Hon Chairperson, hon members, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, the MEC for education from the Western Cape and learners up there in the gallery, I feel specially honoured to be given a chance to address the NCOP only six days after the local government elections, with the ANC having scored a great victory. Thank you for giving us a hearing in spite of the mood of excitement and jubilation all around. Honouring these democratic processes is vital for nurturing and sustaining our hard-won freedoms and rights. It is in this spirit of accountability, responsiveness and transparency that I stand before this august Council to present the Budget Vote of the Department of Basic Education.
Our focus this year is mainly on strengthening the delivery-driven basic education system in line with the delivery agreement we entered into in October 2010. It is only through education that we can roll back the tide of poverty and joblessness and redress apartheid inequalities. It is precisely because of the pivotal role it plays in creating a better life for all that education remains an Apex Priority of the current administration.
For the 2011-12 financial year the overall budget for our department has increased from R6,369 billion to R13,868 billion. Note that this allocation concerns only the national Department of Basic Education - Vote No 15. It does not include allocations for provincial departments of education. The 2011-12 consolidated investment in the education sector, which includes the national department and all nine provincial departments of education, is R168,056 billion.
Last year we made bold to say we have made huge strides in education since the advent of democracy and committed to do more to address challenges to the provision of quality education. We committed to developing an education sector plan that would help us transform schooling, ensuring all of us, as the national and provincial departments of education, worked together to deliver an education system that speaks directly to the current needs of our democratic and developmental state.
Thus, on 2 August 2010, we gazetted Action Plan to 2014: Towards the Realisation of Schooling 2025. We took this step following consultation with the Council of Education Ministers and in terms of the National Education Policy Act of 1996. This action plan provides key outcomes and performance deliverables for the entire education system and will help us to co-ordinate provincial planning and reporting.
In spite of formidable challenges, including the teachers' strike, we achieved an impressive 67,8% pass rate in the 2010 Grade 12 national senior certificate exams. All provinces improved their performance, with Gauteng achieving the highest pass rate in the country at 78,6%.
We are satisfied with progress on preparations for the incremental implementation of the reviewed Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements. This will start in January 2012, in the foundation phase and Grade 10.
As indicated last year, to enhance quality we required an effective performance evaluation mechanism. Accordingly, on 17 and 18 March 2011 we launched the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit, Needu. We appointed Prof John Volmink as its inaugural CEO, with effect from 1 July 2010. Since then, six additional staff members have been appointed to the team.
Needu's main task would be to provide an authoritative, analytical and accurate account of the state of education and the status of teaching and learning in all schools. A draft Bill has been developed and we look forward to the support of the NCOP in finalising relevant legislation.
Regarding the workbooks, last year we promised to provide high-quality workbooks in literacy and numeracy for learners in Grades 1 to 6, and literacy, numeracy and life skills for learners in Grade R, to improve and enhance the quality of learning. We have copies of these workbooks outside the door here and members are free to pick up a copy and see the quality of these books.
Workbook 1 was rolled out to the schools from January 2011, but with difficulties and delays in some schools. Workbook 2 should reach the learners next month. To reduce delivery glitches, the department has verified relevant data with provinces, including the number of learners.
With regard to the assessments, we are committed to improving the performance of Grades 3, 6 and 9 from an average performance of between 27% and 38% to at least 60% by 2014. One way of doing this was to administer the annual national assessments that are standardised and internationally benchmarked. Analysis of results of such assessments will inform the plans we adopt to improve education.
We started in February 2011 with Grades 1 to 6 and Grade 10. Approximately 6,5 million learners participated. We wanted to release the report at the end of April, but we had to move the date due to the enormity of the work involved. A new date will be announced soon.
With regard to the challenges, in spite of the footprints we have made, a lot still needs to be done. Institutional challenges include inefficiencies resulting in poor management and weak financial controls. We see evidence of this in some provincial education departments continuing to receive qualified reports. We are still battling with poor accountability in the system, including poor planning, implementation and reporting.
The education system is also plagued by learner-related challenges around their wellbeing, exacerbated by poverty and social deprivation; ill- discipline and youth criminality; and reproductive health-related problems, like teenage pregnancy.
It is against this background that this year we launched the Bill of Responsibilities campaign, in partnership with Lead SA and the South African Interfaith Council. Raising awareness around the Bill of Responsibilities will help promote the Bill of Rights, constitutional values and civic responsibilities.
Educator-related challenges include educator wellbeing, which has been aggravated by the nation's burden of disease, like the impact of HIV and Aids; low levels of skills, commitment and discipline; and inappropriate working conditions.
While great progress has been made, the sector needs to intensify ongoing work in the area of curriculum development, implementation and monitoring. Provincial departments, as conduits to schools, are critical in this regard.
Our educational outcomes continue to reflect socioeconomic patterns of inequalities. One of our major challenges remains addressing inequalities in the system. Believing that every child is a national asset, we will work with our provinces to ensure that no child is left behind.
Given the many challenges plaguing the education system and the need to respond to them effectively and better support the national goal of achieving inclusive growth and economic freedom, our response has been the decision to up the bar and work even harder towards a delivery-driven basic education system. In keeping with government's commitment to outcomes- driven service delivery, the department will continue aligning itself to outcomes delivery processes.
Therefore, during the 2011-12 financial year, we will lift our current delivery programme by establishing a planning and delivery oversight unit. This unit will work with and through provinces in weaving together all current initiatives so as to allow for a coherent value chain from policy to implementation in the classroom.
