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Address delivered by the Minister of Basic Education Mrs Angie Motshekga, MP, at the Education Excellence Awards held at Maslow Time Square Hotel, PTA, 06 April 2018

Programme Director

Deputy Minister



Heads of Provincial Education Departments

Senior officials from both the DBE and Provincial Education Departments

District Directors, our guests of honour

Leaders of teacher unions and national SGB associations

School Principals

Sponsors and Partners

Distinguished Guests


Programme Director, we meet today amid tears and celebrations across the country and the world.  It is tears for the fallen giant; yet, it is also a celebration for a life well lived in the service of humanity.

On Easter Monday, we were shocked to the marrow at the announcement that the stalwart, the fearless and feisty freedom fighter, the liberator and leader – umam’ uNomzamo Winnie Madikizela Mandela has passed on.  This announcement came at the time when we, as Christians, were resting in the comfort of our homes on Easter Monday, after a hectic journey of our spiritual renewal, revival and reinvigoration.  The trumpet sounded on umam’ uNomzamo, calling her to high places, where she will be reunited with the others of her ilk in the eternal world above.

Umam’ uWinnie was indeed a great giant of the struggle, who strode fearlessly across the length and breadth of the countryside and urban slums like a colossus, has fallen.  A mouth that uttered sharp words that frightened the enemy, has been silenced for good.  The ears that listened intently to millions who sought her wise counsel, can hear no more.  A mind whose thoughts gave hope to the hopeless, has ceased to function.  A humble heart in the body of a giant, whose dreams gave hope to the poor and the oppressed, has forever lost its beat.  A clenched fist, immortalised by umam’ uNomzamo, can no longer inspire the spirit of resistance.  All is lost, but nothing is really lost.

As long as we live – mama uNomzamo – you will be live in our hearts.  You – like no other in her generation, was robbed of many things you treasured the most.  You were robbed of your profession, as a medical social worker at the Baragwanath Hospital in Johannesburg, making you the first qualified, black member of staff to fill that post.  However, due to the relentless harassment and banishment orders, you were forced to quit.

You were robbed of your husband, as a young bride; when uTata uNelson Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment.  You were robbed of motherhood, as a young mother; because the enemy wanted to break her spirit.  A daughter of the soil and a true servant of the poor and marginalised, has completed her mortal journey.  All the tricks and barbaric acts of the desperate apartheid regime, failed to break your spirit mam’ uNomzamo.  Instead, you rose like a phoenix to lead your people to the Promised Land.  We salute you Qhawe Lamaqhawe.  Ukufa kukufikele, ushiye umzila wentembeko.  Lala Ngoxolo!!!

Programme Director, umam’ uNomzamo was one of us.  She needed no invitation to speak the truth to power.  At no point did she find it necessary to whisper to the enemy.  As a result, she refused to be silenced, and never betrayed her people.  For the better part of her life, she was part of us.  The oppressed throughout the length and breadth of country, were joined at the hip with this gallant champion of the poor and downtrodden.  In the darkest days of the vicious apartheid regime, umam’ uNomzamo stood up in defiance, and became a guiding light for the millions of our people.

Programme Director, we shall remember umam’ uWinnie for her militancy, courage and defiance that kept the struggle against apartheid alive.  She riled against unjust apartheid laws.  She defied the patriarchal role assigned to women.  She understood that women emancipation, requires vigilance and fortitude – thus men were and remain central to it.

But, what humbles me the most about umam’ uNomzamo life, is that no one could pigeon-hole her as a feminist of the mould of the 20th century.  She understood that women’s rights, are in fact human rights.  I am certain that umam’ uWinnie has inspired not only her own generation, but generations now and in the future.

I think with time, like other iconic figures, her dream of a truly non-racial, non-sexist and equal society, would triumph over pockets of patriarchy, male chauvinism, racism and inequality that beset our Republic.

To mam’ uWinnie, we will solider on, sparing neither strength nor courage, on the march towards the total emancipation of women, and eradication of poverty.  Mama Winnie – your legacy lives on.  We will never fail your people.  Rest in Power Qhawekazi!!!

Programme Director, I feel honoured and privileged to host our 5th Annual Education Excellence Awards.  At the outset, I would like to extend special gratitude to all District Directors, who work tirelessly in ensuring that the march towards excellence in public schooling is never derailed.  Districts are a vital cog in the basic education management architecture.  The districts are a lynchpin upon which our system depends.  Our system of basic education can only succeed, if the pulse that connects all the dots from across all the corners of our schooling system remains intact at all times.

Through these particular Awards – the National Education Excellence Awards – we shine the lens on excellence in individual districts and schools.  Through all these Awards we seek to demonstrate our commitment to creating an environment, where excellence is valued by all.  In 2018 – the year, in which we are celebrating and commemorating the life and leadership of the father of our democratic Republic, President Nelson Rholihlahla Mandela, we have decided to broaden the lens, and include excellence in schools.  If districts hold the system together – schools are where it all happens, where the rubber hits the road as it were.

Ralph Marston once said, “Excellence is not a skill, it’s an attitude”.  We will never tire in inculcating this attitude in all members of the education family – be they in offices or in our schools.  Our children and our country deserve the unrelenting pursuit of excellence in all our education endeavours.

Programme Director, all districts and schools nominated for the 2018 Education Excellence Awards, can indeed pat themselves on the backs for this achievement.  To the ultimate winners, we say you’re genuine ambassadors of what we seek to build: A high performing public schooling system.  Congratulations and well done!

As I have said earlier, the Annual Education Excellence Awards celebrate the exploits of Districts and Schools.  Through these awards, we recognise, acknowledge and salute the contribution of education districts towards our march to the excellence in public schooling that is becoming evident, as shown by the recent rounds of international and intercontinental benchmark assessment tests.

