With less than a month before the start of the national senior certificate matric exams, Penny Vinjevold, the official in charge of the exams, has quit to take up the position of superintendent- general of the Western Cape education department.
There is speculation that splitting the education ministry into two entities has made high-ranking officials uncertain of how they will fit into the new structure.
Vinjevold’s job — deputy director general: further education and training — straddles the school curriculum and vocational colleges, which are to be transferred to the ministry of higher education and training.
While the new structure is ironed out, she reports to two ministers. A source who asked not to be named said: ‘It’s been incredibly difficult for Penny to report to two bosses. How would you like it?”
Vinjevold is credited with creating a single national matric exam, which was introduced last year, based on the new curriculum. She said of her move: ‘I’m leaving I was head-hunted. There are perfectly good people here [who can run the exams] and they are very experienced.”
She insisted she was not leaving ‘due to the split. There is no uncertainty in the department.” The department suffered embarrassment when several thousand learners did not receive their 2008 results on time because of technical glitches and their schools not submitting internal marks.
Vinjevold said that for this year’s exam schools must submit these marks by November 15. Education experts have also said that the standard of the maths exam was ‘watered down”, allowing more learners than in the past to qualify for university admission.
National Benchmark Tests conducted on 13 000 first-year university students showed that only 7% who wrote the maths tests were proficient and did not need extra support to pass.
In a frank interview Mary Metcalfe, the new director general of higher education and training, revealed that the two new departments do not have budgets yet.
‘Currently there are three education departments: the old one with Duncan Hindle as director general and a budget; the new department of basic education with Hindle acting as director general; and the department of higher education and training with me as director general.”
Seven deputy directors general need to be divided between the two departments.
‘We’re working out the allocation of functions, then posts. By October 15 we should have an organisational structure confirmed. ‘All personnel in the department of education will move either to the department of basic education or the department of higher education and training, and there will be no job losses.
‘All deputy directors general will have to consider where they will be best placed, based on functionality.” Metcalfe conceded that the transitional phase ‘poses great challenges and uncertainty”.
She said that although the departments will know what their budgets are in November and there is a possibility of sharing some services with the department of basic education, replication of departments such as legal services may be inevitable.
The labour department’s skills branch will report to Metcalfe in November, without staff moving to the education department as yet.