Programme Director, Dr Whittle
SADC Secretariat Acting Director, Ms Lomthandazo Mavimbela
Assistant Regional Director from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Mr Christian Engler
Board Chair of MIET Africa, Prof John Volmink
Chief Executive Officer of MIET Africa, Ms Lynn van der Elst
Dignitaries from the UN Family
Delegates from all SADC Member States
Speakers and Panel Members
Ladies and Gentlemen
Good Morning; Dumelang; Sanibonani; Bonjour; Bom dia
It is my great honour and privilege to welcome you today to the official meeting of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) CSTL Steering Committee and Sharing Meetings. It is also with great pleasure that I welcome among us representatives of the SADC Member States.
On behalf of the Republic of South Africa, I take this opportunity to welcome you. We are grateful to play gracious host to our peers.
Let me extend our sincerest gratitude to the SADC Secretariat for inviting me to deliver this keynote address. Indeed, it is a joyous moment to see so many familiar faces that I have worked with over many years with the common purpose of improving the quality of basic education in our respective countries.
Since the inception of the CSTL Programme, it has been the vision of the SADC Secretariat that the provision of care and support across the region be harmonised and mainstreamed. It is against this background that the SADC Secretariat facilitates knowledge management sessions of the CSTL Programme, wherein sharing meetings and exchange visits are undertaken by Member States. The thrust of these engagements is to harmonise the implementation of care and support initiatives so that every vulnerable learner within the SADC Region receives a similar package of care and support.
As a region, we are separated by borders, but we are faced with similar challenges such as lack of universal access to quality basic education, inequality, unemployment, poverty, uneven economic growth and the burden of diseases, including HIV&AIDS. This gathering is timely as it offers an ideal opportunity for all to share best practice in the area of care and support and to learn lessons from other SADC Member States.
The CSTL Programme is a SADC-initiated programme that is intended to contribute to educational outcomes (access, retention and performance) through facilitating the provision of context-specific responses to barriers to learning. Through the programme, we seek to provide a basket of support services to remove the barriers to learning. Our children face many challenges, such as poverty, violence, homelessness, drugs / substance use and health challenges, including unhealthy diets, mental illnesses and HIV&AIDS. These conditions have a direct impact on their ability to access school, to stay in school and to achieve to their full potential. We continue to sensitise teachers to the early identification of barriers, what to look for, how best to support learners and how to build care and support networks in every school for referral purposes, where necessary.
Programme Director, I am not sure whether the choice of the venue for this meeting was deliberate or by chance, but this hotel and the airport, within which it is situated, is named after one of South Africa’s foremost struggle stalwart, Comrade Oliver Reginald Tambo, fondly known as OR. Coincidentally, 2017 has been declared as the year of OR Tambo in South Africa. Throughout this year, South Africans have been hosting centenary celebrations to honour the life and times of this stalwart.
When we speak of the life, work and thought of Comrade Oliver Tambo, we cannot but speak of the unwavering desire of the South African people to be free, and of the determined struggle to end oppression and exploitation in all its manifestations.
There are few individuals in our history who embody this desire more than Comrade Oliver Reginald Tambo, whose singular contribution to the cause of freedom will be felt for generations to come. Comrade Oliver Tambo was not only the president of the African National Congress (ANC) during the worst excesses and most extreme repression of the apartheid regime, he was also the leader of a global movement to eradicate a system that was rightly determined to be a crime against humanity.
Comrade Oliver Tambo was an internationalist. He understood that the freedom of his people could not be divorced from the freedom of all people everywhere. He sought to build strong bonds of solidarity with other nations, not only so that South Africa could be free, but so that together we could build a better world.
Comrade Oliver Reginald Kaizana Tambo (OR) was born on 27 October 1917 in the village of Kantolo, Bizana, in the Mpondoland (eQawukeni) region of the Eastern Cape. He passed away on 24 April 1993. If he were still alive, he would have celebrated his 100th birthday this year, hence the centenary celebration in his honour.
As South Africa is celebrating the life of OR, and maybe this is also relevant to this gathering, we need to go beyond merely celebrating his life, but introspect on the values, ethics and teachings that he left us with. One of those teachings is the importance for the country to invest in the future of its children, as illustrated by this quote:
“The children of any nation are its future. A country, a movement, a person that does not value its youth and children does not deserve its future.”
