President of SADTU, Cde Thobile Ntola
Leadership of the Alliance
Comrades and compatriots,
Indeed we’re greatly honoured to be part of the National Policy Conference of SADTU. Revolutionary reflection and action have become even more pressing with current challenges facing the National Democratic Revolution. The battle for the hearts and minds of the people has really gone hotter than hot.
We congratulate SADTU for convening a historical and timely national policy conference, under the theme: “Repositioning and Strengthening SADTU towards our 2030 Vision”.
Focus on the development of education, gender and labour policies is quite critical ahead of the ANC-led education summit to be hosted in the coming month, under the guidance of the ANC Education and Health subcommittee. And in June, we go to the National Policy Conference of the ANC.
The President of our beloved republic, Cde Jacob Zuma, has reiterated, at this year’s Opening of Parliament, the strategic priorities for education.
He has impressed upon us the imperative to do more to advance and consolidate our work. We cannot lose sight of the need to get the ‘Three Ts’ right.
This conference is very strategic for it provides favourable conditions and right climate for SADTU proactively to discuss the tasks of advancing educational transformation in the current period and locating, consistently, educational transformation within the broader context of our national democratic revolution.
Our task is to deepen the NDR. Education, as an ideological apparatus, carries huge potential for ‘up-scaling’ the critical conscientization of the people and inculcating in the hearts and minds of the young, revolutionary values we seek to entrench.
It is in the liberating arena of education that we can best plead and win our case for building a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society.
It is through conscious and critical classroom practice that we can rid our people of the internalised oppressor within them, to make it possible for many to embrace and live the democratic values enshrined in the Constitution (of 1996).
Education, as informed by curriculum content and the all-pervasive superstructure, imparts, at an ideological level, racial, gender and class identities. It is for this reason that I welcome your focus on gender, particularly in my capacity as president of the ANC Women’s League.
Only two weeks ago, we commemorated International Women’s Day – on 8 March.
We noted great victories women fought for and won in the trenches of legitimate struggles against exploitation. We lamented, in the same breath, the longest revolution of women against gender inequality and dehumanising marginalisation.
Much needs to be done radically to advance women even in the educational sphere. We have all the rights to be impatient for the Gender Equality Bill to become law, sooner than later.
We take courage from the fact that South Africa has made significant progress since 1994 fully to achieve gender parity in basic education.
Girls make up the majority of enrolments at secondary school level. There is progress also in closing the gender gap in learner performance.
If we were to use 2011 as a measuring rod, it would become quite apparent why we need to guarantee success of policy conferences we have lined-up as the Tripartite Alliance, including this important SADTU national policy conference.
Approaching the last academic year from the standpoint of the Annual National Assessments (ANA) which we administered at a wider scale, across the country, it is quite clear that the General Education and Training band (Grade R-9) was not very successful as we wanted it to be.
Of course from the performance of the Class of 2011 the year was indeed extremely good.
We have expressed our heartfelt gratitude to all teachers and comrades in education at different forums, for improvements in Grade 12 results, with an average above 70%.
This I must stress. The 70.2% is a true reflection of your efforts in the classroom and of the performance of the Class of 2011.
It is an achievement we should all welcome, be proud of and defend as a nation truly committed to skills development and economic growth.
We really commend all cadres in the teaching fraternity for prioritising the development agenda of our country.
Your efforts as conscious and organised educators continue to demonstrate the depth of your understanding of the critical role of education in the revolutionary process and in the transformation of oppressive reality. It is in this context that President Zuma expressly recognised your role and work in the State of the Nation Address (2012).
That was clear testimony that we’re collectively making progress, and as you know, even on the vexed issue of education quality. For 2012, the target is 75% pass for FET and 55% pass for GET.
In spite of challenges, there is progress in education. The system is more equitable and pro-poor than it was before 1994. We have built a relatively stable schooling system that has extended the right to basic education to over 12 million learners in about 24 365 public schools and 1486 private schools. Currently, we employ no less than 365 447 educators.
Current achievements show exceptional delivery on Section 29 of the Constitution and a progressive shift towards a social reality wherein “everyone has the right to a basic education”.
Three years ahead of the 2015 target, we’re set to fulfil the Millennium Development Goals on expanding access to education. As the President has reported, we have doubled Grade R enrolment from 300 000 in 2003 to 705 000 in 2011.
More young South Africans are completing Grade 9, from 80% in 2003 to 88% in 2010, and more, as you know, are now completing Grade 12.
The percentage of Grade 12 learners who qualified for Bachelor’s studies has now increased to 24.3% placing us in good stead to meet the target of 175 000 set for 2014. It was 23.5% in 2010, 19.9% in 2009, and 20.1% in 2008.
Free schooling and school meals are central to our pro-poor policies, to maximise access and roll back poverty. Over 8 million learners in over 80% of public schools benefit from the no-fee school policy.
We have achieved much in dialogue with teacher unions. We are fully committed to and are rolling-out the Integrated Strategic Planning Framework for Teacher Education and Development – which is a product of our collective effort.
This time around, we’re also using specialist teams comprising our best teachers and educators from Higher Education Institutions and NGOs to ensure quality teacher development.
Together we must get right the Teacher Laptop Initiative and turn it into an effective tool for entrenching Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in teaching and learning, in line with the White Paper on e-Education.
We have a challenge speedily to complete the process that is underway at the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) on simplifying and streamlining the Integrated Quality Management System (IQMS).
We have to reach finality on the thorny issue of the evaluation of principals and deputy principals. This is vital for reasons of accountability and sound school leadership and management.
