Members of the MPEF
Ladies and gentlemen,
Once more, a word of thanks to all participants. We are very grateful to be here talking about education.
I have always maintained that nobody can educate the nation without the nation.
The only way we can get education where we all want it to be is if we work together in a social compact just as we said in the Delivery Agreement for the basic education sector.
President Jacob Zuma has made this call much more clearer when he emphasized that “education is a societal issue”.
We welcome the decision of the constituency office to focus on education and youth opportunities as priorities.
It was this development that gave rise to the crucial Mitchell’s Plain Education Summit exactly 2 years ago, which was attended by over 800 delegates. The true marriage of your reflection and action on education is bearing fruit.
Through the people-driven approach you have taken, we saw the rise of quite a number of phenomenal activities that are very fundamental for the goal of reviving the culture of learning and teaching and giving the children a better chance in life.
These initiatives include the hosting of the 2010 High Schools Football tournament; more focus on math and science; the Mitchell’s Plain Role-model and Bursary Trust and the setting up of the Mitchell’s Plain Skills Centre.
You would all know that in almost all our plans, wherein we seek to reflect on the country’s developmental challenges, education emerges as a priority area.
Emerging from the New Growth Path was the need to address challenges in education substantially to meet our development goals as a nation, and in the process, address effectively the triple evil of inequality, poverty and unemployment.
The National Development Plan has also emphasized the need to improve education quality as part of the overall effort to place South Africa on a new trajectory of development and growth.
Great strides we have made are quite clear on the matter of the broader transformation of the education system in keeping with the dictates of the new democratic society we all seek to build.
Some of these advances have really contributed to the national vision of creating a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society.
Our duty, with your support, it is to defend the gains we have made. And if any of the national goals we’ve set are to be realized, school principals and communities have a fundamental role to play.
We must all work together in pursuance of a common goal – an improved quality of basic education for all children.
We know the challenges we face and the levels of impatience among our people, with communities bringing into question the rate and quality of service delivery. The problems in Grabouw should serve as an indicator of this volatile situation.
I’m happy that this moment creates a chance to reflect on the challenges currently facing education and the steps we have taken together to address them.
But it would be remiss of me to delve deep into these challenges and what needs to be done better to address them without first acknowledging the good work all of us have done.
We are indeed grateful to all school principals, education stakeholders and community organisations for your hard work.
We thank you for helping us stem the tide of declining pass rates in Grade 12 which serves as one of important instruments for measuring the performance of the education system.
You know that for 2011, we exceeded the 70% pass rate we had set for ourselves. And in this regard, our gratitude goes to all of you.
All of us are responsible for the Grade 12 learner we get at the end of the value-chain. The community of Mitchell’s Plain was spot when it resolved in 2010 on the need for more focus on primary education.
In terms of quality, the type of learner we get in Grade 12 says much about the foundations we provide during the formative years. Problems we encounter in Grade 12 are rooted firmly in what is done during the early years of schooling.
We are beginning to reap the fruits of large-scale initiatives we have introduced in the last few years to address poor performance and to improve quality and efficiency.
Central to our success has been community mobilisation and stakeholder participation.
It is against this backdrop that in 2011 we signed and launched the Nedlac Accord on Basic Education and Partnership with schools. This we did as government, organised labour, business and civil society.
A major pillar of the Accord is the “Adopt-a-school Campaign” for purposes of providing support in improving education outcomes, with more focus on low performing schools.
The Nedlac Accord process will help us achieve the goals we have set when we unveiled the Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign (QLTC) in 2008, expressly to improve, with all stakeholders, the quality of teaching and learning.
The constituency office and the broader community will really assist in attaining quality outcomes by playing an active role in these initiatives and by helping us to revitalise QLTC structures.
Needless to say, none of these goals will be achieved without active and meaningful participation of all education stakeholders. Principals and school management teams are very key in this regard.
For indeed any successful adoption of a school would necessarily entail supportive and positive action on the part of the principal and the School Governing Body (SGB).
It is in this spirit that today we will also be engaging with SGBs at the most opportune moment, after their recent elections.
Our government has made progress in increasing overall expenditure on schooling and redressing inequalities in education spending.
This intervention has translated into a massive improvement in access for the poor. We now have very high participation rates by international comparison.
We have made progress on the drive towards pro-poor spending. But with regard to funding norms, we have noted concerns that most schools in Mitchell’s Plain are placed in quintile 4 and 5 instead of 3 or lower.
Our success in expanding access and participation during the compulsory phase of schooling is marked by improved participation for Grade Rs, 5 year-olds and the 7-15 year age group. The proportion of children attending pre-school programmes has also increased over the past 5 years.
Nationally, there has been an increase in Grade R enrolment from 15% in 1999 to 60% in 2009. This points to a massive 45% increase between 1999 and 2009. Participation rates by boys and girls in Grade R are almost equal, which is an encouraging sign for the promotion of gender equity.
There was also growth in the percentage of learners enrolled in Grade 1 who had attended a pre-primary programme, from 61% in 2006 to 71% in 2009.
We are engaging SGBs also because we view in a very serious light concerns around the issue of learner placement particularly at high school.
