Ebrahim Patel: President of the Minara Chamber of Commerce KZN
Chair of the Youth Wing
Businesspersons and Community Leaders
It is my singular honour and indeed a privilege to address the Minara Young Entrepreneurs in Conversation Series. We thank you profusely for the opportunity to interact with young minds on the importance of education in a democratic society.
We are pleased that the basic education remains the apex priority of this ANC-led administration because of its enormous potential positive impact on society’s fortunes.
Research shows that basic education is a prerequisite for tackling poverty and promoting short and long-term economic growth.
In this regard, we have made great strides in ensuring that education and training is available to all as part of our historical mission to address the injustices of the past. We have relentlessly focused on reversing the systemic impact of apartheid education, through the launch of a reinvigorated, comprehensive and integrated education system.
Our basic education transformation project is guided by five internationally accepted benchmarks i.e. access, redress, equity, quality and efficiency. We are convinced that our efforts are beginning to yield positive results especially in areas such as access, redress, and equity. We have noted an unprecedented level of access in terms of participation in the public education system, and in equitable allocation of funding to name but a few. However, more work still needs to be done in the areas of quality and efficiency.
Our singular focus has now shifted to the mantra of the whole child development. All our policies are predicated on the premise of the Constitution that enjoins us, “to heal the divisions of the past.” When we signed into law the supreme law of the Republic, namely the Constitution – 22 years ago - we entered into a sacred covenant to create a single national education system that delivers quality education to all regardless of religion, colour, creed, sexual orientation, political standings or personal background. We remain resolute that such a system must continuously deliver inclusive, equitable, efficient and quality education.
State Investment in Basic Education
Programme Director; we have managed to deal with redress imperatives by implementing pro-poor policies. For instance during the 2015/16 financial year, 8.7 million learners out of a total of 12.12 million learners benefitted from the “no fee” school policy. To deal with hunger and food insecurity, the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) reaches 9.2 million learners. These two pro-poor programmes, coupled with the learner transport programme, have proven over the years to be key levers, especially for learners coming from poor households.
Our school build programme has a total allocation of R38.281 billion over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF). Our school build programme includes a budget allocation to address school infrastructure backlogs and the replacement of over 510 unsafe schools and others built from inappropriate materials as well as to address water, sanitation and electricity needs. More importantly, these infrastructure projects enhance teaching and learning, but also helps to restore the dignity of our learners and teachers.
The Basic Education budget also includes R4.1 billion over the MTEF period to build and support public libraries. This is a last-ditch effort to encourage reading across all age groups in particular school going youth.
For extra-curricular support an allocation of R1.7 billion in conditional grants to provinces has been made available for sport programmes and sports academies. This is our investment to support our children to reach for the stars.
To support teacher training, R3.1 billion has been ring-fenced for the Funza Lushaka bursaries over the next three years.
Over the next three years, we will distribute 170 million workbooks to over 23 000 public schools. Each learner in Grades R to 9 will receive two books per subject each year in Numeracy, Mathematics, Literacy, Language and Life Skills.
At the psycho-social support level, we have set aside R735.93 million over the 2016 MTEF period to address the key challenge of HIV and AIDS amongst the learner population.
Importance of Education
Programme Director; I have outlined the State investment in education to demonstrate our seriousness in having an educated populace. Allow me to take you on the journey of various research reports that have confirmed that education is vital to the health and progress of a nation. It is believed that opening classroom doors to all children, especially girls, helps to break the inter-generational chains of poverty.
Education contributes to the fight against HIV/AIDS: A report by the Global Campaign for Education (GCE, 2004) asserts that educated people are healthier people. HIV/AIDS infection rates are halved among young people who finish primary school. Thus, if every child received a complete primary school education, at least seven million new cases of HIV could be prevented during the course of a decade.
Education helps to fight poverty and spur economic growth: Education is a prerequisite for tackling poverty and promoting short and long-term economic growth. No country has achieved continuous and rapid economic growth without at least 40% of adults being able to read and write (GCE, 2010).
At an individual level, a person’s earnings increase with each additional year of schooling they receive. This is especially true for additional years of higher education. Thus, people who are educated are able to earn more money and support their families, which helps economies to grow faster and poverty rates to decline.
Education provides a foundation for building peace: Education is an essential building block in the development of an inclusive and peaceful democratic society. According to a report by Save the Children (2009), every year of schooling decreases a male’s chance of engaging in violent conflict by 20%.
Impact of Education on a Girl Child
Education empowers women and girls: The economic and personal empowerment that education provides allows women and girls to make healthier choices for themselves and their families. The United Nations Population Fund says that the benefits of education for girls include a reduction in poverty and an improvement of the health of women and their children, as well as the potential to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS (UNFPA, 2010).
According to the Bread for the World Hunger Report (Bread for the World, 2005), expanding education for girls is also one of the most powerful ways of fighting hunger. The report concludes that gains made in women’s education made the most significant difference in reducing malnutrition, even out-performing a simple increase in the availability of food.
Education contributes to improving child survival and maternal health: Research undertaken by the World Bank (2004) indicates that a child born to an educated mother is more than twice more likely to survive to the age of five than a child born to an uneducated mother. Educated mothers are also 50% more likely than mothers with no schooling to immunise their children against diseases (World Bank, 2004).
Read to Lead
As the Department of Basic Education (DBE) we have come to a deliberate determination that in-order to improve literacy and reduce the number of learner drop outs, we must make reading fashionable.
Programme Director; there is a huge body of research that concludes that the main thrust of literacy development is the promotion of a community-wide reading culture which encourages everybody to become engaged and motivated readers. Sadly, South Africa does not have a culture of reading. Statistics indicate that only 14% of South Africans are readers of books and only 5% of parents read to their children. To succeed as country, we must inculcate a reading culture across all age cohorts.
Programme Director; to accelerate the reading revolution, we have launched an ambitious campaign dubbed Read-to-Read. The Read-to-Read campaign is a cradle to grave reading initiative. The overarching vision of the campaign is that a reading nation is a leading nation. This is a four-year campaign to create a national focus to improve the reading abilities of all South African children and adults. It seeks to provide energy as well as direction and inspiration across all levels of the education system and beyond. These include schools, homes, churches, and malls to name just a few. We are encouraging schools, families and communities to make reading a regular and established part of their daily routine.
We are indeed mindful that the task of educating the nation is a societal and collective effort. In this regard, literacy thus better reading skills have a positive impact on all aspects of living. In this regard, I challenge this Chamber to start a Reading Club if you don’t already have one.
I thank you.