The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education will this week embark on an oversight visit to the Department of Basic Education (DBE) head office in Pretoria, to discuss various issues affecting the sector.
Committee Chairperson Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba said the aim of the oversight is to find lasting solutions to challenges within the sector, as well as ensure accountability from the department.
Among the issues to be discussed during the oversight visit to start on Tuesday include the perennial infrastructure challenges facing the sector, unacceptable increase in incidents of bullying in the basic education sector, school governing body (SGB) elections, as well as an update on the status of the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill.
Mbinqo-Gigaba said the committee has since its inception, and following various of its oversight visits to provinces, highlighted the need for concerted and collaborative efforts to find workable solutions to the challenge of inadequate infrastructure within the sector.
"In line with this, we decided to hold a school infrastructure roundtable, which will include DBE, provincial departments of education, and chairpersons of education committees in provincial legislatures. We have to work together to find practical solutions to this challenge," Mbinqo-Gigaba said in a statement.
Concerns over school bullying incidents
The committee has raised its concerns about the worrying increase in incidents of bullying within the sector that has led to the death of a learner at Mbilwi High School.
Mbinqo-Gigaba said the committee will engage with the department on the implementation of the sector’s anti-bullying policy.
"Schools are meant to be safe environments conducive for learning and teaching. What we have witnessed in the recent past is worrying and requires urgent action from all stakeholders within the sector," Mbonqo-Gigaba reiterated.
Mbonqo-Gigaba said the sector is also in the process of completing school governing body elections.
She emphasised that good governance and effective SGBs remain the heart of the sector, and thus "will receive an update on the status and outcomes of the elections".
Umalusi, SACEs budget review
As part of the week-long programme, the committee will also engage with Umalusi and the South African Council for Educators on their 2021-22 budget review.
"The budget review process provides for committees to prepare budgetary reports, which provide an assessment of the entity’s service delivery performance given available resources, provide an assessment of the effectiveness and efficiency of the department’s use and forward allocation of available resources, and may also include recommendations on the forward use of resources," Mbonqo-Gigaba said.
Meanwhile the second term for government schools started on Monday (3 May), with discussions this week expected to look at the further easing of lockdown restrictions in the education sector.
At present, most schools are operating on a rotational shift system, where learners only physically attend school on certain days. This in line with established lockdown rules for social distancing and gatherings.
While learners are expected to continue their studies on the ‘off’ days they are at home, the system has caused disruptions, with concerns that students will not be able to complete the curriculum in an already shortened year.
Basic Education minister Angie Motshekga and other education officials will hold a two-day meeting on Thursday and Friday (6 and 7 May) to deliberate on this system and other key issues affecting the basic education sector.
"The department is currently investigating the possibility of returning all learners at primary school level due to the learning losses suffered as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic," it said in a statement.
It added that the proposal is now being considered at the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (Natjoints), after the department delivered a closed presentation last week.
An announcement on the outcome of the discussions is expected to be made in the coming weeks.