations to the nutrition scheme having more than doubled since 2009/2010. This year is no different, with just over R337 million being allocated, an increase of more than R20 million compared to last year.

Madam Speaker, we can confidently say that we have directed the majority of our resources to our poorer schools that desperately need the support.

I believe that 'Desperation is the mother of innovation.'

Finding ourselves in a desperate financial situation has led us to pursue new and innovative partnerships, projects and initiatives. It has also seen us partner with many organisations that are committed to improving education in our province, especially in poorer communities.

Finding ourselves in the situation we do, means that we are having to find ways to do more with less.

I am very encouraged and appreciative of people and organisations who are working with us to improve education and also infrastructure in the Western Cape.

Madam Speaker, I am very excited today, and I don't get excited easily, to announce a new partnership which is set to culminate in the Jakes Gerwel Entrepreneurial School in Bonnievale.

The WCED is partnering with the Jakes Gerwel Entrepreneurship School funding trust on a 40:60% basis where the trust will contribute 60% of the project cost and the WCED the remaining 40%.

The school will offer two streams of learning, a mainstream secondary school that focuses on technical subjects.

The other is a school of skills for learners who wish to pursue a vocational pathway and will include important skills and subjects such as construction, bricklaying, welding and hospitality.

For these subjects, thirty classrooms and twelve state of the art technical workshops have been designed.

This is a real community school. From the beginning, the whole community has worked together to ensure that the school which was still a seed at the time of conception, sprang quickly into life and has grown into an awe-inspiring project.

Members from the local rugby club and volunteers from the community have assisted on the land during the week and on weekends to remove the vines and clear the land.

The vision of the school was shared with a local architect who agreed to design the school free of charge. Land surveyor fees, rezoning application fees, engineers' bills, attorney costs and security expenses were all donated by people who shared in the vision for the Bonnievale community. Local farmers have also loaned their operating machinery plus operators to the school for absolutely no cost.

Several companies have promised support to this school in various ways, including at least one that has promised work experience for several weeks during the school year.

Donors have raised more than R50 million to build this school. Today I am joined by Wilhelm De Wet, who purchased the land from Mr Phillip Jonker, who is prepared to make the land available to the WCED on extremely favourable terms. Both are the major donors for the project. Thank you both for your commitment to the improvement of education in Bonnievale, and for being willing to create this amazing opportunity for the youth in that area.

This shows what can be done when communities, the department and the private sector work together in the interests of education.

Jakes Gerwel Entrepreneur School is aiming to open its doors in January 2018 to 240 Grade 8 and 9 learners, provided all legal processes can be finalised timeously.

Madam Speaker, last year I spoke about the Collaboration Schools Pilot that we began in 5 schools in January 2016.

We now have seven public schools currently operating as collaboration schools, 4 primary and 3 high schools, across 4 of the Western Cape's districts.

Since the inception of this new model, the funders have committed over R75 million to the pilot. Of this amount, R31.8m has flowed to the schools directly and an additional R37.8 million has been provided to the non-profit partners who have brought additional capacity to the schools in the form of governance, training, support and social capital. The operating partners have been working with schools to develop specific school improvement plans and implemented these plans.

We are encouraged by the momentum that the initiative is gaining. We have, in fact, had some schools asking to be a part of this project, based on what they have seen thus far.

We are currently in talks with another three schools that may come on board in 2017 which would bring the total number of collaboration schools to 10. We aim to double this number to include 20 schools in the collaboration schools pilot by 2018.

Thank you to David Harrison of DG Murray Trust, and Mark Allen, for their dedication and commitment to this project.

Indications are that this project is bringing improved education to poor communities, to which we are absolutely committed. It is thus quite astonishing that some critics who bemoan the inequalities in education, which we agree still exist, continue to oppose this project, which is precisely aimed at addressing those inequalities.

Another valuable partnership is one we have with Niall Mellon and his team at Mellon Educate.

