MEC for Education: Mrs R Mhaule, MPL
Mnisi Traditional Authority: Hosi TM Mnisi
Executive Mayor: Cllr R E Khumalo
Vodacom Group Chief Officer: Corporate Affairs: Ms M Makanjee
Buffelshoek Trust Chairman: Dr R Khoza
Members of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen
Programme Director it is my singular honour and privilege to deliver a keynote address in this important function – the official handover of the Acorns to Oaks High School.
I really want to congratulate people of this area, when we announced the National Senior Certificate results in 2009; this was the worst performing District nationally at 28%. Some schools even recorded 0% passes. Together with the MEC we had to take action by investigating the root cause of the problems. We subsequently reported our findings to the Premier and called for concerted effort to pull the district out of its morass. Indeed your province responded with practical improvements plans and the results speak for themselves. I'm told that within five years since our intervention the pass rate in this District now stands at 76%. This is a great achievement worth celebrating.
Moreover, the District has since produced national top learners, prompting the Vice Chancellor of Wits to allocate bursaries to top learners from poor communities. There are two learners from Bushbuckridge who have since benefited from the Wits bursary scheme.
One of the most heartening things about our new South Africa is our people’s commitment to work towards quality education. By people, I mean ordinary men and women, big corporates, small businesses, non-profit sector, state-owned entities and international bodies amongst others – all are playing a crucial role in supporting this government in fulfilling its long standing vow to open doors of learning to all thus be in a position to provide state funded quality education.
Today’s event is made possible by a strong partnership of the community through Buffelshoek Trust, Telecommunications giant Vodacom, and the freely elected people’s government represented by the Mpumalanga Provincial Government (Department of Education). This partnership gives meaning to our contention that education is indeed a societal issue.
In the context of education the founding father of our democracy, the late President Nelson Mandela affectionately known as Madiba once declared quite correctly that: “A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue and a pen, then you have something very special”. It is therefore pleasing that today’s handover occurs the same year as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of Madiba’s release from 27 years of prison. Upon his release Madiba pledged to dedicate the remaining years of his life in the service of humanity. We are glad to confirm that he did exactly that without fail.
Today, we are called upon to emulate the example set by Madiba to work for the people without any expectation of glory or monetary reward. Madiba was truly a great son of the soil. We remain indebted to His abiding vision for a society where no person is exploited, oppressed or despised by another. Madiba’s life was dedicated to the building of a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa and a just world order.
Equally pleasing is that today’s handover coincides with the year when we celebrate the 60th anniversary of adoption of the Freedom Charter.
On education the Freedom Charter proclaims boldly that “The Doors of Learning and Culture shall be opened! The government shall discover, develop and encourage national talent for the enhancement of our cultural life; the aim of education shall be to teach the youth to love their people and their culture, to honour human brotherhood, liberty and peace; Education shall be free, compulsory, universal and equal for all children.”
It was only in 1996 that the new ANC-led government managed to successfully launch a single and integrated education system for the whole country.
It is within this context Programme Director that the President of the Republic His Excellency Jacob Zuma declared education an apex priority.
The universal free and compulsory quality education will be predicated on a sound curriculum and quality teachers. In the arena of curriculum, we have finally found a winning formula. We have transformed our curriculum, with the latest implementation of the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) to ensure that it is accessible to all our educators and learners.
Our curriculum has also been benchmarked against leading nations in the world and found to be comparable, confirming that our standards are comparable to the best in the world.
The year 2014 marked the completion of the implementation of CAPS throughout the education system. It was a year when the first cohort of Grade 12 learners wrote the CAPS-aligned final examinations for the National Senior Certificate. This now signals stability in the curriculum landscape.
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.
To further demonstrate our seriousness about basic education as an apex priority, South Africa spends about 5% of its GDP on basic education. This is showing significant results.
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
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. Yes, Programme Director, when I say all I also include the Western Cape.
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. Despite the government massive investment in education, there are still differences in the quality of education, the learners get. Many schools still lack basic amenities like electricity, water, libraries and laboratories.
We also have a negative legacy of too many children who graduate from primary school but never reach Matriculation level. Only about 50% of all the learners who join our education system reach matriculation after 12 years of learning.
As result we have put in motion a plan in conjunction with our schools to support learners who are struggling with their learning. The grand idea is not fail them simply because they are slow learners. We now know the repercussions of repeated failure – learners become demotivated and drop out of school.
