Social Cluster media briefing statement co-chaired by the Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla and Mrs Angie Motshekga, the Minister of Basic Education
Good morning and thank you for your time.
As you know, this briefing comes on the back of President Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address delivered earlier this month.
In His address, the President outlined the major plans to grow an inclusive economy that creates jobs and reduces poverty. At the heart of this major plan is the work of the Social Sector Clusters- growing a capable human capital, that is skilled, healthy and protected and to lessen the negative impact of the current challenges on the most vulnerable.
The Social Cluster is therefore committed to taking forward the implementation of programmes aimed at intensifying the provision of basic services that improve the lives of South Africans. While great strides have been made in this regard, we have had to deal with unplanned events such as the floods and outbreaks of measles and cholera which are posing a real threat to the health and well-being of communities.
MEASLES OUTBREAK AND IMMUNISATION CAMPAIGN
The Department of Health, working together with sister departments and other stakeholders, have embarked on a nationwide child immunisation campaign against measles, Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and other vaccine preventable diseases. The measles outbreak was reported in six of the nine provinces namely Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Gauteng, Free State, Northwest and recently the Western Cape which recorded four laboratory-confirmed cases in the City of Cape Town. This takes the number of cases from 506 to 510 since the first outbreak in 2022.
We are glad to report that to date, more than four-point seven million (4,742,545) measles doses have been administered since the outbreak of the measles. This number consists of 278 127 doses on 6-11 months; one-point seven million (1,743,654) doses on 12-59 months, and two-point seven (2,720,673) doses on 5 -15 years old.
The protection of children against measles and other vaccine preventable diseases is the collective responsibility of parents, guardians and healthcare providers. We are grateful to the contribution of the Basic Education sector, that contribution can only be effective if parents and guardians can sign the consent forms so that their children can be immunized at school.
HIV/AIDS, TB & STIs
The Government together with other partners in SANAC will next month lead an annual World TB Commemorative event in Rustenburg, North West as part of continued efforts to raise awareness about the epidemic and its burden on the health care system. This is because TB containment also suffered the same fate for reduced testing, diagnosis, treatment and especially completion of treatment. South Africa is one of the 30 high TB burden countries. That`s why we call on every sector of the society, including Parliament through the TB Caucus, to join hands in the fight against TB.
We have come a long a way in the fight against HIV/AIDS, TB & STIs through a collective implementation of the National Strategic Plan (NSP). SANAC will use the World TB Day event on 24 March in Rustenburg, North West to launch the fifth NSP for HIV, TB and STIs for the period 2023 to 2028 that has been tabled before cabinet for final approval. The launch will be led by the Deputy President in his capacity as the Chairperson of SANAC.
The inclusion of mental health services and social support is based on the strong association between HIV, TB, STIs with gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF), human rights violations and inequalities.
IMPROVING HEALTH DELIVERY SERVICES
As part of improving our health delivery platforms, a number of infrastructure projects are being implemented this year. High amongst these is the construction of the new Limpopo Academic Hospital in Polokwane. When completed this 488 bed tertiary services and teaching hospital will provide specialist services, which will almost eliminate the need to transfer patients to Gauteng for various specialist treatment including advanced surgery and ICU SERVICES.
In addition, there are other major infrastructure projects to replace old hospitals which have already commenced in Eastern Cape, namely Zithulele District and Bambisana District Hospitals. Again, in Limpopo the replacement of Siloam Hospital has already started.
At the beginning of February, we reported confirmed cases of Cholera of two women who have travelled by bus from Malawi. Subsequent to that, the husband of one the women were also confirmed to have cholera by laboratory tests. All three residents of Diepsloot recovered.
On Thursday 23rd of February, we reported two more confirmed cases of cholera in Gauteng. Case number 4 is a 28-year-old male from Alexandra township who has been treated as an out-patient. Case number 5 is 24-year-old male who has been admitted to Tambo Memorial Hospital, and unfortunately was already in a critical condition and subsequently succumbed to the diseases.
These recent two patients had no travel history, and therefore have to be considered as local transmission of the bacteria. The Gauteng Outbreak Teams are monitoring immediate contacts including at workplaces. At this stage there is no indication of contamination of public water resources with the bacteria. What is important is for our environmental health officers and health promotion teams to monitor close contacts and keep them at high alert and also education for health hygiene, especially when handling drinking water and food.