Niall is well known for his housing initiatives in South Africa, and has now moved into education. Not satisfied with merely being a part of the Collaboration Schools Pilot, Niall and his team have also used their skills and contacts to help us improve and expand our infrastructure at poor schools.

In 2015, 240 volunteers from the international volunteer-led charity Mellon Educate worked at Ukhanyo Primary School in Masiphumelele and completed the building of seven brand new classrooms as well as refurbished an additional 8 classrooms.

Included in the upgrades was a brand new kitchen, two sanitation blocks, a changing room and a storage room located at the school's sports playing field. In addition, the volunteers constructed a new playground for the primary school learners to enjoy.

In 2016, 270 volunteers worked at Ummangaliso and Kuyasa Primary schools, where they completed 11 classrooms, 2 libraries, a kitchen, a toilet block, 2 covered sun shelters and built 1 playground and upgraded 2 others.

I would like to thank Niall and his team as well as the hundreds of volunteers that they bring over each year for their invaluable contribution to education in our province.

Another organisation that I must mention is the SAME foundation, a non-profit organisation that has been working with Manzomthombo High School in Mfuleni since 2015. Since then the organisation has invested R4.5 million into the school's infrastructure completing, fully furnishing and equipping:

  • 2 Sanitation facilities
  • 5 Classrooms
  • 2 Biology Labs
  • 2 Science Labs
  • 1 Library and;
  • 1 Computer Room

Despite being situated in a disadvantaged community characterised by high unemployment and social strife, Manzomthombo Secondary School has consistently risen above these circumstances, defying the odds and remaining true to its motto of 'Quality and Excellence'.

I am informed by Mr Trevor Pols, Chairman of SAME Foundation that they have requested to assist with 5 other schools in the Western Cape this Year.

I would like to thank Mr Pols, who has joined us today, and the donors for investing in Manzomthombo High School. Your investment is invaluable and is testament to the successes of public-private partnerships in addressing challenges in the education sector.

Our Grade R-3 project, aimed at directly improving language and mathematics levels of learners at 103 of our poorer primary schools, is going well.

Partnerships have been formed with SchoolNet SA, MacMillan, PEARSON, EDUPEG and SHINE. This year, 27 schools will continue to be supported by the mentoring programmes of PEARSON and EDUPEG. SHINE will offer Family Literacy Workshops to 20 of the schools in the project.

Madam Speaker, I have also spoken at length about the e-learning Game Changer. We have made excellent progress over the last year, which the Premier highlighted in her State of the Province Address.

The WCED will invest a further R252. 8 million towards e-learning in the 2017/18 financial year and over R1.2 billion over a five year period. This will contribute towards the rollout of the Local Area Networks (LANs) and various infrastructure, equipment and devices to schools.

Within the next financial year we are rolling out additional slim labs, smart classrooms and ensuring that more schools are provided with Local Area Networks.

The WCED has also established 16 Model schools across the Province where we are providing WAN, LAN, Smart Classrooms in every class and learners are allocated devices. Delivery of this technology is currently taking place.

We all know that teacher development is crucial for such an intervention to be successful.

The WCED has developed an online self-assessment tool to identify the eLearning training needs of individual teachers. Teachers at a first target group of 178 schools can now update their personal profiles, complete the online assessment from any internet enabled device (including cell phones), receive feedback on their personal competency level, and consider available courses for every level, and book training by date, venue and times.

The online tool guides teachers, principals and officials through a set of statements which assesses the teacher's technological ability and how he or she has succeeded in infusing this in the pedagogical context in the classroom. This helps to identify the user's knowledge and skills in using education technology. The system then rates these skills and knowledge automatically and suggests training courses covering five levels of competency, from basic, introductory skills to advanced training on eTeaching.

This is really to be commended, and well done to Clinton Walker and Heinie Brand.

Athlone School for the Blind is a leading light with regard to developments in the e-Learning arena. This school forms part of the e-learning pilot school programme and has wireless connectivity throughout the school.

