Address by Minister Angie Motshekga on the occasion of opening a new school in Orange Farm.
24 September 2009
Chairperson of the SGB, Mr Molefe
Principal, Mr Matla
Members of the community
Teachers and learners
Ladies and gentlemen
Thank you for inviting me to share this special occasion with you. I am pleased that we are able to officially hand this school over to the people of Orange Farm.
This new building is yours. It does not belong to the Gauteng Department of Education nor the national government, but to the community of Orange Farm. It is yours and you must look after it, make sure that it serves your needs and ensure that it becomes a facility that is utilised by the entire community. But most of all, you need to ensure that this institution provides a high quality education to all the children of Orange Farm.
I know that life in Orange Farm is not always easy. I know that unemployment is high, that jobs are scarce, that many young people drop out of school early, that many young girls fall pregnant, that criminality and drug abuse are major challenges and that there are many child-headed households in this community. These challenges must be addressed and President Zuma and the new administration have placed these at the centre of our programme to change the lives of all South Africans for the better.
But government cannot do it alone. You must also play your part. A recent study at the University of Pretoria tried to understand why seven young black people were able to obtain doctoral degrees at South African universities during the period of apartheid, when everything was stacked against black people achieving academic excellence. The study found that behind every high performing student stood a supportive parent who valued the importance of education. A parent that understood that education is important and that education will determine the life chances of their children. The study also found that often these supportive parents did not have high levels of education themselves, but that what was common to all of them was the unshakable belief that the greatest gift they could give their children was a good education.
Education levels the playing fields. As Nelson Mandela reminded us, “It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that a son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation.” Education is the ticket for the train out of poverty. This is why the Zuma administration has declared education as priority number one. Education is our key weapon in the war on poverty.
When Mphethi Mahlatsi Secondary School was started in 2005 it soon acquired the nickname of “Tsunami”, because of the high levels of vandalism, ill-discipline, crime, gangsterism and truancy. And the results of the school also looked like a tsunami, with only 26% of Grade 12s passing in 2006. But you have come a long way since then, with the matric class of 2008 achieving an 80% pass. This is a remarkable achievement!
Good schools do the basics right. The school starts and ends on time every school day. Teachers and learners arrive on time. Teachers are well prepared for all their lessons, are in class and teach every day. Teachers consult parents when learners are absent and parents support the teachers and their children. Learners work hard, do their homework and respect their teachers. The entire school focuses on learning and does everything in its power to support learners to do better. A good school also has a good principal. The good principal has a vision for his/her school and gets others to buy into that vision. He or she leads by example and encourages learners to always strive to do better.
Your school still has a long way to go, but with good leadership from the principal and an effective SGB you can do even better. I will await a report on the results of the 2009 matriculants from Mr Matla early in January.
In conclusion, programme director, I want to call on the community of Orange Farm to become active supporters of your school. Support the teachers in their efforts to improve the results of your children. Support the school principal and the other senior members of staff. Take care of your school. Protect it from vandals and criminals and offer your services to do basic maintenance of the buildings and playground.
Together we can do more.