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Speech Delivered by the Minister of Basic Education, on the Official Opening of Bhungu P.S, Libode, Eastern Cape, 17 November 2016

Programme Director

Principal

SGB Chairperson & Members

Parents and Learners

Distinguished Guests

Members of the Media

Ladies and Gentlemen

 

It is my singular honour and a privilege to be in the province of the Eastern Cape to officially open yet another state-of-the-art school. As Government, we have a constitutional obligation to ensure that the right to basic education is fulfilled. Our school infrastructure build programme is anchored on this inalienable right to basic education. 

It is clear that our school infrastructure build programme is beginning to bear fruits for our people. I have the honour to hand over to the Libode community the 130th school built in this province, namely the Bhungu Primary School. It is also a historic moment in that this school is one of the oldest in the province having been originally built in 1959.

The cherry on top, is that this school has produced many prominent alumni, amongst them is Dr Nuku, Chief Director in the office of the Head of the Department of Education right here in this province. I am happy to say Dr Nuku is a product of the basic education sector having served as the former District Director here at Libode.  We pay tribute to Dr Nuku and the many other unsung heroes and heroines produced by this school over generations.

Even more gratifying to me is that the community of Libode value education more than everything else as demonstrated by the keen involvement of the School Governing Body in the core business of this school. I am informed that the SGB hired security personnel to guard this treasure of the community. They didn’t wait for Government to do something. Indeed, this community epitomises the values that enable education to be a societal issue. The Bhungu Primary School - teachers, learners and the Libode community are a beacon of hope to the basic education sector. On behalf of Government, we salute the hard work and resilience of this community. We will do everything in our power and within the legal prescripts to support this school and community. We are very proud of you. 

Programme Director; the accelerated school infrastructure build programme is part and parcel of our comprehensive Programme of Action as encapsulated in Action Plan to 2019 Towards the Realisation of Schooling 2030. In particular Goal 24 of the said Programme of Action states clearly that, “we must ensure that the physical infrastructure and environment of every school inspires learners to want to come to school and learn, and teachers to teach.” Experts call this a positive school environment.  A positive school environment is defined as a school having appropriate facilities, well-managed classrooms, available school-based health supports, and a clear, fair disciplinary policy. We know from experience that poorly designed schools give an impression that learners are a reflection of their school: undervalued, worthless, dirty and uncared for.

Programme Director; directly linked to the physical infrastructure, the Programme of Action as stated in Goal 25 enjoins us to, “use schools as vehicles for promoting access to a range of public services amongst learners in areas such as health, poverty alleviation, psychosocial support, sport and culture.”

In this regard, we already have a package of care and support services available to all schools. I am glad that this school is part and parcel of our pro-poor initiatives such as, “no fee school policy, availability of the feeding scheme and other health initiatives such as the deworming programme amongst others.” As a result of improved infrastructure, and pro-poor interventions, a higher proportion of younger children are accessing classroom facilities throughout the country.

Programme Director; I must say to achieve the Goals as stated in the Action Plan to 2019 Towards the Realisation of Schooling 2030, we needed  a focussed programme that would  undo the legacy of apartheid education mismanagement and poor infrastructure planning. This legacy resulted in our learners learning under the trees, and some schools were constructed from inappropriate materials (mud, plankie, and asbestos).    

In this regard, we conceptualised and launched the much vaunted Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI). ASIDI is an R8.2 billion public-private partnership programme, and is one of the government's Strategic Infrastructure Projects (SIPs). The objective of ASIDI is to eradicate the Basic Safety Norms backlog of schools without water, sanitation and electricity and to replace those schools that are constructed from inappropriate materials (mud, plankie, asbestos) in order to contribute towards optimum levels of learning and teaching. The Schools Infrastructure Backlog Grant (SIBG) funds the ASIDI portfolio.

Programme Director; I am happy to report that the Eastern Cape is now the leading beneficiary of Government’s accelerated school infrastructure programme under the ASIDI portfolio.  In this province alone, we have to date handed over to the jubilant communities a whopping 130 new state-of-the-art schools, and in the process replaced structures built from inappropriate materials.  Since 2014, we have provided electricity to 180 schools, sanitation to 167 schools and water to another 248 schools. We will not rest on our laurels until every South African learner has access to the state-of-the-art school infrastructure.

In order to continue to fast-track infrastructure delivery, we have increased technical capacity at the Basic Education and Provincial Education Departments by employing built environment specialists to fast-track the provision of the basic education sector infrastructure and to ensure the achievement of basic targets set in the Norms and Standards.