On Gender Responsive Planning
The Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities (WYPD) continues to implement economic empowerment programmes for WYPD to address the challenge of market concentration that excludes the three sectors (WYPD) from equal participation in the economy and monitor government departments on the implementation of Gender Responsive Planning, Budgeting, Monitoring, Evaluation and Auditing Framework (GRPBMEAF). The framework is the main tool of women empowerment, which is one of the key pillar in the country’s national strategic plan to manage challenges of Gender Based Violence and Femicide.
In 2023, DWYPD and WECONA will be hosting Trade Fares in all 9 provinces to facilitate market access for women, youth and persons with disabilities.
To strengthen and advance a disability inclusive society where the needs of all are handled with equal priority and equitable resourcing, Cabinet approved three frameworks, namely the Universal Design and Access; Awareness Raising and the Reasonable Accommodation. These were gazetted to guide all stakeholders both in the private and public sector for implementation. The frameworks require that duty bearers develop implementation plans for disability inclusion mainstreaming in all service delivery programs. In order to facilitate the above, the DWYPD in partnership with the National School of Government is rolling out the Disability Inclusion Training to improve government department’s capacity to implement the policy directives and deliverables of the White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
On Higher Education and Training
My colleague Dr Blade Nzimande has been updating us on the Post School Education and Training Sector State of Readiness for 2023 academic year, and we are indeed pleased with the progress to date and plans in place to ensure a fruitful year ahead.
The Department of High Education and Training (DHET) met and exceeded the previous SONA target of placement of 10 000 TVET graduates in 8 months, in this regard the DHET will intensify and upscale the placement of TVET graduates targeting a further 20 000 by the end of the 2023/24 financial year, supported by all its entities especially the Sector Education and Training Authorities. The number of students entering the artisanal programmes in TVET colleges will be increased from 17 000 to 30 000 in the 2023 academic year.
The partnership between the Department of Higher Education and Training and the Department of Small Business Development has committed to the funding of thousands of youth on small business management. The National Skills Fund (DHET) will release R500 million over two years to train in excess of 15 000 beneficiaries in different small business management skills and the Small Enterprise Development Agency (DSBD) will place 2500 unemployed youth for Work Integrated Learning.
Demystifying the examination results of the Class of 2022
Ladies and gentlemen, in the SONA the President did congratulate the Class of 2022 for their remarkable pass rate of 80.1% in the face of a range of challenges. When we announced the results achieved by the Class of 2022, we did allude to some challenges this Class; and the interventions we had to introduce with all our Sector stakeholders. We must congratulate the Class of 2022 for the fortitude and determination they displayed.
The Class of 2022 produced the second highest pass rate in numbers, achieved since the introduction of the National Senior Certificate examinations fifteen (15) years ago. Other than the 80.1% pass rate, there are clear features of the 2022 examination results, we wish to draw your attention to the 2022 examination results technical reports posted in the DBE websites. The full technical report contains amongst others, information on progressed learners, gender differentiation, learners with special needs, learners from different areas, subject-by-subject performance and school-by-school results.
We will continue the analysis of results using the basket of indicators, to confirm, where possible, the equitability of quality education provisioning in the country.
We also wish to inform the public on the latest innovation we are currently working on to better understand the learning trajectory from primary to secondary schools, A Systemic Evaluation (SE) study is currently taking place in Grades 3, 6 and 9 – the exit points of the Foundation, Intermediate and Senior Phases, and the data has been collected and the report will be released in June. The Systemic Evaluation study will add to the current Grade 12 NSC examination results; and give a more comprehensive picture on South African schooling. Within this framework, the Department has taken initial steps towards the introduction of a General Education Certificate (GEC) this year – a commitment that was made in 1995 by our democratic Government in the very first White Paper on Education and Training, Government Notice No.196 of 1995. We are piloting the GEC this year and 2024 with implementation in 2025.
ON STRENGHTENING THE FOUNDATIONS OF LEARNING
Great work is being done to strengthen the foundations of learning from the early years. The ECD is such a priority aimed at ensuring that millions more children can achieve the best possible early learning and development outcomes of the best quality.
