The Portfolio Committee on Higher Education has called for collaboration among the sector education and training authorities (Setas) in order to eliminate what appeared to be duplication of services.

Committee member Mr Tebogo Letsie cited the offering of bursaries and said it was puzzling that all 21 Setas offered bursaries. “Would it not be cost effective to have one section, maybe coordinated at the department, where bursary allocation for purposes of skills development will be undertaken? There will be cost savings if that were to happen.”

Various Setas on Media Information and Communication Technologies, Education, Training and Development Practices, Manufacturing Engineering and Related Services, and the National Skills Fund and Quality Council for Trade and Occupations (QTCO) came to present their annual performance plans before the committee.

Committee members heard that employers had been given a four-month levy skills payment holiday as a result of Covid-19. The committee heard that drastic budget cuts will impact skills development and innovation programmes.

The Chairperson of the committee, Mr Philly Mapulane, raised concerns about the financial management of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges. “This is where the sector experienced problems. The financial management capacity at all these TVETs is a serious challenge.”

Mr Mapulane sought clarity on what had happened to an intervention to assist TVET colleges with chief financial officers that had since been discontinued. “What plans are there to attend to this challenge?” he asked.

Members also raised concerns on a number of other issues, including sexual harassment at Setas, suspended officials due to alleged corruption, curriculum improvements, innovation capability of the country, public protector investigation and governance-related challenges.

Committee member Ms Nompendulo Mkhatshwa called on the Setas to return to basics and inspire confidence among South Africans.

Sibongile Maputi

22 May 2020