They also possess state of the art high speed internet connectivity which allows them to access digital resources online. Athlone School for the Blind also has a collaborative relationship with other schools. This allows blind learner's access to people and places as well as information that would have been impossible a short while ago. This has opened up a new world for learners who are visually impaired. They have access to almost everything that is available digitally. Tremendous strides are being realised on a weekly basis. Other schools for the blind are also benefitting from the pioneering initiatives.

By now we are all familiar with the After Schools Game Changer. The WCED will contribute further to this programme in the next financial year by investing over R4 million, and over R41 million to MOD Centre infrastructure.

Madam Speaker, there is an African Proverb that says that it takes a village to raise a child. This couldn't be truer in South Africa where many of our learners grow up without parents or are heads of households themselves.

We always say that community involvement is very important in order for us to make inroads into improving education, especially in poorer communities where so many difficulties often abound.

I am thus very honoured to have with us today Mr Mteto from the Khayelitsha Education Forum, and Reverend Gqwaka from the Mfuleni Education Forum. Thank you both for your commitment and dedication to the schools and learners in your respective communities. We look forward to working more with you to improve education, and thank you for what you are already doing.

Madam Speaker, as a provincial government we have identified accountability, transparency and innovation as important attributes, and our legislation also needs to reflect this. To this end, last year I published a draft Western Cape Provincial School Education Amendment Bill which is now almost ready for tabling in the Provincial Legislature, after public comment and amendment as a result thereof.

One of the proposed amendments is the establishment of a Provincial Schools Evaluation Authority. This is intended to improve the school quality assessment framework and establish a new School Evaluation Authority (SEA) in the Western Cape to conduct independent evaluations of school quality that are credible, transparent and effective in enabling school improvement in the province.

We have proceeded rapidly from policy and high-level design work in July 2016, to the development of new school evaluation tools in September, to the training of evaluators and delivery of a 12 school pre-pilot in October - November last year.

The pre-pilot was carried out at schools that had been scheduled for Whole School Evaluation. We found that new style reports are more insightful, incisive, and easier to read than the Whole School Evaluation reports. They provided a more vivid and authentic picture of what these schools are really like. The key issues - especially the main challenges and shortcomings at each school - stood out more clearly.

From the evaluations, we were able to identify whether there were weaknesses in teaching and learning as well as allow us to determine the adequacy of behaviour and safety, leadership, school management and governance as well as parental and community engagement.

The evaluation process is highlighting many other system-wide issues that we now need to consider. Most importantly, we have developed a new view of what a good school, quality teaching, and effective school leadership really looks like.

At the beginning of the pre-pilot, our assessors went into 7 classrooms in one school. They found teaching happening in 1 of them! One did not have a teacher in it at all. Others had teachers sitting at their desk while learners aimlessly sat in the class, and in 1, a teacher was actually teaching. If this is what we can find in one visit, imagine what a difference this can make in the quality of our schools!

In the pre-pilot we identified some cases of very poor quality classroom practice and unmarked or incorrectly marked workbooks. Evaluators found several examples of teachers not teaching during scheduled class time, despite the fact that schools knew an evaluation was taking place. Governance and engagement with parents and community were also inadequate in all but one of these schools.

We are currently working on the support and development processes plan of how the department will respond to these assessments, and then there will be detailed consultation with stakeholders.

The pre-pilot and the current full pilot is showing very promising signs of being able to identify more accurately, the weaknesses in the system across the board which, if we act appropriately, can make a real difference in the quality of our schools.

I would like to thank Mr Salie Abrahams, Ms Karen Bydell and their team for driving this process in the Department, as well as Lynn Coleridge-Zils in my office. A special thanks also to Richard Brooks for his invaluable international expertise, and Ark Schools for their assistance in so many ways, not least of which is the funding of a Project Manager to manage this process.