The Department of Basic Education is focussing on strengthening legislation in the Early Childhood Development (ECD) Sector. An inter-sectoral task team, comprising of the Departments of Social Development, Cooperative Governance, SALGA, and ECD sector experts have redrafted the Children’s Amendment Bill of 2023 to strengthen coordination in the ECD Sector; as well as to streamline the regulatory framework. This Bill will be taken for public consultation over the next year.
In preparation for the relocation of ECD from the Department of Social Development, the DBE embarked on two data collection exercises to enable evidence-based policymaking in the ECD Sector. The first activity was the 2021 ECD Census, which found that there are currently forty two thousand, four hundred and twenty (42 420) ECD programmes, providing early learning programmes to about one point seven (1.7) million children. StatsSA’s household survey indicates there are about seven point two (7.2) million children of the 0-5 age group in the country. This means that five point five (5.5) million children, who are 0-5 year-olds, are out of the ECD net.
We therefore have an arduous task to ramping up access to ECD programmes.
The second exercise was the 2021 Thrive by Five Index, the largest survey of pre-school development in South Africa. Children were assessed in three areas widely accepted as being predictive of a child’s performance in school. These areas are early learning, physical growth, and social emotional functioning. This report found that 65% of children fail to Thrive by Five; which means 55% of our children are not able to do learning tasks expected of children of their age; with 28% falling far behind; 25.1% showing long term signs of malnutrition; 27.5% not meeting the standard emotional functioning; and 33.4% not meeting the emotional readiness of their age.
These two exercises highlighted the dual challenge facing the DBE in expanding access to ECD, while at the same time improving the quality of ECD delivery. South Africa will not realise its development goals of eliminating income poverty, and reducing inequality without addressing these challenges that young children face in their earliest years.
Since receiving the ECD function, the DBE has been focusing on stabilising ECD provisioning, as well as developing the necessary systems and regulatory framework to formalise and regulate the ECD Sector. The objective is to increase access to ECD programmes for all children, and to ensure redress and inclusivity in access to ECD programmes.
Streamlining these ECD programmes, to develop a more manageable delivery model which is viable to support is of critical importance, given the current Government resources and capacity. The viability of this service delivery model will be piloted over the next few years through model ECD programmes in provinces. We have been interacting with the Ministries of Education in Denmark, Finland, and Cuba to learn from international best practices in delivering ECD programmes. A study visit to the Seychelles is being planned.
Efforts to address Early Grade Reading
A central Government priority is that children should learn to read with an adequate level of comprehension by Grade 4, or the age of ten. We know from the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) of 2016 that most children do not yet reach this threshold. But we also know that the situation has improved since the previous PIRLS assessments of 2011 and 2006. This improvement has been at least partly attributed to increases in the availability and use of reading materials in South African classrooms, especially since the rollout of the DBE Workbook Programme.
Working in more than four hundred (400) schools in the North-West and Mpumalanga, the Department has been piloting and evaluating innovative ways to support teachers in the teaching of reading. Based on the evidence from these evaluations, the President has already signaled Government’s plan to expand the provision of an Early Grade Reading Programme, that includes a minimum package of reading support materials, and professional support to teachers.
The DBE has recently led the development of reading benchmarks in all the African languages. This will enable everyone in the Sector, including teachers, to track progress in the acquisition of those early reading skills, which need to be developed in Grades 1, 2 and 3 to read for meaning by Grade 4. Importantly, these benchmarks have been developed in and for each African language. The emphasis in the DBE’s work is on Home Language, since the skills of reading are best learned in a learner’s Home Language, and can then be transferred to any Additional Language. For this reason, the Primary School Reading Improvement Programme (PSRIP), which was initially supporting English as a First Additional Language, is now shifting towards reading in Home Language.
To strengthen the quality of support available to teachers, the Department has been providing training to Subject Advisors and Departmental Heads on the early identification of learning barriers. Teachers have also been provided with the Early Grade Reading Assessment tool (EGRA), which helps teachers to better understand the reading progress of their learners. To mobilise parents and communities in the reading development of their children, the DBE continues to implement the Read to Lead Campaign and also want to assure South Africans that there is a reading improvement framework, which guides the different initiatives the sector is involved in.
Education outcome improvements
Basic Education has made significant inroads regarding Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). We have introduced 21st century, workplace relevant new curricula, such as Coding and Robotics, Marine Sciences; and we are intensely engaged with the development of an Aviation and Aerospace Curriculum, in collaboration with the Department of Transport, SA National Space Agency, and a host of academics and Aviation sector agencies.
