Deputy Minister of Basic Education
Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee
International Plenary Speakers, Dr Donald Bundy and Dr Lucie Cluver
All International and Local Speakers and Facilitators
Educators, Parents and Learners
Ladies and Gentlemen
It gives me enormous pleasure to address this inaugural national conference on Care and Support for Teaching and Learning (CSTL). As I understand it, the main aim of this conference to, “consolidate our collective efforts” in the Care and Support space since the Education Ministers’ of the Southern African Development Community block (SADC) resolved a decade ago to mainstream this essential service for our learners.
Today, the Care and Support for Teaching and Learning (CSTL 2018) inaugural conference, brings together excellent thought leaders in the field of Care and Support from home and abroad. We want to learn from your experiences. We are eager to learn from the real lessons on the ground. These lessons are valuable, and will help us to fine tune our Care and Support policies and implementation plans in the next ten years.
Therefore, there’s an urgent need to take stock of the work done in the last ten years, and perhaps to recalibrate the Care and Support sector so that it meets the demands of the 21st century learners.
We have come to a deliberate conclusion that the Care and Support for Teaching and Learning must foreground all our extra-curricular activities.
Programme Director, we are fortunate that our country was represented at a SADC Education Ministers’ Meeting, 10 years ago. During the deliberations at the meeting, we received progress report on the pilot implementation of the Schools as Centres of Care and Support (SCCS). In this journey of a thousand miles, we are not alone. We have formidable partners such as the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Media in Education Trust (MiET) Africa, and two other SADC Member States.
The key recommendation of the Schools as Centres of Care and Support pilot project was a call for a paradigm shift for the education sector across the region to begin to mainstream Care and Support in all schools.
Out of that meeting, the SADC Education Ministers agreed on a regional vision to reform the education sector to support the needs of orphans and vulnerable children across the region.
One of the most pressing challenges for the SADC Secretariat was to harmonize education policies between Member States in order to address the divergent legislative mandates. The grand idea was to achieve convergent legislative mandates that will make room for Care and Support as a policy imperative.
Our approach was to identify best policy practices between Member States and find innovative and creative ways to encourage the rest of the region to adopt similar policy approaches. I am glad to report that after exhaustive consultations, and after taking into account lessons learned in the pilot of Schools as Centres of Care and Support, a framework of Care and Support for Teaching and Learning (CSTL) has been adopted by all Member States.
South Africa, Swaziland and Zambia took the first bold step as guinea pigs to try out this new framework of coordinating Care and Support services in the education sector. I am glad to report that more and more Member States are beginning to align their own policies in line with the new framework. Although, it is cold comfort, in the face of relentless social ills that bedevils our basic schooling sector, South Africa is still regarded as the frontrunner in the implementation of this new framework.
This is not to imply that the South African education system has a universal coverage of Care and Support to all vulnerable learners. It simply means that there is a constitutional and legislative expression of the Care and Support as key mandates to be fulfilled. It also means we have our own policy framework in place with the necessary budgetary support for Care and Support in our schooling system. Owing to our own unique set of circumstances, we have attempted in the last ten years to roll out a package of Care and Support to all our schools. We have also invested in the retraining of our teachers so that they are able to identify vulnerable leaners early.
Since the advent of the Care and Support for Teaching and Learning Framework, we have made it easier for children to access school, stay in school and achieve good results over the last 10 years.
Today, and over the next 10 years, we have committed ourselves to expand the Care and Support services in schools to ensure every child has the best schooling experience and thus giving them a head start in life. Notwithstanding budgetary constraints, our ultimate objective is place skilled Care and Support practitioners in every school throughout the breadth and depth of our country.
We are acutely aware that this is a tall order hence our sincere appreciation to all partners who have been with us since the beginning. We call upon more private sector mandarins to extend a helping hand as we mount a final assault on social ills in our basic education system head on. We propagate for resource sharing between the resourced schools and underdeveloped ones. We appeal for partnerships with the non-governmental sector to help us to reach the most vulnerable learners in far flung rural areas.
Programme Director, the challenges we face in the system are enormous. And, children need help to today not tomorrow. Our vulnerable children don’t need fancy conference resolutions but action. Consequently, my plea today is that we need to go further and faster. We applaud those organisations and individuals who are here today that have been part of the childcare revolution that predates the current wave of Care and Support initiatives. These Care and Support warriors continue in various ways to do good even after the Care and Support was institutionalised.
We are eternally grateful for your continued support to the Department of Basic Education, in its efforts to reorganize itself so that it’s able to respond better to the needs of orphans and vulnerable learners. In your own corners, with your hard earned resources, you also have not stopped looking for better, effective and efficient innovations to give children a better living and learning experience. But we all know that the years ahead also require more resources, more out of the box thinking and more champions of Care and Support. Together, we need to build a Care and Support agenda that continues to meet the needs of today's children and beyond. Our schools must become sanctuaries for all. Ours is to build on the successes of the past so that we can build a secure future for our children today and tomorrow. Our policies and implementation plans must be robust enough to stand the test of time, and help build a fairer, better society in our lifetime.
We must, above all, consolidate our efforts to ensure the best possible package of Care and Support for all our children. That consolidation exercise begins with ensuring a common understanding of what needs to be done between partners, custodians and stakeholders of basic education. We hope that the outcome of this conference will give us exactly that. I wish you well as you will proceed to panel discussions and presentations to achieve this common purpose, I spoke about earlier.
We wish to express out heartfelt and most sincere gratitude to all delegates, speakers and facilitators, for indulging and supporting us in this important conference.
I thank you!