Programme Director: Mr. Anthony Johnson
Rev. Andre Botha
Councillor: Michael Rangasamy
Councillor: Felicia Humphreys
Principal: Mr. James Salmoen
SGB Chairperson Mr. Michael Thomas and Members
Parents and Learners
Members of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is my singular honour and a privilege to be in the province of the Western Cape to officially open yet another state-of-the-art school. This is one of the 21 schools we have built in this province in the last four years.
Programme Director, it is universal accepted among Built Environment Experts that our immediate environment influences our mood and behaviour. Research by Education Trust found that “a school building can tell students who they are and what they should think about the world”. Findings from Manchester Metropolitan University suggest that pupils in poorly designed schools “felt that they were a reflection of their school: undervalued, worthless, dirty and uncared for.” Many pieces of educational research show the link between low self-esteem and underachievement occasioned in part by poor infrastructure.
In this regard, we conceptualised and launched the much vaunted Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI). ASIDI is an R8.2 billion public-private programme, and is one of the government's Strategic Infrastructure Projects (SIPs). The objective of ASIDI is to eradicate the Basic Safety Norms backlog in schools without water, sanitation and electricity and to replace those schools constructed from inappropriate materials (mud, plankie, asbestos) to contribute towards levels of optimum learning and teaching. The Schools Infrastructure Backlog Grant (SIBG) funds the ASIDI portfolio.
To date, the ASIDI programme has delivered 177 state-of-the-art schools; another batch of 54 schools will be completed in the 2016/17 financial year. A total of 615 schools have been provided with water since the inception of the project during late 2011; 425 schools have received decent sanitation and 307 schools have been connected to electricity for the first time. The ASIDI programme continues to deliver a dividend of democracy to communities across rural South Africa and in urban but underprivileged areas.
Programme Director, we are proud of our achievements but a lot more needs to be done. We shall spare neither strength nor courage in ensuring that every South African learner has access to the best infrastructure for accelerated learning and teaching.
As we celebrate this milestone of opening a brand new school, it is incumbent upon me to talk about social ills that must be rooted out if this community is to reap the benefits of this new school. Some of these social ills are:
- Corporal punishment
- Teenage pregnancies
- Gang violence, Drug use and alcohol abuse
According to research, the Western Cape is the epicentre of corporal punishment. More than three quarters of the reported cases of corporal punishment at public schools are in the Western Cape. In the Minister of Basic Education written reply to a parliamentary question on the issue of corporal punishment during the 2013/14, it was reported that there were 247 cases reported from schools across the country during the period under review of which 188 cases were in the Western Cape.
My message to teachers today is clear: Corporal punishment is a crime against the most vulnerable in our society, and as such there shall be no mercy for all perpetrators. There is no single teacher or principal who has not been informed that corporal punishment is expressly forbidden.
In terms of our legislative framework in the basic education, corporal punishment is expressly prohibited. Both the National Education Policy Act (1996) and the South African Schools Act (1996) say, “No person shall administer corporal punishment or subject a student to psychological or physical abuse at any educational institution.” The South African Schools Act goes further and criminalises the practice. It states, “Any person who (practises corporate punishment) is guilty of an offense, and is liable on conviction to a sentence which could be imposed for assault.”
At the risk of repeating myself, I am making a fresh call to all teachers to refrain from any form of corporal punishment at all times.
The second more insidious social ill is the scourge of bullying. Again, the Western Cape is the epicentre of this epidemic. I must say bullying hampers with the children inherent right to safe schooling environment and their right to quality education.
The nature and forms of bullying have been studied extensively by researchers. In simple terms bullying is a harmful intentional action aimed at causing physical and/or psychological harm to one or more learners, who are weaker and find it difficult to defend themselves. Bullying is nothing but an aggressive behaviour that is expressed in an open, direct way (e.g., physically hitting, kicking, punching someone; verbally threatening, insulting, teasing, taking belongings), and/or in a relational, indirect way (e.g., spreading rumours, gossiping, excluding and isolating someone from a group).
More recently, the Internet has provided an arena for additional types of bullying (cyber-bullying), including behaviours such as name-calling and using social media platforms to send threatening messages, emails and viruses, hacking and posting one’s picture or video on the Internet without permission (Dehue, Bolman & Völlink, 2008). My message to all learners is that your education is more important than anti-social habits of bullying.
Today, I call on all victims of bullying to be strong and report any uncomfortable treatment received from fellow learners. The School Management Teams must implement the protocol on dealing with bullying and ensure that justice prevails for the victims.
Gang Violence, Drug use & Alcohol abuse
Gangsterism in this province is rife. In 2013, 12% of the 2,580 murders in the province were gang-related (2nd behind arguments turned violent), according to the South African Police Service. This is an 86% increase from 2012. In addition, children as young as 14 are being arrested on gang-related murder charges. If the social and environmental factors that nurture gangsterism are left unaddressed, there will be no hope for the children and young adults gripped by gangs in this province.