Madam Speaker, our Youth Focus Project that we have been running since 2013, was in danger of being stopped as a result of the budgetary situation. This programme assists Grade 9 repeaters with a bridging course and then they progress into programmes offered at TVET colleges based on their interests, enabling them to follow an occupational career pathway. I am very pleased that, thanks to an additional allocation from the Provincial Treasury, as well as internal efficiencies, we are able to allocate over R40 million to the Youth Focus Project so that it can continue, and we can continue providing this opportunity to those who would otherwise form part of the Lost Generation.

We are grateful for the partnership with W&RSETA and Northlink College as this is a perfect example of an effective public- private initiative driven by a desire to find lasting solutions to important issues affecting our province, and our country.

Many of our learners face challenges of disabilities and barriers to learning. We therefore invest heavily in the provision of special needs education and in this budget over R1, 2 billion will be allocated to Special Needs Education.

We believe that alternative pathways and opportunities are important. In the Western Cape, Schools of Skill offer an alternative opportunity to learners. We currently have 18 Schools of Skill with 5 Special Schools that have skills units attached, and we are looking to increase the number of places in these schools in the coming years.

I am therefore very pleased to announce that, after two years of being prevented by court action, which we ultimately won, we are adding two Schools of Skill in the province by converting the Wellington Youth Care Centre and Eureka into Schools of Skill this year. There will be an incremental increase in learner numbers over a four year period with the centre reaching full capacity in 2020. We have to ensure that, as best we can under extremely difficult circumstances, our young people are educated in a way that enables them to meaningfully contribute to society by either taking up employment in areas where we need skills, or creating their own employment.

Two new special schools will also be completed this year and creative strategies are being utilised to accommodate the high demand for places in special schools. Owing to high demand at our special schools, we have had to deploy mobile units to relieve some of the pressure.

We have also been allocated over R11.8 million as part of the new conditional grant for children with Profound Intellectual Disabilities (PID). A large part of this funding will be allocated to the funding of 3 Itinerant PID Outreach teams. The grant will also fund training of special care centre staff, provide for specialised learning and teacher support materials and tool kits as well as assist with the provision of specialised vehicles and accommodation.

Madam Speaker, the Western Cape is clearly leading the country in providing skills training which is much needed and provides opportunities for learners which many would otherwise not have.

Ongoing training and development of our educators is another important focus, with a particular focus on Language and Mathematics strategies and e-learning/ICT integration. We will be investing over R85.6 million in this, increasing by R50m from last year

Madam Speaker, I cannot complete this speech without addressing the issue of accommodation in our schools, and teacher allocation. The reality that we are facing is that class sizes are becoming larger while our budgets are only getting smaller, relatively speaking.

We simply cannot keep up with the demand being placed on us by the increasing numbers of learners, and the lack of concomitant budget allocation from National Treasury.

We are grateful for the allocation of R52m for 183 contract teaching posts, which will provide some relief for this year.

Infrastructure remains a priority for this Governmentand in 2017/ 2018, we will be investing a large amount in school infrastructure with an allocation of over 1.6 billion.

The 2017/18 financial year will see the completion of 5 new schools and 6 replacements schools.

Maintenance of our schools is a top priority. The WCED surveyed all schools in 2014 and identified 499 schools that need upgrading. The WCED embarked on a programme to upgrade schools, starting with 50 schools in 2015, and 60 schools in 2016. We plan to increase the number to 100 schools a year, budget permitting. We have increased our budget for maintenance by more than 50% over the past three years. We are doing so despite severe budgetary constraints.

In 2017/ 18 R602.8 million will be allocated towards the maintenance of buildings.

We have also allocated R30 million to the emergency maintenance fund for the 2017/ 18 financial year, up R20 million from last year. It is unfortunate that we have to spend such a large amount of money on repair work at schools as a result of burglary and vandalism or other unforeseen circumstances.

