Departmental Officials at National, Provincial and District Level;
School Governing Body Associations;
School Governing Bodies;
Members of Organised Labour;
Parents and Community members
Thank you all for coming to this important meeting to talk about the most important subject in education - the proper management of the schooling system for the sake of our children. Our singular aim today is not only to raise awareness about the upcoming School Governing Bodies’ (SGBs) elections but to emphasise the importance of SGBs in the overall school management in the basic education sector and of course in the meticulous delivery of state-funded quality education. The actual elections are scheduled for the 6th to the 23rd March 2015.
Allow me Programme Director to pass my gratitude to all parents and all members of SGBs for the support that was given to the Class of 2014. Your contribution has not gone unnoticed. In our midst here today we have unsung heroes and heroines whose sole mission is to see our children succeed. This is a historical mission whose entire success is dependent on our mutual cooperation.
It feels like yesterday when we conducted the 2012 SGBs elections. Suddenly the term of office has come to the end for the current School Governing Bodies. I would like to sincerely thank all the outgoing School Governing Bodies’ Members for the job well done in supporting our schools, and, all education programmes in the last three years. For some members, it has been more than three years. Thank you again for sacrificing your time and skills in the service of humanity. One philosopher once argued that, “A life well lived is a life lived in the service of humanity”.
We acknowledge with gratitude that you have heeded the President Jacob Zuma’s clarion call to make education a societal issue. Our nation applauds you - for your activism, hard work and tenacity.
When talking about the importance of parents’ involvement in our education system, I always refer to the Eponche Primary School in Gauteng, Thembisa. When we first introduced the Annual National Assessments (ANA), Eponche Primary was shocked at the results they received. The results were dismal. However the principal was proactive she used the results to develop a School Improvement Plan. But, there was a twist. The improvement plan was formulated in conjunction with parents. The principal called a meeting with parents and all schools stakeholders to ensure that everybody was on board with both the formulation, implementation and monitoring of the School Improvement Plan. Within a few years the Eponche Primary School’s ANA results improved dramatically. The Eponche Primary School is today a shining example of what can be achieved when education is made a societal issue and parents get actively involved in their children’ school life.
It is an open secret that the Department of Basic Education alone cannot achieve all its ambitious targets without the spirit of volunteerism demonstrated by parents and communities in supporting education programmes. We depend on parents to support teachers in their role to educate and mould our young minds into responsible adults. Equally, we also depend on you to play that vital role of oversight to ensure that there is quality education taking place in all schools under your watch.
The support of parents and communities to schools and their children’s education should come naturally as part of a historical mission to bring about a Better Life for all our communities. We can only succeed through strengthening the pillars that make schools work for the better. We must make our schools work smart not just for this current crop of learners but for the future generations as well. It is our duty as nation’s guardians that we can’t escape to bring up our children in a nurturing school environment so that their personal lives are improved. This improvement in their personal circumstances is a ticket out of poverty. And, they can in the near future make a meaningful contribution to our society especially in building our democracy and entrenching the values enshrined our constitution.
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. This is one of many reasons that we shall spare no effort in achieving universal, free and compulsory quality education for all South African children.
As our system of school management has matured, the Department of Basic has formalised and institutionalised the manner in which parents and communities can be involved in schools to contribute towards teaching and learning in-order to improve learners’ educational outcomes. Amongst many types of involvement, the most crucial today is through building vibrant and democratic School Governing Bodies.
The 2015 SGBs elections are upon us. This is the third largest exercise of our democratic voting rights in our country after the Local Government elections. There are roughly 23 000 schools participating in these elections and we expect around 250 000 SGB members to be elected though this process. The outcome of the national SGBs elections will net more democratically elected officials than the National Assembly, Provincial Legislatures, and Local Municipalities combined. It is a massive logistical process. We can assure you today that it’s all systems go. We are ready. We have no doubt in our minds that you as members of the community are also ready. These are in fact your schools attended by your children. Our legal obligation as a caring government is provide the necessary resources to make quality education happen in the classrooms across the length and breadth of our land. It is an obligation we take very seriously. In fact it is an honour to serve.
As I earlier indicated the actual 2015 School Governing Bodies’ elections takes place from the 6th to the 28th of March. This is an exciting period in the education calendar to see parents renewing their commitment in supporting the education of their children.
The SGBs elections come at an important time in our country when we are celebrating a milestone, the 21st anniversary of the dawn of democracy, peace and prosperity. The SGBs elections also of course coincide with the 60th anniversary of a very important document known as the Freedom Charter which is a cornerstone of this ANC led government policies and practice. The Freedom Charter proclaimed boldly that: All Doors of Learning and Culture Shall Be Opened! Therefore in participating in these School Governing Bodies’ elections you’re consciously contributing to the historic mission of the people of South Africa that indeed our children must have access to quality education.
