Chairman of Shanduka Group, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa
MECs for Education, Health and Agriculture
Principal, staff and learners of Mbonisweni Primary
Parents and members of the School Governing Body
Ladies and gentlemen,
Indeed we’re elated to join forces with the people of Tongaat on this special occasion, the official handing-over of the Grade R unit to Mbonisweni Primary and the community. Success depends entirely on our unity in action that’s symbolised by both this occasion and the partnership that gave us this fundamental unit.
Today says clearly that education is a societal issue and that working together we can do more to lay a solid educational foundation requisite for building a prosperous, united, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist society.
It is in times like these that the spotlight falls on the vital role that the private sector can and should play in driving, with government, sustainable development for all our people, particularly for the vulnerable and the children.
Against this backdrop, I thank Mr Ramaphosa for prioritising education, the bedrock of development. The Grade R unit we are handing-over to Mbonisweni will really contribute to all efforts geared to lay a solid foundation for learning.
We know how important the foundation is to a house. If the foundation is not good enough cracks will show in the walls, the doors will not close properly and the roof might cave in.
This is the same with education. If the foundation in Grade R is not solid, the benefits for learning later on will be negatively affected. We need to ensure that the foundation is solid so that we can build a nation of children who can read, write and count.
Our goal is clear. It is to ensure all children have access to a quality Grade R programme. We’ve done very well as a democratic state to broaden access to Grade R, post-1994.
In 2012, the total funding for Grade R was over R3 billion.
KwaZulu-Natal is one of the provinces that have achieved near universal access. It has the highest number of learners in Grade R in the country than any province, at 189 169 learners.
In 1999, South Africa had only 156 292 learners in Grade R. By 2012, the number had increased to 767 865. There are more than 22 000 Grade R classes in our schools.
As you know, early intervention and stimulation of young children maximise their potential. The early years are critical for the acquisition of skills and concepts laying the foundation for lifelong learning. These include acquisition of language, perception and motor skills required for learning to read and write. It’s our collective responsibility to invest in ECD.
My Department’s approach to ECD is based on clear policies and legislative framework, including the constitutional mandate to promote rights to primary education. We’re guided among others by the National Education Policy Act of 1996 and the South African Schools Act of 1996 that promotes access, quality and democratic governance in the schooling system.
We welcome the South African Human Rights Commission’s Charter of Children’s Basic Education Rights which also captures the essence of early childhood education.
The 2001 Education White Paper 5 on Early Childhood Development provides for full participation of 5 year olds in a reception grade and for improvements in the quality of programmes, curriculum and teacher development.
In respect of Early Childhood Development, the National Development Plan underlines the need for access for all children to at least 2 years of pre-school education.
The Grade R programme is one of our critical interventions for improving people’s lives. Through this programme we aim to ensure that children are well-prepared for formal schooling.
Broadening our ECD programme supports the national drive towards job-creation and skills-development particularly for women. There was an increase from just over 20 000 Grade R teachers in 2009 to around 22 000 Grade R teachers in 2011.
A major task is to improve quality. This Grade R unit advances this goal of delivering a quality service to the young.
We are aware more needs to be done to sustain the increased access and to improve quality of the educational experience for children.
We recognise the challenges of teacher training, working conditions and supply of skilled practitioners.
We have developed a plan to address deficiencies in the system and to support all initiatives geared to promote quality Grade R programmes.
We accept the task of ensuring that Grade R teachers are paid well and know what they are supposed to do.
Working with provinces and districts, we will ensure that teachers teach children every day, that learners have and use textbooks and workbooks, that the curriculum is covered, that learners have transport and lunch and that they are screened and supported where they need additional support.
Together with education partners and stakeholders, including parents and guardians, we must ensure that all children come to school regularly. If we work together we can do more to make a difference in the lives of children, here and elsewhere.
As government departments, we will continue working together to provide integrated service delivery.
If it were not for the involvement of the private and non-governmental sectors, we would not be where we are today. This really confirms that education is a societal issue.
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to share with you the wisdom of Prof James Heckman, economist and Nobel laureate:
“Invest educational and development resources for disadvantaged families to provide equal access to successful early human development; Nurture early development of cognitive and social skills in children from birth to age five and sustain early development with effective education through to adulthood.
The result will then be a more capable, productive and valuable workforce that pays dividends for generations to come.”
From these lessons and volumes of research findings, we will continue to treat Grade R as one of our key priorities.
In sum, our key priorities and areas of focus until the end of this government’s term include:
- Allocating more resources for ECD and Grades R to 9
- Improving the qualifications of Grade R teachers
- Ensuring every child has a book, from 2014
- Rolling back school infrastructure backlogs
- Monitoring compliance on 3Ts – teachers, text and time
- Improving monitoring and accountability
- Improving inclusive education
- Promoting learner health and wellness, and
- Fostering partnerships in education.
Once more, ‘thank you’ Mr Ramaphosa for investing in this very important project. This will go a long way in creating a better life for all our people who’ve tasted centuries of poverty, inequality and joblessness. To the community of Mbonisweni Primary, I want to say: This is your facility. Guard it with dear life.
I thank you.