I am also doing everything possible to interrogate how we deliver infrastructure, and if there are ways to do so quicker and more cost-effectively. I have had several internal discussions on this matter, and plan to convene a think-tank in the near future to explore every possible option.

The WCED also needs support from communities to assist with preventing vandalism and burglaries at schools and in doing so, promote ownership and pride into our schools. We have received that from many communities, and wish to thank them for that.

Madam Speaker, the safety of our learners and educators remains a great concern for every parent, the WCED and myself.

We have to apply a "whole of society" approach to dealing with the deep-rooted socio-economic problems in our communities.

I have met with Western Cape Police Commissioner Lt Gen Jula, to discuss how they plan to comply with their constitutional duty to keep our learners safe, especially in the light of his stated commitment to address the gang problem in the Western Cape. We know that in the Western Cape, 85% of our police stations are under staffed. The inability of SAPS to support some of our schools at critical times is a great concern as it leaves our learners and educators vulnerable and at the mercy of invading gangsters. I have, however, been encouraged by my meetings with Gen Jula and his senior staff. I have also received positive feedback from a number of our schools at the assistance they are receiving from SAPS.

In addition, I have had a number of meetings with our Department of Community Safety, and trust that Minister Plato will be announcing some plans arising out of them.

The WCED's Safe Schools Directorate has been designed to assist with this through Crime Prevention and behavioural programmes.

This year, we will invest an increased amount of over R32 million into the Safe Schools programme. While this funding will not necessarily end violence in and around our schools, it will be used to provide and reinforce targeted security infrastructure, and behavioural interventions.

We have recently seen an increase in the number of videos of bullying incidents surface on social media platforms. This does not necessarily mean that there has been an increase in incidents. It could mean that learners, being as resourceful as they are, are now using social media to raise their concerns.

But whatever the case, bullying is an ongoing concern for me. Any form of bullying can have dire consequences, and as schools, parents and educators, we have to respond appropriately and in a timeous manner.

Our Life Skills Curriculum covers bullying in Grades 2, 4 and 6. The WCED also provides practical training for teachers and learners on ensuring positive behaviour, including dealing with bullying.

Our district offices work with schools and various partners to implement anti-bullying programmes.

As a result of the number and violent nature of recent bullying incidents, I have made enquiries as to what we are doing about it. I am very encouraged at the number of interventions taking place in our districts, many of which involve partnering with effective organisations

It is clear that we are doing a lot to try and combat this scourge. But we cannot do it alone. Parents and communities need to take their responsibilities seriously as well, as what we see in schools is a reflection of society.

Madam Speaker, it is clear from the budget that I have outlined today, that despite facing budgetary constraints, we as a Government have quite rightly done everything possible to minimise the effect on learners in our poor communities. An enormous amount of work has gone into this, and I must thank our Chief Financial Director, Mr Ely, Chief Director, Ms Veldman, and their team for their dedication and innovation in this regard. Despite these challenges, I believe this is a budget that reflects positively on the strategic outcomes we have set to achieve.

I acknowledge that there is still much to be done to improve education in this province, especially the inequalities that still exist. I am however committed to thinking left, right, up and down to find new and innovative ways to improve education outcomes in the Western Cape so that we can see more learners achieving their NSC and access to higher education to broaden their opportunities. This is the only way that we will see sustainable economic development and a reduction of unemployment in our province and country.

I look forward to the year ahead and even some of the challenges it may bring. I know that I have a committed and innovative team that are willing to take on the challenges that may come our way this year.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank newly appointed Superintendent-General, Brian Schreuder, WCED officials, our District Directors, Circuit Managers, and staff, for their dedication and commitment to improving education in our province. I am extremely grateful for the manner in which they are leading this department in very difficult times.

Thanks, also, to Minister Ivan Meyer and his team at Provincial Treasury, who have done their best to assist us in extremely difficult circumstances.

And last but not least, a huge thanks to my team in my office, led by Jessica Shelver and Irene King. We are a great team. Thank you for all you do.