The DBE has introduced nineteen (19) new subjects to the curriculum, to expose teachers and learners to a range of skills and competencies which will equip them for the 21st century, with an emphasis on innovation and lifelong learning. Teachers and learners will be able to respond to emerging technologies, including the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence. We are training teachers on Coding and Robotics as part of the skills for a changing world.
Despite some challenges regarding the implementation of the Technical Vocational Stream, we now have established nine (9) excellent quality Technical sub-specialisations, from Digital Systems to Automotive and Civil Technologies. Not only has the performance in Technical Mathematics and Technical Science improved markedly, participation is on the increase, although not at the levels we want them to be.
The first cohort of Grade 12 candidates, sat for the 2021 NSC examinations in Marine Sciences. Since the beginning of the pilot implementation for Grade 10 learners in 2019, there are now over three hundred (300) Grades 10 and 11 learners, who have enrolled for studies in Marne Sciences as of 2021. The quality of this world-first curriculum offering has been commended by South African and international academics and experts, as outstanding.
A draft Aviation Curriculum (Academic Stream), and a framework for Vocational and Occupational disciplines were provided to the Department of Transport, to assist in determining the type of curriculum areas that must be covered by curriculum writers. The Department of Transport is advertising a tender for curriculum developers for conceptualizing Practical Assessment Tasks (PATs).
Education for the changing world, and the Three-Stream Curriculum Model pathways
It has been six years, since the DBE started a conceptual framework that would inform the introduction of two additional streams, namely the technical-vocational and technical-occupational streams. By this, the DBE seeks to contribute to the improvement of quality learning outcomes, and the reduction in the learner dropout rates; while responding to the vision and targets set out in the NDP, that of addressing the skills gap, and reducing the growing unemployment rate among young South Africans. We are making steady progress with the introduction of the Three-Streams Curriculum Model. This heralds a fundamental strengthening of the technical-vocational and technical-occupational education.
Other developments, include the establishment of partnerships with business and industry, given the resource-intensive nature of the Programme. The DBE has partnered with Ford Foundation South Africa, through which, a donation of two hundred and forty (240) engines, was made to the DBE. These engines were distributed to schools that are offering the Automotive specialisation. The DBE has furthermore commenced with the development of the Three-Streams Curriculum Model Funding Framework, as a vehicle to mobilise the much-needed funding, including in-kind funding from industry and other partners.
Presidential Youth Employment Initiative (PYEI)
We are playing a key part in the Presidential Employment Stimulus (PES) programme through The Presidential Youth Employment Initiative (PYEI), implemented in the Basic Education Sector, . The National Treasury approved funding for the Basic Education Sector to implement the PYEI. Since its inception in December 2020, the PYEI has created about eight hundred and fifty thousand (850 000) job opportunities. By the end of Phase IV, which began this month, the PYEI would contribute more than one (1.1) million job opportunities for young people.
Closing the infrastructure gap – Progress and Challenges
The upgrading and maintenance of school infrastructure remain a key priority. For this reason, we are looking at different ways of dealing with this serious challenge which amongst others, include changing the framework for the Education Infrastructure Grant, the delivery model for different types of structures, etc. We will be giving a dedicated report back on infrastructure in education soon, because infrastructure delivery, has become one of our most seriously challenging area.
The DBE, working together with its provincial counterparts, has built three hundred and fifteen (315) new schools; completed water supply projects at one thousand, two hundred and fifty nine (1 259) schools and electricity supply projects at three hundred and seventy three (373) schools.
With regard to sanitation, two thousand, five hundred (2 500) schools, have been supplied with age-appropriate sanitation facilities through the Sanitation Appropriate for Education (SAFE) programme.
But despite all these interventions, by last December we had estimated an urgent need for additional classrooms. We would also agree that class size is another important determent for quality teaching and learning; and overcrowding just simply undermines this process.
Addressing social ills in our schools, such as bullying, gender-based violence (GBV), child pregnancy, alcohol, and drug peddling
On 26 January 2023, President Ramaphosa addressed the Basic Education Lekgotla, and called on all of us in the Sector to institutionalize Care and Support for Teaching and Learning (CSTL) as a tool to improve learner outcomes. This recognizes that quality education can only be achieved if learners and teachers are safe and healthy, and if schools are caring and conducive spaces, free from violence, abuse, and harm. Our schools must be safe, weapons-free, substance-free spaces for learners and teachers, where corporal punishment, sexual abuse, gender-based violence, homophobia, racism, substance abuse and bullying are not tolerated.
