It is my singular honour and privilege to host the 15th Annual Teachers Awards. Let me hasten to salute all schools and teachers who have entered the National Teaching Awards since 2000. The Department also acknowledges their extraordinary efforts, which have been achieved often under very difficult conditions and in service to our children, many of whom come from poor communities.
Programme Director it is also a heartening that many have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make tonight’s, the 15th Annual National Teaching Awards (NTA) a success. I thank each and every one of you for your presence today. We’re indeed greatly honoured to have you here.
This is a special night in which we celebrate great and remarkable exploits of teachers who give of themselves to the education of the nation and its children. In terms of importance, the NTA is only second to the announcement of the NSC results.
It is at this point Programme Director that I must extend a special thank you to the Deputy President for gracing this occasion. We thank you for all your work that you do in the area of education. We all appreciate your commitment and compassion you have displayed over the years for our children. Ukwanda kwaliwa umthakathi. Ke a leboga.
As we all recall the National Teaching Awards is a Ministerial project, which was launched by the former Minister of Education, the late Professor Kadar Asmal, exactly 15 years ago. The grand idea was and it continues to be about entrenching the professionalization of teaching, recognise and reward excellence in teaching, and to acknowledge and encourage excellence in an effort to deliver quality basic education in our lifetime. Today, we celebrate a milestone, 15 years of teacher recognition of excellence in educating our national treasure i.e. our children.
The awards also aim to focus public attention on the positive aspects of education, thereby raising the public image of the teaching profession. We honour dedicated, creative and effective teachers and schools, while encouraging best practice in schools. The awards also afford South Africans the opportunity to publicly thank outstanding teachers in our education system.
Teachers are a Heartbeat of a Functioning School System
We as the Department of Basic Education and all our nine Provincial Education Departments place a premium on the value of our teachers. We believe that teachers are a heartbeat of a functioning school system. It is often said that the quality of education cannot exceed that of its teachers. We cannot expect teachers to promote quality learning and teaching alone. Hence our contention that education is a societal issue.
It is within this context that teacher development is one of the major focus areas in this current term of office. This will include various policy reviews including conditions of service, teacher recruitment, deployment, utilisation and development including a sustained focus on teachers’ professional development.
To demonstrate our seriousness in the premium we place on teachers, the Mangaung conference of the ANC resolved that we should establish a Presidential Commission to review the remuneration and conditions of employment of education and health professionals. President Zuma has confirmed that such a commission has indeed been established and is headed by former Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo.
All of us involved in this sector know very well that in order for us to improve the quality of our education – classroom teaching must improve so that learners can receive quality knowledge at the requisite level. Equally, in-order to effectively deliver the curriculum it is crucial that we have the correct teacher, teaching the correct subject in front of the class.
To achieve this we have launched various initiatives including 131 fully functioning Teacher Training Centres (including 40 ICT enabled Centres supported by our generous partner Vodacom). We firmly hold a view that the classroom is a centre piece of learning and teaching. And, at the core of this learning and teaching is a competent and confident Teacher.
We note with appreciation that all Teacher Unions have also launched their own Teacher Development Institutes. These Institutes are owned by Teacher Unions but receive substantial monetary and non-monetary support from the Basic Education Department.
Teacher development is one area where both Teacher Unions and the Department sing from the same hymn-book.
To augment Teacher Training Centres and Teacher Development Institutes, we have also launched Subject Committees and Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). These committees provide a uniform mechanism for subject teachers and other subject specialists to contribute to the continuous process of curriculum development and effective curriculum implementation.
However; our singular focus on teacher development is anchored equally by our conscious bias towards Information Communication Technology (ICT). The Council of Education Ministers’ (CEM) has resolved that ICT is to be one of key priorities for the sector to act as an anchor for the radical transformation of the basic education. We have come to the determination within the sector that ICT is crucial to improve the quality and efficiency of the system from a number of aspects including administration, e-learning and teacher training.
The ICT rollout to succeed requires an interdepartmental approach looking at various issues of connectivity, broadband, devices, electricity, and budget amongst others.
I am happy to report that the Presidency is leading the ICT revolution in our sector through its Operation Phakisa.
International Links to Improve Principals’ Skills
I am happy to announce that 2015 is the Year of China in South Africa, and as part of our valued partnership with the Ministry of China, we have agreed that South African school principals will be awarded opportunities to receive training in China. This opportunity will be given to 50 principals from high performing schools, every year, for the next five years. I therefore invite principals to seize these opportunities when further details are announced at a later stage.
Teacher Deployment and Placement
I am happy to announce that there is now a greater policy certainty around Teacher Deployment and Placement. We have completed a nationwide teacher profiling which has provided us with a useful and accurate information i.e. skills base of our workforce. This information will eliminate previous problems wherein Provincial Education Departments’ (PEDs) couldn’t deploy teachers correctly resulting in qualified teachers teaching subjects that they are not qualified to teach; teachers in addition to staff establishments not being deployed; vacancies remaining vacant for long periods of time; forecasting of the type of teachers that need to be trained being inaccurate. And, sadly in some cases this resulted in the slow pace of placement of the Funza Lushaka and other bursars. These and other challenges will soon be the thing of the past.
In conclusion, a Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist Mr. Carl Jung had much more profound appreciation for teachers, as evident in many of his quotes. Tonight I share with you just one such epoch making quotation: “One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child." Congratulations to all who participated in the 2015 National Teachers Awards.
To all the winners who will be announced tonight, you’re the beacon of hope. You’re the shining stars. You represent the best in the basic education sector. We will forever be indebted to you - for your tenacity, professionalism and hard work.