Human Development Cluster media briefing
11 March 2010
Minister of Health, Aaron Motsoaledi, Member of Parliament (MP)
Members of the media
Welcome to this Human Development Cluster briefing, the first briefing of the cluster in 2010. The objective is to elaborate on the cluster’s plans for the year ahead. This is the second briefing since the inception of the cluster under the new administration. The President and the administration have prioritised education and health as the lead priorities for the next five years and beyond.
Government has adopted an outcomes approach in implementing its priorities. This approach aims to measure the work of government according to targets and outcomes. These performance outcomes are politically determined positions of government to achieve greater and more focused development.
Government has identified the following key outcomes for this cluster:
* to improve the quality of basic education
* a skilled and capable workforce to support an inclusive growth path and
* a long and healthy life for all South Africans.
At the last cluster briefing in 2009, we indicated that we had established a Ministerial Committee on Curriculum Review. This committee made recommendations and we can report on progress already made with regard to these recommendations and the work in progress to be phased in 2011.
Improving the quality of basic education remains an enduring challenge. The downward trend in the matric pass rate over the last few years is cause for concern. Pass rate declined in all provinces last year, except for the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. This decline points to problems lower down in the system that we have to confront if we are to turn the system around.
South African learners exit the foundation phase without the basic literacy and numeracy skills required to succeed later on. Many of our schools are dysfunctional. Many district officials and principals are not providing adequate leadership or managing schools effectively.
The majority of teachers lack the required subject knowledge, they are not teaching what they are trained to teach, and too often also they lack the commitment to teach for six and a half hours every day. Time-use during school time also means that the curriculum is often not covered as it should be. Homework is not given or marked, and teachers seldom provide meaningful feedback to learners on their work.
Teachers should give to learners what they expect for themselves: opportunity to learn and develop. One of our major challenges is ensuring a culture and sense of accountability among all participants in the education. Our learners have a right to education, a right to leave school both literate and numerate. It is our responsibility to ensure that this actually happens.
Our infrastructure challenges are immense. The backlog is estimated at R140 billion. We still have many poorly constructed mud buildings that collapse with the first rains. Graft in provincial departments disables rapid response in addressing such challenges. Despite budgets to address these issues, the backlog grows in some provinces rather than being eliminated.
Many schools, especially in urban areas, are plagued by drug, alcohol and sexual abuse and violence. The opportunity costs of poverty in rural areas, the inability of parents to assist learners with homework due to their own illiteracy, the continuing impact of HIV AIDS and fact that many teachers live far from their places of work, constitute major impediments to teaching and learning.
Our curriculum has also been a source of tension. Its cumbersome administrative and reporting requirements have detracted from a focus on learning and teaching.
In order to address these challenges, we have established the following targets:
* The number of grade 12 learners who pass the national examinations and qualify to enter a bachelor’s programme at a university will increase to 175 000 by 2014, compared with the current figure of around 105 000. Moreover, by 2014 the number of grade 12 learners who will pass mathematics and physical science will be 225 000 and 165 000 respectively.
* The percentage of learners in grades three, six and nine in public schools who obtain the minimum acceptable mark in the national assessments for language and mathematics (or numeracy) will be at least 60 percent by 2014. Currently the figure varies between 27 percent and 38 percent depending on the grade.
In order to support the achievement of these targets, basic education has set out the following priorities:
* By 2014, all children will participate in grade R
* All learners and teachers will be engaged in learning and teaching for the requisite number of hours per day
* Basic education will distribute appropriate learning and teaching materials to all schools to ensure that all teachers and learners have access to basic teaching and learning supports to enable them to cover the curriculum and
* Standardised national assessments of the quality of learning will take place in all public schools.
How have we responded to date?
Since the President declared education an apex programme of government, the separation of the Departments of Basic and Higher Education and Training have been finalised. We have reconstituted the Department of Basic Education and set up a new approach, we not only focus on policy, but also strengthen our oversight and monitoring responsibilities. The Department of Basic Education has also moved into a new building on 222 Struben Street.
At the heart of our strategy is getting schools to work. These are schools that are characterised by capable leaders and managers, committed teachers, supportive parents, disciplined learners, are safe and drug and crime free.
The Quality Learning and Teaching campaign exemplifies our position that “education is a societal issue”. In September 2009, we concluded the process of appointing new school governing bodies (SGBs). More than 150 000 parents have been elected into SGBs. Training of SGBs will take place in the new financial year. Since we last presented our briefing, we have agreed on a social compact with the unions and are currently working with all the unions on implementation of the goals of the Campaign in a programmatic manner.