This meeting is also taking place at a critical time as the world is observing the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children, under the International theme: Leave No One Behind: End Violence against Women and Girls. We know from evidence that children and women are the most vulnerable groups to violence and various forms of abuse. In particular, within SADC women and girls bear the brunt of the HIV pandemic, with their infection rates being between 1.8 and 5.5 times higher than those for males of similar age. In addition, the region is characterised by the phenomenon of child marriages and the scourge of teenage pregnancies.
Yet we know that there are benefits in educating the girl child. Education empowers women and girls. The economic and personal empowerment that education provides allows women and girls to make healthier choices for themselves and their families. The United Nations Population Fund says that the benefits of education for girls include a reduction in poverty and an improvement of the health of women and their children, as well as the potential to reduce the impact of HIV&AIDS (UNFPA, 2010).
The CSTL Programme and the ESA Commitment are some of the strategies that can enable our concerted efforts within the SADC region to ensure that vulnerable children and youth are protected, so that ultimately, we can ensure that the future of the nation that OR referred to is guaranteed.
Programme Director, in South Africa the issue of care and support has been declared a priority. As the Basic Education Department, we have initiated a plethora of pro-poor policies, such as the National School Nutrition Programme, National School Hygiene Programme, National School Deworming Programme, No fee schools or fee exemptions, and scholar transport. At the same time, through the support of development partners and other NGOs, we are able to provide learners with practical needs for school, such as uniforms, shoes and sanitary pads.
In addition, through the Conditional Grant of the HIV and AIDS Life Skills Education Programme, the Department has mainstreamed the implementation of care and support. Through this grant, the programme is progressively increasing the employment of Learner Support Agents (LSAs) in schools. This initiative, we believe, ensures that the provision of care and support can be continued and sustained. Through the placement of LSAs in schools, as a sector we are also contributing to the lessening of youth unemployment—especially that of young women—in our country.
The programme has enabled the Department to forge partnerships with sister state departments (Social Development and Health) and NGOs and development partners at national and provincial levels, through the hosting of integrated service delivery days. To date, provinces have reached 65 029 learners through the provision of services. These included access to social grants and applications for identification documents and birth certificates.
We have also spent effort in establishing and strengthening structures, from the national to school levels, that are leading the implementation of the CSTL Programmes. These structures have been strengthened and continually skilled to be able to assist vulnerable learners.
There can be no teaching without our teachers. Our teachers are central to the education endeavour. The welfare of teachers is central to our work and achieving quality basic education. It is against this backdrop that the CSTL Programme also targets teachers. In addition, a steering committee has also been established to review material of the Prevention, Care, Treatment and Access training for educators as response to the findings of the Health of Our Educators Survey of 2017. This work is collaboration between the Department, the teachers’ unions and sister state departments under the guidance and support of the Department of Public Service and Administration. This initiative will be leverage the existing Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) in provinces.
As the Department and the country, we look forward to engaging and participating in the Technical Committee that will be established. We commit that we will fully participate and contribute in this forum.
We have also committed to strengthening activities that are linked to mainstreaming of the CSTL programme at school level through:
- Progressively increasing the number of LSAs in schools.
- Strengthening the implementation of integrated service delivery days so that they are comprehensive and incorporate the provision of comprehensive education and rights and services.
- Working together with SADC Secretariat to align the CSTL Programme and the ESA commitment.
As I conclude, I wish to:
- Acknowledge the long standing financial assistance of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation for the implementation of the CSTL Programme
- Acknowledge the financial assistance of the various UN agencies is supporting our continuous endeavours of caring for our vulnerable children, retaining our children in schools until they complete their studies including the implementation of ESA commitment.
- Thank the SADC Secretariat for the continued guidance and support, and for holding us accountable for the future of the children that is entrusted to us in the region.
- Acknowledge the technical support from MIET Africa, our longstanding SADC partner in the implementation of the CSTL Programme.
I thank you for your attention and wish you success in your deliberations over the next three days. May these meetings achieve their goals of sharing knowledge, skills and innovative approaches to the CSTL Programme! Our primary task is to continue to build a bright future for our children in the SADC region.