Deputy Minister: Mr. Envy Surty
Director-General, Mr. Mathanzima Mweli
The Tambo family and the OR Tambo Foundation
Heads of Provincial Education Departments and senior officials
Teachers form all provinces
Members of the TASP Task Committee
All Education Stakeholders’ Representatives
The NECT; ELRC and the ETDP Seta
Ladies and Gentlemen
We have gathered here today as part of the celebration of the historic Centenary of the ANC stalwart, and an internationalist Comrade Oliver Reginald Tambo, affectionately known as O.R. The Centenary celebration of Comrade O.R. Tambo gives us the opportunity as a nation to reflect on the contributions, to the national cause, made by this true son of the soil: a patriot who served the people of South Africa and world with distinction. It is an opportunity to pay tribute to, and sustain the memory of the finest and greatest son of Africa.
Fittingly, Comrade O.R. is regarded as one of the greatest liberators of the 20th century alongside Struggle stalwarts such as Nelson Mandela, Charlotte Maxeke, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Steve Biko, Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, Chief Albert Luthuli and many others.
Programme Director, it‘s no historical coincidence that we celebrate the World Teachers Day while invoking the spirit of the late Comrade O.R. Tambo. For Comrade O.R. was also a teacher, a mathematician, a lawyer, a diplomat, and a leader. Amongst many crimes against humanity orchestrated by the Pretoria regime, the most vile and unforgivable one was that it denied the young Tambo his fervent wish to be ordained minister of the church. Despite this hiatus Comrade Tambo emptied himself for the benefit of humanity as a leader of the ANC for some 30 years. Through both his words and deeds, he became, ‘the crystallisation and personification of what the ANC is’ [and became under his stewardship.]
Programme Director, on behalf of the people of South Africa, it is my pleasure to say we dedicate this year’s World Teachers Day in his honour. Comrade O.R as you may well know was the longest serving President of the African National Congress (ANC). However, we dedicate this year’s World Teachers Day to him not because of his exceptional leadership qualities during the darkest years of the anti-apartheid struggle but because he was an outstanding learner, student and a teacher. As you may recall Comrade O.R graduated with a B.Sc. degree in Mathematics and Physics from the Fort Hare University. He then enrolled for a diploma in higher education although he could not complete it after he was expelled for his political activism. Despite this predicament O.R. went to his alma mater, St Peter's, where he taught Physics and Mathematics for five long years. Later on O.R. completed his post-graduate degree in Law and went to open the first black-owned legal practice in Johannesburg with his friend and fellow comrade one Nelson R. Mandela, our founding father of the new South Africa.
Programme Director; President O.R. Tambo was indeed, for the better part of his adult life, an embodiment of all that was good and noble about teaching and leadership. He was for the lack of the better word - the pride, body and soul of the oppressed. He was the chief custodian of the principles of fundamental social change. He was a repository of the best values and principles upon which our movement was founded and sustained. He truly represented the hopes, dreams and aspirations of the masses of our people. I take this opportunity to pay homage to the Tambo family for having lent us their finest son. To Comrade O.R. and his generation of freedom fighters we owe them a lifetime gratitude for their selfless pursuit of the ideals for a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa of which we enjoy today.
Programme Director, the Teacher Appreciation and Support Programme (TASP) which is part of the National Teaching Awards (NTA) decided to honour Comrade O.R. Tambo and declared the year 2017 as the year of promoting leadership in education and declared their theme as “Teachers as leaders for inclusion.”
Comrade O.R. Tambo was a fountain of wisdom as his expertise spans a significant number of different academic disciplines; such a person is known to draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems. In the education space, OR Tambo was Mathematics and Physical Science teacher, loved choral music, and embodied the ideas of hard-work, honesty and selflessness. He is also remembered for his principles of hope, love, and aspiration. He had very diverse interests that were by no means contradictory with his core principles. Nonetheless, no chapter will ever be written without the reference to OR Tambo’s earlier role in his life a humble teacher. To demonstrate the extent of Comrade O.R. wisdom, former President Thabo Mbeki summed it up succinctly in 2012 when he said:
“Tambo was an intellectual in the best meaning of the word. He was a person of reason, a person of rational thought and rational action. It’s a great ability, a great gift, that gift of reason it was central to Tambo’s make-up and central to his behavior. With Tambo, you had a person who could deal with both the concrete and the abstract, the specific... between tactics and strategy - that dialectical interaction, Tambo understood very well.”
As we celebrate the World Teachers Day today, we look to the teaching profession to do all that is necessary to emulate the values of Comrade OR. : Honesty, thrift, selflessness and hard work.
Teaching is considered to be more than just a profession: teaching is calling. We regard teachers as the strongest pillar of the society. Teachers play an extraordinary part in the lives of children for the formative years of their development and the importance of teachers is something that cannot be understated. Teachers are an extremely important facet of any society for a number of reasons and their role in society is both significant and valuable.
- Teachers are the people who educate the youth of society who in turn become the leaders of the next generation of people.
- Teachers are the people who are teaching children and imparting knowledge upon them in their most impressionable years.
- What children learn from their teachers at a young age will most likely stay with them in some facet for the rest of their lives.
Therefore, our democratically elected government is committed to restoring teaching profession to its former glory through school-based management programmes. The South African government has also initiated programmes of curriculum reform, and a general drive to improve the culture of teaching and learning in schools. The restoration of the culture of teaching and learning is currently one of the most important endeavors aimed at improving the quality of education in South African schools. All school principals and school management teams are therefore solely encouraged to emulate the values of Comrade O.R. Tambo I spoke about earlier.
It is only through strong value laden leadership of our public schooling system that we can truly say our education system is geared for the demands of the 21st century.
We must celebrate excellence in leadership as a means of recognising the positive contribution that outstanding leaders make in our society. We have the duty to preserve our heritage so that future generations understand the significance of the sacrifices that were made for us to be where we are today. It is imperative that we fight drug and alcohol abuse vigilantly in order to have a productive generation. Learners who use alcohol and other drugs often have family and social problems, poor academic performance, health-related problems (including mental health), and involvement with the juvenile justice system.
We must celebrate excellence in leadership as a means of recognising the positive contribution that outstanding leaders make in our society. This also helps us to preserve our stories for posterity. We have the duty to preserve our heritage so that future generations understand the significance of the sacrifices that were made for us to be where we are today.
The Department of Basic Education believes in the adage that says the quality of a school cannot exceed the quality of its teachers. In this regard, we are doubling our efforts in the area of teacher professionalism, continued learning programmes including leadership and school based management. As a token of appreciation, a few years back we launched the Teacher Appreciation and Support Programme (TASP) whose theme is “Teachers: Heartbeat of the Nation.”
Without a transformed teaching force, our current education system will never be ready for the 4th Industrial Revolution. Research has concluded that the capacity of countries – both the world’s most advanced economies as well those experiencing rapid development – to compete in the global knowledge economy increasingly depends on whether they can meet a fast-growing demand for high-level skills. This, in turn, hinges on significant improvements in the quality of schooling outcomes and a more equitable distribution in learning opportunities.
In conclusion, I would like to congratulate all the DBE officials who have worked tirelessly to ensure that we commemorate the World Teachers’ Day. We acknowledge the tremendous efforts of all our Provincial Education Departments who are at the coalface of the basic education delivery. We also thank our many partners both here at home and abroad for their generosity and support.
On this note, it is with great pleasure that I wish you a wonderful ‘World Teachers’ Day’ and teachers are indeed the: “Heartbeat of the Nation”.
I thank you.