This is because children remain among the most vulnerable citizens in the country, and they must always be protected through proactive interventions and promotion of their rights as enshrined in the Constitution and the Children’s Act 38 of 2005. All communities must play their parts in this regard.
It is in this context that the Department of Social Development is working tirelessly to put measures and interventions in place to address child related rights violations, including, their protection against incidents of abuse and Gender Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF).
Child protection is everybody’s responsibility and it is for this reason that the DSD works with various structures and government departments, including, Basic Education, Justice and Correctional Services, Health, and the SAPS on the protection of children.
To keep South Africans alive to various services, we have programmes within the Department of Social Development, including, amongst others, Family Prevention and Support programme known as SINOVUYO, which strengthen the relationship between children and their parents. The programme has already reached 66 880 parents and caregivers in the current financial year (2022/23).
The department also provides alternative care and support for children in need through Child and Youth Care Support as well as Foster Care initiatives. The initiatives are provided in line with Pillar 4 of the National Strategic Plan (NSP) on Gender Based Violence Femicide (GBVF), focusing on Response, Care, Support and Healing.
On the impact of Social Grants
Around 60 percent of government's budget is spent on ‘the social wage to combat poverty and hunger. Despite the budget constraints, the Social Development portfolio has been able to pay social grants to more than 18 million South Africans. These grants are paid directly into people’s pockets in the form of Child Support Grant, Care Dependency Grant, Foster Care Grant, Old Age Grant, and Disability Grant.
We have also advanced the course to break a historical barrier of access to income by introducing a Special COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) Grant.
On the education front, statistics released by the Department of Basic Education showed an increase of 39 744 Social grant beneficiaries who passed 2022 Matric with distinctions in critical subjects such as Mathematics, Accounting, Physical Science, Economics and Business studies. These learners where able to concentrate on their studies peacefully without having to worry about what to eat or wear.
The DBE, working with other government departments and partners, will continue to work and support young women and girls in schools. We will continue to strengthen the implementation of Comprehensive Sexuality Education in all our schools. There are too many young people, who receive false and confusing information about relationships, sexuality, and adolescence as they transition to adulthood. Comprehensive Sexuality Education is the right of all young people to equip themselves, to make informed decisions about sexuality and relationships; and enable them to safely navigate a world of online bullying, sexual abuse, HIV/ AIDS and early pregnancies.
On Human Settlements
Access to land for urban settlement is one of the most critical factors for human settlements development programs. The Department of Public Works and Infrastructure has earmarked 14 000 hectares of State land for human settlements and to date, 2 689 hectares has been transferred to Housing Development Agency.
The Department of Human Settlements has an additional thirty-two (32) land parcels measuring 10 350 hectares to undertake preliminary human settlements planning. In excess, 64 000 housing opportunities are planned from the released land parcels and will contribute significantly to the attainment of the prescripts of the Freedom Charter that says there shall be houses, security and comfort.
There are 2 700 informal settlements in South Africa and more are coming up daily due to a variety of factors. The Department of Human Settlements has made significant progress in upgrading these settlements such that there are 1 284 informal settlements at various stages of upgrading throughout the country.
In the last financial year, about 24 671 stands were created through the informal upgrading process. The process of upgrading includes the provision of basic services such water, electricity and sanitation and security of tenure.
By intensifying the upgrading of informal settlements, it means that we are addressing some of the recent shocks caused by floods and fires in various parts of the country.
With climate change, natural disasters are becoming more frequent and most of our infrastructure was not designed to be resilient. In the past five days, our country has experienced devastating floods in KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.
For an effective response to these disasters, we need land, we need South Africans to embrace each other especially when families are homeless, vulnerable and distressed.
It is in times like this that we need to collaborate, unite and focus on solutions that will provide relief to all those in need. We appreciate all the offers of assistance from partners in the private and public sectors. We extend our appreciation to our social partners who have initiated various interventions to assist in helping all those in distress. It will be a long road but together we can do so much more to minimise the impact of the devastating floods.