In order to deal with curriculum implementation changes, we have acted on the main recommendations of the Report prepared by the ministerial committee that reviewed the implementation of the national curriculum statement.
We have reduced the administrative burden on teachers by communicating steps to be taken. Continuous tasks of assessment have been discontinued. Instead, schools will set their own tests. These will be externally moderated. The department will make available exemplar questions. The number of projects required was reduced and portfolios of learner assessments are no longer required.
Not all recommendations could be implemented immediately and require research and planning to enable proper implementation. Three ministerial project committees were established to assist: firstly; the production outlines of what teachers should teach on a grade by grade and subject by subject basis and secondly; to plan for implementation of the reduction of learning areas in the intermediate phase and another to plan for improved textbook use in classrooms.
As we continue with the work of improving the curriculum, the national department in partnership with provincial departments, is providing structured, systemic support to teachers who require greater guidance than the curriculum is currently providing. Our last briefing indicated our intention to implement the Foundations for Learning Campaign and distribute learning and teaching support materials and workbooks, as well as lesson plans in literacy and numeracy for grades one to six, to teachers in the primary school.
The distribution process is complete. Learning and teaching packs for grade R teachers have been distributed to all 13 900 schools that offer grade R. These packs include lesson plans for literacy, numeracy and life skills, learners’ workbooks and resource books, as well as posters and story books. These will enrich the Grade R classroom and consolidate the learning experience of grade R learners.
As part of the foundations for learning campaign, the department has also introduced the annual national assessment for grades three, six, and nine so as to lay solid foundations for learning with the initial focus on primary schooling. The purpose of this assessment is to measure the success of our interventions in literacy and numeracy.
In response to the poor matric results, we undertook a rapid assessment and remediation initiative that targeted schools performing below 20 percent. We are also distributing additional study materials to grade 12s through the provincial education departments. We are monitoring the schools on a monthly basis.
Because the system stands and falls on the quality of teachers, we are paying even more attention to teacher development. In mid-2009 we held a very successful National Teacher Development summit with all the key stakeholders in education. Recommendations were made on how teacher supply should be improved, how to identify and meet teacher developmental needs in the best possible way and how to strengthen district and management support to schools. We are expecting proposals and recommendations from the working groups for an integrated national teacher development plan by the end of March. Final decisions will then be taken on what will be implemented in April.
To address our infrastructural needs, we are planning improvements through the use of the stadium building facility. The Department of Basic Education is in discussion with the Presidency, Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) and Treasury regarding increased finance and capacity for school infrastructure.
National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (NEEDU) is critical to our monitoring, evaluation and development strategy. We have finalised what NEEDU will do. Its focus will be on assessing the performance of the system at all levels, including national and provincial departments, districts and, in particular, schools and classroom practices. We are working on the form it will take and will operate it in the next few weeks.
2010 is set to be a memorable year that every South African and the rest of the world will never forget. This excitement is spilling over to schools as learners and teachers prepare themselves to participate in the South African Schools’ World Cup. The South African Schools’ Confederation Cup, which was the first phase of this campaign, was successfully hosted in May 2009.
The Department of Basic Education, in partnership with Sport and Recreation South Africa, the Department of Arts and Culture, the 2010 FIFA Local Organising Committee (LOC) and Adidas, has initiated the “My 2010 School Adventure”.
“My 2010 School Adventure” includes an internal soccer competition between provinces in May 2010 that have all been allocated participating countries, a soccer tournament with learners from the other participating African countries, and an Art and Creative Writing competition.
Learners and educators whose entries are selected will become “Ke Nako” achievers and proceed to the national finals. “Ke Nako” achievers stand a chance to attend 2010 FIFA World Cup matches and to win other exciting prizes.
Not only is “My 2010 School Adventure” a great educational opportunity for our youth to broaden their general knowledge and understanding of the world, but through learning about other people and their countries, they will not only develop a sense of national pride and unity, but begin to understand and live the values of non racism, non sexism and tolerance of all.
The cluster is pleased to note that the role of sport in schools is once again being emphasised. This is part of the campaign to encourage South Africans to participate in some form of sporting activity and to ensure that our young people begin to adopt healthy lifestyles as soon as possible.
