Deputy Minister Surty
Senior Officials and
Members of Staff
Indeed I derive great strength from interacting with you as District Directors for the third time since last we agreed to meet at least twice a year.
I always appreciate substantive engagement at this level of the system precisely because we can make brilliant plans and design the best of strategies at national level, but without you, all those grand plans we would have made will most certainly not fly. As a critical layer of the system that is closest to the schools, you are the force that make things happen in the classroom.
While not the only factor affecting teacher performance and learner achievement, district functionality and professional support for schools are major contributors.
Researchers Bongani Bantwini and Nolutho Diko proposed that District officials “have the gravity to nullify the efforts to improve school performance” (Creative Education, 2011. Vol. 2.3, p. 226).
In a paper on “Factors Affecting South African District Officials’ Capacity to Provide Effective Teacher Support”, they accentuate the fundamental role of districts as follows (Ibid, p. 226):
“Their influential role, which includes ensuring quality teaching and learning, effective assessment, increased learner performance and achievement, to mention but a few, is indispensable.”
We’re ever conscious of the paramount role of districts in the implementation and monitoring of education policies in schools. Thus we have set in a motion a policy process whose finality would usher in a new era of local education defined by a clear policy on districts. It is a process to be finalised as a matter of extreme urgency.
Not only will this process provide clarity on policy and practice in this critical area.
It will also help to deconstruct the notion of districts as so-called ‘orphans of the school system’. Well handled, it should enable the return to the basics of teaching reading, writing and counting.
It is against this background that I thank you so much for working hard with us in educating the African child for the 21st century. “Everyone has the right to a basic education, including adult basic education,” as The Constitution (1996: Section 29 (1)) says.
The skills we must impart are key to a better life for all. We know that the school nutrition programme has grown immensely. The 2010 General Household Survey showed that almost seventy percent (68,5%) of learners attending public schools received food at school, up from 66.2% in 2009.
It suggested that the ‘no-fee’ school system and other funding initiatives are beginning to show their effect (Stats SA 2011: 3).
Notwithstanding these strides, the challenge of our time is providing an education system capable of freeing citizens from dependence and helpless reliance on social security.
Crucial to the success of our country’s development enterprise is the proper education of young people who are more at the receiving end of the ever-increasing rate of unemployment. Unemployment rose to 25.8% in June 2011, from 25.0% of March 2011, the highest rise since the 26.4% of March 2004.
There isn’t as yet a solution in sight on the current global financial crisis. As we speak, all government departments are seized with the task of reprioritising in light of our looming financial crisis.
It is our task to lay a solid foundation for a sustainable future efficiently and effectively using limited resources to achieve more with less. The challenge is huge. ANA 2011 demonstrated this.
Since our last meeting in June (2011), and slightly before then, I and the Deputy Minister undertook two-day visits to provinces, visiting districts and primary schools. The aim of the visits was to monitor the management and the utilisation of the information gathered from the Annual National Assessment (ANA) in schools.
We discovered, through these visits, that there were no clear indications or evidence that specific interventions were being made to address learner performance.
ANA confirmed that our learners lack basic literacy skills – correct grammar, spelling of commonly used words and basic prepositions. In numeracy they are unable to do two and three digit calculations. Multiplication and division are also of the greatest concern as well as the conception of fractions.
The results decline as we move from Grade 1 to higher grades. ANA results show an element of neglect in some cases. If children cannot read or write, what have they been taught? In most of the schools, functionality is defined around external activities, with little focus on the key deliverable of curriculum implementation.
Once the ANA was written and marked, schools did not take the time to do a diagnostic analysis of the scripts to identify areas where learners experienced challenges. As a result of this, no focused intervention or remediation activities were planned.
On the matter of curriculum coverage, as another factor influencing learner achievement, research reveals that too many schools and teachers do not complete the learning programme of the year and do not cover all required topics in the curriculum. Non-completion of the annual teaching programme in one grade makes it difficult to complete programmes in subsequent grades.
This problem is ascribed to the fact that contact time between teachers and learners is lost due to a variety of factors. In some cases teachers or learners arrive late, and leave early.
Districts have a major role to play. You must ensure attention is paid to the pacing of the year’s teaching and learning processes.
This meeting presents an opportunity to assess district readiness given that you will present, on behalf of your districts, on strategies, plans and targets towards meeting the outputs of Action Plan to 2014: Towards the Realisation of Schooling 2025.
We took a conscious step from national to provincial to align our plans efficiently and effectively to deliver on Action Plan targets. For better results, we said at our last meeting here with you that it remains vital better to align our plans and activities to the Action Plan and the Delivery Agreement for Outcome 1. Today we can say this integrated planning process is in motion.
As part of the realignment of our policies and practices as the education sector, we’ve identified a set of priorities for immediate focus. Directly to speak to our targets for 2014, in line with the quest for collective effort and joint planning and synergy, we’ve generated a comprehensive strategy for literacy and numeracy.
This strategy must help us improve school performance and the learners’ ability to read, write and calculate. It will help us in addressing weaknesses shown by ANA 2011 and in tackling other deficiencies, including in areas of resources management, school and district management and leadership, accountability and monitoring. We have the support of all MECs.
On school readiness for 2012, we expect nothing less than:
- A teacher for each class;
- A textbook for each child, for each subject;
- A chair and a desk for each child;
- A workbook for each child in the relevant Grades:
- Smooth implementation of CAPS in the Foundation Phase and Grade 10 in 2012; and
- Ensuring each school day, quality teaching and quality learning – the districts’ primary role.
My Department is working on support for teachers on workbooks’ utilisation as part of a broader strategy for literacy and numeracy. It will include the CAPS, ANA and workbook support.
The appointment of principals is once more in the public domain. It was raised sharply by the National Development Plan released in November 2011, by the National Planning Commission. It has sparked a heated debate in the country. This testifies to the correctness of decisions we took much earlier to review these practices impacting on school management and leadership.
While we work hard to improve the quality of teaching at classroom level, we should not forget to work hard on improving the quality of support we receive from education stakeholders. The 2012 School Governing Body Elections are taking place from 1 to 31 March (2012). The success of these elections depends on preparations at district level. Let’s work harder to attract quality parents for sound governance of schools.
The NEDLAC Accord on Basic Education, which was signed in July by organized labour, business, government and community representatives, and launched in the Eastern Cape in September 2011, should help us galvanise community support for education. It is vital to promote the “Adopt a School Campaign” as agreed with our partners.
Partnerships are crucial. The schooling system is a huge enterprise catering for around 12 313 899 learners who are taught by 365 447 educators in 27 461 public and independent schools.
DBE has negotiated approval from Treasury to fund work we’re undertaking in partnership with teacher unions for teacher development activities. The thinking is to strengthen teacher professionalism and build the capacity of the system to support teachers to perform better in the classroom.
I trust that these regular meetings will help unlock your capacity effectively to guide and oversee the implementation of policy at school level without which there would be no improved quality.
Our resolve for 2012 is to focus largely on implementation, monitoring, evaluation and consolidation of our gains.
Our CAW will yield no milk if you don’t play your “influential role, which includes ensuring quality teaching and learning, effective assessment, increased learner performance and achievement”.
You are vital for delivery on priority areas – CAPS’ implementation, ANA administration and Workbook provision and effective utilisation – that is our CAW.
Getting your perspective increases the bandwidth for communication because you are “the key support for teachers at the local level” (Bantwini & Diko, 2011: 227).
Once more, welcome and thank you for being here.