These Awards are also aimed at complementing the Annual National Teaching Awards, but focus on celebrating district excellence in areas focused on improving the quality of learning outcomes.  The 2018 Annual Education Excellence Awards bring together different Awards in the system.  Our aim is to acknowledge excellence primarily at a district level, which as we know, has a domino effect at the school level.

The work of districts and schools is also of singular importance, because it is not about the work of an individual, but it is about the work of a collective, a team.  These Awards therefore, celebrate excellence in team work – a whole school and a whole district – and not the individuals that happen to be at the helm, important though as they may be.  I came across a quote by Joe Paterno recently, which I absolutely love.  He says “When a team outgrows individual performance, and learns team confidence – excellence becomes a reality”.  Today therefore, we are here to celebrate the work of teams.

Over the years, I have also introduced new categories each year, in a deliberate effort to broaden the focus of the system to cover a range of areas.  The original focus of these Awards, was on the quality of the NSC results.  This year we have added three new categories, namely –

  • District Excellence in Support for Improving Primary School Learning Outcomes;
  • Most Improved Full-Service Schools – a very necessary focus, if we are to truly give effect to our policy on Inclusive Education; and
  • Excellence in District Management and Leadership.

    I have also added a special Ministerial Award – one that I will announce as I present the Awards.  All I am willing to say for now, is that this is an Award that continues to celebrate the value of team work.  After all, the liberation movement I belong to, once boldly said: “Together We Can Do More!”

Programme Director; daily, we live guided by the words of our founding father uTata Nelson Mandela who said: "…the best gift you can give children is an education."  Without education, our children can never really meet the challenges they will face in the real world.  It is therefore very important to us, that our children should continue to receive the education that they deserve, so that they can be equipped to play their role in our country’s quest for accelerated economic development and emancipation.  Education is an important lever for breaking the cycle of poverty and inequality.  Today, through both words and deeds, the districts and schools we are celebrating, are key contributors in this amazing journey.

It is almost therapeutic to host events of this nature – events that bring positivity into one’s life.  As the Ministry of Basic Education, we hold high achievers in high regard.  You, both districts and schools, make our work worthwhile.  You are a living proof of the wise words of Ralph Marston: “Excellence…is not an act, but a habit.”  What you do at district and school level, is what matters the most.  The nation put the future of our learners in your hands, and you delivered.  We applaud you for the great work you continue to do on a daily basis.

I also wish to thank all provinces, especially Gauteng, Free State, Mpumalanga, and KwaZulu-Natal for the ‘package of support and intervention’ they gave to progressed learners.  If these provinces did not do this, some of our young people could have fallen through the cracks of the system.  We encourage the other provinces to take a leaf from these four provinces.

In 2018, 66 of the 70 districts, attained pass rates of 60% and above; and 31 of the 70 districts (44.3%), attained pass rates of 80% and above.  Regrettably, four of the 70 districts – two each in Limpopo and the Eastern Cape, achieved pass rates lower than 60%.  For the first time, no district has performed below 50%.  Congratulations to the Eastern Cape for their rigorous interventions, which pulled all their districts out of the dreadful 50% threshold; and reduced the number of districts which performed below 60% to two districts only.  These results, indicate that provinces are putting the shoulder to the wheel, to ensure quality and equitable teaching and learning outcomes across the system.

Unfortunately, during the 2018 NSC examinations, none of our provinces reached the 90% pass mark.  We must however, applaud the four provinces that retained their 80% plus pass status.

In working towards effective districts, we have focused on establishing a clear policy environment for the work of all districts.  We have conceptualised and launched the District Norms and Standards to ensure excellence throughout the country.  Today, all our districts are manned by the right people, with the requisite knowledge, skills, capabilities and competencies to do their work.  Across all provinces, there has been acknowledgement of the role of district officials as strategically located managers and leaders in the system.

There is greater focus on utilising data for management, intervention and support.  There is a greater sense of ‘personal’ agency in both districts and circuits – owning the performance of the schools within their individual districts and circuits.

Today, we have honoured those districts that have shown consistent improvement or maintained excellent performance across all levels of the system, since the first Awards ceremony on 3rd April 2014 held here in Pretoria.  Congratulations again.

We further acknowledge the role played by different principals in maintaining an environment conducive to learning and teaching.  Principals are our last line of defence.  Daily, they are at the coalface of education delivery.

Programme Director, I also wish to take this opportunity to thank the Oversight Committees of Parliament (the Portfolio and Select Committees), for their stewardship, leadership and continued support and guidance.  We further convey our sincere gratitude to all MECs, Heads of Provincial Education Departments, teachers, parents and learners for keeping the system chugging along towards the desired levels of excellence.

In conclusion, I would like to express my most sincere gratitude to the sponsors and partners, who have walked the road with us, since we launched the Awards.  Our Development partners –

  • USAID, the British Council, and the Embassies of China, Finland and France, have been critical partners to make sure that, through these Awards, we afford our district and school managers an opportunity to go outside the borders of South Africa, to learn from best practices;
  • the ETDP SETA, has ensured that if the lessons come through training or attendance at a conference, they shoulder the costs for such a conference;
  • Nexus, has in the last two years, offered our district directors accommodation for leisure in 5-star hotels, worth over R70 000;
  • Axiz, has helped us along on our journey to take our schools into the 21st century, with ICT solutions costing over R3 million in 2017;
  • the Protea Hotel, has given us accommodation for our principals and district directors to the extent needed; and
  • the South African Airways, has offered us discounted flights, since the first study tour to Beijing.


These are, but a few of our partners.  There have been others who have assisted for a year or so – and to all I am eternally grateful.

I thank you.

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Written By: Administrator Account
Date Posted: 4/6/2018
Number of Views: 522

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