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Speech Delivered by the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga, MP, during the 108th Annual Conference of the Professional Educators Union (PEU), held at Doxa Deo Church, 13 March 2015

 

Ora et Labora = Work & Pray

Programme Director;

The President of PEU

National Executive Members of PEU;

Delegates

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

 

It gives me a great pleasure to officially welcome delegates to this important gathering, the 108 Annual Conference of the Professional Educators Union (PEU).

I love your motto as it encapsulates two very critical success factors -    Ora et Labora which simple means Work and Pray.  As a basic education sector we do indeed need to work harder and smarter to achieve quality education in our lifetime. Education is an important nation building tool. It is a powerful instrument of inculcating in the young minds of our children, the norms, culture, traditions and values of the new democratic society as we build a new nation. But, as Africans, we are notoriously religious, so a dose of prayer while working to uplift this nation is indeed a welcome intervention. We are thankful to have such diversity in the trade union movement within the basic education sector. It serves the sector quite well as the unique needs of our employees are catered for by a variety of very strong trade unions and professional organisations.

I must say PEU has for the better part of its existence been a gold standard in trade union activism through robust engagement and a variety of life affirming programmes for your members. We are indeed privilege to work with you in a variety of fora including the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC), the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC), and the National Economic Development and Council’s (Nedlac).

Today, as you celebrate 108 of existence, we wish well. May your future be brighter and success in abundance!  We are certain that you will continue to give wholeheartedly - your time, skills and energy for the betterment of education system, and of course in the service to our national asset i.e. our children.

Presidential Commission

Programme Director I am happy to report that the Presidential Commission to review the Remuneration and Conditions of Employment of Education and Health Professionals as called for by the African National Congress (ANC) Mangaung Conference has this morning delivered a preliminary report to the Council of Education Ministers (CEM). Although I am not at liberty to share with you its content, I must say it will indeed take the profession of teaching to greater heights. We are indebted to His Excellency President Jacob Zuma for prioritising this matter. I am certain that the President will make a necessary pronouncement once all due processes associated with the report on this nature are completed.  

School Governing Bodies’ Elections

Programme Director today marks the seventh day of the much talked about School Governing Bodies Elections’.

Programme Director; allow me a moment to reflect on this one important aspect of our basic education system i.e. the involvement of parents in the day-to-day management of schools.

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. These in fact are 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. The actual 2015 School Governing Bodies’ elections started on Friday last week and will run until the 28th of March.

I urge the members of PEU to support this important event in the calendar of our basic education system. We can assure you today that it’s all systems go. Since the elections opened, we have not experienced any glitches.

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.

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 60 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 most 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.

Sector Priorities 2014-2019

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:

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.

LTSM

  • A total revamp is in the offing in the manner we are dealing with the provision and procurement of Learning and Teaching Support Material (LTSM).
  • In his Budget Speech Finance Minister Honourable Nhlanhla Nene announced that government has agreed to move towards central procurement of LTSM.
  • I am happy to report that the Basic Education Department is moving with the requisite speed in this regard.
  • Plans are already afoot to ensure that a transversal tender for the procurement of LTSM is in place for the next round of the purchasing workbooks and textbooks. We are doing this central procurement to maximize on economies of scale so that every rand is used effectively to improve the quality of education offered.
  • As directed by the National Development Plan, we are now moving ahead with our plan to provide each learner - one textbook per-grade per-subject throughout our education system.

Infrastructure

  • 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)     96 – 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.

 

 

Districts’ Support

  • 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.

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.

Library Services

  • 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.

Curriculum 

  • On the curriculum we have successfully rolled-out the implementation of the new Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) throughout the education system.
  • I just want to assure 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.

History

  • 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.

 

Inclusive Education

  • 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.

Brief Report on the Implementation of the Diagnostic Self-Assessments in Relation to the Viability of Teacher Centres’

The Department of Basic Education has begun to implement the Diagnostic Self-Assessment for teachers in Aptis- English First Additional Language. To date 612 teachers have undergone necessary testing in all nine provinces.

From July 2015, this roll-out will be followed with a Diagnostic Self-Assessment of teachers offering Mathematics.

Targets of 500 teachers tested per Teacher Centre in 2015 have been set.

The Department of Basic Education will also be finalising the development of Accounting and Physical Science Diagnostic Self-Assessment by end of 2015.

By the end of the 2015/16 financial year we shall have completed in four (4) subjects.

These assessments will assist the Department to determine the content gaps and other needs of teachers and determine focussed Teacher Development programmes.

