Select Committee on Petitions and Executive Undertakings welcomes Report on Undertakings made by The Minister of Higher Education

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The Select Committee on Petitions and Executive Undertakings received a briefing yesterday on progress made on the implementation of the undertakings that were made by the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande, during Question and Answer Session in the National Council of Provinces on 29, May 2018.   The undertakings made by the Minister included plans to develop and implement programmes that will provide skills and empowerment to young people, intensifying investment in skills programme development at the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Colleges, addressing capacity development at the universities, and the implementation of the new higher education and training bursary scheme.   On the programmes to provide skills and development, Dr Blade Nzimande told the committee that there has been increasing participation of especially the unemployed youth in programmes such as work-based learning, work-integrated learning, learnerships and these are proving to have a very high level of absorption in the labour market.   The Chairperson of the committee, Ms Zukiswa Ncitha, questioned Dr Nzimande on the existence of Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with the employers to ensure that learners are absorbed. Dr Nzimande said there are areas where these are in place, but he said MOUs are not compulsory for employers to sign.   He also spoke about the centres of specialisation and told the committee that although enrolment at these centres has grown significantly, however, the impact of covid-19 will prevent new enrolments for 2021. Allocation of funding to these centres, he said, will be used to assist the current cohort to complete their courses.   Ms Ncitha requested the department to provide in writing, a breakdown of the details that include the place of the launch of the 26 centres for specialisation to meet the industry standards, places where the centres are situated in the provinces, name of the institution, as well as the identified specialised trades.   The committee is pleased to hear that the department has revised 38 subject curriculum in the end programmes and despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, 14 of these will be implemented in January 2021. The committee notes, however, that there are still many outdated programmes that need to be revised, and it requested the department to respond in writing to the questions of how much has been set aside to improve the curriculum for TVET Colleges and universities; and the time frames attached for implementation.    Dr Nzimande further told the committee that the department has revised all the ICT related curriculum across all the TVET College programmes, and further developed a new area of robotics for the National Certificate Vocation (NSC) as part of an attempt to equip learners with responsive skills to the digital economy.   Speaking on the issue of capacity development at universities, Dr Nzimande told the committee that the department has introduced a university capacity development programme (UCDP) to support capacity development and transformation at the universities in three areas: student development; staff development and curriculum development. He said the UCDP involves an annual investment of R1 billion which is strict to be used on these programmes only.   The committee has noted that there are several challenges which the department is still going to address. One of those challenges is the institutional inequalities that manifest themselves in most of the South African institutions of higher learning. According to Dr Nzimande, this is one of the department’s priorities along with the funding challenges experienced by the “missing middle”, a category of learners who come from households that get an annual income which exceeds the National Student Financial Scheme’s threshold of R350 000, but does not qualify for alternative funding either.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Republic of South Africa: The Parliament.

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