Good morning. Thank you for making the time to attend our media briefing this Sunday morning.
The Council of Education Ministers (CEM) met on Thursday the 15th of September 2016 in Pretoria. I, the Deputy Minister and the MEC’s for Education discussed a number of issues affecting the education sector.
Grade 12 National Senior Certificate Exam Readiness
CEM received a briefing on the state of readiness of the system as we prepare to administer the 2016 NSC examinations. As CEM we are confident that the system is adequately prepared to run these examinations, and it is all systems go ahead of the October 26th commencement date.
There are 677,141 registered full time and 150,183 part-time candidates in 2016 examinations, 9 000 more than 2015. KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng again have the largest enrolments with 169 769 and 112 069 respectively. Limpopo has 102, 618 while Eastern Cape 89,740 candidates registered for the 2016 grade 12 exams. One of the developments that we are very excited about as CEM and which is definitely worth noting is that we have seen a significant uptake in pure mathematics as opposed to maths literacy. Thus meaning our interventions in the promotion of Mathematics as a subject choice is bearing fruit.
CEM also discussed the interventions that have been made to ensure that there is not another leak of any examination papers as was the case in Limpopo last year. All storage points across the country will be audited to ensure that they meet the minimum security standards. Storage points that do not comply will not be allowed to store the papers.
In terms of learner readiness, the Director-General and I have been on a national road show visiting all provinces as part of our broader monitoring and support programme to provinces. We have seen some provinces tracking learner performance data from the beginning of the year and we are confident that by the time learners sit for the final exam they will be adequately prepared.
Learner wellness and psycho-social support
Part of our duty as a caring government is to monitor and intervene on matters relating to the overall wellbeing of learners.
The psycho-social and economic realities of South Africa mean that schools are valuable centres of support, with ever-increasing demands on educators. These include high rates of unemployment and poverty; high rates of HIV and tuberculosis infection; crime; orphan hood; violence and child abuse. Shockingly research shows about 10% of our learners in the system are orphans.
We have, therefore, undertaken to review and strengthen psychosocial support to learners.
With the approval by CEM of the new National Policy on HIV, STIs and TB on 20 May 2016, and the urgent need to massively improve the sexual and reproductive health education and services for adolescents in South Africa, in response also to the campaign for girls and young women launched by the Deputy President in June 2016, it has become necessary for the Department to once again re-focus the HIV and AIDS Life Skills Education Programme.
Gangsterism and the impact on schooling
Many of the Provincial Education MEC’s raised concerns over the growing challenges related to gangsterism in schools. This is more often than not coupled with a prevalence of drugs and violence. Gangsterism is having a severe negative impact on the education system. It must be reiterated that violence and drugs cannot be tolerated at schools at all.
Schools must use the tools they have at their disposal to address this matter.
There is also a protocol between the Department of Basic Education and the South African Police Service which must be utilized to maximum effect at the school level.
We all need to work together in our communities to ensure that schools are safe spaces of teaching and learning. We cannot let our schools denigrate into facilities that become dangerous for learners and teachers; and it will take all our involvement to ensure that this does not happen; we cannot leave it to schools to fight this battle alone.
Update on SACMEQ IV report
The Department has briefed the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education on the Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium on Monitoring Educational Quality (SACMEQ) interim report.
It must be reiterated that the final SACMEQIV report has not yet been released. The results are currently undergoing a verification process and once this has been finalised we will release the full report to the public. The DBE has been in possession of the preliminary results since January, but have not been able to release them to the broader public. The presentation given to the Basic Education Portfolio Committee was on the preliminary results and it was made clear to the committee that it was not the final report. DBE is meeting with SACMEQ on the 22nd September 2016 in a bid to conclude processes relating to the release of the results.
We use these reports, not only to pit ourselves against other countries, but also to inform interventions in the system based on the findings therein. This makes it very important to ensure that the data we use is of the utmost integrity.
School infrastructure delivery
We have made immense progress in the delivery of school infrastructure across the country and it is important that we profile what we have done and what we continue to do as we change the education landscape and restore dignity to our learners.
This is the reason why as a department, we have set a target to deliver basic services to all our schools as per the requirement of the minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure.
The norms and standards are meant to ensure that we create a conducive environment for learning by ensuring that all schools have adequate structures and that they get basic services like electricity, water and sanitation.
The department continues to unveil state-of-the-art schools every week, built or refurbished at a cost of between R35 million and R50 million. These schools have been built or refurbished as part of the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative, or ASIDI, which was established with the purpose of eradicating and replacing schools built, in their entirety, from inappropriate material and to provide basic services to schools that previously had none.
Since the programme’s inception, the initiative has led to the completion of just over 170 schools out of a targeted 510 around the country with 126 of them situated in the Eastern Cape. A further 126 schools are at various stages of implementation and 54 of those schools will be completed in the course of the 2016/17 financial year.
The ASIDI programme also includes a basic services component over and above the school building programme. To this end, an additional 615 schools have been provided with water, 418 with decent sanitation and 307 with electricity. This programme is on-going.
While a lot of progress has been made, the department is mindful of the fact that a lot still needs to be done ensure that the dignity of learners is restored.
ASIDI is over and above the schools that are being built and refurbished at the provincial education department level and schools that are being built from the School Infrastructure Grant. In areas where urgent interventions are needed, the department continues to collaborate with key partners like the Department of Water and Sanitation to ensure that basic services are rolled out to distressed schools. In schools where water supply remains a challenge, we are implementing immediate interventions like the harvesting of rainwater, deploying mobile water tankers, amongst others, to ensure our learners have drinking water and are able to wash their hands.
Let me conclude by confirming the disturbing news we received last night about the burning down of a school in Malamulele, Limpopo. Last year the administration block was torched at the same school. The destruction of school infrastructure in this manner undermines the progress are making in this area of our work.
We, however, remain committed to ensuring that quality basic education is realized in our lifetime. We will keep moving forward!
Thank you so much.