We would like to encourage all of you to participate in these elections by standing as candidates and, or voting for competent, reliable and responsible parents to represent you, and your child. In doing so, you will have acted in a manner that guarantees that your voice is heard.
It has been scientifically proven that in schools where parents play an active role in school matters, and are supportive to the School Management Teams and their children, the performance of learners improve dramatically. We have documented proof of this assertion. The contribution of stakeholders in previously disadvantaged schools is beginning to show through improved results. Children in these so called previously disadvantaged schools are beginning to compete equally if not better with their counterparts in former Model C Schools. In the 2014 National Senior Certificate results some of the top learners nationally emerged from these schools. The Department of Basic Education cannot take such credit at all. We are convinced that it is the vigilance and tenacity displayed by parents and communities in supporting these schools. Again, I must applaud the work that our parents do in these schools with no expectation of glory or monetary reward.
I am really here to say, ingoma enmandi iya phindwa. Let us do it again. It is our schools. It is our children’s future at stake. Let us do it for them. Let’s do it for the future generations. We owe that much to our children and the future of this beautiful nation. I urge all of you to make the 2015 SGBs elections a success story.
As governors in our schools, you are charged with a national duty to make education a societal issue in practical and purposeful way. Social mobilization demands setting up vibrant Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign (QLTC) structures in support of the ‘Three Ts’ which stands for Teachers, Text and Time. Some non-negotiables in this campaign as a PARENT includes the following - You must:
· Involve yourself actively in school governance structures;
· Have regular discussions with your children about general school matters;
· Cultivate a healthy, open and cooperative relationship with your children’s teachers;
· Create a home environment conducive to study;
· Assist in the protection of educational resources such as textbooks, chairs, tables and others.
As a COMMUNITY, You must:
· Ensure that every school‐going child is at school;
· Ensure a safe and crime‐free environment for schooling, and to protect the school and its assets from vandalism;
· Monitor the performance of schools, and report problems to relevant authorities.
The Department of Basic Education is committed to build capacity of SGBs and SGB Associations through various targeted training programmes so that they can contribute meaningfully to the improvement of school management in our country.
Educational demands are many and diverse. In a nutshell, they range from teacher supply, infrastructure, water and sanitation, provision of scholar transport, nutrition, furniture, textbooks and stationery to the development of policies befitting a new democratic and caring state. All these educational demands require energetic and capacitated SGBs to monitor and hold us accountable if we falter in any way. We are indeed equal to the task.
Programme Director; in his 2015 State of the Nation Address, President Zuma said: “This is the year of investing more in our future, by educating our children and the youth about the rich heritage of this country.”
Sector Priorities 2014-2019
Therefore Programme Director allow me to give you a snapshot of our key priorities for this term of office as part of giving practical expression to the President’s message of focusing on the education of our children. The programme I am unpacking has been jointly crafted with all nine Provincial Education MEC’s.
Let me start by giving a diagnosis of our current challenges. According to the National Planning Commission: National Development Plan, November 2011:
“Despite many positive changes since 1994, the legacy of low-quality education in historically disadvantaged parts of the school system persists. This seriously hampers the education system’s ability to provide a way out of poverty for poor children. The grade promotion of learners who are not ready in the primary and early secondary phases leads to substantial dropout before the standardised matric examination”.
To respond to this challenge as a sector we have resolved that we have to deal head on with these challenges. Our priorities for this term include amongst others:
- A total revamp of the manner we are dealing with the provision of Learning and Teaching Support Material (LTSM). We are now moving ahead with our plan to provide each learner - one textbook per-grade per-subject as per the recommendations of the NDP.
- We are closely looking at costing, maintenance and management of all school buildings and physical plant to enable more effective use of infrastructure funds including development and transparency of unit costs. There is great impetus in improving infrastructure through new built programme and maintenance. We are also focusing on the provision of basic services such as water, electricity and sanitation.
- Through our flagship programme the Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) which is part of the National Infrastructure Plan, the following has been achieved namely:
a) 92 – Schools that have been completed.
b) 108 – Other schools under construction.
c) 342 – Schools that have received water for the first time.
d) 351 – Schools that have received decent sanitation.
e) 288 – Schools that have been connected to electricity.
- We have created a new model for districts’ support and monitoring. This gives us a better view of districts’ improvement plans implementation.
- The plan to strengthen district operations has been packaged around four key pillars.
- These are: 1) Ensuring a clear mandate and effective structure for districts through implementable but flexible norms and standards derived from existing policy. 2) Ensuring the appointment of the right people in the right roles in all districts, and raising the bar on accountability. 3) Defining/norming a minimum resource package for district officials’ in-order for them to do their work properly. 4) Guide and improve effectiveness of school support through codified but flexible essential routines and operations.