The draft school sport policy is nearing finalisation and has been discussed with South African Sport Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC), Federations, and the National Coordinating Body for School Sport (NACOC) and will be published for comment in the near future. In addition, training of teachers in physical education has commenced. It should be emphasized that physical education in schools is a compulsory component of the Life Orientation Learning Area in the national curriculum statement.
The Kha Ri Gude Adult Literacy campaign concluded its second year of the implementation of adult literacy classes in January 2010. The campaign enrolled 613 638 adults during this second year. These learners, with the 360 000 adults reached by the campaign in 2008, cumulatively mean that South Africa has approximately 1 million newly literate adults. The campaign has been awarded the GCIS Communicator of the Year award and the Pan South African Language Board (PANSALB) award for the promotion of multilingualism.
Higher education and training
Nearly 70 percent of all South Africans are under the age of 35. Government, through the Department of Higher Education and Training, has set out a strategy to increase the ratio of young people that are in education, employment or training by 2014/15.
The aim of this strategy is to strengthen the capacity of the education and training system to provide pivotal programmes to a growing number of young post-school learners as well as adults at turning points in their careers. Pivotal programmes are those “professional, vocational, technical and academic learning” programmes which meet critical needs for economic growth and social development.
These pivotal programmes which generally combine course work at universities, universities of technology or colleges with structured learning at work, through professional placements, work integrated learning, apprenticeships, learnerships, internships and the like. To achieve this goal, not only must there be improved access to and success at post-school learning sites such as universities and colleges, there must also be structured bridges to the world of work and quality learning on arrival there.
The Further Education and Training sector with its 50 colleges and 263 campuses nationally will be the primary site for skills development training. They will also provide second chance education opportunities for those who do not qualify for university entrance.
In order to reduce the unacceptably high number of 18 to 24 year olds who are not in employment, education or training, 2.8 million at the last count, government aims to “build the base” both by strengthening the schooling system and by giving “second chance” basic entry learning opportunities. For the education system, this will include Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) programmes as well as foundational entry level learning opportunities.
It is important that the perception of colleges as a “consolation prize” to university entrance is dispelled. Further Education and Training (FET) colleges must become institutions of choice. Expanding and improving capacity at FET colleges is a vital part of government’s mission to create a comprehensive and differentiated post school system.
In this system, universities and colleges are the key providers of the education and training needs identified in the economic sectoral fora of the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs). These institutions must produce the knowledge and skills that South Africa needs.
Colleges are firmly part of the national post-school education and training system. The department is working closely with provinces to put in place a comprehensive suite of programmes and measures to make college learning more attractive.
We recently completed registration for the 2010 academic year in higher education and training. A higher education task team was established to monitor registration. It was found that while there were fewer disruptions compared to previous years, several institutions were inadequately prepared for the 2010 academic year and there was poor communication in others between various units responsible for registration matters, including finance, faculties and financial aid offices.
The team also found that there were disparities in the application of the financial aid policy especially that of upfront payment for needy students. An agreement between the minister and Higher Education South Africa (HESA) allows recipients of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to register without having to produce their registration fees.
NSFAS informed all financial aid officers that a 30 percent proportion of the higher education institution final allocation would be made available to meet the costs of registration, book allowances, meals, etc. Of the 23 universities which committed to take advantage of the upfront payment and to expedite the processing of such payments to the NSFAS, only 12 institutions took up the offer for the 2010 academic year, to the value of R180 million.
The department was inundated with a huge volume of calls, roughly about 1000 calls a day, to three different dedicated hotlines that were established. The complaints received varied from financial aid, academic exclusions, financial exclusions and access queries.
The task team officials also had to intervene and mediate during campus disruptions largely related to financial aid issues as well as the shortage of residences. While many of these problems do not have quick-fixes, government is concerned by the rigid attitude of some institutions in relation to academic and financial exclusions.
The minister will begin advance talks with the sector this year to minimise disruptions to the 2011 academic year. The review of the NSFAS is being tabled before Cabinet this month. It will be priority to dealing with many problems experienced by financially needy students. The report will be released for public comment in March and the Minister will elaborate on proposed changes to the scheme in the budget speech.
Improving the health profile of all South Africans
Since the new government came into office last year, the Department of Health has elaborated on many occasions about the 10 point programme to turn the health system around. Since then, various aspects of the Programme have been at different stages of implementation.
In his State of the Nation Address this year, the president said a key outcome in health is a long and healthy life for all South Africans. The president further said that we must confront the fact that life expectancy at birth has dropped from 60 years in 1994 to below 50 years today.