In addressing this conundrum our policy says no child should be made to repeat a grade twice. It is therefore our responsibility to put extra resources to support condoned learners meaningfully. If we get this right then our learners would not be simply pushed from grade to grade without them extracting any beneficial learning outputs.
We are also facing a huge challenge of shortage of Science and Mathematics educators. This is compounded by the challenge of slow learner participation and success rates. We have since decreed that all schools throughout the country must offer some type of Mathematics. We simply cannot afford to have post-matric learners who are mathematically illiterate.
Through ANA we have identified areas for challenges throughout the different phases with the senior phase being your killer phase. If you recall, last year our Mathematics performance was under 20% and you will agree that this is a national disaster! We must agree that this is an embarrassment to us as a sector but a major challenge to take drastic steps because the situation is indeed desperate. Amongst others we have established a Maths office - they are rolling the 4x1, and the MEC and I received a report that Mpumalanga has indeed embraced the program and great work is taking place. This is indeed a desperate program to deal with a desperate situation.
ANA results amongst others revealed that we have to work with our teachers in both mathematical skills and language. It also revealed that schools don't complete the curriculum for different reasons including lack of respect for teaching time.
As I was driving here MEC, school children were carrying their bags clearly on their way home. It was about 10.30 when I entered Bush. Nothing short of a revolution in education will transform all our schools into centres of excellence. As we have learned from the Cuban revolutionary and the first President of a free Cuba, Comrade Fidel Castro, “A revolution is not a bed of roses.”
School Governing Bodies (SGBs)
We are currently conducting roadshows throughout the county to raise awareness about the upcoming School Governing Bodies (SGBs) elections. Our singular aim is not only to raise awareness about election but to emphasise the importance of SGBs in the overall basic sector education and of course in the delivery of state funded quality education. The actual elections are scheduled for 6-23 March 2015.
It cannot be that South African leaders and business people such as Dr Khoza, mobilizes the private sector to support education and ourselves are the ones who undermine this great responsibility of nurturing our national assets, our children.
As professionals it is actually embarrassing to be told what to do when we absolutely know what needs to be done in the interest of our children. The President always reminds us, “All teachers and learners should be in school, in class, on time, learning and teaching for at least seven hours each day.” Why should the President keep remind us this? If we don’t keep time and teach during teaching periods what example are we setting for our learners? We will be hamstrung in ensuring discipline if we are not setting a high bar in terms of being on task in time.
It is fool hardy to preach discipline while we bring our children up showing great disregard for the task, time and responsibility. South Africa can simply not afford such lethargy. It must never happen in this school or any other school throughout the country. These are just basics. Let us honour our profession and be great role-models to our children.
Accountability is everything
Dr Khoza on behalf of the Principal I want to commit that we will do whatever it takes to financially support this school so that your efforts are not undermined. I know deep down in my heart that this school will produce results. If there are any misdemeanours in this school - the community must hold us accountable. The community itself must treasure this school and must ensure that it functions optimally. Hosi ya Mina, we are your subjects, when you see children in the streets at 9.30 please take us to task. School hours are from 7.30 to 3.30 - Monday or Friday. To the community, in African idiom, we say your child is my child, Chinese are much clearer, they say it takes a village to raise a child and here the village had risen to the occasion and those close to the child, parents, teachers, local community should make it worthwhile.
We remain steadfast in our mission to deliver quality education in our lifetime. We will spare no effort in realising this historical mission.
Heartfelt Thanks for a Job Well Done
Dr Khoza I cannot thank you enough, I don't have enough words to express my most heartfelt gratitude. In our work in different parts of the country, we have witnessed the power of these partnerships because they go beyond buildings but also incorporating learners and communities. I'm also happy that as you explained, this partnership does exactly that, not only is it an infrastructure support program but a comprehensive educational support program. It was a great feat for us Dr Khoza during the announcement of NSC results in Gauteng, the province’s top learner came from an informal area, from a school also built by a partnership with a private company, Oracle. And, because of the support he received from teachers and parents and state-of-the-art infrastructure, the top learner amassed a whopping Seven A's with full marks in four of his subjects including Maths and Science. So even here in Oaks High School with your support, it can be done. It must be done. Our country expects no less. We dare not fail.
I thank you.