Teacher Deployment and Placement
- 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.
Access and Utilisation of ICT
- We are steaming ahead with the implementation of Access and Utilization of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) both for teaching and learning.
- Together with our local and international partners we have already convened an ICT laboratory as part of the Presidential fast track programme known as Big Fast Result project or Operation Phakisa.
- The Lab focusses on four main strategic objectives namely, a) Electronic content resource development and distribution, b) ICT professional development for management, teaching and learning, c) Access to ICT infrastructure and lastly d) Connectivity.
Kha Ri Gude
- We have up the ante on the implementation of adult education programme dubbed Kha Ri Gude. This includes advocacy and use of youth volunteers. In 2014 we conducted extensive information drive to heighten awareness of the campaign in communities.
- We have developed a strategy to target unemployed youth, particularly those with Grade 12 certificates; University of South Africa (UNISA) part-time students; unemployed graduates and those who were unable to complete their university studies, to serve as KRG facilitators and coordinators.
- The plan is to reduce the number of teachers and public servants who currently serve as facilitators. We are implementing this plan with caution to ensure that the system does not collapse.
- Plans are afoot to approach the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) to offer bursaries to deserving youth, who would have received training to serve as KRG facilitators, for them to further their studies.
- To improve reading we have taken a giant step in this regard. Through our partnership with the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) we have secured R78 million to provide library and information services to 150 secondary schools and 1024 primary schools especially in Limpopo and Eastern Cape.
- There is a comprehensive plan in place to ensure that every school in the country by 2019 has some type of library and information services.
Rural Schools (Multi-grade, Farm & non-viable
- In the interest of maximum utilization of limited resources we have embarked on the process of merges, closures, rationalization, and twining of non-viable schools.
- The problem is more acute in rural schools especially schools we refer to as farm schools. However our focus is system-wide – also looking at Multi-Grade, and Small schools even in urban environment.
- We have created the Regulations Relating to Minimum Uniform Norms and Standards for Public School Infrastructure. These regulations have created a clear legal position on what constitutes a small or large school.
Mathematics, Science and Technology (MST)
- There is also a special focus on Mathematics, Science and Technology (MST). We have already established the MST Directorate to drive the sector improvement mandate at the Basic Education.
- Consequently, we have also de-established the Dinaledi and Technical Schools Conditional Grants into the new combined and system-wide grant to be known as MST conditional grant.
- A special Big Fast Results Lab on MST is underway to develop a long-term strategy in improving the teacher content knowledge on these subjects and greater learner participation and success rate.
- On the curriculum as I said earlier I can assure the nation today that there is no plan in the pipeline to ticker with CAPS as policy certainty and curriculum stability are important ingredients for the delivery of quality basic education in our lifetime.
- We are only focusing on development of business process, planning and monitoring capacity to ensure full curriculum implementation and coverage. There is an Operation Phakisa MINI-LAB focusing on Curriculum and Teacher Development.
Incremental Introduction of African Languages
- On the Incremental Introduction of African Languages great strides are being made. Our pilot project is this regard has reached Grade 2 in 248 schools and we are targeting 48 Free State school in Grade this year.
- This programme will be rolled out throughout the country as resources both monetary and human become available.
- Research has also shown that History is an important subject to promote social cohesion and valuing diversity by demonstrating the contributions of different race, ethnic, religious etc. groups to the liberation struggle and to the long term development of the country.
- Evidence form the Sri Lankan Education Ministry’s Social Cohesion Programme indicated that history as a compulsory examinable subject contributed to the promotion of a multi-ethnic and multi-religious Sri Lankan identity.
- The Education Ministry in post conflict Northern Ireland ensured that learners had experience of Education for Mutual Understanding (EMU), which is a compulsory part of the school curriculum and Cultural Heritage programmes.
- These programmes are designed to ensure that learners learn about each other's traditions, history, and culture.
- The EMU programme addresses the need for children to feel confident in their own identities, while the Cultural Heritage programme helps them learn about the religious and political beliefs of the other communities in Northern Ireland.
- As a sector, we are conducting conduct research to determine whether it would be advisable for South Africa to make History a compulsory subject.
- In the area of Inclusive Education, we have established the District Based Support Teams (DBST) to promote inclusive education through training; curriculum delivery; distribution of resources; addressing barriers to learning; leadership and general management.
- The DBSTs are made up of a group of departmental professionals consisting of transversal representation from a range of Units and not only Inclusive Education.
- Provincial Education Departments have achieved varied success in establishing functional DBSTs.
- We will continue to monitor this through our District support mechanism I spoke about earlier.
Programme Director, a lot has been achieved but a lot more must still to be done. Let us meet at the voting stations. Do not despair. Do not retreat. Failure is not an option. I leave you with these words by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.”
I thank you.