Last year the president said we are worried by the degenerating level of healthcare within our healthcare institutions. So ladies and gentlemen, in implementing our 10 point programme, we are going to be guided by these sentiments, that is: a long and healthy life for all South Africans, and making sure that our healthcare institutions offer first class services.
When you deal, deal with the issue of life expectancy in our situation you have to do everything in your power to lower maternal mortality rate, reduce infant and under five mortality rates, cut off new HIV infections, expand HIV and AIDS treatment, reduce the unacceptably high incidence of tuberculosis (TB), dramatic reduction of the incidence of malaria and reduce incidences of chronic diseases and non-communicable diseases.
We will leave no stone unturned in improving the health system effectiveness and improving the infrastructure in our healthcare system.
Let me first deal with the issue of a long and healthy life for all South Africans and dealing with life expectancy. Our main driver of a low life expectancy and unhealthy life in South Africa is amongst others, the HIV and AIDS epidemic. This is number seven on our 10 point programme.
In implementing this part of our programme, we started in this very house last year where we shared with you the devastating effects of HIV and AIDS and TB on the lives of our people.
We then responded to this devastating state of affairs on World AIDS Day, with the announcement that the president made. I wish to inform you that we are far advanced in our plans for implementation. Today, the Cabinet announced that 15 April 2010 is the day South Africa must confront the virus by a massive counselling and testing campaign.
The 1 April 2010 of course still remains the day on which new treatment modalities will be implemented in all our health institutions. I prefer to give full further and finer details about this work on HIV and AIDS and TB on 25 March 2010. We shall call a special press conference for this.
Apart from confronting HIV and AIDS and TB in the battlefield, many other things need to be done to lower the unacceptably high levels of maternal mortality and infant mortality.
In this battle, primary healthcare shall be the central weapon in our arsenal. The Minister of Health is on record that we need to turn South Africa’s health system from a curative to a preventative model. That is the reason why our fight against HIV and AIDS will put prevention at the forefront, and treatment to those in which we have failed in our efforts to prevent.
Hence primary healthcare programmes like mass immunisation campaigns will be the order of the day this year and beyond. We are planning a mass campaign against measles and polio in which we hope to reach more than 95 percent of all children aged six months to 14 years against measles and more than 90 percent of all children from zero to less than five years against polio. This will be done from 12 to 23 April 2010 and a second round from 24 to 28 May 2010. We wish to reach more than 95 percent of these children with vitamin A supplementation and de-worming tablets.
We also wish to undertake mass immunisation campaign against H1N1 influenza from beginning of April 2010. We will strengthen our routine immunisation campaign against other diseases such as rotavirus and pneumococcal in all our healthcare institutions.
Furthermore, the Departments of Health and of Education will launch a School Health campaign this year, where we shall take primary healthcare to our schools. In strengthening our healthcare system, we shall pass through Parliament this year, an act to establish an Office of Standard Compliance, which will enforce acceptable standards in our healthcare institutions.
In our 10 point programme, we mention overhauling the whole healthcare system dealing with issues of management. We have already appointed a team led by DBSA, which is ready to visit all the health institutions to assess issues of management, functionality and effectiveness of each and every institution. I am pushing the team very hard to start but I am aware that they needed elaborate preparations if they had to do decent work once and for all.
I hope their starting time will not go beyond April.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have chosen five major tertiary and referral hospitals to be the flagship of our infrastructural improvement. The Minister of Finance has already mentioned this in his budget speech.
Yes, we shall be using the same experience the country used in producing massive 2010 infrastructure to produce massive state of the art health infrastructure. That is why the Minister of Finance made the ground breaking announcement, and I wish to repeat here that the following tertiary hospitals will be the starting points:
* Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital in Soweto
* George Mukhari hospital in Ga-Rankuwa
* King Edward VIII hospital in Durban
* Walter Sisulu in Limpopo and
* Polokwane tertiary complex in Polokwane.
Preparations are advancing at a very fast pace towards implementation.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Ministerial Advisory Committee on National Health Insurance (BHI) dealt with all the work referred back to it by the Cabinet committee which met to look at the first draft of the NHI policy on 1 November last year.
I am still trying to find the first available date for the Inter-Ministerial Committee on National Health Insurance to look at it before being sent back to Cabinet to go through normal Cabinet processes.
I thank you
Issued by: Department of Basic Education
11 March 2010