As at October 2014, about 510 schools nationally built entirely from materials such as asbestos, mud, metal and wood were identified.  In May 2015, an additional 189 schools were identified.  To date, a total of 217 replacement state-of-the-art schools have been built and handed over to the communities.

We are aware of the perennial problems of shortages of vital resources, such as learning and teaching support materials, school furniture, and teachers.  Together, with the Provincial authorities, the Basic Education Department has completed a comprehensive needs assessment for all schools in this province, and we are in the process of addressing the identified needs.  All hands are on deck to address the reported problems as they arise. 

Programme Director; while a lot has been achieved a lot more must be done to make our schools a sanctuary of tranquillity where the only focus is on learning and teaching. I am saddened to report that all is not well in some of our schools. We have pockets of excellence in certain areas but some pockets of disasters in other areas.

On Monday, the report released by the South African Council of Educators (SACE) showed that at least 20 teachers have been plying their trade using fraudulently acquired qualifications. We are told that the fraudsters often produce qualifications from the University of Zululand, Unisa and the University of North West. We are embarrassed by this expose. We will ramp up our qualification verification processes to ensure that these fraudsters don’t find fertile ground in our sector.

Programme Director, I want to send a clear message today that those with fraudulent qualifications must resign immediately, because if unearthed by us they will face the full might of the law. I have since asked SACE to ensure that those who have been exposed are brought to book without undue delay. We must set an example so that would-be fraudsters must never even attempt to enter the system and rob our children of quality education.

Perhaps, the good news is that SACE also reported on Monday that some thirty-three teachers were struck off the roll indefinitely for offences including sexual relationship and impregnation of pupils, rape, selling drugs to schoolchildren, indecent assault and severe assault of pupils. This is a positive message in that the rotten potatoes that bring the basic education sector into disrepute have been removed. I must stress that any teacher found to have committed similar offences will be removed from the system indefinitely.

Programme Director; the sad news is that according to SACE, 593 complaints involving teachers were processed in the past year alone.

Out of these:

  • A total of 77 hearings were instituted, resulting in 70 educators being found guilty.
  • A total of 25 teacher registrations were struck off the roll indefinitely, while a further five were struck off for definite periods. Forty educators received other sanctions.
  • For the period under review - from April 1 to November 10 - a total of 50 sexual abuse cases and 140 cases of corporal punishment of learners were received.
  • From April to October this year, a total of 33 educators were struck off the roll of educators indefinitely and their names forwarded to the Department of Social Development to be included in the register of persons declared unfit to work with children.

More disconcerting is that the number of educators accused of sexual indecency and corporal punishment exceeded the 97 and 160 cases that were reported in the 2015 and 2014 academic years respectively.

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 perpetrators. There is not a single teacher or principal who has not been informed that corporal punishment is expressly forbidden.

Therefore, I am making a clarion call to all teachers to refrain from any form of corporal punishment at all times.

The second most insidious attack on learners’ human right is the scourge of sexual violence including rape, sexual abuse, sexual assault, and impregnating learners. We know that the 50 teachers uncovered by SACE is the tip of the iceberg. As early as 2014, the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, University of the Witwatersrand School of Law reported that many educators have sexually harassed and abused the learners in their care. This serious human rights violation is widespread and well known. However, is the precise numbers are difficult to determine as many cases of educator-learner abuse are never reported. Such harassment and abuse – which occurs with frequency not only in South Africa but also worldwide – has devastating consequences for the health and education of the learners, mainly girls, who experience it.

Over the past decade, we have adopted important laws and policies to address this grave human rights problem, yet sexual violence persists in South African schools with disquieting regularity. In 2006, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) noted that sexual violence, including abuse perpetrated by educators, was one of the most prevalent forms of violence identified in its hearings on violence in schools.

Moreover, in 2011, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee) “expressed grave concern about the high number of girls who suffer sexual abuse and harassment in schools by both teachers and classmates, as well as the high number of girls who suffer sexual violence while on their way to/from school [in South Africa].”

As Minister of Basic Education, it is my duty to protect all learners from all types of abuse. Today, I appeal to the consciences of all teachers, do the right thing – teach our learners – do not abuse them. In cases where the consciences of teachers fail them, we will be left with no choice but to act speedily and remove the cancerous tumour in our system.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I want to highlight what we are doing to confront these social ills that seem so pervasive in our communities, and obviously spiral 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.

Ladies and Gentlemen it is my honour and a privilege to declare the Bhungu Primary School officially open for business.

I thank you.

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Written By: WebMaster WebMaster
Date Posted: 11/17/2016
Number of Views: 2789

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