Your Royal Highness, Chief Jongusapho Bokleni
Minister of Mineral Resources, Ms Susan Shabangu
Exec. Vice-President of AngloGold Ashanti, Mr Mike O’Hare
MEC for Education, Mr Mandla Makhuphula
Exec. Mayor of OR Tambo, Cllr Dingaan Myolwa
District Director, Dr Nuku
Leadership and community of Libode
Educators, parents, learners and officials
Thank you for inviting me to this important gathering. This successful partnership that’s aimed at bringing quality schools to historically disadvantaged children in rural parts of our country has given us a new hope for Sonata Junior Primary.
Accordingly, on behalf of the Department of Basic Education, the Sonata school community and our people, I’m pleased to accept the new Sonata Junior Primary School.
In the same breath, we thank AngloGold Ashanti for the commitment to uplift the standard of education, particularly in rural areas that have seen decades of exclusion and unequal treatment, worse than urban areas of our country.
We are here largely because of your conscious decision, born out of corporate social responsibility, that drove you to adopt Sonata Junior Primary as part of AngloGold Ashanti’s Social and Labour Plan School building project.
Most importantly, as government, we welcome your responsiveness, as shown in the manner you heeded the cry for help coming from the Sonata School Governing Body.
I can now say with pride that your School Governing Body represents the type of a school governance structure our country needs to change qualitatively the face of our schools.
Your decision, in 2012, to ask AngloGold Ashanti to build four classrooms has really ensured that the children of Sonata are redeemed from heavy rains and storms with only a leaking roof as protection. We thank you for your work and challenge other SGB members to do the same for their schools.
As we accept officially the school, we also acknowledge, with thanks, the pivotal role of our people in the Eastern Cape Provincial Education Department in this partnership.
This is an ideal partnership we encourage and support precisely because it advances the aims of the Nedlac Accord on Basic Education that we have signed with various partners including business, labour, community representatives and the democratic government.
The Accord did commit all sectors to build partnerships with schools with the aim of improving basic education quality.
It is in this spirit that we welcome AngloGold Ashanti’s investment of R2.2 million to convert Sonata Junior Primary from a dilapidated mud structure, set up in 1994, into a quality school with six new classrooms, an administration block, 12 toilets where there was none and a soup kitchen.
One of the major challenges of education in South Africa is school infrastructure.
This entails tackling inherited backlogs, upgrading and maintaining existing schools while providing new schools as informed by conditions on the ground.
Most importantly, we have committed to the eradication of mud schools by the end of 2014/15.
This investment on the part of AngloGold Ashanti has advanced government’s drive to eradicate mud schools and inappropriate and unsafe structures.
The new classrooms, administration block and toilets will improve the quality of life and education of the children and teachers. It will contribute to their constitutional right to dignity. Education is our apex priority.
Apart from improving the economic and health prospects of citizens, a sound basic education is vital for building an informed citizenry requisite for creating a truly democratic society, founded on the principles of the Constitution.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As I have said, our Department has committed to improving the quality of basic education through, among other things, the delivery of adequate infrastructure to all public schools.
This has been a mammoth task for government since 1994 as there has been vast disparities arising from the past system. Cognizant of this reality, we have doubled our efforts to close the gap in resource provision. These efforts were buttressed by the government’s readiness to substantially increase resource allocations for school infrastructure and basic services.
It is in this context that the Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) was conceived, to supplement provincial school infrastructure programmes. Through ASIDI we aim to bring all schools to the level of optimum learning and teaching.
ASIDI should help us to eradicate basic safety backlogs in schools without water, sanitation and electricity and to replace all schools constructed from inappropriate material.
This Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative, that is a part of the National School Built programme, has already delivered another 13 schools in the Eastern Cape alone. This afternoon, we will hand-over the new Welise Primary School.
We have pledged to deliver 49 schools to the region by the end of March. We currently stand at 17. The outstanding schools are at 85% completion on average. Current challenges include the liquidation of one of the contractors who was building 12 schools and the termination of another contract.
The Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative has targets already for the new financial year and we will continue working towards their achievement. We will build an additional 200 schools, provide water and sanitation to 873.448 schools, and electricity to 369 schools.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We need increased investment in school infrastructure. But government cannot do it alone. We need the private sector and other role-players.
Public-private partnerships are vital in this respect.
My appeal to the community is to ensure these facilities are kept in good condition and that every attempt is made to protect this investment even for future generations.
My appeal to educators, parents and learners is that new facilities are not all that is needed for quality teaching and learning. Quality education calls for dedication, commitment and, most importantly, accountability.
Allow me once again to thank AngloGold Ashanti for a gesture so noble. This partnership does reflect the nature of support we envisage from the business community and I hope therefore that many more companies will follow suit.
We welcome also the fact that project Sonata served to advance the national goal of creating jobs.
We appreciate that during construction 25 job opportunities were created for the local community.
Over and above Sonata, AngloGold Ashanti has done much for rural schools in South Africa, including Manguzi Primary School which received R1.4 million for classroom upgrade, toilets and a kitchen.
Ladies and gentlemen, the list is long.
But I have to mention that in 2011 AngloGold Ashanti pledged R1.5 million for rebuilding a school once attended by the legendary OR Tambo, that is, Ludeke Primary School.
We welcome and wish you luck in all other endeavours geared to rollback South Africa’s school infrastructure backlogs and by so doing helping to improve quality of teaching and learning.
Lastly, ladies and gentlemen, indeed we are honoured to be blessed with this gift of a new beginning for Sonata only a few days after Easter.
I will be the happiest to return to this school later in the year to find it in the same condition, still golden like sparkles from the wheel, and still serving our children and the community.
As the first President of democratic South Africa, Dr Nelson Mandela, said:
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
I thank you.