President of NAPTOSA, Dr Anthea Cereseto
Leadership Collective of NAPTOSA
Members of NAPTOSA
Comrades and Compatriots
Revolutionary greetings to the leadership and members of NAPTOSA! It is indeed an honour and a privilege for me to deliver an official opening address to this august occasion, the 5th National Congress of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (NAPTOSA).
The year 2016 is an exciting year for NAPTOSA as you mark your 10th year anniversary of being a disciplined force for teachers in the sector. This is indeed a milestone in a life of any organisation.
On behalf of the all political principals in the basic education sector and Ministry of Basic Education, we wish you many more decades to come of inspiring hope and providing leadership to the heartbeat of the sector i.e. Teachers. Let’s toast to 10 years of leadership, growth and victories.
Programme Director, in yet another milestone, NAPTOSA holds its 5th National Congress to renew both the leadership and policy mandates. Since its formation, NAPTOSA has been at the forefront of education transformation in this country. I must admit that NAPTOSA is one of the most disciplined teachers’ unions in the sector. Today, you are one of the fastest growing Teacher Union in the sector. We celebrate your bravery, tenacity and a firm resolve to put the interest of South Africa’s children first for all the past 10 years. Of course, when NAPTOSA was launched, South Africa’s basic education sector was midway through a battery of transformative policies. Since then, we have collaborated on a number of programmes with you including the NAPTOSA’s launch of its own Professional Development Institute.
Programme Director; let us be frank, the basic education sector needs NAPTOSA. However, we don’t need any type of NAPTOSA but a strong, vibrant and a united one. A weak and a divided NAPTOSA will sadly mark an end of an era of a professional focused union which has served Teachers and the education sector well for 10 years. Posterity demands of you to jealously guard your unity and independence.
Programme Director; let me take this opportunity to wish the retiring President of NAPTOSA, Dr Anthea Cereseto well. Dr Cereseto – you have served the basic education sector with honour, integrity and selflessness. We wish you well in your future endeavours. I honestly don’t believe that such an outstanding teacher and a leader can simple disappear into a retirement home and sit next to the fire and tell tales. We expect you to continue to contribute your vast skills and expertise to a range of community based organisations. I must say, selfishly, I want to urge you to continue to be a teacher, yes, a retired teacher but yet an active teacher nonetheless. As William Shakespeare once cautioned: “Ignorance is the curse of God; knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven.” My advice to you is that you must never stop reading and learning.
Your 10th anniversary coincides with the celebration of 22 years of South Africa’s democracy, wherein we have experienced relative peace, social progress and economic prosperity.
Programme Director; I noted with envy that the theme of this 5th National Congress centres on leadership that teaches and inspires hope. The theme is simple, clear, and useful. It boldly says: “Teach, Lead, and Inspire – for social cohesion.”
This to me indicates that we as a sector on very much aligned in our vision for education and on the same-page when it comes to improving the quality and efficiency of our education system.
Programme Director; interestingly, our world-renowned Constitution marks its 20th Anniversary this year. In the nutshell, our Constitution enjoins us to build a new South Africa that belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity. Our Constitution provides an overarching vision for a society at peace with itself. It correctly instructs us thus: “Heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights.”
Programme Director, these constitutional injunctions are at the heart of what you correctly refer to your conference theme as social cohesion. We must unequivocally make the point that the issue of social cohesion is not a nice to have. We must as a nation move with requisite speed to understand the “Other” – to build on the back of Madiba’s extraordinary work on reconciliation; however, we take it further and institutionalise non-discrimination, non-racialism, non-sexism and democratic practise. As your theme succinctly captures this - teachers are leaders who inspire a generation to scale new heights. In the nutshell, teachers are the real agents of social cohesion and peace building, in particular against the current climate of violence and conflict that are denying our children of their right to education and their aspirations for a successful future.
In our view, Programme Director, today, we are called upon to be midwives of an egalitarian education system that leads society in the building of a socially cohesive society. In this regard, social cohesion is as much as a societal issue as it is an educational imperative within a developmental state.