The department will continue to focus on the following levers to steer this quality education outcomes improvement programme. Given the key role of gateway subjects in accelerating economic transformation and growth, we will do more to improve performance in maths and science. We're already developing a maths and technology strategy to reinforce the Dinaledi schools programme, which has received a conditional grant amounting to R70 million in 2011-12.
All our efforts aimed at enhancing the quality of learning outcomes will indeed benefit immensely from heeding the President's call for more focus on the Triple T: teachers, textbooks and time. Thus, working with provincial departments of education, we will ensure that we indeed deliver on the objective of providing a textbook for every learner in every subject.
Plans for the central procurement of learning and teaching support materials are under way. In this regard, consultation with provincial departments of education is continuing. We hope this will result in efficient service through which we will eliminate the risks associated with expensive and inefficient procurement processes which have until now made it difficult for us to provide every child with a book in every subject.
All these efforts will not adequately produce a delivery-driven basic education system without quality teachers. We will therefore proactively up our work on teacher development to advance the Triple T and ensure that teachers are in class and teaching at least seven hours a day, as President Zuma has directed. For us, teachers are a critical resource for improving quality.
On 5 April 2011, with Minister Nzimande, we launched the Strategic Planning Framework for Teacher Education and Development. It is key to achieving Output 1 of the delivery agreement, that is, improving teacher capacity and practices.
Improving the quality and conditions of service for teachers is a top priority. Last year, the monitoring of implementation of the occupation- specific dispensation was stepped up. We will continue to monitor full implementation by provinces to ensure that unintended consequences are addressed.
Funza Lushaka bursaries have increased to R449,44 million and will reach R893,867 million in 2013-14. Our targets include attracting young qualified teachers and filling the vacant posts to help advance this year's clarion call for the creation of decent jobs and economic transformation and freedom for all.
This year we will continue to strengthen school management and governance. The department is reinforcing the training of principals, particularly those from underperforming schools. More work will be done to improve school infrastructure. We will continue working with communities at all levels, encouraging their participation and urging them to take ownership of school buildings. A community facilitation team has been constituted to work with school communities.
We will eradicate mud and unsafe structures. For 2011-12, we have prioritised 85 mud schools and 246 inappropriate structures. We will provide water to at least 807 schools, sanitation to 391 schools and electricity to 286 schools. For free-standing facilities without adequate resources, we will build 29 administration blocks, 25 libraries and six laboratories. Working with provinces, by 2014 we will have attended to 3 627 schools that need to be brought up to basic functionality and safety levels.
An allocation of R5,498 billion for the education infrastructure conditional grant has been introduced for 2011-12. The school infrastructure backlogs indirect grant of R700 million has also been introduced. We will continue to pay serious attention to the health, safety and protection of children, mainly children at risk.
In 2010-11, the National School Nutrition Programme reached over 10 million learners in approximately 21 000 schools. For 2011, the National School Nutrition Programme conditional grant has increased to R915 million to cater mainly for implementation in quintile 3 secondary schools.
Education being a concurrent function, we're very worried indeed that 18 of our districts are underperforming. We are also very much aware that provinces are not performing satisfactorily in different areas, including slow spending on some programmes and overspending in other areas.
We will work with provinces, particularly those that received qualified reports, to deal properly with the Auditor-General's concerns. We will also prioritise the strengthening of outcomes improvement plans of poorly performing provinces and districts.
Regarding the intervention in the Eastern Cape department of education, I made a ministerial statement to Parliament on 16 March 2010. The Eastern Cape department of education had struggled for the past 16 years to establish itself as a stable and fully functional department. The challenges resulted in a Cabinet decision to invoke section 100(b) of the Constitution in March 2011, to allow the Ministry of Basic Education to work with the province to implement a comprehensive and sustainable intervention.
Subsequently, as required by the Constitution, a notice regarding the intervention was lodged with the NCOP on Tuesday, 15 March 2011. Since then we have established an intervention unit that co-ordinates the activities of the intervention. An intervention framework has been completed and a detailed intervention plan will be completed in a month's time. Following engagements with the premier and the MEC for education, a memorandum of agreement will soon be signed.
Regarding the critical areas of service delivery, the National School Nutrition Programme has been resuscitated. The programme has been decentralised to schools and a strategy has been developed to strengthen it. Temporary teachers whose contracts were terminated in December 2010 have been reinstated. Temporary relief in the form of mobile classrooms has been provided to address the challenge of mud and unsafe schools while plans are being finalised for building permanent schools.
On learner and teacher support materials, 90% of non-section-21 schools have received textbooks and workbooks. Learner transport has been restored, particularly in rural areas. A team from the national department is working with the officials from the Eastern Cape departments of education and transport to ensure norms and standards are adhered to in this regard. The shortage of stationery is also receiving urgent attention.
It is our hope that the intervention will turn around the situation in that province and ensure delivery of key educational outcomes.
In conclusion, I wish to say a special word of thanks to you and to all patriots who supported the class of 2010. Let us all support the class of 2011 this year. I am grateful for the support of my Deputy Minister in absentia, the MECs and the director-general, Bobby Soobrayan. I call him "Abrahams". [Laughter.] Sorry, I think all Indians have the same name. I thank all the HODs from different provinces and all our officials in the department. I am grateful to our teachers, principals, parents and learners for their hard work and dedication to education because we believe that working together we can deliver a transformative, high-performing, quality education system. I thank you, Chairperson. [Applause.]