We don’t have that privilege, of turning on and off willy-nilly. Our mandate derives from the constitution, imposing on us the onerous duty at all times to respect, protect and promote children’s rights to education.
Thus in plain terms, our work extends all year round because it is tied to the national goal of rolling-back the tide of inequality, poverty and joblessness.
I have deemed it quite essential for us to touch base together to reflect on 2012, and set our minds on a brand new year, particularly at the end of such a dramatic and eventful year.
From the very first half of the year, you had to be moved, from pillar to post, to put down fires, and save education, in light of the spectre of non-delivery of textbooks for Grades 1-3 and 10, in Limpopo.
If you go by what is being said in the press, you would be pardoned indeed for thinking that hard times are upon us. For, what we heard this week, were shrilling screams of front pages about 13% maths average for Grade 9 ANA.
Colleagues, it is not my wish to speak for long. I want even more time to engage with you on the year gone by, and what needs to be done to cultivate with the early birds, for a better yield in the new year and for the rest of the 18 months of term.
When I started in 2009, we only had a strategic framework of what needs to be done to turn the education system around.
Then we agreed to do things differently. We were informed by current challenges and the broader mandate of government and the ruling party, which is to make education the apex priority, and treat it accordingly.
Our work since then goes to show the correctness of government’s carefully-considered decision to split the Department of Education into two, ourselves and Higher Ed. And I really thank you for the work you’ve done in this respect often under difficult circumstances and long hours.
With hard toil and dedication, together we gave South Africa what could probably be its very first comprehensive long-term strategy for education – the Action Plan to 2014: Towards the Realisation of Schooling 2025.
And here I must thank deeply our DG – I almost said Bobby – for the sterling work he did properly and meticulously to produce this Action Plan which now frames and guides all other strategies and interventions.
Branch heads and managers, as well as their teams, were very phenomenal and showed they were up to the challenge in this process that involved elaborate and intensive consultation. We have the plan, and we have the buy-in from provinces, and they are aligning their plans to the Plan.
Nonetheless, and in spite of prioritising education, in particular, working to improve the quality of basic education as dictated by Outcome 1 of government’s 12 priorities, our learning outcomes still point to the need to redirect our energies and resources.
As we had agreed to do things differently, to that we must live up in light of reports of studies, both local and international, on the performance of our learners.
Notwithstanding strategic interventions, the system seems unprepared for related demands and obligations. We remain inundated with public concerns around learner performance, issues of accountability, and service delivery. It is against this background that this Broad Management Meeting should help us say what are the things we have experienced that we are convinced do not work, and are therefore counter-productive.
It is against this background that all Managers should help us to say what does work and how best to maximise our gains accordingly to turn schooling around as per the Action Plan.
As I’ve said earlier, our successes are plenty. And all thanks to you and your teams!
For instance, and in spite of the current public discourse on education in South Africa, the administration of both the Annual National Assessments (ANA) proceeded exceptionally well.
We know that well in excess of 7 million learners, in more than 20 000 schools, sat for ANA. It has provided very useful information for identifying and tackling bottlenecks in the achievement of high-quality learning outcomes.
The role you played in these assessments, particularly Branch P, led by Mr Padayachee, is highly commendable.
But, going forward, it is very prudent and strategic for all in the system to analyse critically and respond promptly to ANA 2012.