Programme Director, the matter of social cohesion is not a South African issue but a global phenomenon. For instance the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defines social cohesion thus:
“A cohesive society works towards the well-being of all its members, fights exclusion and marginalisation, creates a sense of belonging, promotes trust, and offers its members the opportunity of upward mobility.”
Programme Director, it was within this context that the 4th National General Council (NGC) of the African National Congress (ANC) resolved amongst other things that key to building an everlasting peace in our land is ensure is to ensure that there is social cohesion. The ANC’s NGC said we must craft policies that promote common good and strengthens social cohesion within society.
Our developmental blueprint, the National Development Plan (NDP) Vision 2030 entrusts education to promote social cohesion, constitutional values and nation building among the future generations.
Indeed, international research contends that cohesive societies are more effective in achieving collective economic and social goals, since such societies are better at including and uniting diverse groups and forging synergy.
Growing poverty and inequality, coupled with serious chasms in the perceptions of citizens and interested groups about what the future holds, have reinforced past divisions among South Africans. These divisions are not innocuous and have a direct bearing on how the Government positions policy to respond to the growing fragmentation among citizens. This erosion of social trust does not only concern schools and learners who operate in different social and economic spaces, but deals directly with schools that are ravaged from within as a result of the corrosive influence of lack of social trust and years of social, policy and material neglect of marginalised schooling communities. Lack of respect between the professional teaching staff and the principal, weak relationships between the management body of the school and the broader community, and poor inter-generational understanding of the challenges that face learners and their partners are strong indicators of the need for serious and sustained research and work in this area.
In our 2016/17 Budget Speech we made a clarion call to all those who are in positions of responsibility in our system to act in support of nation-building in its truest sense. We insisted that we must all build a nation in which reading, social cohesion and engagement and collective responsibility coexist; and in which communities respect the rule of law, and own their role in developing our education system.
In this regard, earlier this year, we hosted the first-of-its-kind Teachers and Social Cohesion Roundtable. Speaking at this Roundtable, the Deputy Minister Mr. Enver Surty said: “As the basic education sector, we are well placed to propagate the value of social cohesion through an appropriate curriculum and other teacher/learner support materials.” I am happy to report that our work in this regard in progressing well. There is a team that is looking at all our learning materials including books with a fine-tooth comb to rid these materials of all vestiges of the Apartheid past. We want to free our materials of all signs of discrimination, racism and sexism.
In conclusion, on the 5th October the world celebrated the World Teachers’ Day. This year World Teachers’ Day marked the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the 1966 ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers. It is also the first world Teachers’ Day (WTD) to be celebrated within the new Global Education 2030 Agenda adopted by the world community one year ago.
This year’s theme, “Valuing Teachers, Improving their Status”, embodies the fundamental principles of the fifty-year-old Recommendation while shining a light on the need to support teachers as reflected in the agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A specific education goal, SDG4, pledges to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”.
Teachers are not only pivotal to the right to education they are key to achieving the targets set out in SDG4. The roadmap for the new agenda, the Education 2030 Framework for Action, highlights the fact that teachers are fundamental for equitable and quality education and, as such, must be “adequately trained, recruited and remunerated, motivated and supported within well-resourced, efficient and effectively governed systems”.
However, in order to achieve this goal, it is necessary not only to substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers but to motivate them by valuing their work. On behalf of the Basic Education Department and Government as a whole; we would love to wish you a belated World Teachers’ Day. We thank you for your unrelenting efforts and sacrifice to better the lives of our learners. We acknowledge your dedication and selfless service to the betterment of our country. World Teachers' Day represents a significant effort to raise awareness, understanding and appreciation for the vital contribution that teachers make to education and development across the globe. We would like to re-emphasis our commitment as a Department to the continuous professional development of our teachers. Teachers are indeed a guiding light for the nation.
Programme Director – Now, it is my singular honour and a privilege to officially declare the 5th NAPTOSA National Congress duly open for business.
I thank you.