This initiative has a direct impact on the functionality of Teachers Centres’.  The success of the Diagnostic Self-Assessment is directly dependent on the viability of Teacher Centres’ as hubs for professional development.  The Department expects provinces and Teacher Unions to support these hubs. The Mpumalanga Province has planned to recapitalize all Teachers Centres’ in 2015/16. These plan augers well in meeting our targets of 500 teachers per Teachers Centre.

The conference should note that the following conditions apply to a functional Teacher Centre:

  • Knowledgeable and productive Centre Manager;
  • Availability of an e-learning specialist;
  • Availability of ICTs and Connectivity in the Centre;
  • Number of Teacher Development Programmes provided;
  • Availability of training spaces, furniture and headset with microphones for Aptis;
  • Frequency of teacher training workshops conducted; and
  • Community programmes provided such as youth programmes.

 

Promoting Reading and School Libraries

As stated in the National Development Plan (NDP), South Africa needs a high quality education system with globally competitive literacy and numeracy standards. An intensive effort is therefore needed to promote reading in our schools and develop reading skills. Research has shown that access to a wide range of interesting and relevant reading resources, both stories and information, has the largest impact on reading levels for home language and additional languages. In a study commissioned by Reading is Fundamental, the meta-analysis of 44 rigorous studies on the impact of access to reading materials found that access improves children’s reading performance, the amount they read and their attitudes to reading and learning. The development of different models of school libraries is essential to provide access to such reading resources.

While there are a number of provinces that have made progress with the provisioning of school libraries, a great deal remains to be done.

For this reason I am initiating a campaign on the theme of:  “A reading nation is a leading nation”. The campaign will consist of two parts: the establishment of 1 000 fully functional school libraries throughout the country; and reading promotion activities targeting all communities.

Establishment of 1 000 fully functional school libraries

Schools that have existing libraries that are not functioning have been selected for the campaign. The benefiting schools where the libraries will be established have been allocated to the provinces pro rata according to the number of schools in the province. The criteria for the selection of the schools were as follows:

  • There must be an existing structure.
  • The structure must have minimal resources.
  • The structure must be located within a functioning school environment.
  • The school must be serving historically disadvantaged learners.

 

The Library and Information Services of the Provincial Education Departments have been cooperating in the planning of the campaign and have guided the selection of the schools in each province that will be targeted. The pillars of the programme are:

  • Provision of libraries;
  • Provision of dedicated human resource capacity;
  • Provision of books and materials;
  • Utilisation of library to promote reading, during and after school-hours.

 

The Department will place library assistants in the targeted schools in a learnership programme funded by PSETA, and provide 9 Reading and Library Information Service programme co-ordinators. The Department will develop a guideline on the selection of library resources for children and youth for the use of both school and public libraries.

A guideline on the effective functioning of the library at the identified schools will be developed.

The Department will develop a framework for collaboration with key departments like Department of Arts and Culture, stakeholders and interested social partners. Many organisations are at present involved in promoting reading and libraries in South African schools. The Department plans to coordinate these efforts and ensure synergy. The National Lottery is also likely to provide funds for school libraries. The programmes of SABC Education should also be aligned with the programmes of the DBE.

Reading Campaign:

The reading campaign will start in April 2015 and build up to a climax on International Literacy Day 8 September 2015. Members of the community will be involved in the reading campaign. Some of the activities identified for the campaign include School alumni will be asked to donate books to the schools they attended on that day, but they will also be encouraged to become involved in other ways. Business partners in the community will also be approached to contribute, for instance Supermarkets can serve as collection points for resources.

Provincial Education Departments have been instructed to manage and support the implementation of the programme at the identified schools in their provinces; evaluate and assess current reading and library resources in the identified schools; and recycle the obsolete and outdated materials, both printed and electronic.

Each Provincial Department of Education would provide print and digital reading materials in line with the guidelines provided. It should facilitate a partnership between the public libraries with the identified schools.

Provincial Departments of Education will roll out the campaign by developing targeted reading programmes and activities in line with the plans developed by the DBE and in cooperation with the partners in their provinces. The Drop All and Read Programme will be strengthened and implemented in those schools where it is not yet taking place. The Grade 4 storybook provided by Times Media and the DBE has to be used in reading activities.

In order to strengthen capacity in the provinces and districts and ensure that the necessary officials are in place to drive the programme and ensure its success, all existing funded vacant Library posts in Provincial Departments of Education must be filled.

 

Conclusion

I thank the PEU leadership heartily for giving us this opportunity to share with you our sector priorities.  We appreciate the spirit of comradeship, and cordial manner that you received us. On behalf of the Ministry and the Department, I wish you well in your deliberations. Ora et Labora!!!

 

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Written By: Administrator Account
Date Posted: 1/11/2016
Number of Views: 2087

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