Address of the Minister of Basic Education: A Motshekga, Mp on the occasion of the Education Day at Setshabelong Bible Church Daveyton, Ekurhuleni on 06 September 2009
Your Worship Bishop Magethi
Members of the congregation
Members of School Governing Bodies
Parents and learners
I wish to thank His Worship Bishop Magethi and members of the Setshabelong Bible Church for inviting me to address you on this wonderful occasion where the focus of the day is on education. I am particularly pleased to be part of an occasion that highlights the importance of education, and the successes and achievements of those men and women who have worked hard to achieve academic recognition for their efforts and today assemble as role models for our young people who are still at school.
This gathering is for me an example of how we as a South African society can work together to build and strengthen a quality education system that strives for excellence. Our President has called on all of us to be involved in education and to make education everybody's business. The African National Congress has declared education to be a top priority of this government and has also declared that we can do more by working together.
In the past 15 years of democratic government there have been significant achievements in education. We have achieved universal primary schooling and gender parity in education. Equally important is that more children are staying at school until matric and that about 85% of our children are receiving 12 years of education either in schools or colleges. We have increased the number of no fee schools and have extended the school nutrition programme to high schools, we have built many new schools and are working hard at improving the infrastructure of schools. We are also focusing on improving the skills of our teachers and principals by giving increased attention to teacher development.
These are the foundations for a quality education system. However, we still face many challenges and in order to overcome these we need to strengthen partnerships with all stakeholders. With commitment and hard work through partnerships comes excellence is my message for the young people here today.
What should we all be doing to achieve excellence in education? We must all accept the challenge that our children's educational achievements cannot wait and that all children despite their class, race, gender and location deserve a good quality education. Each child should go to school eager to learn and to achieve and they should be met at the school gate by principals and teachers who know that their primary goal is to ensure that our children's dreams and efforts are achieved with equal commitment and dedication.
My Department has and is focusing on getting the basics right- improving on the necessary structures and ensuring that our officials at all levels are accountable. We have launched the Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign which highlights what we consider as non- negotiables – setting out the roles and responsibilities for all stakeholders in our education system from teachers who must be in class, on time and teaching, to learners who commit themselves to learning, respecting their teachers and peers and doing their homework and our officials who will offer strong support and regular monitoring of our schools. Parents and care givers should offer their children the necessary support, engage with their children on what their dreams are and encourage them to work as hard as they can.
What role should our community organizations play? The members of the Setshabelong Bible Church are providing a wonderful example today by focusing on the partnerships that are needed to build a successful education system. The message from today is that educating our learners is the responsibility of everyone in South Africa. Setshabelong Bible Church is sending out the message that we need to ensure that we are all engaged in building a society based on positive moral values and reinforcing the programmes of the Department that build a values- based culture in our schools. Community organizations can provide support for our learners by encouraging them to participate in positive activities that build self esteem and the will to succeed, to practice the values of our Constitution, particularly ubuntu through everything that they do and to accept the responsibility to become active citizens of South Africa.
The Department has mounted a campaign to reinforce our belief that the enjoyment of the rights that each citizen has under our democracy comes with corresponding responsibilities. We published a Bill of Responsibilities for the Youth of South Africa last year as part of the Department's broader thrust to build a culture of human rights with responsibilities in schools, based on the values of the Constitution. The Bill of Responsibilities has been widely welcomed in our schools. While it focuses on the rights and responsibilities for our learners, it should also act as a checklist for all role players in education so that we can answer the question: Am I playing my part?
I call on all South Africans to accept the responsibility to play their part in strengthening our education system, through partnering with schools, mentoring individual learners or offering one's services at schools, ensuring that schools and school properties are safe and secure, encouraging positive activities for our learners outside school and indeed, providing strong moral and spiritual support to all in our education system.
Let me once again thank Bishop Magethi and the entire congregation for the wonderful work you are doing to promote the value and importance of a good education.
I thank you