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Address by Minister A.Motshekga on the debate on International Literacy Day in the NCOP

Debate at the National Council of Provinces on the inadequate funding and the low salaries paid by the Government to Grade R Teachers, especially in Kwazulu Natal, on Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Honourable Chairperson
Honourable Members of the NCOP
Officials and distinguished guests

It gives me pleasure to be part of such an important Debate in the NCOP. I must declare upfront that the provision of Early Childhood Development (ECD) is a share national competence between the Department of Social Development for the zero to four age cohort; and the DBE for the cohorts older than four year-olds. There are other Departments that provide specialised support services, such as the Department of Health, and to a lesser but essential extent, the Department of Home Affairs.

Early Childhood Development (ECD) and Grade R Mandate

Chairperson and Honourable Members, I am happy to report that the DBE and the Department of Social Development, are currently working together to conduct due diligence on existing childhood education and care services for the 0-4 age cohort. This is part of the process to move the core responsibility for provisioning and monitoring of ECD services to the DBE, as envisaged in the National Development Plan (NDP). There are currently approximately 18 000 registered ECD centres in the country, providing services for children from birth to 4 years.

"the State will follow a phased approach to introduce publicly funded Grade R classes across the whole public schooling system towards a compulsory and universal provisioning by 2010".

Due to challenges in scaling up, the target was moved to 2014; and currently to 2019 in line with the NDP stipulations.

Funding of ECD, with a focus on the Grade R Mandate

The legislative imperative regarding the mandate for the provision of Grade R had implications, especially in terms of funding; as Grade R provisioning, was not a fully funded function of Government. As a result, this has had a direct effect on the position of Grade R provisioning on the list of priorities of Provincial Education Departments, given the reality of competing priorities.

Grade R is currently funding model through the National Norms and Standards for Funding Grade R, which stipulate that the Provincial Education Departments must provide for Grade R learners at 70% of the Grade 1 total learner cost. The cost must include teacher provisioning. This funding level, together with other considerations such as availability of infrastructure, have an impact, not only on the number of places for Grade R learners at public schools, but also the number of educators / practitioners, as well as the level of their remuneration.

One of the challenges of the provisioning for Grade R, has been underspending of allocated budgets. Not all provinces spend all their budgeted funds. Even though KwaZulu Natal has recorded the highest growth, in terms of the budget in the last three financial years to 2018/19, the expenditure patterns show that it is one of the provinces that consistently underspend. In the context of the limited funding available, it would reasonably be expected that all provinces should spend all allocated budget. This, however, does not imply that the available funding is adequate to cover all the needs.

Grade R Teachers / Practitioners' qualifications, and their remuneration

As indicated above, the remuneration of Grade R teachers is one of the areas that is directly affected by the current mandate, and level of funding available. The common practice, is that Grade R teachers / practitioners are paid a monthly stipend. The level of payment, taking into account its own needs, only the North West Province that appoints all its Grade R teachers in educator posts, as fully qualified educators, and are paid the normal educator salaries. The rest of the Provincial Education Departments pay most of their teachers / practitioners employed in public schools a monthly stipend, which ranges from R5 000 for a Level 4 qualification in the Free State; to R10 800 for Level 6 and above qualification in the Western Cape. KwaZulu Natal pays a flat rate of R6 500 across all levels of qualifications; with only Mpumalanga paying the lowest at R6 340 across all levels of qualifications.

Critical to note, is that most Provincial Education Departments are progressively converting the employment of fully qualified Grade R educators / practitioners into fully paid teachers through provincial determinations. About 46.5% of appropriately qualified personnel in Grade R, are employed in permanent teaching posts with full benefits.

On the one extreme in the Free State and Gauteng, all Grade R teachers / practitioners are employed on contract, and paid a stipend. On the other extreme, in KwaZulu Natal, Mpumalanga and North-West, all qualified Grade R teachers / practitioners are paid as teachers receiving full salary with full benefits. It must be noted however, that the North West and Northern Cape inherited ECD Practitioners who were qualified as teachers at REQV13, from the Bophuthatswana Government. In Limpopo, Grade R posts were funded at 100% until 2015, when the department decided to hire Grade R practitioners on 3-year contracts.

While the initiative of the MEC in KwaZulu Natal is plausible, we wish to advise him to be cautious and avoid creating possible legitimate expectations across the system. Matters relating to remuneration, are essential subjects of the Bargaining Chamber.

Conclusion

Admittedly, funding for the provisioning of Grade R, has not been adequate. However, most provinces have progressively increased the provisioning for Grade R, as shown by the steady rise in enrolment of learners in public schools. In addition, provinces have progressively absorbed qualified Grade R teachers into their teacher post establishments, despite the financial constraints they face.

Going forward, Chairperson and Honourable Members the DBE is committed to the universalisation of Grade R by 2019. Through processes within the sector, including engagements with teacher unions in the Education Labour Relations Council, various options of resourcing are being considered. These include the areas of infrastructure, teacher supply, and other major resource areas.

Additional resources to reach 100% funding levels for Grade R, remains the main challenge and a risk that may delay the achievement of universal Grade R by 2019. This, the sector must be conscious of, including the existing funding gaps between Provincial Education Departments, as well as the shrinking buying power within the sector. The sector must also prepare for the potential bulge in the inflow of learners, who would otherwise enrol in private / community institutions.

I thank you

     
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