According to the Provincial Commander of Operation Combat – the specialised SAPS Western Cape anti-gang strategy unit, Major General Jeremy Vearey, - Gangs were most often formed by children seeking physical protection from threats in their communities, However, Vearey argues that these youth groupings now get “perverted in a gang environment – with the money, the drugs, the girls,” and the children become easy targets for recruiting when so-called Cape Flats ‘super gangs’ such as the Americans and the HLs (Hard Livings) require hitmen for their drug and turf wars.
In essence, young people – these learners – are primary targets to be induced into joining gangs.
Linked directly to the gang violence/membership and is an equally serious problem – drug use. When we look at the drug scene in South Africa, we see that the country is by far the largest market for illicit drugs entering Southern Africa. Drug trafficking and abuse have escalated in recent years. We know that cannabis is the most prevalent illicit drug used in South Africa. "Mandrax" (methaqualone) is the second most commonly-used illicit drug. Although the use of heroin, cocaine and ecstasy is less prevalent, this has increased notably since the mid-1990s. Since 2000, heroin use also has increased significantly in major urban areas, particularly in Gauteng (which includes Johannesburg and Pretoria) and Cape Town.
Equally, disturbing is the prevalence of alcohol abuse amongst teenagers. The South African National Youth Risk Behaviour Surveys of 2002 and 2008 showed that binge drinking in a particular month amongst South African children aged 12 to 18 had increased from 23% to 29% from 2002 to 2008. Binge drinking has been demonstrated as having a negative impact on educational outcomes, including decreased probability of teenagers graduating from primary school amongst others.
My dear children, I appeal to all of you to desist from taking up membership of gangs. Do not do drugs. Do not use alcohol. Do not do crime. Please stay within these safe school walls and work towards building your future. We have established that there is a correlation between gang membership, drug use and crime. None of these can prepare you for a bright future beyond this neighbourhood. It is only education that has the power to break the intergenerational scourge of poverty and spur an individual into a bright future – free of drugs, crime and violence.
The other serious social ill is the epidemic of teenage pregnancies. Research indicates that approximately 30% of teenagers in South Africa report ‘ever having been pregnant’; the majority of these pregnancies are unplanned.
Researchers have concluded that teenage pregnancy in South Africa is driven by many factors including: gender inequalities; gendered expectations of how teenage boys and girls should act; sexual taboos (for girls) and sexual permissiveness (for boys); poverty; poor access to contraceptives and inaccurate and inconsistent contraceptive use; judgmental attitudes of many health care workers; high levels of gender-based violence; and poor sex education.
While any teenage pregnancy is worrisome, the South African law is supportive of pregnant teenagers and teenage mothers completing their schooling. The South African Schools Act (1996) permits pregnant teenagers and teenage mothers to stay in school while pregnant and to return to school after childbirth.
However, we strongly discourage teenagers from engaging in sexual activities too early. Our warning is in part informed by the twin epidemic of HIV/Aids. As we know HIV/Aids prevalence is high among young people, precisely because they are engaging in unsafe sexual activities.
To conclude on social ills, I must warn that they are all interlinked. Researchers have concluded that adolescents who use alcohol and other drugs are more likely to engage in unsafe sex than are adolescents who abstain from using them.
In conclusion, I want to highlight what we are doing to confront these social ills that seem pervasive in our communities, and obviously spiralling over to our schools. We have developed a package of interventions under the Integrated School Health Programme (ISHP). The Integrated School Health Programme is an initiative of the Basic Education Department - implemented jointly with the Departments of Health and Social Development.
The aim of the Programme is to improve children’s health, reduce health barriers to learning and assist learners to stay in school and perform to the best of their abilities. The Programme further intends to promote attitudes and behaviours that will positively impact the current and future health status of learners.
Overall the programme is designed to improve both the education performance and the health and well-being of our children. It seeks to address a range of health and social challenges that are faced by young people especially related to sexual and reproductive health. This holistic response appraises, protects, and improves the health of learners, with the goal of reducing absenteeism and increasing academic achievement and ultimately the quality of basic education.
Finally, to deal head on with the alcohol abuse and drug use amongst learners in schools, we have developed a National Strategy for the Prevention and Management of Alcohol and Drug Use. The Strategy focuses largely on prevention because most learners do not abuse alcohol and drugs. However, we aim to create an enabling environment for those learners who have become addicted to alcohol and drugs to access treatment, care and support services.
The approach of the Department towards alcohol and drug use is not a punitive one. The Strategy recognises that addiction is a disease and that alcohol and drug use is a social issue that is interwoven in the fabric of our society. Hence programmes in schools are based on restorative justice principles and must be complemented by programmes with families and in communities.
As the late President Nelson Mandela proclaimed,
“It is now in your hands.”
Programme Director, we are aware that this community is in dire need of a high school. We appreciate the united efforts of this community to petition the Department to consider building a high school here. I must say as a Department, we are taking the matter very seriously. More encouraging is that the Integrated Development Plan (IDP) of the Swartland Municipality has already made provisions for the secondary school for this community. We are making a commitment that once, all due processes have been concluded, and we will advise the community accordingly. But, you must know that in your efforts, you can count on my support.
Programme Director, I declare the Vooruitsig Primary School officially open for business.
I thank you.