We have published for public comment the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit Bill (NEEDU Bill). The closing date for comments was 17 February 2012.
We will support and monitor implementation of the new CAPS for Grades 1 to 3 and 10. In 2011, we provided targeted intervention in all underperforming schools, with 4612 schools visited by the end of the 2nd quarter of 2011.
We have made progress on the provision of learning and teaching support materials. In 2011, we provided high-quality workbooks to around 6 million learners. Some 24 million books were provided in all South African languages.
The national workbook programme has been extended from Grades 1 to 6 to Grades 7, 8 and 9 this year. 54 million books are being distributed to learners, free of charge.
We’re ready for the 2012 ANA, scheduled for 18-21 September.
Worrying though is the lack of uniformity on how schools and districts treat and respond to these assessments. You would have advanced our goals were you to assist in ensuring that ANA drives school improvement plans. We want all parents to know the performance of their children’s schools in ANA. We want all district officials to use ANA for support and development programmes.
Last year we reiterated our key priorities of improving access and performance in Early Childhood Development (ECD), numeracy and literacy, maths and science and bachelor passes. I am happy that SADTU has taken a keen interest in these areas and in particular in ECD. Our Department is currently producing a progress report on ECD.
As much as we can pride ourselves for strides made in increasing the number of learners passing matric, we still have problems beckoning our dedicated effort.
Regarding maths and science, there is no doubt we have made some progress, but we also cannot deny that such is not at the desired level.
Our economy and development need young people with these skills and we really need a conscious and deliberate effort to turn things around. This should include increasing the number of girl-learners in maths and science.
We are considering convening an Indaba which should involve all key role-players, including business and industry, to strengthen our plan on Mathematics, Science & Technology.
Teachers are an important component of the Three Ts, and are among the most valuable assets we have in the system. But There are also major challenges here we must share.
One of this is the inefficient management of this resource in some of our provinces. Not only does it bleed the system of its financial resources and in some provinces to a level of collapse, but it also impacts on our children’s future prospects.
We have noted that there are still classes without teachers in the midst of access teachers. And thus, the system cannot absorb new entrants. These challenges are exacerbated by lack of reliable and credible teacher database.
We’ve raised these problems with provincial departments. On our part, we’re calling for development of strategies that would help address these challenges, to enhance quality in education.
I am very encouraged that education is one of the priorities on the programme of the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Council (PICC). School infrastructure is a matter of life and death. Conditions under which teachers and learners are expected to work can only be postponed at our own peril.
School infrastructure constitutes one of our major binding constraints. Overcrowded classes for all intent and purposes are unsustainable. The infrastructure backlog is a recipe for instability within education and in the country as a whole.
About 1700 schools are still without water supply and around 700 have no toilets. We have an estimated short fall of about 63 000 classrooms and 15 000 schools are without libraries. And we still have mud schools.
It is against this backdrop that we have set in motion a process for a speedy development of a plan for education to benefit from the massive public infrastructure development.
We have clear projects and needs already in the pipeline. And so, the nation’s focus on massive infrastructure development should create opportunities for us to strengthen our work around the attainment of optimum school functionality.
There is some progress though. From 2000, 1206 new schools have been built; 38 664 additional classrooms; water has been provided to 5 214; electricity to 2 847 schools; fencing to 2 655 schools; sanitation to 10 621 schools and 28 805 toilet seats.
Comrades, further proposals from your good selves are most welcome in this regard. This is the time for us to engage most thoroughly and come up with concrete proposals.
As part of the work we’re doing to improve Time on Task, which includes quality teaching and learning, we’ve started this academic year with the implementation of a National Strategy for Learner Attainment (NSLA), covering Grades R to 12.
Included in this strategy is the curriculum coverage monitoring tool, the NSLA Integrated Framework for GET and FET bands, and the school-based Learner Attainment Improvement Strategy for GET and FET. The strategy includes a mentorship programme, mainly for underperforming schools and districts.
We welcome all efforts you took as educators and school communities conscientiously to promote the smooth running of the 2012 School Governing Body elections.
The main task for 2012 and beyond is to consolidate our work. This is the strategic moment to reflect and act on those issues rendering it cumbersome for schools to perform optimally.
Our Planning & Delivery Oversight Unit will support districts, particularly low performing districts. With provinces, it will assist in developing credible plans for school improvement. With provinces, we are hard at work to restore stability and service delivery in those provinces under Section 100 (1)(b) of the Constitution – Eastern Cape and Limpopo.
Stakeholder mobilisation remains one of the major pillars of our education transformation.
Collectively we need to revitalise the Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign and deploy it as a rallying-point for actioning the NEDLAC Accord on Basic Education and Partnership with Schools. The Adopt-a-School Campaign is gathering momentum, although more steam is required. Cabinet has also decided on the Adopt-a-District Campaign in terms of which Ministers will be deployed to support education.
We really congratulate Limpopo-based teachers for their excellent performance in the last National Teaching Awards.
In sum, we all must keep track of progress we’re making on the Three Ts. Classroom practice is very key. From the dawn of democracy, we have pronounced boldly on the need for a new teacher alive and conscious to current challenges and priorities of the new nation.
A problem you face is one also of leading debate in the public domain on the role of the teacher in a democratic society that respects and extends democratic rights to all teachers. I challenge you also to say how to improve work ethics in class.
Cde Chair, 18 years into democracy, there are still many issues affecting teachers that we really have to resolve. We look forward to concrete policy proposals and wish SADTU a successful conference. Working together we can do more to improve the quality of basic education. Amandla!