The Torch of Peace returned to the Department of Basic Education (DBE) during the first week of the start of the 2016 school calendar. The Minister of Transport, Mrs Dipuo Peters, handed the Torch of Peace over to Ms Martha Bartlett, the MEC for Roads, Safety and Liaison, who is also the Acting MEC for the Northern Cape Department of Education, at Tetlanyo High School in Kimberly on 15 January 2016. The MEC received the Torch of Peace on behalf of Mrs Angie Motshekga, the Minister of Basic Education.
As South African schools commenced with their core business - quality learning and teaching - Minister Dipuo Peters took hold of the opportunity to host the Torch of Peace hand-over ceremony within the education arena to inform learners about the importance of road safety, humanity, peace and unity. The Torch of Peace, which rotates among the Departments of Basic Education, Transport and Social Development, seeks to mobilise the nation to address escalating social ills such as bullying, violence, and substance abuse for learners to stay in school and to focus on their education.
MEC Bartlett mentioned that the majority of learners still walk to school every day and that a main priority therefore remains the reduction of road accidents. An additional aim is to encourage South African citizens to become responsible road users.
Minister Peters congratulated Tetlanyo High School’s Class of 2015 for having achieved a 93% pass rate during the National Senior Certificate examinations, whilst encouraging learners to focus more attention on becoming vigilant road users and to, on a daily basis, reach school safely.
Minister Peters applauded Minister Motshekga for her hard work in ensuring that quality and efficiency prevail in schools. “Allow me to begin by heartily commending Minister Motshekga and her Department for the invariably critical role that the education sector is playing in not only ensuring that access to one of the most fundamental human rights is attainable, but also for the enormous strides that have been made in improving the quality of education and enhancing the lives of all South Africans,” remarked Minister Peters.
The Torch of Peace has evolved to represent a rallying point for the creation of a more caring, humane and safer society: “A torch is widely regarded as a symbol of insight, illumination and hope across the different corners of the world. South Africa is no exception to this common creed. Hence, the Torch of Peace is relayed thematically from one department to another depending on the national awareness campaign taking its course on the national calendar in order to heighten consciousness, hopefulness and enlightenment. For example, the Department of Transport took charge of the Torch in December when our attentions as a nation were increasingly turned towards road safety. Subsequently, we are now handing over the Torch to the DBE when our collective focus is on our South African children returning to schools. This year, the Department of Transport passes on the Torch in support of the beginning of the Safer Schools Campaign as the 2016 school year commences,” she said.
Whilst distributing bicycles to Tetlanyo High School learners, Minister Peters explained that the Department of Transport’s commitment to the safety and mobility of our children is evident in the implementation of programmes such as the Shova Kalula National Bicycle programme, which has culminated in the distribution of over one million bicycles to children who previously had to walk long distances to get to school.
In her concluding remarks, Minister Peters touched on issues of gender violence and abuse, saying: “Women are generally expected to be life-givers, nurturers, guardians of our children and upholders of our society’s value systems, yet statistics undermine that very concept and paint an immensely grim picture for the future of our country. Who will save our children if we, as adults, do not lead by example and demonstrate the virtues of upstanding citizens to our children? It is time that we realised that Government cannot achieve this massive feat on its own; we need citizens to come on board,” concluded the Minister.