We are putting in place focused programmes to address the drop-out rate at high schools and the negative effects of teenage pregnancy, gangsterism and vulnerability. We need community involvement for maximum impact.
Career guidance is also quite crucial. We are agreed that we need to impress upon the young the fact that going to university is not the only option. There are many other avenues to explore, including FET colleges whose necessity you have already highlighted as the community of Mitchell’s Plain.
Life Orientation is a compulsory subject for addressing health learner wellbeing and health, as well as careers and citizenship. Although teachers’ qualifications have improved dramatically since 1990, we still face key challenges some of which we can and must resolve together.
These include: teacher subject and pedagogical content knowledge; shortages in the Foundation Phase, mother-tongue and gateway subjects like mathematics and physical sciences; mismatches between supply and demand; inefficient processes of deploying and utilizing teachers; curriculum coverage; procurement, distribution and use of textbooks.
In order to improve quality, we have focused on our core business – which is the curriculum.
Following a review of the curriculum in 2009, we have revised and started implementing the new, streamlined and simplified Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) on an incremental basis from this year, starting with the Foundation Phase.
We have initiated a new mode of teacher preparation to introduce CAPS. We have appointed a national training team of experts and have developed core training materials.
We offer Funza Lushaka bursaries with the aim of bringing new, young, well-trained and motivated teachers into the classroom.
Last year we conducted Annual National Assessments in all Grade 1–6 classes across the country, and the Human Sciences Research Council verified the results and conducted an analysis of learners’ responses.
The ANA has confirmed the wide disparity in test scores between schools located in different socio-economic contexts, and progressive deterioration in results from Grades 1 to 6. It has also provided insight into what children are getting wrong and, consequently, are not learning to do.
In order to support the curriculum and address the weaknesses identified in the ANA, we have developed workbooks aligned to the curriculum in language and mathematics for grades 1-6 in all languages, and are now extending them to grade 9.
We have also initiated a programme to improve learning outcomes among the poorest performing schools and districts. We require districts, with schools, principals and teachers, to develop and implement improvement plans.
We have established a Planning and Delivery Oversight Unit to work with underperforming districts and schools.
A comprehensive district intervention plan is being finalized and an assessment of district support to schools is in a final stage.
We recently put out for public comment policy on roles and responsibilities of districts. Accountability systems for districts, principals and teachers are slowly being set in place.
In order to ensure that each child has a textbook for every subject, our system for national procurement of textbooks and our national catalogue has come into being.
We have developed an Integrated National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy, as well as the Maths, Science and Technology Strategy to improve focus on the ‘Three Ts’ of teachers, text and time.
The central challenge is quality. Accomplishment of the basics of teaching and learning, especially in Grades 3 and 6, has not kept pace when compared to the advances made in access to schooling. ANA, SACMEQ and matric results point to serious challenges at many levels.
Regarding efficiency, our repetition rates are extremely high at 9%, bulking up between grades 8 and 11. Similarly, drop-out rates are higher in the post-compulsory than the compulsory phase, averaging about 12% in grades 10 and 11.
There are distinct racial patterns of attendance, with a smaller proportion of coloured youth aged 16 to 18 participating in education in comparison to other population groups.
In 2009, this applied to 68% of coloured youth compared to 80% for Indians, 85% for Africans and 87% for Whites. Possible reasons include: the negative impact of gang involvement in areas in the Western Cape and youths taking up farm work to supplement household income (Social Surveys and Centre for Applied Social Studies, 2009:40).
Infrastructure provision has not kept pace with greatly expanded enrolments over the last few decades. The backlog is massively concentrated in the Eastern Cape.
Mitchell’s Plain faces deteriorating school buildings with inadequate funds for maintenance and renovation.
According to our calculations, out of 24 793 schools, there are 395 mud structures, while:
• 16 516 do not have adequate administration blocks for educators for administration;
• 14 989 do not have libraries;
• 18 258 do not have laboratories;
• 13 617 do not have computer centres; and
• 4 312 do not have any form of sporting facilities.
There are at least 3627 schools below basic functionality, that is, without water, sanitation and electricity.
But we have started to make a dent in this.
The President’s recent establishment of a Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Committee takes the question of infrastructure development to a new level.
One of our main priorities in our long-term strategy was to eradicate mud schools.
Since then, and with the help of additional funding from Treasury, we have developed and started to implement a national plan that systematically addresses minor and major infrastructural issues in schools, from fixing water, sanitation and electrifying schools, to building or replacing classrooms, labs, libraries and sports-fields.
We are working in partnership with sister departments and corporate partners to improve schooling conditions particularly for the rural poor.
We have initiated a 94 Schools Infrastructure Project. Its primary objective is to celebrate former president Nelson Mandela’s 94th birthday by giving hope and dignity to children in 94 schools across the country through improvements to their school infrastructure.
Through this project we will renovate buildings, provide school furniture, fix roads and bridges, provide kitchen units, libraries and laboratories.
We reiterate our commitment to the “non-negotiables” in education and would greatly appreciate all your support. Education is a societal responsibility.